Sunday, November 30, 2008

Was Original Sin Wiped Away at the Cross?

I have recently had the pleasure of interacting with a gentleman and his wife in the comments section of one of my older posts. In the original post and the comments, two issues have come up that are causing concern. The first is how I articulate God’s disposition to the sinner when I say something similar to, “God hates the sinner.” The second surrounds my contention that children, from conception, are guilty before God and deserve – deserve – an eternal punishment for our sin in Adam. And the gentleman has come back and stated that it is his belief that original sin was ultimately dealt with on the cross and that we are sinners only when we know right from wrong and choose wrong.

So, in an effort to more fully answer this objection, I am dealing with it here. I will, in effect, be trying to answer this question: Did Jesus’ death on the cross forgive the personal effects for all of humanity of Adam’s sin? In a request for Scripture passages that would positively affirm the position that original sin has been dealt with for all men, I was given the following Scriptural passages that I will deal with: John 1:29; Romans 5:12,13, and Hebrews 9:26.

The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

I must honestly say that I was shocked to see this text used to prove the above assertion. No where does this text or the surrounding context specify that the singular use of the word “sin” refers to original sin. Actually, in this context one could just as easily use this verse as a proof text for universal salvation (God forgave all men of all sin for all time so that all will go to heaven) just as easily as my commenter has used it to fit his presupposition to make this verse say that original sin is what the “sin of the world” was that forgiven of all men.

It is true that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – yes and amen. But we must look through the rest of the Scriptures relating to His ministry as the sacrificial Lamb to find out exactly what was done for whom. John 1:29 is not a passage proclaiming that Jesus’ death forgave original sin for all men of all time. There is no basis in the context to make this assertion.
Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. (Hebrews 9:26)

The context of the above passage in Hebrews is the author’s argument for how Christ in His ministry and sacrifice supersede and replace that of the old Mosaic covenantal system of priests and sacrifices. The old system had a high priest enter a “mere copy” of the holy place and sacrifice with blood not his own on a “year by year” basis, whereas Christ went to the true holy place with His own blood to make His sacrifice once. It seems to me that the context here is referring not to a specific individual sin that was put away, but the fact that sin was put away by His once for all sacrifice, and therefore it does not need to be repeated. Furthermore, the context of Hebrews 9 and the work that is being done is about accomplishing eternal redemption.
and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:12)

Hebrews 9 is a great place in Scripture to look at for the singularity and the finality of the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation His own, but is not saying that Christ was manifested to put away original sin for all men of all time by the sacrifice of Himself. To make that statement would do great disservice to the text and be rending it out of context.

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-- 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. (Romans 5:12,13)

In the first few chapters of Romans, Paul goes to great lengths to show how all humanity has sinned. And Romans 5 helps us to put our understanding of sin and death in a comparative context with salvation and redemption. Adam’s sin was imputed to all men, and thus all men are guilty. Christ’s righteousness was imputed to all men who have faith and their sin is imputed to Him, and those men are now not guilty (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21).

The imputation of sin that seems to be in view in this passage is the sinning against the Law of Moses, and this seems to be brought out in the next verse when Paul writes, “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.” In other words, even though the Mosaic Law may not have been individually transgressed by babies in the womb (those are the ones who die who have not sinned on their own in the likeness of Adam), but they die because they are guilty of sinning in Adam – original sin. Death doesn’t occur except where sin is, and babies die before they can overtly sin. Therefore sin must be reigning in them because of their father Adam and the sin that we are guilty of in him.

John Piper gives a good illustration as to why we should understand the “all sinned” in verse 12 as being original sin or “all sinned in Adam” instead of “all sinned individually”.
Let me try to illustrate what's at stake. If you say, "Through one man sin and death entered the world and death spread to everybody because all sinned individually," then the comparison with the work of Jesus could be, "So also through one man, Jesus Christ, righteousness and life entered the world and life spread to all because all individually did acts of righteousness." In other words, justification would not be God's imputing Christ's righteousness to us, but our performing individual acts of righteousness with Christ's help and then being counted righteous on that basis. When Paul saw that as a possible misunderstanding of what he said, he stopped to clarify.1

Original sin was not universally dealt with on the cross for all people of all time so that babies are born without original sin. We are conceived in sin (Ps 51:5) every thought of ours is only evil and sinful (Genesis 8:21). The sin of man is dealt with in Christ Jesus on the cross and is applied by faith to those who repent of their sin and trust in Him. However lovely and loveable our children are when they are born, our children are born with original sin and with only the propensity to desire and act upon that sinful nature.

