A Classical Study in the Depravity of Man:
It is fairly obvious from a cursory reading of the Scriptures that man is fallen in sin. Because of the fall, man is more than just injured, he is dead. If man is dead in sin, how did he get this way? Bible commentators have used the theological term “Original Sin” to explain what happened to man in the beginning. Unfortunately, many have rejected the doctrine of “Original Sin” primarily because it is not in accord with human reason. What is the basis for this doctrine? The primary text is found in Romans 5:12-19. What does this passage say? This passage speaks about the fall and of man's guilt in this event.
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification. For if by one man's offense death reigned by one;much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offense of one judgement came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Romans 5:12-19
This passage clearly teaches the connection between Adam's sin and the human race. Adam as the covenantal or federal head of the human family brought sin to his descendants. This is proved from the fact that death now reigns in the world. The apostle teaches that “all sinned,” or all were made or constituted sinners because of their real shared guilt in Adam's sin. This teaching is what is known as “Original Sin.”
As a result of Adam's sin we all come in the world with a fallen nature. Because of our sinful natures we make sinful choices. The original sin that we are all born with manifests itself throughout our lives in actual sins which violate God's law, both in sins of commission (active transgression of God's law) and omission (lack of conformity to God's law). In other words we can say, in Adam all have sinned and as a result in Adam all have died.
One of the best explanations on Original Sin and the Federal headship of Adam is from the book Chosen By God:
The Federal Or Representative View Of The Fall
For the most part, the federal view of the Fall has been the most popular among advocates of the Reformed view of predestination. This view teaches that Adam acted as a representative of the entire human race. With the test that God set before Adam and Eve, he was testing the whole of mankind. Adam’s name means “man” or “mankind.” Adam was the first human being created. He stands at the head of the human race. He was placed in the garden to act not only for himself but for all of his future descendents. Just as a federal government has a chief spokesman who is the head of the nation, so Adam was the federal head of mankind.
The chief idea of federalism is that, when Adam sinned, he sinned for all of us. His fall was our fall. When God punished Adam by taking away his original righteousness, we were all likewise punished. The curse of the Fall affects us all. Not only was Adam destined to make his living by the sweat of his brow, but that is true for us as well. Not only was Eve consigned to have pain in childbirth, but that has been true for women of all human generations. The offending serpent in the garden was not the only member of his species who was cursed to crawl on his belly.
When they were created, Adam and Eve were given dominion over the entire creation. As a result of their sin the whole world suffered. Paul tells us:
For the creation was subjected to futility not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now (Romans 8:20-22).
The whole creation groans as it awaits the full redemption of man. When man sinned, the repercussions of the sin were felt throughout the whole range of man’s domain. Because of Adam’s sin, not only do we suffer, but lions, elephants, butterflies, and puppy dogs also suffer. They did not ask for such suffering. They were hurt by the fall of their master.
That we suffer as a result of Adam’s sin is explicitly taught in the New Testament. In Romans 5, for example, Paul makes the following observations:
“Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin” (v. 12).
“By the one man’s offense many died” (v. 15).
“Through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation” (v. 18).
“By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (v. 19).
There is no way to avoid the obvious teaching of Scripture that Adam’s sin had dreadful consequences for his descendents. It is precisely because of the abundance of such biblical statements that virtually every Christian body has composed some doctrine of original sin linked to the fall of Adam.
We are still left with a big question. If God did in fact judge the entire human race in Adam, how is that fair? It seems manifestly unjust of God to allow not only all subsequent human beings but all of creation to suffer because of Adam.
It is the question of God’s fairness that federalism seeks to answer. Federalism assumes that we were in fact represented by Adam and that such representation was both fair and accurate. It holds that Adam perfectly represented us.
Within our own legal system we have situations that, not perfectly but approximately, parallel this concept of representation. We know that if I hire a man to kill someone and that hired gunman carries out the contract, I can justly be tried for first-degree murder in spite of the fact that I did not actually pull the trigger. I am judged to be guilty for a crime someone else committed because the other person acted in my place.
The obvious protest that arises at this point is, “But we did not hire Adam to sin in our behalf.” That is true. This example merely illustrates that there are some cases in which it is just to punish one person for the crime of another.
The federal view of the Fall still exudes a faint odor of tyranny. Our cry is, “No damnation without representation!” Just as people in a nation clamor for representatives to insure freedom from despotic tyranny, so we demand representation before God that is fair and just. The federal view states that we are judged guilty for Adam’s sin because he was our fair and just representative.
