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Did we all inherit sin from Adam and Eve?

Question: "Did we all inherit sin from Adam and Eve?"

Answer: Yes, all people inherited sin from Adam and Eve, specifically from Adam. Sin is
described in the Bible as transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4) and rebellion against
God (Deuteronomy 9:7; Joshua 1:18). Genesis 3 describes Adam and Eve’s rebellion against
God and His command. Because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, sin has been an
“inheritance” for all of their descendants. Romans 5:12 tells us that, through Adam, sin
entered the world and so death was passed on to all men because all have sinned. This
passed-on sin is known as inherited sin. Just as we inherit physical characteristics from our
parents, we inherit our sinful nature from Adam.

Adam and Eve were made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6). However,
we are also in the image and likeness of Adam (Genesis 5:3). When Adam fell into sin, the
result was every one of his descendants also being “infected” with sin. David lamented this
fact in one of his Psalms: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother
conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). This does not mean that his mother bore him illegitimately;
rather, his mother had inherited a sin nature from her parents, and they from their parents,
and so on. David inherited sin from his parents, just as we all do. Even if we live the best life
possible, we are still sinners as a result of inherited sin.

Being born sinners results in the fact that we all sin. Notice the progression in Romans 5:12:
sin entered the world through Adam, death follows sin, death comes to all people, all people
sin because they inherit sin from Adam. Because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of
God” (Romans 3:23), we need a perfect, sinless sacrifice to wash away our sin, something we
are powerless to do on our own. Thankfully, Jesus Christ is the Savior from sin! Our sin has
been crucified on the cross of Jesus, and now “in Him we have redemption through His blood,
the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). God, in His
infinite wisdom, has provided the remedy for the sin we inherit, and that remedy is available
to everyone: “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness
of sins is proclaimed to you” (Acts 13:38).

Recommended Resource: Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie

Do We Inherit the Guilt of Adam's Sin?
Ezekiel 18:19-32
The doctrine of original sin states that all of us are born sinners. Our parents pass along the guilt of
Adam and Eve's original transgression to us, their children, even as they received the same from their
parents, and so on, back to the fall of man in the garden. John Calvin said, "Again, I ask: whence does it
happen that Adam's fall irremediably involved so many peoples, together with their infant offspring, in
eternal death unless because it so pleased God?" He concluded by saying, "The decree is dreadful, I
confess." (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 2, page 955). One human written religious
creed, the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, says, "They (Adam and Eve - J.Q.) being the root, and, by
God's appointment... the guilt of sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity,
descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin..."

Let us consider this teaching in light of what the Scriptures actually say. If the Bible teaches it, then it is
true. If not, then it is false. It matters not how widespread the teaching is, who believes it, or what the
creed books written by men say.

Is the Guilt of Sin Inherited?

"The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment of the father's iniquity; nor will the
father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon
himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be on himself." (Ezekiel 18:20; cf. vss. 19-32). Though
there are many passages that contradict the doctrine of original sin, I can think of none that do it
stronger than these verses in Ezekiel. The Lord has said, "Therefore, I will judge you, O house of Israel,
each according to his conduct," (Ezekiel 18:30). Any doctrine that says we are judged by the conduct of
our ancestors, including Adam's, is clearly wrong.

While we are here, compare Calvin's statement quoted earlier with the following Scripture:

God: "For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies." (vs. 32).

Calvin: " many peoples, together with their infant offspring, in eternal death unless because it so
pleased God?"

Many other passages also show the impossibility of transferring the guilt of sin (Jeremiah 31:27-30;
Deuteronomy 24:16; Galatians 6:5).

The Definition of Sin

"Everyone who practices sin practices lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness." (1 John 3:4). Sin is an act of
unrighteousness. It is something we do. It is an act that is lawless, or contrary to God's law. The Bible
never refers to sin as something that we are born with. It is never defined in God's word as a natural
weakness or an inherited trait.

For example, the Lord commands, "Thou shall not commit murder." I am not a murderer unless I commit
an act that violates that command.