The next common question has to do with babies and what happens to them when they die. To be sure, I don’t have as solid of a case to make for them, but I can tell you that on the basis of what I see in the Scriptures, namely 2 Samuel 12:23, that there is some distinct gracious mercy of God extended to children who die in or before infancy.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

So many things to be thankful for…

***For those of you reading this note in facebook – I make it a point NOT to send out notes to everyone or to invite you to a ton of groups or things, but I really wanted to share this one with you all. God bless you.***

Thanksgiving is always a time to look around my life and really take into account what I am blessed with and what I am thankful for. There are so many things that I feel blessed about that it is kind of hard to put them into writing…but I’ll try. So, in no particular order (except saving the best/better for the last), here is my thankfulness list for 2008:

1. I am thankful for my job. Now, because this is #1 doesn’t mean that it is the most important thing in my life. But I must say that God has truly been gracious to me with how my job life has gone. I have had the same job since I graduated from college, and although it is not a glamorous job or something that I even went to school to study for, it has allowed me many blessings. My wife stays home with our lovely children – this is a priceless benefit of any job. But that fact coupled with the fact that I leave my work at work and I work only about 40 hours per week is an immense blessing. I have the energy, time, and the sanity to pour my heart and soul into my family and my ministries. Praise God for the blessing, as long as it lasts, of the job that I have now.

2. In so many ways and for so many reasons, I am thankful for my wife. I am so thankful for her for all of the things that she does and for all of the ways that she contributes to the family. But this year, I am especially thankful for her, in a special way. This year we were able to do something that we have never been able to do before – get away for a weekend without children. I know – married for the better part of a decade is a long time to go without a vacation from the kidos. But it was during our time away that we were able to enjoy coffee without a time limit, dinner without constantly encouraging our children to actually eat their food (novel idea, I know), and hours on end of uninterrupted (even though interruptions can be, and very often are, joyous) conversation. It was so great to enjoy time with my wife just as husband and wife, not as parents, but just as the two of us. And for all of you who may have lamented about a lack of things to talk about other than children on outings like this – I can tell you that we did not suffer that problem. I love our children, but I love my wife most of all. I am so thankful to have been blessed with a lovely and beautiful bride who compliments the best things about me and corrects some of the worst.

3. I am thankful for my little daughter, Hannah. Now, she is only just under 1 ½ years old, but she is coming into her own. It is amazing to see how much of a personality you can really see in such a young child. It is cute to see that she loves to sit in her chair and look at books by herself as much as she loves to chase (to the best of her abilities) her older brothers to play with them. However, in a selfish note, I must say that I am most thankful for the way in which she says good-bye to me as I leave for work and the way in which she says hello to me as I return home. About one month ago she began to join her brothers in their silly dash to give me hugs and kisses both when I leave and arrive from work. She doesn’t much go for kissing anyone, but sure enough, if I ask her for a kiss when I get home…daddy gets a big slobbery kiss from his baby girl.

4. Noah. My sweet, loud, happy, accident-prone, unstoppable (except by stationary objects) freight-train of energy son – I am so thankful for him. So many things about this boy of mine make me smile. It is no small thing to say that he is truly a mini version of myself – in many of the good and bad ways, I might add. But one way that he is truly a blessing, and it is this that I am particularly thankful for today, is his love of all things musical. I suppose that this would be something cute in any child, but the songs that he loves and the songs that he sings are not normal children’s songs. He has been known to start singing, out of the blue, a song while we’re in the car. At night time, my boys and I will read the Bible, tell a Bible story, pray, and sing. To my frustration at times, the favorite thing that my sons like to ask is for me to sing a song that “they’ve never ever heard”. So, after exhausting a lot of songs from my youth, I sang one in particular that he really, really liked. So much so that he requested it for a while thereafter. But a few months later (it must have been) when we hadn’t sung that song with any frequency for quite a while, my son began singing this song at the top of his tone-less lungs while we were in the car. I love the fact that he loves to sing and loves music in general.

5. Micah, my oldest son – what a year have I had in regards to thankfulness with him. Micah has always been our sensitive little guy. He’s always been aware of things seemingly beyond his age. But ever since he was little, we have shared the gospel with him – day and night, in all sorts of activities, venues and opportunities. And it was only a few weeks ago that my son, on his own accord, told me that he wanted to repent of his sins and believe in Jesus. Stephanie and I have labored long and hard in sharing the gospel with him, and I was overjoyed to be able to be with him when he vocalized his desire for salvation. Time will tell of the truth of his profession and the reality of his salvation – but I praise God for his soft heart and his child like desire for salvation.

And it is in this same stream of thought that I must share the final (for this little note) things that I am thankful for:

We took a family picture in early October. It is a great family picture – if I do say so myself. But only a few days ago, Micah painted and drew a picture of our family to give to me to bring to work. That is the next picture you'll see. Now, other than the marks of a perfectionist artist (the two scribbled out characters), you may notice the fact that there are seven people on the right but only five on the left. We found out a few weeks ago that my wife is pregnant with our fifth child – yup, our fifth child. We lost our second while he (I always call that baby “he”) was in the womb. We don’t make a point of drilling that fact into our children’s heads, but whenever someone close to us has lost a child, it may come up. So as far as Micah is concerned (and me too, for that matter) we have a family of seven now; five in the picture on the left, one in heaven, and one in his mommy’s tummy. I am thankful that my son has this personal perspective on life at this age.

6. I am thankful for the blessing of yet another child. May God grant health and safety to my child now, and grant faith and repentance to this child at day in the future.

7. Above all and overflowing to all is my thankfulness to the God and Father of my LORD Jesus Christ, to His Son for His justifying work, and to the Spirit for His sanctifying work. Soli Deo Gloria.

Copyright © 2005-2010 Eric Johnson