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7. Survey of Bible Doctrine: Man and Sin

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I. The Origin of Man

    A. The importance of Special Creation:

    If man evolved as a product of chance (as evolutionists teach), then the ideas of sin and salvation really make no sense. If there was no supernatural origin, then why would there be a supernatural destiny (salvation in heaven)? (If random fate caused a man to be, then random fate must determine a person’s character.) In fact, an eternal destiny for man after death would be no more likely that dogs or dandelions living eternally if evolution were true. Only if man was uniquely created by God and in God’s image does it make sense that man is accountable (sin) and has a destiny (salvation or judgment). The real motive behind the evolutionary theory, it seems, is to eliminate the need for God and His revelation about sin and salvation.

    B. The Fact of Creation

      1. Presuppositions of Creation

        a. The existence of God. The bible assumes the existence of God (Gen.1:1 – although it is also “provable” by various logical arguments – Psalm 19; Rom.1:19 ff. See the handout “Does God Exist?”).

        b. The eternality of God. For God to create He must Himself exist prior to anything else. The eternal nature of God answers the nagging question that evolution cannot, “How can something come to be when there was nothing?”

        c. The reliability of scripture as God’s Word. The way we know about the creation of man and the world is through the scriptures which God revealed. At least seventeen times in Genesis 1 and then throughout scripture, God is said to be the creator.

      2. The Process of Creation. “By faith we understand that the world was made at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:3, NIV). The all-powerful God created something out of nothing (sometimes called ex nihilo). But then God did use previously created materials to form the bodies of living things (Gen.2:7,18-22).

      3. The Time of Creation. Two other views of creationists are presented here in addition to the literal six-day view of creation.

        a. The Gap Theory

          1) Genesis 1:1 – An original perfect creation of all things (except man).

          2) A gap of undetermined time during which Satan fell, a flood and the Ice Age destroyed life, thus creating the fossil record.

          3) Genesis 1:2 and following – Six days of “re-creation” including Adam and Eve.


          1) The suggested arguments from the biblical text are weak (See Ryrie, Biblical Theology, p.183,4).

          2) The view arose about the same time as modern geology, seeming to be merely an attempt to harmonize Genesis and geology.

        b. The Day-Age Theory

          1) The word “day” in scripture can refer to other periods of time that 24-hour solar days (Genesis 2:4; Psalm 20:1, etc.).

          2) Perhaps the six “days” of creation were long indefinite periods of time rather that 24 hour days.


          1) The view seems to minimize the creative power of God; as if He needs more time to do something so great as creation.

          2) This view also seems to first accept uniformitarian geology and then try to harmonize scripture to that.

        c. The “literal six-day” or “young earth” view

          1) The most normal understanding of the six days of creation are that they were literal 24-hour solar days.

          2) The cataclysmic global flood of Genesis 6-8 is responsible for the geological record (See Whitcomb, Genesis Flood, The Early Earth and Dillow, The Waters Above).

          3) God created the world with “apparent age.” Plants, animals and man had some appearance of age when God made them. So it’s not surprising that the rest of the universe has “apparent age.”

          4) Our earth could be as “young” as 6,000 years old (4000 B.C.) according to the chronologies of Genesis (and confirmed by the scientific research of creationists).

          5) This view of the earth as “young” instead of “billions and billions” of years old is very different than most modern scientific theory. But the view is nonetheless scientifically sound. The Institute for Creation Research and other academic associations have produced many materials supporting the biblical view of creation versus evolution – a study which goes beyond the scope of this brief outline.

II. The Nature of Man

    A. What does it mean to be in the “image of God?” Man is said to be made in the “image of God” (Gen.1:26,27). Only with a view of special creation by God could this be possible.

      1. We reflect God in personality. We reason (intellect), feel (emotion), and choose (will).

      2. We reflect God in function. Gen.1:26 connects the ideas of sharing God’s image with sharing His rule or sovereignty over creation.

      3. There is perhaps some sense in which we reflect God in form. Although God is spirit and not body (John 4:24), our physical form was designed by God as appropriate means of reflecting Him. Even in our eternal state we will fellowship with God in our transformed “spiritual” yet physical body (1 Cor.15:44).

      4. Conclusion – The fact that man can communicate and fellowship with God and even reflect God’s moral character (when regenerated – 2 Peter 1:4), indicates perhaps the real depth of man sharing God’s “image.”

    B. How many parts are we? Christian theologians have much discussed whether man is essentially 2 parts (Material and Immaterial) or 3 parts (Body, Soul and Spirit). Here are the basic arguments plus a third moderating position.