While it is true that all of Adam's descendants pay the consequences of Adam's sin (i.e., we live in a
cursed world; we suffer physical death, etc.) that is not the same thing as being guilty of Adam's sin. A
child of a drunkard may suffer the consequences of his parent's misbehavior, but this does not mean the
child himself is guilty of drunkenness.

The Consequences of the Fall

"Then to Adam He said, 'Because you ... have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you,
saying, "You shall not eat from it..."'" (Genesis 3:17; see context: vss. 14-24). One reads in vain for the
idea of original sin in the account of man's fall as related in the Bible. Genesis records many
consequences resulting from the first transgression. There is pain in childbirth, the ground is cursed, and
physical death (the body returning to dust) is decreed. But nothing at all about children inheriting the
guilt of Adam's sin.

What About This?

"Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me." (Psalm 51:5). Some take
David's words to mean that he was born a sinner, but that is not what he said. He said that his mother
brought him forth in sin. He was born into a sinful world. So are we and our children. The lure of sin
effects us as we grow up. It is all around us from birth.

Some also point to another Psalm (Psalm 58:3), but it, too, says the wicked "go astray" not "born
astray". In their hearts they "work unrighteousness" and "weigh out violence" (vs. 2). It is from birth that
evil influences begin to work on the innocent one, working estrangement from God.

Born Innocent

"Truly, truly, I say unto you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the
kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3). This certainly does not sound like Jesus looked upon children as
being totally depraved in sin. This is such a different view of children from how Calvin saw them!

We do inherit things from our parents, but those things do not include sin. We inherit our physical traits
from our earthly parents. We inherit our spiritual traits from God. He is therefore called "the Father of
spirits" in a passage plainly discussing the spirits of human beings (Hebrews 12:9). Paul refers to us as
being "the offspring of God" (Acts 17:28,29). Who dares say our spirit is already tainted by sin at birth.

This unbiblical doctrine brought yet another dilemma that had to be dealt with. How does one explain
how Jesus, the sinless One, was born without inheriting Adam's sin through Mary? Catholicism devised
the doctrine of the "immaculate conception" of Mary. She was born without sin, and had none to pass
on to Jesus. But, where, pray tell, is that in the Bible? Instead, it says that He became "flesh and blood"
as we are because He "had to be made like His brethren in all things" This does not involve inheriting sin,
He is without sin (Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:15).

A final point to be made is one of accountability. God does not demand of us or hold us accountable for
that which we cannot help. Jesus, for example, said, "If you were blind, you would have no sin" (John
10:41). Jesus is talking about being unable to comprehend right and wrong. Infants have no sin because
God does not hold them accountable. Paul referred to this early stage in his life as well . He was
spiritually "alive" but then "when sin became alive" he died (Romans 7:9).

By Jon W. Quinn (From Expository Files 6.6; June 1999)
Is Sin Inherited from Adam?

A common teaching found among denominations is the idea that people are born with the guilt of sin,
which we inherited from Adam. The inheritance of sin is used to explain the prevalence of sin in the
world. Everyone sins. There is no exception (Romans 3:23). The conclusion is that sin must be built into
The first person that I know who taught this idea was a man named Augustine in the fourth
century A.D. However, it was John Calvin, who lived in the early sixteenth century, who popularized the
idea. Calvin lived during the period of history when many people rebelled against the Catholic Church
and began founding new groups that would reform the church. Calvin's teachings influenced many of
these groups.

For example, in the Philadelphia Confession of Faith that is used by many Presbyterian churches,
there is a statement that because of inherited sin, "we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made
opposite of all good, and wholly inclined to do evil . . . This corruption of nature, during this life, doth
remain in those that are regenerated; and, although Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself and
the first motions thereof are truly and properly sin."

You may not think of it immediately, but there is a problem with the idea of sin being inherited. If
sin is inherited, then how can the Bible claim that Jesus, being born in this world, was without sin
(Hebrews 4:15). The Catholic's solution to this problem is to claim that Jesus' mother, Mary, was
miraculously conceived. In that conception, the chain of sin was broken and she was born without sin.
Since she was without sin, then she was able to give birth to Jesus and not pass on the sin.
Unfortunately for the Catholics, there is absolutely no evidence in the Bible for the belief. It also leaves
the question that if Mary could be born without sin from sinful parents, then why not Jesus directly? The
Protestants take a different approach. They argue that sin is only passed through the fathers. Since Jesus
did not have an earthly father, he did not inherit Adam's sin. Once again, the difficulty in this position is
that the Bible does not say that sin is only inherited through the father.