Wait a minute. Adam may have represented us, but we did not choose him. What if the fathers of the American republic had demanded representation from King George and the king replied, “Of course you may have representatives. You will be represented by my brother!” Such an answer would have spilled even more tea in Boston Harbor.
We want the right to select our own representatives. We want to be able to cast our own vote, not have somebody else cast that vote for us. The word vote comes from the Latin votum which meant “wish” or “choice.” When we cast our vote, we are expressing our wishes, setting forth our wills.
Suppose we would have had the total freedom to vote for our representative in Eden. Would that have satisfied us? And why do we want the right to vote for our representative? Why do we object if the king or any other sovereign wants to appoint our representatives for us? The answer is obvious. ‘We want to be sure that our will is being carried out. If the king appoints my representative, then I will have little confidence that my wishes will be accomplished. I would fear that the appointed representative would be more eager to carry out the wishes of the king than my wishes. I would not feel fairly represented.
But even if we have the right to choose our own representatives, we have no guarantee that our wishes will be carried out. Who among us has not been enticed by politicians who promise one thing during an election campaign and do another thing after they are elected? Again, the reason we want to select our own representative is so that we can be sure we are accurately represented.
At no time in all of human history have we been more accurately represented than in the Garden of Eden. To be sure, we did not choose our representative there. Our representative was chosen for us. The one who chose our representative, however, was not King George. It was almighty God.
When God chooses our representative, he does so perfectly. His choice is an infallible choice. When I choose my own representatives, I do so fallibly. Sometimes I select the wrong person and am then inaccurately represented. Adam represented me infallibly, not because he was infallible, but because God is infallible. Given God’s infallibility, I can never argue that Adam was a poor choice to represent me.
The assumption many of us make when we struggle with the Fall is that, had we been there, we would have made a different choice. We would not have made a decision that would plunge the world into ruin. Such an assumption is just not possible given the character of God. God doesn’t make mistakes. His choice of my representative is greater than my choice of my own.
Even if we grant that indeed we were perfectly represented by Adam, we still must ask if it is fair to be represented at all with such high stakes. I can only answer that it pleased the Lord to do this. We know that the world fell through Adam. We know that in some sense Adam represented us. We know that we did not choose him to be our representative. We know that God’s selection of Adam was an infallible selection. But was the whole process just?
I can only answer this question ultimately by asking another question — one the Apostle Paul asked. “Is there unrighteousness in God?” The apostolic answer to this rhetorical question is as plain as it is emphatic. “God forbid!”
If we know anything at all about the character of God, then we know that he is not a tyrant and that he is never unjust. His structure of the terms of mankind’s probation satisfied God’s own righteousness. That should be enough to satisfy us.
Yet we still quarrel. We still contend with the Almighty. We still assume that somehow God did us wrong and that we suffer as innocent victims of God’s judgment. Such sentiments only confirm the radical degree of our fallenness. When we think like this, we are thinking like Adam’s children. Such blasphemous thoughts only underline in red how accurately we were represented by Adam.
I am persuaded that the federal view of the Fall is substantially correct. It alone of the three we have examined does justice to the biblical teaching of the fall of man. It satisfies me that God is not an arbitrary tyrant. I know that I am a fallen creature. That is, I know that I am a creature and I know that I am fallen. I also know that it is not God’s “fault” that I am a sinner. What God has done for me is to redeem me from my sin. He has not redeemed me from his sin.
Though the federal representational view of the Fall is held by most Calvinists, we must remember that the question of our relationship to Adam’s fall is not a problem unique to Calvinism. All Christians must struggle with it.
It is also vital to see predestination in light of the Fall. All Christians agree that God’s decree of predestination was made before the Fall. Some argue that God first predestinated some people to salvation and others to damnation and then decreed the Fall to make sure that some folks would perish. Sometimes this dreadful view is even attributed to Calvinism. Such an idea was repugnant to Calvin and is equally repugnant to all orthodox Calvinists. The notion is sometimes called “hyper-Calvinism.” But even that is an insult. This view has nothing to do with Calvinism. Rather than hyper-Calvinism, it is anti-Calvinism.