      1. Dichotomy view (2 parts)

        a. Only the distinction between our material and immaterial features are indisputable.

        b. “Soul” and “Spirit” are sometimes used interchangeably in the Bible (Job 27:3).

        c. God gave only the “soul” at creation (Gen.2:7).

        d. Jesus said the “Body” plus the “Soul” equals the whole person (Matt.10:28).

      2. Trichotomy view (3 parts)

        a. Hebrew 4:12 seems to teach that “soul and spirit” can be “divided.”

        b. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 describes man as “spirit, soul and body.”

        c. The “spirit” seems to be that part of man which relates to God (our spiritual being) and is regenerated, while the “soul” is that which relates to man (our emotional being).

      3. Multi-faceted view. It may well be that the argument is somewhat unnecessary and that both views reflect truth about man’s nature. We are at least material and immaterial. Our immaterial includes features such as soul, spirit, heart, conscience and will. In some cases these features are perhaps truly distinguishable (soul and spirit) while other times the features overlap (spirit, heart, conscience). See Charles Ryrie, Survey of Bible Doctrine pp.104-107 for more discussion of this third view.

III. The Fall of Man

    A. The literal reality of the fall. The Fall of Man (the entrance of sin into humanity) was a specific historical event. Adam and Eve were real people (Matt.19:3-5). They committed a particular sin (Genesis 3). That sin affected all of mankind (Rom.5:12-21).

    B. The test (Genesis 2:15-17). Adam and Eve were clearly told the privileges of their home in the Garden of Eden and the prohibition: they were not to eat of one certain tree. There was no other temptation in the garden. There was simply a single choice to obey or disobey God.

    C. The temptation (Genesis 3:1-5). Satan chose to appear in an animal form – a serpent (Even today he usually does not want to be seen or known as he really is.). His approach was to first question God’s goodness (“Has God said, you shall not eat…” – 3:1). Then he blatantly denied God’s justice – that there were consequences for sin (“You surely shall not die” – 3:4).

    D. The sin (Genesis 3:6). When Eve had listened to the serpent and doubted God’s words, she saw and desired the fruit and ate it. She then furthered Satan’s temptation by giving Adam the fruit. He also listened, doubted, saw, desired and then ate. This sin was unique in that they sinned without having a sin nature. They sinned only by choice. The rest of mankind is now sinful by nature and by choice.

    E. The results of the Fall

      1. On the Serpent (3:14). The serpent was condemned to crawl (3:14). All the animal kingdom in fact was affected by the Fall (Rom.8:20).

      2. On Satan (3:15). Satan’s kingdom would forever be opposed (“enmity”) by Eve’s godly descendants (believers). Christ (a descendant of Eve) would deal the death blow to Satan (“head”) on the cross, although Satan was allowed to cause Christ to suffer (“heel”). This verse is the first revelation of the gospel in the Bible.

      3. On Eve and women (3:16). Women would 1) always have pain in childbirth, 2) struggle with the desire to rule over her husband (see “desire” 4:7) and yet, 3) be in a supportive rather than ruling role. The New Testament confirms these effects (1 Cor.11:3; 14:34: Eph.5:24,25; Titus 2:3-5; 1 Peter 3:1,5,6).

      4. On Adam and men (3:17-19;23,24). The ground was cursed so that sustaining life would require difficult and painful labor (3:17-19a). Man would now die (3:19b) and Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden (3:23,24).

      5. On the human race (3:7,8). Mankind experienced a sense of guilt (“made a covering” 3:7) and a loss of fellowship with God (“hid themselves” 3:8). Sin also brought death upon the race – both physical and spiritual (Eph.2:3; Rom.5:12).

IV. Sin

    A. Definition – What is sin? Sin is any violation of the perfect holiness of God.

      1. 1 John 3:4 – “Sin is lawlessness”

      2. Romans 3:23 – “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

    B. The origin of sin – How did sin begin?

      1. Sin did not begin in God, He cannot sin (James 1:13)

      2. Sin began in Satan (Ezekiel 28:15). In angels who followed him (2 Peter 2:4). In man (Genesis 3:6, Romans 5:12)

    C. Inherited Sin

      1. Definitions:

        - Inherited sin is simply “the sinful state into which all people are born” (Ryrie). We have a constant bent toward sin.

        - Inherited sin is also called the “sin nature” (it affected our entire being), and it is called “original sin” (emphasizing that Adam’s sin caused the corrupted nature we each inherit).

        - “Total depravity” is a related term expressing our total lack of merit in God’s sight. Total depravity does not mean we are as “bad” as we can be but that we are as “bad off” as we can be because we all have a totally sinful nature.