We understand from our previous lesson that Adam and Eve sinned and that the result of their
sin had a huge impact on the world. Some of the consequences of their sins have been passed on to
their children, such as women having pain in childbirth and men having to work hard for an existence.
The question is whether the actual sin itself has been passed down through the generations. As usual,
we will turn to the Bible for the answers.

In an upcoming lesson, we are going to learn about Adam and Eve's first two sons, Cain and Abel.
Cain did not follow God as he should have and in Genesis 4:4-7, God warned Cain to change his ways. If
Cain would turn to righteousness, he would do well, and God would accept him. However, if he
continued down his current path, God said that sin was lying at his door. Thus, God warned Cain that he
was about to sin, but Calvinism teaches that Cain was already in sin because he inherited his father's sin.

Later, in Genesis 5:21-24, we read about a righteous man named Enoch. Enoch is described as a
man who walked with God. He was so righteous that he never died. God took him before his physical
death. There is only one other man who had this privilege and that was the prophet Elijah (II Kings 2:11).
Enoch poses a problem for Calvinism because God does not have dealings with those in sin (see I John
1:5). A person's sins separate him from God (Isaiah 59:1-2) and yet God took Enoch.

These examples force us to conclude that sin is not inherited from parents. Instead, we are each
responsible for our own actions. If sin was inherited, can you imagine what would happen with each
generation? Cain would have inherited Adam's sins, but Cain himself sinned, so his sons would inherit
Adam and Cain's sins. The amount of sin would build up with each successive generation. Would we
ever be in trouble!

Instead, we read in Colossians 3:25 that God is just. We are only punished for the wrong that we
have done. I cannot be held accountable for Adam's sin because I did not commit that sin. However,
notice that I still suffer from the consequences of Adam's sin. It is just the same as what happens when a
drunk driver kills a family in an automobile accident. The family did not commit the sin of drunkenness,
yet they still suffer the consequences of another person's sin. And it is not just the family who was killed,
but all their relatives and friends also suffer from someone else's sin.

The strongest argument that sin is not inherited is found in Ezekiel 18. There was a proverb in
Israel that said when a father ate sour grapes, his children's teeth were set on edge. By this proverb, the
people meant that children inherited the sins of their fathers. Notice God's response: "As I live, you will
no longer use this proverb in Israel." God said it was totally false. God then goes on to prove his point.
Suppose a man lives righteously, then God will reward him for his righteousness. If that righteous man
has a wicked son, the sins of the son will not affect the reward of the righteous man. Similarly, the
righteousness of the wicked man's father will not benefit him. No matter how righteous your father is,
his righteousness will not save you from your own sins.

Continuing, suppose the wicked man has a righteous son. The same rules apply. The son is not
held accountable for the wickedness of his father. Similarly, the wicked father cannot derive any benefit
from his righteous son. Ezekiel 18:20 summarizes the rule: "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."

People who believe in sins being inherited do turn to some passages to prove their point. I would
like to go over the main ones with you.

The first passage is Psalms 51:5. Psalms 51 is a poem that David wrote after he realized that he
sinned by having sex with a woman named Bathsheba (see II Samuel 12:1-7). David agonized over his sin
and said "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me." Some Bible
translations make it sound as if he inherited his mother's sins, but this would contradict what we
learned in Ezekiel 18. Notice in Psalms 51:1-4 that the sin David is agonizing over is his own sin; not his
mother's sins or Adam's sin. Contrast David's statement in Psalms 51:5 with another one he made in
Psalms 22:9-10. In Psalms 22, David was in a much better mood and he talks about his worshiping God
from his birth. Which statement is correct? What David is saying in Psalms 51 is that his sin has affected
his whole life. He started life in a sinful world and that world has influenced his life.

