“Among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others” (Ephesians 2:3-emphasis mine, mb).
Take note of the phrase, “by nature children of wrath.”
Our friends who endorse Calvinist theology insist that this little five-word phrase supports the doctrine of hereditary total depravity. That is, they believe Paul here affirms that all people not only inherit the effects of Adam’s sin (e.g., physical death-Romans 5:12), but they also acquire the guilt of his transgression in the garden:
“Adam’s transgression was not confined to himself, but was transmitted, with its long train of dire consequences, to all his posterity.”/1
“Since the fall of Adam all men are born with a depraved nature, with sinful propensities.”/2
“Our first parents being the root of all mankind, the guilt of their sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature were conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation.”/3
Don’t miss the import of these statements, because they suggest that all of us are born with a morally corrupt and totally depraved nature.
“Even infants bringing their condemnation with them from their mother’s womb, suffer not for another’s, but for their own defect. For although they have not yet produced the fruits of their own unrighteousness, they have the seed implanted in them. Nay, their whole nature is, as it were, a seed-bed, and therefore cannot but be odious and abominable to God. Hence, it follows, that it is properly deemed sinful in the sight of God; for there could be no condemnation without guilt.”/4
But is this what Paul was actually saying in the text? Are we all born in sin as these authors suggest? The answer is an unequivocal, “No.” Reason with me from Scripture:
- Sin is something a person does. “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). What law of God do babies transgress by simply being born into the world?
- Sin cannot be inherited. “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…” (Ezekiel 18:20a).
- If a person inherits a sinful nature from his parents, then Jesus was born a sinner since he was a descendant of Adam (Luke 3:23-38). And yet Scripture affirms, “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26).
- If a person inherits a sinful nature from his parents, could he not also inherit a righteous nature? If not, why not? After the Flood, eight righteous people departed from the ark to re-populate the earth (cf. Genesis 6:9-10; 7:1; 1 Peter 3:20). Exactly how did these eight righteous individuals impart a totally depraved nature to their offspring? (All of the wicked and depraved people of the world had drowned (cf. Genesis 7:21).
- Children are not born evil. “And Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven'” (Matthew 18:2-3; cf. 19:14; Luke 18:16; Deuteronomy 1:39; 1 Corinthians 14:20).
Continued Next Week
1/ James Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers, 226.
2/ Augsburg Confession
3/ Easton’s Bible Dictionary, 1090
4/ Carradine, The Old Man, 71-72