By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
One of the prominent teachings of our day and age is that children are born as sinners.
This teaching (largely borrowed from the Catholic Church) embodies the idea that humans are born as sinners as a direct result of the sins of Adam and Eve.
Of course, Scripture is clear that children do not inherit the sins of their parents.
For example, Ezekiel the Prophet declared:
Ezekiel 18:20-The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
Later in his Book, Ezekiel discusses the king of Tyre. This wicked ruler is being compared to the downfall of another villain (possibly Satan himself).
In the passage, we are told:
Ezekiel 28:15-You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you.
Please notice that the king of Tyre had been perfect and free from sin until he chose to rebel against God.
Years later, the Apostle Paul wrote about the fact that before sin entered into his life, he was spiritually alive:
Romans 7:9-I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.
All of these facts go to demonstrate to us that children are not born as sinners.
It is also interesting to notice that the earliest Christians did not subscribe to the idea that children are born as sinners. Consider these quotations from the early church writings:
“They are as infant children, in whose hearts no evil originates. Nor did they know what wickedness is, but always remained as children.” (Hermas, 150; 2.53)
“Who are they that have been saved and have received the inheritance? Those, doubtless, who believe God and who have continued in HIs love-as did Caleb of Jephuneh and Joshua of Nun-and innocent children, who have had no sense of evil.” (Irenaeus, 180; 1.502)
“Behold, Christ takes infants and teaches how all should be like them, if they ever wish to be greater. However, (the Gnostics point out that) the Creator, in contrast, let loose bears against children, in order to avenge His prophet Elisha, who had been mocked by them. This antithesis is impudent enough, since it throws together things so different as ‘infants’ and ‘children.’ The first is an age that is still innocent. The other is one already capable of discretion (able to mock, if not to blaspheme). Therefore, God is a just God.” (Tertullian, 207; 3.386)
“If you mean the (region in Hades of the) good, why should you judge the souls of infants and of virgins to be unworthy of such a resting place-those who by reason of their condition in life were pure and innocent?” (Tertullian, 210; 3.233)
When Truth Hits Home
One of my favorite books is written by a former nun named Joanne Howe.
In describing a conversation she had with a minister who was a member of the church of Christ, she explains her amazement at seeing how the Bible conflicts with Catholic teaching on this point:
“Study began with Genesis and the story of Adam and Eve. This suggestion annoyed me. I had taught creation and the fall of man for years. I knew the story well and was aware of its theological teachings, I thought I knew all there was to know about sin and its consequences. How wrong I was! Paul asked for my definition of the word “sin.” Quoting from memory the Baltimore Catechism’s definition, I responded, “Sin is my willful thought, desire, word, action, or omission forbidden by the law of God. On account of Adam and Eve’s sin (which is called original sin), we, his descendants, come into the world deprived of sanctifying grace and inherit his punishments.”….Paul seemed confused by this lengthy explanation of sin, especially original sin. He then referred me to Ezekiel 18:20, where I read in the Catholic Bible: “Only the one who sins shall die. The son shall not be charged with the guilt of his father, nor shall the father be charged with the guilt of his son. The virtuous man’s virtue shall be his own, as the wicked man’s wickedness shall be his.” The words startled me, a conflict arose in my mind. I had always understood that every person enters this world with both sinful nature and inherited original sin. As a descendant of Adam, I not only was born a sinner, but was personally guilty and under condemnation before God. Before I read Ezekiel, I was unaware that I had not inherited the guilt of Adam’s sin or the guilt of my parents, but had inherited both the ability to learn good and evil. Turning to the New Testament, Paul asked me to read James 1:13-15: “No one who is tempted is free to say, ‘I am being tempted by God.’ Surely, God, who is beyond the grasp of evil, tempts no one. Rather, the tug and lure of his own passion tempts every man. Once passion has conceived it gives birth to sin, and when sin reaches maturity it begets death.” “Amazing!” I said to myself. Contrary to all I had learned and taught as a Roman Catholic nun, God’s Word told me that we must answer for our own sins, not for those of our forefathers. I concluded that Roman Catholic theologians were in error on that subject.” (Joanne Howe, A Change Of Habit: The Autobiography Of A Former Catholic Nun, 1530-1547 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; Gospel Advocate Company)
In studying the Word of God, Joanne learned about the terrible consequence that every sinner brings upon himself/herself: eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23).
As horrible as this news is, it pales in comparison to the gift that God freely offers through His Son Jesus Christ: eternal life!
Because of Jesus’ death, burial, and Resurrection on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8), sinners can be saved by the amazing grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Through repentance and baptism, believers are set free from the guilt and condemnation of sin and receive every spiritual blessing that can only be found in the church of Christ (Ephesians 1:3; Acts 2:37-38).