Another passage that is often used is Romans 3:23. Paul says all have sinned. However, read this
again. Paul did not say all are sinners. He said all have sinned. The words "have" indicates an activity on
every individual's part. Every one of us have broken God's law. This does not imply that those sins were
inherited. Remember our discussion of James 1:14-15, every man is tempted, being drawn away by his
own lusts. Notice that it says "every man" and the lusts are "his own" not his father's or Adam's lusts.
Paul and James are teaching the same thing. Every person is faced with a choice between doing right
and wrong. Every man has made the wrong choice at various times in his life.

The last passage we will look at is Romans 5:12. I have noticed that when people believe in
inherited sin, they will often quote the first part of the verse. They almost always leave off the last
phrase. Adam introduced sin into the world. As a direct result he spiritually died (Romans 6:23; Genesis
2:16-17). Among the punishments God gave as a result of Adam's sin was physical death (Genesis 3:19).
In addition, men were denied access to the tree of life because of their knowledge of good and evil
(Genesis 3:22). Spiritual death continues to spread to all men because we all eventually sin. Physical
death remains in this world because the problem of sin remains, so the curse has not been lifted
(Revelation 22:3). There is no mention of sin being inherited but each individual perpetuating the
problem started by Adam. Once again, the teaching in Romans 5:12 is the same as in James 1:14-15.

The idea that children are born sinful is a myth. A child begins life in this world in purity and
innocence. When children are small, they have no knowledge of good or evil (Deuteronomy 1:39). A
child must grow up in order to know to refuse evil and choose good (Isaiah 7:15-16). This is why Jesus
said the kingdom of heaven (another description of the church) is composed of people who are similar
to little children (Mark 10:14). We have to become like children to enter the kingdom (Matthew 18:3).
To enter the church, we must be cleansed of our sins, just as little children are without sin.

People are punished for their own sins (Colossians 3:25). God does not choose who is punished
for sin or rewarded for righteous by the individual. Rather, the actions of each individual during his life
determines whether he will be punished or rewarded. God set the standards. Our actions are measured
against that standard. The decision to follow the standard or not is on man's part. God remains an
impartial judge.
Does everyone inherit sin from Adam and Eve?
Adam and Eve were created by God and originally lived in the Garden of Eden apart from sin.
In Genesis 3, the serpent (Satan) tempted Eve and she and Adam ate from the fruit of the tree from
which God commanded them not to eat. They received judgment from God, including physical
death, and then had a sinful nature that has been passed down to all people since (with the
exception of Jesus).

Romans 5:12 offers a New Testament perspective of this issue: "Therefore, just as sin came into the
world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned."
This idea that "death spread to all men" is often referred to as inherited sin. Every person is born
with a fallen, imperfect sinful nature that separates us from fellowship with God.

The psalmist noted how early this sin impacts human life in Psalm 51:5: "Behold, I was brought forth
in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." Sin exists from conception from his perspective
and is passed on from one generation to the next. Sin is both part of human nature and something
each person practices in specific ways throughout life.

As a result, all people sin and fall short of God's glory (Romans 3:23). Some people sin more than
others or sin in more visible ways than others, yet even one sin is enough to require God's
redemption to restore a right relationship with God. Jesus came to earth to die as a substitute and
payment for our sins so we could have fellowship with Him.

As a result, Acts 4:12 teaches that Jesus and only Jesus is sufficient for salvation: "And there is
salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we
must be saved." Jesus personally taught, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to
the Father except through me" (John 14:6).

Just before Jesus ascended to the Father in heaven, He left a clear mission for His followers to
share His message with as many people as possible: "Go therefore and make disciples of all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching
them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the
age" (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus made salvation possible for any person who would believe in His

In summary, we have all inherited sin from Adam and Eve. In addition, every person commits many
sins throughout his or her lifetime. These sins keep us from relationship with God and require a
"way" of forgiveness in order to be restored in a right relationship with Him. Jesus Christ is the one
and only way to be restored into a right relationship with God, offering forgiveness and eternal life.
This salvation brings new life and great joy: "Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though
you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with
glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1:8-9).