Calvinism, along with other views of predestination, teaches that God’s decree was made both before the Fall, and in light of the Fall. Why is this important? Because the Calvinistic view of predestination always accents the gracious character of God’s redemption. When God predestines people to salvation he is predestinating people to be saved whom he knows really need to be saved. They need to be saved because they are sinners in Adam, not because he forced them to be sinners. Calvinism sees Adam sinning by his own free will, not by divine coercion.
To be sure, God knew before the Fall that there would most certainly be a Fall and he took action to redeem some. He ordained the Fall in the sense that he chose to allow it, but not in the sense that he chose to coerce it. His predestinating grace is gracious precisely because he chooses to save people whom he knows in advance will be spiritually dead.
One final illustration may be helpful here. We bristle at the idea that God calls us to be righteous when we are hampered by original sin. We say, “But God, we can’t be righteous. We are fallen creatures. How can you hold us accountable when you know very well we were born with original sin?”
The illustration is as follows. Suppose God said to a man, “I want you to trim these bushes by three o’clock this afternoon. But be careful. There is a large open pit at the edge of the garden. If you fall into that pit, you will ‘not be able to get yourself out. So whatever you do, stay away from that pit.”
Suppose that as soon as God leaves the garden the man runs over and jumps into the pit. At three o’clock God returns and finds the bushes untrimmed. He calls for the gardener and hears a faint cry from the edge of the garden. He walks to the edge of the pit and sees the gardener helplessly flailing around on the bottom. He says to the gardener, “Why haven’t you trimmed the bushes I told you to trim?” The gardener responds in anger, “How do you expect me to trim these bushes when I am trapped in this pit? If you hadn’t left this empty pit here, I would not be in this predicament.”
Adam jumped into the pit. In Adam we all jumped into the pit. God did not throw us into the pit. Adam was clearly warned about the pit. God told him to stay away. The consequences Adam experienced from being in the pit were a direct punishment for jumping into it.
So it is with original sin. Original sin is both the consequence of Adam’s sin and the punishment for Adam’s sin. We are born sinners because in Adam all fell. Even the word fall is a bit of a euphemism. It is a rose-colored view of the matter. The word fall suggests an accident of sorts. Adam’s sin was not an accident. He was not Humpty Dumpty. Adam didn’t simply slip into sin; he jumped into it with both feet. We jumped headlong with him. God didn’t push us. He didn’t trick us. He gave us adequate and fair warning. The fault is ours and only ours.
It is not that Adam ate sour grapes and our teeth are set on edge. The biblical teaching is that in Adam we all ate the sour grapes. That is why our teeth are set on edge. (1)
How far has man fallen?
In the view of some; man is not dead. Man according to popular belief just needs an opportunity and a little help. He is able to recognize his condition and call for help. When help comes and assistance is provided, man is able to climb up a ladder out of the problem that faces him. In contrast, the Reformed view teaches that man is dead and unable to call for help or even recognize his condition.
We will now survey a number of passages from scripture along with comments to prove that the idea that man in his fallen condition can respond to the gospel is in complete opposition with the teaching of scripture concerning man and sin. The comments following each passage are from some of the great biblical commentators. The Scriptures declare that man is indeed dead and that he has a heart of stone.
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Genesis 2:17
Observe here, I. God's authority over man, as a creature that had reason and freedom of will. The Lord God commanded the man, who stood now as a public person, the father and representative of all mankind, to receive law, as he had lately received a nature, for himself and all his. God commanded all the creatures, according to their capacity; the settled course of nature is a law, Ps. 148:6; 104:9. The brute-creatures have their respective instincts; but man was made capable of performing reasonable service, and therefore received, not only the command of a Creator, but the command of a Prince and Master. Though Adam was a very great man, a very good man, and a very happy man, yet the Lord God commanded him; and the command was no disparagement to his greatness, no reproach to his goodness, nor any diminution at all to his happiness. Let us acknowledge God's right to rule us, and our own obligations to be ruled by him; and never allow any will of our own in contradiction to, or competition with, the holy will of God.
