************ Sermon on Belgic Confession Article 15 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on October 11, 2009

Belgic Confession Article 15
Romans 5:12-21
"Original Sin"

Do you know what most Americans believe about themselves? They believe themselves to be born good and innocent. So, we see teachers and schools who never give a failing grade because then children and teens get the message that maybe they are not so good. Mothers come on TV, after their son has just murdered or raped, and pronounce their son to be a good boy. I was traveling with someone to a funeral. The person with me said about the deceased, "She was a good person." After a few moments I asked, "Do you think people would say that about you as well?" It soon became clear she thought of most people as being basically good and good people go straight to heaven when they die.

Is this what you believe? Do you think you are basically good? As Christians, we can apply the word good to ourselves only under two conditions. The first condition: I am good, at sin. The second condition: I am good, in Christ. Any other application of the word good is a gross misuse and shows we have not properly understood either sin or salvation.

The last time we looked at the Belgic Confession of Faith, we learned of the height of mankind's glory: that God made man from the dust of the earth, that God breathed into man the breath of life, that God gave man dominion over the earth, that God made man in His image. The trouble, I would say, is that many believe we are still at the height of this glory. The harsh reality, though, is that Adam and Eve were plunged into depravity when they willfully sinned. The result is that we, with Adam and Eve, were also plunged into depravity and born into sin so none of us can call ourselves good.

The bulk of Article 14 of the Belgic Confession of Faith dealt with sin. Today, we look at the doctrine of sin again. Two full articles on the topic of sin. Instead of "getting on with it" and moving to more positive things, the Confession confronts us with our sin again. This time, however, the topic is the transmission of sin. We are looking at how those born after Adam become sinners. Consider Taryn Riley Soerens we baptized this little baby this morning. This evening we want to ask how she, with the rest of us, becomes a sinner.

I Pelagius Sinners Through Imitation
A Around the year A.D. 380 there lived a British monk named Pelagius. Pelagius taught that the human person, even after the fall into sin, retained a free will. We can will not to sin; if we want, we can be perfect like Christ.

According to Pelagius, there is no connection between Adam's sin and our sin. We don't inherit any original sin from Adam and Eve. There is no transmission of guilt from Adam to us, and no transmission of pollution either. Adam was created neutral: neither good nor bad. His sin was a matter of choice. The human person born today is born in the exact same condition as Adam: he or she is born neutral. Like Adam, they can make a choice between good or evil. This means that every human ever born replays the test of Adam and Eve in the Garden every person has to decide for obedience or disobedience to God's commands. Sin, said Pelagius, is not a condition, but a choice. We are not sinners by nature; rather, we do sinful things.

B If Pelagius is correct, how come there is so much bad and so little good in our world? If Pelagius is correct, how come everyone seems to choose for evil? How does Pelagius account for the universality of sin?

Imitation. According to Pelagius, we choose for sin by imitation. Sin is universal because of imitation. We all imitate the bad examples of our parents, brothers, sisters, wives or husbands, friends and associates. If only we had good examples to follow we all would choose good rather than evil

Taryn Riley Soerens will turn out perfect only if she has perfect examples to imitate. Taryn Riley Soerens will turn out perfect only if her parents, grandparents, and others in her life are perfect examples to imitate.

C How do we respond to such a view? First, let me say that it flatly contradicts Scripture. Our passage from Romans 5 teaches us that no human is ever born neutral:
(Rom 5:12) ... sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned ...

(Rom 5:18) ... the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men ...

(Rom 5:19) ... through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners ...
Listen, also, to the words of the Psalmist:
(Ps 51:5) Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Instead of being born neutral, as Pelagius maintains, the Bible makes clear that we are conceived and born into sin and as sinners.

Second, the Pelagian view is contrary to our experience. Most parents and teachers see that sin exists in even the smallest of children. For instance, think of how quickly a child refuses to share and learns to say "mine, mine, mine" when it comes to toys. Think of how some children inflict hurt on others by biting. Think of how cruel children can be to each other on the playground: mocking, poking, fighting, name-calling, and picking on each other. Think of how older children deliberately ignore someone. No, experience does not tell us that children are born sweet and innocent.

Third, bad examples do not invariably corrupt. Think of Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon. The environment may lead to sin but it does not cause sin. The opposite, of course, is also true: good examples do not invariably lead to good behavior why else do so many godly parents have such erring children?

Fourth, the problem of sin goes much deeper than bad examples.
Topic: Sin
Subtopic: Origin of
Index: 3339
Date: 10/1995.19
Title: Not Clocks Only

A good story is told of old Thomas K. Beecher, who could not bear deceit in any form. Finding that a clock in his church was habitually too fast or too slow, he hung a placard on the wall above it which read, "Don't blame my hands. The trouble lies deeper."
Similarly, when I do wrong, don't blame my hands, or my feet, or my lips, or my thoughts. The trouble lies deeper, much deeper. The trouble lies in my heart. The trouble is that we are conceived and born with original sin.

Why is someone a sinner? Is someone a sinner because they sin, because they do bad things? Those people in Corcoran Prison or Bob Wiley, are they considered sinners because they do such things as rape, kill, steal, embezzle, abuse, get drunk, and do drugs? Are they sinners because they sin? If that is what you think, then you are wrong.

Why is someone, anyone, a sinner? We aren't sinners because we sin; rather, we sin because we are sinners. Sin is part of our fallen nature. It is something we are born with. All of us are conceived and born with original sin; all of us are conceived and born with the sin of Adam and Eve. That's why we are sinners!

II The Passing on of Original Sin
A Back to the question of the day. How is original sin transmitted to us? How do little babies like Taryn Riley Soerens become sinners?