      2. Scripture

        - Psalm 51:5 “…in sin my mother conceived me.”

        - Ephesians 2:3 “…by nature children (objects) of wrath”

        - Our emotions (Romans 1:26), our intellect (Romans 1:28) and our will (Romans 7:20) are all enslaved to sin and opposed to God.

      3. Penalty. The penalty of inherited sin is spiritual death. Man is born spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:3) and will be eternally separated from God in hell if our sinful condition is not remedied (Revelation 20:11-15).

    D. Imputed Sin

      1. Definitions:

        “Imputation” means putting to someone else’s account that which may or may not be his (Robert Lightner, Sin, The Savior and Salvation, p.33)

        The “imputation of Adam’s sin to mankind” means that Adam’s first sin was rightfully charged to the account of every other person. Someone may protest that it doesn’t seem fair that others are charged with what Adam did. But the Bible teaches that since all were “in Adam” we all unconsciously participated in Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12; cf. Hebrews 7:9,10).

      2. Scripture

        Romans 5:12 – “Therefore just as through one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

        Grammatically the expression “all sinned” does not refer to our individual sins or our sinful nature. It means that all sinned when Adam sinned (cf. Romans 5:18). That’s imputation. We are each held responsible.

        1. Penalty. Imputed sin caused physical death. Each person’s physical death was sealed and certain ever since Adam sinned (“death spread to all men because all sinned” – Romans 5:12). Our sin nature does not cause physical death but spiritual (Ephesians 2:3). Individual sins do not cause physical death (Infants die). Imputed sin caused our physical death.

Summary Comparison Between Inherited and Imputed Sin
(Adapted from Charles Ryrie)

    E. Personal sin

      1. Definition: Personal sin is any thought or attitude, act or failure to act, that violates God’s standard of perfect holiness.

      2. Scripture

        - James 3:2 “We all stumble in many ways”

        - Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

      3. Penalty. The unbeliever’s sins prevent him from having fellowship (a personal relationship) with God until he is saved. The believer as well loses the enjoyment of fellowship with God when he lives with sins unconfessed (1 John 1:9). Note: Personal sins are obviously related to inherited sin and imputed sin. Personal sins are the visible and “knowable” expression of our inherited sin nature and imputed sin. Personal sins are how a person knows he has a sin problem.

    F. The Remedies for sin (see also next section “Salvation”)




    Response Required

    Inherited Sin
    (Ephesians 2:3)

    Christ died for sinners (Romans 5:8).
    The Holy Spirit “regenerates” us (spiritually changes us Titus 3:5).

    We must personally put our trust in Christ’s sacrifice for our sin (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 1:15,16 etc.)

    Imputed Sin
    (Romans 5:12)

    The righteousness of Christ is “imputed” to us (2 Corinthians 5:21).

    This takes place when we trust in Christ (Romans 3:21,22).

    Personal Sin
    (Romans 3:23)

    - Unbelievers – The death of Christ (Ephesians 2:13)

    - Believers – The death of Christ
    (1 John 1:7)

    - Trust in Christ (above)

    - Confess Sin (1 John 1:9)

    G. Sin in the life of a Christian

      1. The reality of sin in the believer. Christians still have the sin nature (Romans 7:14-25; especially 7:17,20,21,23). Believers have both the sin nature and the new nature (Romans 8:10; Ephesians 4:22-24). The old nature is not “eradicated” (destroyed) in this life. That is why we continue to commit personal sin (1 John 1:8).

      2. The consequences of sin in the life of a believer. Sin in our life will interrupt the joy of our relationship with God. Persisting in sin may bring God’s discipline (Hebrew 12:5-11), even sickness and death (1 Corinthians 11:30; James 5:19,20; 1 John 5:16). Excommunication from the local church is necessary for some sin (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5).

      3. The remedy when believers sin.

      - The remedy when we sin as a believer is to simply confess our sin (1 John 1:9). “Confess” literally means to “agree with” God about that sin. If we still defend the sinful thought or act in any way, we have not confessed.

      - True confession produces a desire to change. But even if we sin the same way again, the solution is again confession.

      - Confessing sin is a major truth of the Christian’s life. Confession brings the cleansing Christ provided (1 John 1:7). Positionally, all sin is already forgiven, but we claim and experience that forgiveness by confession. The joy of fellowship with God is then restored. The Holy Spirit is then free to “fill us” and change us (Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:22,23; Romans 8:13 – see notes on the “Holy Spirit”).

Related Topics: Man (Anthropology), Hamartiology (Sin)

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