Lesson 12: The Sinfulness of Man | Biblical Foundations for Living

Lesson 12: The Sinfulness of Man

Lesson Eleven focused on the unique aspects of Adam’s fall into sin. Though the Fall and its consequences were unique, there are continuing results which affect all people since Adam. Because of Adam’s disobedience, sin has permeated the human race. Everyone is a sinner (Romans 3:23).

Some say that sin is merely a sickness. Others claim that it is a weakness. [People like to redefine what sin is. E.g., alternative lifestyle, disease, mistake. ] What exactly is sin? Where does sin come from? What are its effects? This lesson will answer these questions by studying the following:

1. The nature of sin (What is it?)

2. The imputation of sin (Where does it come from?)

3. The extent of sin (What are its effects?)

I. The Nature of Sin

[Remember that when we talk about the nature of something, we are talking about a thing’s basic characteristics or qualities.]

A. The expression of sin

Sin may be expressed in terms of being, thought, or action. One may sin by being, thinking, or doing wrong or by not being, thinking, or doing right.

1. Sin is expressed in man’s being .

All men are born sinners and persist in a sinful state throughout life.

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.   Psalm 51:5

[Sin can be a state or condition. Man is characterized by sin; he is sinful. It’s a condition. We sin because we are sinful, not vice versa.]

2. Sin is expressed in man’s thoughts .

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.   Matthew 15:19

[cf. also James 1:14. Sin starts in the mind. Thoughts precede action. No one ever committed a sin who did not think first.]

3. Sin is expressed in man’s actions .

The evil I do not want to do  this I keep on doing.   Romans 7:19

We usually associate sin with wrong-doing, that is, doing what we are not supposed to do. The Bible, however, teaches that sin also includes not doing what we are supposed to do. The first we call sins of commission , the second sins of omission .

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.   James 4:17

B. The criterion of sin [criterion is a standard or measure]

What makes certain thoughts and actions sinful and others not? The criterion for judging the sinfulness of anything is its conformity to God or lack thereof. Thus, anything which does not correspond to God’s character is sin.

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:48

[This is how we judge the acceptability of questionable things, i.e., things not addressed in the Bible–movies, dancing, gambling, etc. We judge a practice or idea by whether or not it conforms to or is in keeping with God’s character.]

C. A definition of sin

Sin is the failure to be , think , or act like God. [in the moral realm and in a limited way, i.e., we can’t be exactly like God is.]

[How do we know what God is like? By his word. Thus, when we disobey God’s word, we are failing to act like God. The standard, based on the character of God, is pure perfection. Anything less is sin. So you can see that sin is a pretty broad idea.]

II. The Imputation of Sin

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned  for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.   Romans 5:12 19

A. A definition of imputation

Imputation means “to charge to one’s account .” God, the Divine Accountant, credits to each person’s account the debt which he owes.

[It’s a financial term, like charging something to your account. ]

The Bible speaks of three imputations (this lesson deals with the first): 1) Adam’s sin is imputed to all men ; 2) Mankind’s sin is imputed to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21 and 1 Peter 2:24); and 3) Christ’s

righteousness is imputed to believers (Romans 4:3, 22 24).

In the first act of imputation, God charged Adam’s sin to every man’s account. In the second act of imputation, God erased the entry by charging it to Christ’s account. In the third act of imputation, God entered Christ’s righteousness on the believer’s ledger. Because of this wonderful doctrine of imputation, the believer has a positive standing before God. We will examine these great truths in future lessons. In this lesson, however, we will examine the first imputation more closely.

[Why is it necessary to have a positive standing? Isn’t being forgiven for sin enough? No. One must have positive merit to go to heaven. The only way to get this merit is thru the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to your account–justification.]

B. Adam’s sin was imputed to the entire human race .

Because Adam represented the entire human race, condemnation came upon all men when he sinned. Because of the Fall, all men stand guilty before God. Each individual did not actually sin when Adam sinned. Adam’s descendants did not, by any act of their own wills, eat the forbidden fruit; they did not even exist at that time. However, because Adam was the father of the entire human race, the penalty which God pronounced upon him rested upon all mankind.

[Most unsaved people do not realize the severity of their sinful condition. Just because they don’t do terrible acts of sin does not mean they are not sinful and liable for punishment. ]

III. The Extent of Sin

A. Sin extends to the whole race .

In Romans 1:18 3:20, Paul makes it clear that all men without exception are sinners. He asserts that both Gentiles and Jews are sinners, concluding with these words:

What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”   Romans 3:9 12

Every member of the human race has fallen short of God’s standard. All are lost in sin. They are universally condemned by God because of sin.