II. The particular act of this authority, in prescribing to him what he should do, and upon what terms he should stand with his Creator. Here is,
1. A confirmation of his present happiness to him, in that grant, Of every tree in the garden thou mayest freely eat. This was not only an allowance of liberty to him, in taking the delicious fruits of paradise, as a recompence for his care and pains in dressing and keeping it (1 Co. 9:7, 10), but it was, withal, an assurance of life to him, immortal life, upon his obedience. For the tree of life being put in the midst of the garden (v. 9), as the heart and soul of it, doubtless God had an eye to that especially in this grant; and therefore when, upon his revolt, this grant is recalled, no notice is taken of any tree of the garden as prohibited to him, except the tree of life (ch. 3:22), of which it is there said he might have eaten and lived for ever, that is, never died, nor ever lost his happiness. "Continue holy as thou art, in conformity to thy Creator's will, and thou shalt continue happy as thou art in the enjoyment of thy Creator's favour, either in this paradise or in a better." Thus, upon condition of perfect personal and perpetual obedience, Adam was sure of paradise to himself and his heirs for ever.
2. A trial of his obedience, upon pain of the forfeiture of all his happiness: "But of the other tree which stood very near the tree of life (for they are both said to be in the midst of the garden), and which was called the tree of knowledge, in the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die;" as if he had said, "Know, Adam, that thou art now upon thy good behaviour, thou art put into paradise upon trial; be observant, be obedient, and thou art made for ever; otherwise thou wilt be as miserable as now thou art happy." Here,
(1.) Adam is threatened with death in case of disobedience: Dying thou shalt die, denoting a sure and dreadful sentence, as, in the former part of this covenant, eating thou shalt eat, denotes a free and full grant. Observe [1.] Even Adam, in innocency, was awed with a threatening; fear is one of the handles of the soul, by which it is taken hold of and held. If he then needed this hedge, much more do we now. [2.] The penalty threatened is death: Thou shalt die, that is, "Thou shalt be debarred from the tree of life, and all the good that is signified by it, all the happiness thou hast, either in possession or prospect; and thou shalt become liable to death, and all the miseries that preface it and attend it." [3.] This was threatened as the immediate consequence of sin: In the day thou eatest, thou shalt die, that is, "Thou shalt become mortal and capable of dying; the grant of immortality shall be recalled, and that defence shall depart from thee. Thou shalt become obnoxious to death, like a condemned malefactor that is dead in the law" (only, because Adam was to be the root of mankind, he was reprieved); "nay, the harbingers and forerunners of death shall immediately seize thee, and thy life, thenceforward, shall be a dying life: and this, surely; it is a settled rule, the soul that sinneth, it shall die."
(2.) Adam is tried with a positive law, not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Now it was very proper to make trial of his obedience by such a command as this, [1.] Because the reason of it is fetched purely from the will of the Law-maker. Adam had in his nature an aversion to that which was evil in itself, and therefore he is tried in a thing which was evil only because it was forbidden; and, being in a small thing, it was the more fit to prove his obedience by. [2.] Because the restraint of it is laid upon the desires of the flesh and of the mind, which, in the corrupt nature of man, are the two great fountains of sin. This prohibition checked both his appetite towards sensitive delights and his ambitions of curious knowledge, that his body might be ruled by his soul and his soul by his God.
Thus easy, thus happy, was man in a state of innocency, having all that heart could wish to make him so. How good was God to him! How many favours did he load him with! How easy were the laws he gave him! How kind the covenant he made with him! Yet man, being in honour, understood not his own interest, but soon became as the beasts that perish. (2)
And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Genesis 6:5
We have here a further account of the corruption of the old world. When the sons of God had matched with the daughters of men, though it was very displeasing to God, yet he did not immediately cut them off, but waited to see what would be the issue of these marriages, and which side the children would take after; and it proved (as usually it does), that they took after the worst side. Here is,
I. The temptation they were under to oppress and do violence. They were giants, and they were men of renown; they became too hard for all about them, and carried all before them, 1. With their great bulk, as the sons of Anak, Num. 13:33. 2. With their great name, as the king of Assyria, Isa. 37:11. These made them the terror of the mighty in the land of the living; and, thus armed, they daringly insulted the rights of all their neighbours and trampled upon all that is just and sacred. Note, Those that have so much power over others as to be able to oppress them have seldom so much power over themselves as not to oppress; great might is a very great snare to many. This degenerate race slighted the honour their ancestors had obtained by virtue and religion, and made themselves a great name by that which was the perpetual ruin of their good name.
