The question of ‘inherited sin’ has an answer in Jesus Christ

Published 8:35 am Friday, April 12, 2019

Question: I have been told that mankind is born with an inherited sinful nature and as a result all men are born into a state of eternal loss. The one that taught this used Ephesians 2:3 to show that man is born with a sinful nature. Their teaching seems to have some validity, however, the Church of Christ teaches the opposite. Please explain how this can be understood in any other way.
Answer: There is no doubt that most Calvinists teach that men are born with sin in their lives. I helped conduct a funeral of a twin child who had died about three weeks after her birth. The other speaker at the funeral gave the family little hope concerning their little girl’s eternal destination. He stated that no man could know her eternal state. He further stated that the dead child, by the grace of God, had been condemned or ushered into eternity with God. He led the audience to understand that her eternal destination was by the determination of God separate and apart from the life that she had lived. He stated that her eternal destination had nothing to do with whether this soul had lived long enough to willfully and knowingly committed sin against God or to accept God’s will and live as a Christian. 
In this verse in question, Paul says that before their conversion the Ephesians were “by nature the children of wrath.” Calvinists see this as describing a condition of inherited total depravity in which all men are born. However, if this is true then a whole host of verses that teach we must accept God and live the Christian life are made null and void. Many Calvinists teach that we inherit our sins from our ancestors. If this is true then we are not masters of our own eternity but our eternal destination is determined by two factors. First, it is determined by the actions of our parents and forefathers; second, it is determined by God without respect to our reaction to His commands.
To help us understand what Paul is saying we should know the key word in the verse “nature” is translated from the Greek word “PHUSIS.” This word can mean either: that which a person is as a result of his birth, or that which by long habit has become nature. How we determine which meaning should be applied is determined by how it is used in the text. With this in mind, we can determine which of these meanings Paul has in mind by simply considering what else is said in the text concerning the Ephesian Christians’ former lives. Consider Paul’s word in verses 1-3, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; (2) Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: (3) Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Ephesians 2:1-3 KJV).
The Christians in consideration were at some time in their lives spiritually dead as a result of their trespasses and sins. Here we find no condemnation by simply being born. Paul said, “Ye were dead through YOUR trespasses and sins.” Their previous condition was of their own making. Next he said, “Wherein YE once WALKED.” They once lived as the world lived without regard to God. They were described by Paul as ones who once walked as “sons of DISOBEDIENCE.” We should ask ourselves, “Can a child without reasoning disobey the laws of God?” NO!!! Then Paul, said, that “we also all once LIVED in the lust of OUR flesh … DOING the desires of the flesh and the mind.”
Clearly this does not describe something inherited at birth but was by nature as Thayer describes, “a mode of feeling and acting which by long habit has become nature.” (Thayer’s Lexicon) It is not the sins of our fathers, grandfathers, or anyone else going back to and including Adam that render someone spiritually dead. Ezekiel said, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die: the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. (Ezekiel 18:20)
(Tony Hoss is minister at Centerview Church of Christ, Elizabethton.)

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox