By Luther W. Martin
This study is designed to answer the question that serves as its title! However, several definitions are in order, and will help in preventing misunderstanding and confusion.
(1) Original sin: Refers to the transgression of Adam and Eve, our first parents, in the Garden of Eden, at the behest of Satan. God had stipulated that the “tree which is in the midst of the garden,” was not to be touched, or its fruit eaten, “lest you die” (Gen. 3:3).
(2) Death: This word has one basic meaning, but it has two fundamental applications. The one basic meaning is separation. The two fundamental applications are physical death and spiritual death. Spiritual death is man’s separation from God, due to man’s transgressions. Physical death is the separation of the fleshly body and the, soul or spirit of man. When the spirit departs, the fleshly body is said to be dead, or to have died.
(3) In Genesis 3:3, the death spoken of by God, was both physical and spiritual! If Adam and Eve had not sinned, they could have continued to live eternally in the Garden of Eden. But, by sinning, they separated themselves from God, spiritually, and God’s penalty was physical death which they brought upon themselves, and which was the consequence to the descendants of Adam and Eve.
(4) Satan’s definition of the word death, in Genesis 3:4: “you will not surely die,” was the physical application. Adam and Eve did not die physically that day, when they sinned. However, later on in Genesis 3, the penalties are listed that would be visited upon mankind and womankind . . . as well as a penalty upon serpents, for Satan’s having used the serpent’s body in accomplishing his evil scheme.
Some Scriptures Which Illustrate Sin (Death)
“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezek. 18:20).
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
“All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6).
The foregoing Scriptures establish that an individual is answerable for his own sins. That we “have gone astray,” indicates that prior to “our going astray” we were upright. As infants, before developing to a state of accountability, we were created by God, righteous! “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).
Physical Death Is Inherited From Adam And Eve
Spiritual Death Is The Result Of One’s Own Sins
I suggest that the numerous false doctrines concerning original sin, are the direct result of failing to note the difference between physical death and spiritual death. This is well illustrated in 1 Timothy 5:6 – “But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives,” meaning that the person who gives himself over to carnality and sensual living, though yet alive, is spiritually dead. This misunderstanding and misapplication of spiritual versus fleshly death has a long history in the doctrines of men.
Pelagianism In The Early Fifth Century
Two men in the year 411 A.D., spread some teachings that caused controversy in the Greek and Latin churches. Pelagius and Caelestius held to six points: (1) Even if Adam had not sinned, he would have died. (2) Adam’s sin harmed only himself, not the human race. (3) Children just born are in the same state as Adam before his fall. (4) The whole human race neither dies through Adam’s sin or death, nor rises again through the resurrection of Christ. (5) The (Mosaic) Law is as good a guide to heaven as the Gospel. And (6) Even before the advent of Christ there were men who were without sin. The Latins emphasized the guilt rather than its punishment, as the chief characteristic of original sin. The Greeks on the other hand, stressed the punishment, rather than the guilt. I suggest that only (3) above, is scriptural in content. All the rest of the six points are unscriptural or anti-scriptural.
Calvinism In The 16th Century
John Calvin (1509-1564) introduced and defined the doctrine that bears his name. This false teaching holds: That God predestines some to everlasting fife, while others are consigned to damnation. Nor does their destination depend upon their foreseen virtue or wickedness. As a result of Adam’s sin (original sin), the entire nature of fallen man is totally corrupt. Any righteousness is imputed wholly from outside or exterior forces. Coupled closely with this doctrine of being “consigned to heaven or hell,” and one is helpless in changing one’s destiny, is the “eternal perseverance of the saints” or “once saved, always saved” (the inability of “falling from God’s grace”). Yet there is scarcely a single book of the New Testament but what teaches just the opposite of “once saved, always saved.”
Arminianism: A Reaction To Calvinism (17th Century)
Jacobus Arminius, was born in Holland in 1560. He was a professor at the University of Leyden. After his death, his followers now known as “the Remonstrants” published the following five points: They opposed (1) Predestination in its defined form; as if God by an eternal and irrevocable decision had destined men, some to eternal bliss, others to eternal damnation, without any other law than His own pleasure. On the contrary, they thought that God by the same resolution wished to make all believers in Christ who persisted in their belief to the end blessed in Christ, and for His sake would only condemn the unconverted and unbelieving. They opposed (2) The doctrine of election according to which the chosen were counted as necessarily and unavoidably blessed and the outcasts necessarily and unavoidably lost. They urged the milder doctrine that Christ died for all men. They opposed (3) The doctrine that Christ died for the elect alone to make them blessed and no one else, ordained as mediator; on the contrary, they urged the possibility of salvation for others not elect. They opposed (4) The doctrine that the grace of God affects the elect only, while the reprobates cannot participate in this through their conversion, but only through their own strength. And, they opposed (5) The doctrine that he who had once attained true saving grace can never lose it and be wholly debased. They held, on the contrary, that whoever had received Christ’s quickening spirit had thereby a strong weapon against Satan, sin, the world, and his own flesh.
From the foregoing, we can conclude that the followers of Arminius, reacted toward Calvinism with substantial truth from Scripture.
Summation From Holy Scripture
(1) All of God’s creation was upright and good (Gen. 1:31). Man subsequently chose to practice sin.
(2) Little children are blessed of God, and adults need to become like little children (Matt. 18:1-5).
(3) The son does not inherit the guilt of his father (Ezek. 18:20). A given individual answers for his or her own sin (Ibid.).
(4) Mankind went astray; departed from their former upright status (Rom. 3:23; Isa. 53:6).
(5) The first recorded sin in the church at Jerusalem involved a husband and wife who were Christians, but who then sinned, and died (Acts 5:1-11).
(6) Simon, a Christian, but formerly a sorcerer, sinned after becoming a child of God. He was said to be: “For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” (Acts 8:9-25).
(7) The Apostle Paul was aware that he could so sin as to be eternally lost (1 Cor. 9:27).
(8) The Apostle Paul warned the Galatian Christians concerning the danger of falling from grace (Gal. 5:4).
(9) The Apostle Peter warned Christians about turning from the holy word and being overcome (2 Pet. 2:20-22).
(10) The church in Ephesus had left its first love and was told to “Remember therefore from where you have fallen . .” (Rev. 2:5).
Thus, to answer the question: “Does original sin damn?” Adam’s and Eve’s sin damned Adam and Eve. Their sin did not damn their posterity! Their sin did bring physical death upon the earth and to their descendants.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 1, pp. 22-23
January 1, 1987