Josnne describes the joy of that day in these words:
“October 4, 1972, will long be remembered as my day of liberation. I arose early that morning, anxious to begin the day with an hour of study in God’s Word and a brisk morning walk. Later, I would worship with New Testament Christians with whom I had been meeting on Sunday and Wednesday evenings….I felt angry that I had lived by man’s standards for perfection. My life had been spent attempting to keep the commandments perfectly but often failing! Jesus was the perfect sin-bearer before God and the only atonement for sins. I felt numb as the impact of the Scriptures sank in. I had never before grasped the meaning of the Bible’s truths! My worship was unacceptable before God. Scripture once again confirmed that my acts of penance, reparation, praying the rosary, and participations in religious devotions were totally unacceptable before God. I was convicted anew of my ignorance of God’s plan. Why? A passage I read in Ephesians 2:8 jolted my thinking. I said: “For by grace have you been saved through faith; this is not your own doing, it is God’s gift—not a reward for anything you have accomplished, so let no one pride himself on it.” That was a message of tremendous significance. Throughout my life I was taught and believed that when I was a baby God had sanctified my life with His grace in my spiritual birth at baptism and that grace increased with every worthy reception of one of the sacraments (communion, confession, and confirmation) and with every spiritual meritorious work I performed daily. I was now learning that all my righteousness was as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). God’s Word told me that I could not earn righteousness before Him; that works such as penance and supplication for sins would have no deeper roots than my own strength; and that if I continued to depend on works for security I would ultimately fail and inevitably lose eternal salvation. I was convinced that salvation could not be purchased by any religious or moral actions on my part. Salvation was a gift from God to me, and I was to accept it by faith, in accordance with the simple plan of salvation set forth in the Bible. In pursuit, I had finally learned God’s unerring truth in His Word! As the autumn wind blew rustling leaves about me, my conscience chilled. I had lived on the ragged edge of spiritual destruction, and the compunction to respond to God’s gift became overwhelming!…During the worship service that morning, my thoughts were exploding. I had trouble focusing on the preacher’s message. I wanted to shout to the world my realization of God’s love, my sorrow for unrepented sins, and my wish to become “born again.” My decision to put on Christ in baptism had been made during the early-morning walk. In a short time, it seemed that my whole life had passed before me, and I became fully aware that my questions had been answered. I will never forget the hymn that was sung as I moved slowly up the aisle to meet my Lord in baptism: There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that blood lose all their guilty stains. Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power . . . Till all the ransomed church of God be saved to sin no more. E’er since by faith I saw the stream, Thy flowing wounds supply, Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die! My friend Paul reached out his hands to accept my surrender to God. Hugging me and drawing me close, he whispered, “Welcome home, Joanne.” Then, turning me to the assembled congregation, he said, “Most of you know Joanne and the struggles and challenges she has faced in making her life-changing decision. I never fail to stand in awe and wonderment of God’s grace. Today, Joanne has come forward to be buried with her Lord in Baptism. Would several of the ladies accompany her to prepare her for this glorious occasion?” Assisting me with preparation for the baptism was Helen Pearson and Lydia Holby, two of the women who had befriended me during that long and wearisome journey. I thought, “What if someone had not shared with me the simple truth of the Gospel?” The message of redemption was so simple, yet so deeply moving and convicting. Its powerful words had brought me to the fountain of life—Jesus! Standing in front of the congregation in the baptismal water, clothed in a robe of white, I confessed openly my belief in Jesus, and my desire to be born again. Following the example in I Timothy 6:12, and as the Ethiopian nobleman did in Acts 8:27, I died to my past with Christ and was buried with Him in the water of baptism to arise as a new creature (Romans 6:2-4). After all the public and private presentations I had made in teaching others about religious convictions and consecration, this surrender climaxed my complete dedication to God, to whom I had made a commitment at the tender age of six. Baptism into Christ (Galatians 3:27) was the transition between my old life and the new in Jesus. Baptism is the only way the Bible teaches that anyone can get “into Christ.” Faith had started the salvation process, but the power of the Word of God had changed my thinking and purpose in life. I felt so unworthy, for it was only by God’s grace that I was being saved. Believing in His promises, I was immersed in the water of Baptism. Now justified before my God (Romans 5:9), I had the seal of God’s covenant (Acts 2:38, Hebrews 9:15-17, and Hebrews 8:8). Cleansed of all past sins (I John 1:9), I would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:16-21), and would be admitted into the citizenship of Heaven when I died (Hebrews 10:19). God had broken my will; through the power of the Gospel I was now a New Testament Christian according to God’s plan for salvation. Amid hugs and smiles of congratulations, and amid my own tears, I recognized that this overwhelming joy and contentment were greater than any cost I could possibly pay. An enormous burden had been lifted from my heart—the load of sin!” (Joanne Howe, A Change Of Habit: The Autobiography Of A Former Catholic Nun, 1796-1874 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; Gospel Advocate Company)
Why not follow Joanne’s example today (Acts 2:41)?
Or if you are a Christian who has left the Lord through sin, why not repent and come back to Him through repentance and prayer (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9)?
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.