Is the idea of original sin and inherited sin found in the Bible? Do all humans inherit the
sin of Adam as some claim? Are all humans totally depraved, or in a completely sinful position,
from the time they are born? It is true that all people are born into a world containing sin and
as humans we will all sin. This idea is stated by Paul in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned,
and come short of the glory of God." Every person will sin, but are we born sinful? Did we
inherit sin? Do we have a sinful nature? A careful study of the Word of God will reveal to the
reader that human beings are in fact not born sinful nor born in a depraved state.
Many religious organizations claim that every human is born sinful. To determine if this is correct, a definition of sin must be found. The Bible teaches the following about sin: "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4). The Bible also says that the result of sin is spiritual death. "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). The definition of sin must therefore be a breaking of God's law resulting in spiritual death of the one breaking that law. If the payment for sin is spiritual death, and sin is a breaking of God's law, what law has a newborn baby broken? The idea of a newborn baby receiving the payment for sin when they have not broken God's law is contrary to the scriptures. No person will receive the payment of something they have not done. This definition of sin is very important to remember. Sin is the breaking of God's laws.
The Bible teaches that works of the flesh are sins that people commit. Paul gives a list of sins in Galatians 5:19-21; "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Many other passages could be cited giving further sins, as these listed here are not an exhaustive list. However this passage is a great example because of the phrase "and such like", which includes every other sin imaginable. Also note that sins are not only actions in our flesh, but also of our thoughts, (Matt. 5:28; 1 John 2, 3, 4). If sins are a transgression of God's law by doing works of the flesh or thinking evil thoughts, can a newborn baby who does not know God's law, is physically unable to commit any of the works of the flesh, and mentally unable to sin in thought, be guilty of sin? If the Biblical definition of sin is an evil work of the flesh or evil thought of the mind, both of which breaks God's law, can there be another man-made definition of sin?
Children — especially newborn babies — do not know the difference between good and evil. They are not able to commit transgressions of God's law. We have an example from the Old Testament about the neutral nature of children. The Old Testament records the account of the Israelites who had refused to obey God and fight against the land of Canaan. Twelve spies were sent into the land, and only Joshua and Caleb had faith in God to make them victorious. The following verses are God's reply to these people; "Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it. But as for you, turn you, and take your journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea. Then ye answered and said unto me, We have sinned against the Lord. . ." (Deut. 1:39-41). Notice that God says that the children had no knowledge of good or evil. All humans are born neutral in the eyes of God because of this fact. The Children of Israel were being punished because "we have sinned", they truthfully claim. Children, especially babies, do not know good or evil and therefore cannot transgress any of God's laws by committing works of the flesh and giving way to evil thoughts.
Because of this definition of sin it is clearly seen that original sin cannot exist because sin is an action a person does contrary to God's law. What about the idea of inheriting sin? This would be sin passed on from parents to children. The prophet Ezekiel speaks about this subject in Ezekiel 18:4-20. To conserve space, only the main points of this passage will be noted. Please read the passage in its entirety on your own. Ezekiel 18:4; "Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die." The prophet tells us that the soul that sins, or transgresses God's law, shall die. What has a newborn baby done worthy of death if they are physically and mentally unable to sin? Notice especially Ezekiel 18:19-20: "Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. 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." Again the Prophet states this unmistakable fact: the soul that commits sin will die. Sin is not and cannot be passed on from father to son. To say so is to deny the inspired writings of the Bible. The "wickedness of the wicked" is his and his alone. It is not passed on to his children.
Many people believe that Romans 5:12 teaches the idea of original sin and inherited sin. A careful examination of this verse will determine exactly what God would have us to know regarding Paul's statement to the Romans: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Rom. 5:12). On the surface this verse seems to say that because of Adam and his sin every human to live after him will inherit his guilt. However, this verse comes nowhere near teaching such false doctrine. First, Paul, by inspiration, states that "because by one man sin entered into the world". Adam introduced sin into the world because he was the first man to commit sin. "And death by sin" — please recall Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is death," and Romans 3:23: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;". Sin was introduced into the world, and, because all have sinned, and the wages of sin is death, death is now entered into the world.
This can be applied to physical death, but the context of the passage teaches that the death is a spiritual death. That is why Paul is explaining the necessity of Jesus Christ. Finally, "and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned". What passed on to all men? Adam's sin? By no means! Death passed on to all men! Why? Because "all have sinned"! The only reason "death passed upon all men" is because "all have sinned" and "the wages of sin is death."
Original Sin is a man-made term that states that we are born full of sin and have inherited sin from Adam. This is not the Biblical definition of sin. Sin is something that transgresses God's law. Only those who go past, or transgress, the law that God gave to govern men and women in Jesus Christ can commit sin. Sin is not passed on from father to son. A newborn baby can do none of the above-mentioned things. God's definition of sin contradicts man's definition of sin.
As good students of God's word, we must reject man's definition of sin and accept God's. We do not serve a God who would condemn an infant or child of sin when that child has done nothing contrary to God's Law. We should refuse such doctrines that would teach something so contrary to the nature of God and the biblical definition of sin. God created man in his own image, and said it was good, Genesis 1:26-27. God does not continue to create his children evil and full of sin.