Based on Scripture, the Confession of faith speaks clearly to this. It says,
We believe that by the disobedience of Adam original sin has been spread through the whole human race ... It is ... an inherited depravity which even infects small infants in their mother's womb ...
The Confession speaks to us about "original sin." Why do we call Adam's sin in the Garden "original"? Not only was Adam's sin the first sin, but it was also the origin and beginning and source of all other sins.

Notice, we inherit original sin. We inherit it from Adam and Eve through our parents. The original sin of Adam and Eve passed on to their children, who passed it on to their children, who passed it on to theirs ... until eventually it became ours. It is hereditary. It can't be avoided. This means that even Taryn Riley Soerens is infected with Adam's sin. Little babies, together with the rest of us, are sinners through Adam or because of Adam. We all are sinners and we all sin because of the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise.

There can be no doubt that this is the clear teaching of Scripture. Listen to these verses from our Bible reading:
(Rom 5:12) ... sin entered the world through one man ...

(Rom 5:15) ... many died by the trespass of the one man ...

(Rom 5:18) ... the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men ...

(Rom 5:19) ... through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners ...

B But how is Adam's and Eve's original sin passed on to us? How does their sin become our sin? The answer lies in the word "imputation." In Romans 4 and 5, the Apostle Paul uses the word for "imputation" seven times (Rom 4:6, 8, 11, 22, 23, 24; 5:13).

What is imputation? To impute something is to give, to credit, to reckon something to someone's account. A couple of weeks ago, for instance, I went online and ordered a new bulb for the church's projector. I paid for it by credit card. Now, did I actually pay for it? Not really. Instead, what happened is that the credit card company imputed $200 to the bank account of the Advanced Lamps corporation. Unfortunately, the lamp arrived broken and blown so now the imputation has to be reversed.

Adam's sin has been imputed to our account even if we don't do the exact same sin. Paul makes this point in Romans 5:14 where he says,
(Rom 5:14) 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 ...
We are born sinful by imputation, not by imitation.

III The Results of Original Sin
A Adam sinned. Adam's sin has been imputed to the whole human race. What are the results?

The first result is "a corruption of all nature." Sin has affected not only the will of man making him unwilling and unable to do that which is good in God's sight but it has also warped man's whole being and every human enterprise. Every aspect of our being is totally depraved our minds, wills, affections, inclinations, heart, soul, and even body are fallen and corrupt. And every aspect of human life is touched by sin business and commerce, the arts, our sexuality, government, sports, science, philosophy, research, banking not one part of human life is untouched by sin. On account of this man cannot do anything to make himself right with God; on his own he is unable to change his natural preference for sin and evil. The theological term we use here is total depravity or pollution.

B The second effect of original sin the sin we are born with is actual sin. The Confession says that original sin is "the root which produces in man every sort of sin." For five years, we have had a dogwood under our oak tree. We tried everything to make it bloom more water, less water, fertilizer, working up the soil but nothing has worked. This Spring we dug it up and moved it to a new location. The roots appear to love the new location because the tree is finally thriving. If the root is not right, you can only expect bad fruit. Within man is a root original sin that causes us to bear the bad fruit of sin.

The Confession also compares original sin to a contaminated spring or fountain. A number of years ago on a trip across the United States, my family and I stopped overnight at a campground with sulphur hot springs. The hot, smelly water came from deep in the earth and bubbled up hour after hour and day after day. In the same way sin bubbles forth in the lives of man hour after hour and day after day from the cesspool of original sin.

C The third effect of original sin is condemnation or guilt. Original sin is "so vile and enormous in God's sight that it is enough to condemn the human race." In Adam we are all reckoned as guilty before God. We aren't considered guilty in the sense of personally eating of the forbidden fruit. But because Adam is our federal or covenant head his guilt is imputed to us. To this guilt we add the guilt of our own sin. Therefore we stand doubly condemned or damned before God: for the sin we are born with as well as for the sin we actually commit.

IV God's Grace and Our Struggle
A In our Scripture reading Paul discusses our fall in Adam. Over and over again he drives home the point that Adam is our representative, our covenant or federal head. The Apostle Paul talks about Adam as our representative because he wants to talk about Jesus as our representative. He writes Romans 5 to assure us that just as we are lost in Adam, so are we saved in Christ. Just like all fall in Adam, so all who believe are saved in Christ. In both instances, the lot of the many is decided in the deeds of the one. The position of Adam helps us to understand the position of Jesus. Both are representative heads of humanity. We may be united with the first Adam in original sin, but if we are united with the second Adam we are set free from corruption, sin, and condemnation. Listen to what our Bible reading says:
(Rom 5:15) 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!

(Rom 5:19) 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.

(Cf Rom 5:16, 17, 18)

B This is also the teaching of baptism. In baptism we are reminded that we and our little ones are corrupt, we are sinners, we are guilty. And we are also reminded that because of the death and resurrection of Christ we are treated as being righteous, pure, and innocent. But, as the Belgic Confession of Faith puts it, this does not mean that original sin is "abolished or wholly uprooted even by baptism." In this life, in this body, and on this earth original sin continues to be something we must struggle against so that we groan "to be set free from the body of this death."

A number of years ago, high school students were asked what they saw as the number one problem facing mankind today. Things mentioned were: global warming, climate change, acid rain, pollution, crime, poverty, nuclear waste, the arms race, and terrorism. Not one of these students mentioned the real root or cause of man's woes; not a single student pointed at sin as the real problem facing the human race.

Sin is man's real problem. It is only because of sin that all other problems exist. And, it is only when we deal with sin that we can deal with everything else that is wrong with our world.

At the root of all our problems lies the problem of sin. And, as Christians, we all know the solution to that problem:
(Rom 5:19) 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.

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