Published: 22 March 2021

Are We All Guilty Because Adam Sinned?

Both Jesus and Paul looked to the opening chapters of Genesis as the basis for some of their teachings (e.g. Mt 19:4-6, 1 Tim 2:11-14, etc.). In other words, their hermeneutic (method of interpretation) was based on life in the garden of Eden prior to Adam and Eve’s sin. The garden was God’s ideal place where He could live together with mankind. It’s also the ideal that God has been working ever since to one day restore. Therefore, anything we can glean about life in the garden should shape our theology. 

Did mankind inherit a sinful nature from Adam?

Common wisdom tells us that several things happened when Adam and Eve sinned. For example, one author says:

“Adam and Eve died spiritually at the time that they sinned – they became different beings then [sic] the ones God had originally created They also began to die physically.”[1]https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_106.cfm

I’ve already written briefly about the idea of spiritual death and Adam and Eve’s mortality. What about the claim that Adam and Eve became different beings when they sinned?

“We receive our fallen nature from our parents. After Adam and Eve sinned, the death sentence was pronounced. All other humans have been born with their sinful nature…”[2]Ibid.

Does Genesis support the idea that Adam and Eve’s nature changed when they sinned?

Were Adam and Eve different before they sinned?

Yes and no. Yes, they were changed when they sinned in that they lost their innocence. No, there was no change in their basic nature. As I pointed out in the previous blog post Eve was susceptible to the same temptations we are. In fact, John probably had Eve and her human frailties in mind when he wrote: 

“For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” (1 John 2:16 NKJV)

Genesis 3:6 is virtually a parallel of 1 John 2:16:

the woman saw that the tree was good for food,
(the lust of the flesh) 
and that it was a delight to the eyes, 
(the lust of the eyes) 
and that the tree was desirable to make one wise,
(the pride of life)

Their susceptibility to “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” reveals that Adam & Eve had the same basic weaknesses and frailties that we have even before they disobeyed

Eve determined that the tree was “good” and wanted it and all the desirable things that came with it. She yielded to her temptation out of selfishness. We learn from James 1:13–15, “when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” Like her we are selfish, and giving into our selfishness results in sin. All sin is the direct result of putting our own desires ahead of God and others. 

Original Sin?

The fact that they had the same traits and tendencies as us before they fell undermines the doctrine of original sin. 

“[A]ll of us have inherited the sin nature from Adam and Eve.”[3]Ibid.

“Original sin” is the notion that Adam and Eve were fundamentally changed when they sinned, and their “sin nature” passed on to us just like other physical traits we inherit from our ancestors. 

However, Genesis reveals they were susceptible to “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.” This means they differed not at all from us even before they disobeyed. 

Free will

Some deny that humans have any choices. They argue that God has so fixed the Universe that all future outcomes have been predetermined by Him. Genesis certainly does not paint the events of the garden in this light. Clearly, Adam and Eve were given a choice. They could trust God by abstaining from the fruit of the tree of knowledge, or they could partake.

Adam and Eve had the ability to make a choice and already had the weaknesses which allowed them to choose unwisely. Free will is neither relevant nor meaningful if there is no risk of choosing unwisely. If the ability to make a bad choice had not been within their “nature,” then they had no free will. This tendency to choose unwisely was not a compulsion – they could have chosen wisely. 

Their “nature” didn’t change after disobeying resulting in all of their descendants inheriting their “sinful nature.”  Whatever they were before they sinned, they still were after.

Didn’t sin spread to all men?

There is a prevailing idea that sin has spread to all men because of the one man’s (Adam’s) sin. This is not what the Bible actually says. Paul said something like this, but this is not what he said. Take a look at his words very closely:

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—” (Rom. 5:12 NKJV)

What was it that spread to all men? Sin? No! Death spread to all men. We all die because we all sin. We don’t die because of Adam’s sin – we die because of our own sin. Yes, Adam introduced sin into the world, but we are not guilty because of what Adam did. We are guilty because of what we do. 

Let us not attribute to a sinful nature that which is nothing more than the willing indulgence of selfish desires!

In fact, the idea that we are guilty because something our ancestors did goes against plain statements of scripture. 

““Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin.” (Deut. 24:16 NKJV)

“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father” (Ezek. 18:20 NKJV)

The Bible does not blame Adam for the murder of Abel, for the sinfulness that brought about the flood of Noah, nor any other sinful act recorded in the Bible. If all the sin that is mentioned in the Bible can be pinned on Adam, you’d think a Bible author would blame him. There is zero scriptural basis for the idea that we are accountable for Adam’s sin. We are accountable for our own sins.

“I was brought forth in iniquity”

Many times people turn to Psalm 51 as the Old Testament prooftext for original sin:

“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” (Psa. 51:5 NKJV)

This is hyperbole. In this psalm David is exaggerating to express how guilty he felt after the Bathsheba incident. It is very similar to:

“The wicked are estranged from the womb; They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.” (Psa. 58:3 NKJV)

Like Psa 51:5, this is also hyperbole expressing the very same idea. The psalmist is again exaggerating to convey that the wicked are so prone to evil that it is as if they were sinning as soon as they exited the womb. 

A saying which expresses a similar thought is when someone asks if you are ready and you reply, “I was born ready.”  Really now, do babies begin speaking lies as soon as they are born?

Don’t blame it on your parents

Let us not attribute to a sinful nature that which is nothing more than the willing indulgence of selfish desires!