It seems that no matter how sincere someone appears or tries to be, if he begins his journey in the wrong direction, he will most likely end up in the wrong place. This is the case where a Rev., Paul Nelson who when attempting to get back to the basics of the Gospel gets a most basic issue completely wrong. Nelson writes about sin:
“This is significant to us because Adam, the first and perfect man represented our entire race. What happened to Adam happens to all of us with one major difference. Adam was created sinless and became sinful through disobedience; all of us are born sinful and spiritually dead. That we are sinful and spiritually dead is proven by the fact that we all eventually die physically.”1
This teaching that sin is passed from the parents to the children, saying that we are “born sinful and spiritually dead” is not the teaching of the Bible. For a number of reasons this is a false doctrine, not the least of which is it is patently unfair and unjust and is not supported by the Scriptures.
You might wonder if Nelson had Scripture to back up his doctrinal position on sin. He did, he quoted Romans 3:23 and Romans 5:12-14, neither of which says we are born sinful and spiritually dead. The question before us is whether sin is something we are born with or is sin something we do? And these passages used by Nelson say that sin is something we do, our personal trespass against God.
Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God“. Paul does not say that all were born sinful; he says we all sinned. Romans 5:12-14 tells the truth about sin, but not that we are born with Adam’s sin. Paul says in Romans 5 that “death”, spiritual death, “spread to all men BECAUSE all sinned” (emphasis added, DM). Paul said to the Ephesians, “1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 2:1,2). The text in Ephesians 2 is popular to Calvinists who suggests that a “sin nature” is what separated us. It is the sin itself, that which the person committed, that separates us from God. Again, the story is the same. Spiritual death, the kind Paul is talking about and the kind of death Nelson is talking about in his discussion on sin, did not spread to all men through birth. Instead, the Scriptures support once again that sin is what we do against God. Spiritual death comes upon us all when we sin. And we sin when we reach an age to know right and wrong, and we choose to do wrong. At that moment, God judges us to be sinners. Not before. Certainly not when we are conceived and born into this world.
It is remarkable to me that a man like Nelson can set out to give a thoughtful presentation of the Gospel and right off the bat, he presents error. Stunning and very sad too.
God loves the world and desires that all men be saved. Will you turn away from the sin you have committed against God, confess it to Him today, and be immersed in the grave of Baptism (Romans 6:3-5)? If you will be buried with Christ in Baptism, God by His grace will cleanse your soul and remove the stain of sin (Acts 22:16; 1 Pt. 3:21). You will be washed and sanctified and justified in His name (1 Cor. 6:11). Please confess your sins to Him today and be baptized into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15,16).