Most of us have things we believe, but have never taken the time to tease out exactly what we mean by those things.
Allow me to give you an example.
Many Christians hold to the belief that humanity has a sinful nature. However not everyone means the same thing when they say “sin nature.”
Years ago, when I was learning from Word of Faith ministers, I was taught that sin nature means “the nature of the devil” and was taught that unregenerate man has the nature of the devil. It was taught that a person was either a child of God or a child of the devil.
One of the main texts for this ideology was the verse found in John 8 where Jesus told the religious Jews, “you are of your father the devil.”
It was taught that only those who are born again are the children of God and everyone else is a child of the devil, with a sinful nature. And since no one was born again until after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the natural conclusion was that all of humanity had the nature of the devil.
What came to my mind was things like this: What about Abraham? What about Moses? What about Daniel? What about John the Baptist? These men walked with God. They were holy men, and they lived before Jesus died and rose again.
So based on the testimony of scripture regarding all the old testament saints, it was COMPLETELY UNTRUE to say that all humanity had the nature of the devil.
Furthermore, I would ask myself the question, “Why did Jesus say ‘your Father in Heaven’ to the people to whom he ministered, if the devil was the father of everyone who wasn’t yet born again?”
The problem with terms like sin nature is that we all have ideas as to what is meant by them, and sometimes when people attempt to teach things like “sin nature” through the leans of a particular theological view, they violate the overall teachings of scripture.
One of the things I attempt to do as a Bible teacher is work out what we mean by certain words and phases.
At this point, there probably will be someone reading this who will peg me with pelagianism rather than processing what I am saying and what I am not saying.
Another definition of sin nature is that Adam’s sin was imputed to all humanity, but what does that specifically mean? Does the whole counsel of scripture support what we mean by it?
Now, we all know that the Bible teaches that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” We all know that we all need a Savior. Sin is why we are estranged to God, but what exactly do we mean when we say Adam’s sin was imputed?
Was Adam’s personal act of disobedience imputed to every other human as their own personal sin? Well, there is not a single text in all of scripture that makes this claim.
According to the Bible, it was death that came on all through Adam’s transgression.
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned… ~ Romans 5:12
The words “for that all have sinned” at the end of verse 12, is literally, “in whom all have sinned.” In Adam (that is, in our fleshly carnal humanity) we have all sinned.
According to the Bible, how then is sin imputed? Sin is imputed by the law. The apostle Paul makes this very clear in the book of Romans.
For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. ~ Romans 5:13-14
God gave the Law to Israel to impute sin. Through his covenant with Israel, God deliberately gave the Torah as the means of imputing sin, and concentrating the sins of all humanity in that one nation, so that he might bring an end to sin’s power through the cross. The Law, as the light of God, reveals what sin is and its effects on us all.
In Adam (though our union with him as his physical offspring) we all are sinners, not guilty of Adam’s transgression, but guilty of each of our own transgressions. The Law reveals to each of us our own sins. The Law does not reveal that we are all guilty of Adam’s personal act of disobedience.
When those who die without Christ stand before God in the Day of Judgment, God is not going to judge them according to what Adam did. God is going to judge them according to what they did. Every man will give an account for his own deeds.
It is the Law which imputes sin because the Law brings to light man’s frailty, man’s carnal desires, and man’s evil deeds which result from death which came on all through our union with Adam.