Would you please explain the concept of "original sin" in light of Romans 5:12, 19?


Before analyzing the passage in Romans 5:12, 19, let us very briefly
discuss the concept of “original sin.” It was developed by Augustine,
based on a wrong translation of the Greek text in Romans 5. The
Broadman Bible Commentary points out, in Vol. 10, on page 195:
“Augustine, who knew very little Greek, followed the Latin
translation… and, on the basis of this mistranslation, developed his
doctrine of original sin, understood as inherited guilt, and the result
was a lurid picture of unbaptized infants in limbo. It is significant
that even Roman Catholic scholars, plagued most by this disaster, are
now saying bluntly the doctrine is not in Scripture.”

Simply put,
the concept of the original sin holds that we all “inherited” guilt or
transgression from Adam and Eve who “originally” sinned. According to
that concept, we inherited eternal death–which is the penalty for sin
(compare Romans 6:23)–even though we ourselves did nothing to deserve
this penalty. In other words, Adam and Eve’s original sin was somehow
arbitrarily transmitted to all, down to the last baby born before
Christ returns. From this UNBIBLICAL concept derived additional ideas,

— the Catholic concept that a baby must be baptized to
be freed from the “inherited” guilt and penalty for the original sin of
Adam and Eve (Biblical baptism is not for babies or children, however,
as clearly explained in our booklet, “Baptism–a Requirement for

— the Catholic concept of the “immaculate
conception” — the idea that Mary had to be free from original sin from
the moment of her conception, as otherwise Jesus had to have been born
with inherited guilt and transgression. As sex in marriage is
considered by the Catholic Church as less than ideal, the further
concept was developed that Mary remained a perpetual virgin even after
Christ’s birth. (This concept is unbiblical, as explained in our
booklet, “Jesus Christ–a Great Mystery.”)

The wrong concept of the inherited “original sin” is described by the Nelson Study Bible, as follows:

[Adam] sin entered the world. Sin brought death. The result is that
death is now a universal experience… In Adam, we all sinned… The
result is physical and spiritual death for everyone. From Adam we
inherited a sin nature. Furthermore, as a result of our sin in Adam, we
face a common judgment–death.” The commentary goes on to say that
Adam’s sin “brought death upon us all,” and that it is not necessary
that we sinned individually.

This concept is blatantly wrong and unbiblical.

5:12, 19 is used as the proof verse of original sin. It reads, “…
through one man sin entered in the world, and death through sin, and
thus death spread to all men… by one man’s disobedience many
were made sinners…”

However, this passage does not tell us that
we are guilty of eternal death, just because of Adam’s sin, and without
any personal responsibility. Rather, an important part of the Scripture
was left out in the above quote. Romans 5:12 reads, in its entirety:
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death
through sin, and thus death [the penalty for sin] spread to all men,

This passage does not say that all sinned
only “in Adam”– that is, that only Adam sinned, and that his sin was
somehow transferred to all. Rather, the passage says that all have
sinned, individually. Romans 5:14 says that “death reigned from Adam to
Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the LIKENESS of
the transgression of Adam.” But, they DID sin. Verse 13 says that sin
is not imputed when there is no law. Since death reigned from Adam to
Moses, and beyond, there WAS a law, and sin WAS imputed. Sin is the
transgression of the law (1 John 3:4, Authorized Version), and the
penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). Romans 3:23 tells us that “ALL
have sinned [not just Adam] and fall short of the glory of God.” And
Romans 14:12 makes it clear that we will have to give account to God
for what WE have done–we don’t have to give account for the sin of our
forefather Adam.

The idea that eternal death reigned over us even
though we did not sin, individually, is absolutely unbiblical and
misrepresents God’s very character. God is fair. If He was to hold us
responsible and make us pay for something we did not do, He would be
terribly UNFAIR.

We read in Ezekiel 18:20: “The soul who sins
shall die. The son shall NOT BEAR THE GUILT OF THE FATHER [or his
forefather Adam, who is the “father” of the human race, see Luke
3:23-38].” This text PROVES that the concept of the inherited original
sin is FALSE.

In an old article by Herbert W. Armstrong, titled, “Are People Lost Because of Adam’s Sin?,” it is stated:

it says in plain language that death passed on upon all men because all
have sinned. The death penalty is passed upon you–it is passed upon
everyone of us, because we have sinned–because we have lived the wrong
way and have not turned to God. The Scripture does not say that the
penalty of Adam’s sin is eternal death for you and me–but the penalty
for your sin, of my sin, of our sins, is death! But God so loved this
world that he gave his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, that whosoever
believeth on him should not perish, but should have the gift of eternal
life (John 3:16). The way is to repent– to repent of sin– and
acknowledge Jesus Christ as personal Savior.”

But Adam and Eve’s
sin DID do something to this world. The concept of “inherited” original
sin is clearly wrong–but notice what DID happen when they sinned. In a
brief article in the Plain Truth magazine of September 1963, the
following is accurately explained:

“… Adam and Eve… sinned.
They were driven from the Garden of Eden. By sinning, they cut
themselves off from the guidance, authority and knowledge of God (Gen.
3:24). Adam not only cut himself off–he was responsible for cutting
his children off–from the help and instruction of God. Even his own
son became a murderer (Gen. 4:8)… So Adam’s sin was unique in that it
was the first human sin–it was he who cut man off from God… We have
not been forced to sin because Adam sinned!”

But the sad fact is
that we all followed Adam’s wrong example: We all sinned and brought
upon us the penalty of ETERNAL death, and so we read that “by the one
man’s offense many died” (Romans 5:15), and “by one man’s disobedience
many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19).

As we sinned by following
Adam’s example, we can live righteously by following Christ’s example.
We read that through one Man’s obedience [that is, the obedience of
Jesus Christ who never sinned and who never disobeyed God’s law] many
will be made righteous (Romans 5:19). However, this does not happen
automatically. As Adam’s sin and the consequential death penalty were
not automatically transferred on us via “original sin,” without any
individual responsibility, Christ’s obedience and His righteousness are
not just automatically transferred on us without individual
responsibility, either. Rather, we must repent of our sins and believe
in Christ’s Sacrifice and His gospel message, in order to obtain
forgiveness of our sins, so that we can be freed from the death
penalty. Following this, we are to be baptized into His death (Romans
6:3). We are not to continue in sin (Romans 6:1) after we have died to
sin (Romans 6:2). Rather, after having been baptized and “raised from
the [spiritual] dead,” we are to “walk in newness of life” (Romans
6:4). Christ only became the author of eternal salvation to all “who
OBEY Him” (Hebrews 5:9).

We are responsible for our actions. We
can continue living in sin, by following Adam’s example, or we can
begin and continue to live in righteousness, by following Christ’s
example. The choice is ours.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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