There is no one who does not sin.   1 Kings 8:46

B. Sin extends to each individual .

  1. Sin is individual because of original sin .

The Bible teaches that every man is born a sinner because of the imputation of Adam’s sin. This is the doctrine of original sin.

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.   Psalm 51:5

[Can an infant make a choice to disobey? No. So they have no personal sin. How could someone be sinful at birth? Even infants are sinful because of the imputation of Adam’s sin.]

2. Sin is individual because of personal sin . Each person since Adam (except Jesus Christ) is corrupt because of his own individual sinfulness.

C. Sin extends to the whole person .

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires . . . . The mind of sinful man is death . . . the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.   Romans 8:5 8

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.   Ephesians 4:17 19

[Sin affects the material and immaterial aspect of man. ]

Theologians use the words ” total depravity ” to refer to the fact that man is totally sinful.

1. Total depravity does not mean:

a. Men commit every sin.

  1. Men never do anything good in a relative sense (Luke 6:33).

[That is, even unsaved people do “good” things. They are not meritorious in God’s eyes, but they are good/beneficial rather than bad/destructive. ]

c. Men are at all times as bad as they could possibly be (2 Timothy 3:13).

  1. Total depravity does mean:

a. Sin affects all parts of man’s nature or being .

It affects his body, mind, emotion, and will (Romans 1:28 32).

b. Nothing that unsaved men do is really pleasing to God.

Some of their actions may be relatively good, but none of them is really good. Even their so called good deeds are influenced by their depravity.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.   Isaiah 64:6

[Unsaved people are capable of civic or cultural good, not good in the moral or spiritual sense. They can do nothing to please God, even when they obey the Bible (by going to church, giving, being kind, etc.) In fact, God is not impressed by, nor does he accept, the acts of worship given by unsaved people. See Prov 15:8, 21:27, 28:9]

c. Man is completely unable to lift himself out of his fallen condition.

Just as a dead man lying in a tomb is unable to contribute anything to his resurrection, so men who are dead in sin are utterly unable to exercise saving faith apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in them.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins . . . . Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.   Ephesians 2:1,3 5

[This is why salvation must be the work of God. Man is dead. He wants nothing to do with God. He will never seek God on his own. God must take the first steps in saving a person.]

This is man’s condition from God’s perspective. He sees man as corrupted with the imputed guilt of Adam’s first sin. Because of his corrupt nature, man commits individual sins without number and is totally unable to please God. God sees mankind as a race lost in sin and deserving of divine judgment . Who am I? I am a sinner who has deeply offended the God who created me to reflect His image  a sinner who deserves sin’s penalty , both physical and spiritual death. It is against this backdrop that we now move on to the great doctrine of Christ and His work on the cross for us.

Learning to Live It

1. The following are comments frequently overheard. What errors do each of these statements reveal about a person’s view of sin?

a. “Everybody sins, but I’m not that bad.”

1. This individual is comparing himself with other sinners rather than with God. Compared to God, everyone is utterly wicked. 2. The fact that everyone else sins in no way decreases the seriousness of your own sin.

b. “It’s all right if you look, but don’t touch.”

Sin is more than just an act. It includes the wicked thoughts leading up to the act or just the thoughts alone without the act. To lust after someone is as sinful as doing the act; to hate is as sinful as murder.

2. A popular television preacher [Robert Schuller] has written, “Sin is any act or thought that robs myself or another human being of his or her self esteem.” He adds, “A person is in hell when he has lost his self esteem.” Finally, according to this preacher, the answer to sin and hell is “faith,” which he defines as a sense of “self worth.” According to this preacher, is sin primarily an offense against God or man?

against man

How does this definition of sin compare with the biblical definition?

It totally contradicts the biblical definition. According to the Bible, sin is an offense against a holy God. The preacher makes his own definition for sin. If one can make anything mean anything, then everything means nothing.

How do we know that faith is not the recovery of a sense of self worth?

The Bible doesn’t come even close to defining faith in such a way.

3. A large city church held a special service on the day new Sunday School teachers were being inducted into office. The message preached that day dealt with the church’s approach to religious education. The pastor stated that there are two notions about the teaching of children in Sunday School. The “old notion” is that children are to be taught that they are sinners in need of a Savior. He proceeded to say that the church has abandoned this old idea and now realizes that the job of the teacher is to “nurture the tender plant of the religious nature of the child in order that it may bear fruit in a normal and healthy religious life.” Are children born good or bad?


Do they need a Savior?


Do children need help to bring out what is naturally on the inside?


What is on the inside?

Sin. Jer 17:9–a heart full of deceit and wickedness.

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