II. The charge exhibited and proved against them, v. 5. The evidence produced was incontestable. God saw it, and that was instead of a thousand witnesses. God sees all the wickedness that is among the children of men; it cannot be concealed from him now, and, if it be not repented of, it shall not be concealed by him shortly. Now what did God take notice of? 1. He observed that the streams of sin that flowed along in men's lives, and the breadth and depth of those streams: He saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth. Observe the connection of this with what goes before: the oppressors were mighty men and men of renown; and, then, God saw that the wickedness of man was great. Note, The wickedness of a people is great indeed when the most notorious sinners are men of renown among them. Things are bad when bad men are not only honoured notwithstanding their wickedness, but honoured for their wickedness, and the vilest men exalted. Wickedness is then great when great men are wicked. Their wickedness was great, that is, abundance of sin was committed in all places, by all sorts of people; and such sin as was in its own nature most gross, and heinous, and provoking; it was committed daringly, and with a defiance of heaven, nor was any care taken by those that had power in their hands to restrain and punish it. This God saw. Note, All the sins of sinners are known to God the Judge. Those that are most conversant in the world, though they see much wickedness in it, yet they see but little of that which is; but God sees all, and judges aright concerning it, how great it is, nor can he be deceived in his judgment. 2. He observed the fountain of sin that was in men's hearts. Any one might see that the wickedness of man was great, for they declared their sin as Sodom; but God's eye went further: He saw that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually-a sad sight, and very offensive to God's holy eye! This was the bitter root, the corrupt spring: all the violence and oppression, all the luxury and wantonness, that were in the world, proceeded from the corruption of nature; lust conceived them, Jam. 1:15. See Mt. 15:19. (1.) The heart was naught; it was deceitful and desperately wicked. The principles were corrupt, and the habits and dispositions evil. (2.) The thoughts of the heart were so. Thought is sometimes taken for the settled judgment or opinion, and this was bribed, and biased, and misled; sometimes it signifies the workings of the fancy, and these were always either vain or vile, either weaving the spider's web or hatching the cockatrice's egg. (3.) The imagination of the thoughts of the heart was so, that is, their designs and devices were wicked. They did not do evil through mere carelessness, as those that walk at all adventures, not heeding what they do; but they did evil deliberately and designedly, contriving how to do mischief. It was bad indeed; for it was only evil, continually evil, and every imagination was so. There was no good to be found among them, no, not at any time: the stream of sin was full, and strong, and constant; and God saw it; see Ps. 14:1-3. (3)
Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man which drinketh iniquity like water? Job 15:15,16
Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints
In holy men, set apart for himself by his grace, whose sins are expiated by the blood of his Son, and whose hearts are sanctified by his Spirit, and who live holy lives and conversations, as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; these, though he trusts many of them with much, as the prophets of old with the messages of his grace and will, and the ministers of the word with treasure, in their earthen vessels, the sacred
"depositum" of the glorious Gospel, with gifts of grace, fitting them for their work, and with the care of the souls of men; yet he trusts none of them with themselves, with the redemption and salvation of their souls, with the regeneration and sanctification of their hearts, and with their preservation to eternal glory; he has put those into the hands of his Son and Spirit, and keeps them by his power through faith
unto salvation: the Targum renders it, in his saints above, in the saints in heaven, in glorified men; he is there their all in all; as their happiness, so their safety and protection; see an instance of his care and preservation of them after the resurrection, when in a perfect state, ( Revelation 20:8Revelation 20:9 ) ; or this may be understood of the angels, who sometimes are called saints, ( Deuteronomy 33:2 ) ;
who though they have been trusted with many things to impart to the sons of men, yet not with the salvation of men, nor even with the secret of it; they were not of God's privy council when the affair was debated and settled; nor with other secrets, as the day and hour of the last judgment, the coming of the Son of Man: or the sense may be, "he putteth no perfection or stability" F4 in them, that is, perfection in comparison of his; for if theirs were equal to his, they would be gods, which it is impossible to be, or for God to make them such; and likewise such stability as to have been able to have stood of themselves, which it appears they had not, since many of them fell, and the rest needed confirming grace, which they have by Christ, the Head of all principalities and powers:
yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight;
born men, partakers of the heavenly calling, whose hearts
and affections are set on heavenly things, and have their
conversation in heaven; yet these, in the sight of a pure
and holy God, and in comparison of him, are impure and
unholy; or they of heaven, as Mr. Broughton renders it,
the inhabitants of heaven; the angels on high, as the
Targum paraphrases it; these are charged by him with
folly, and they, conscious of their imperfection with
respect to him, cover their faces with their wings, while
they celebrate the perfection of his holiness, who is so
glorious in it; though the natural heavens may be
intended, at least not excluded, and the luminous bodies
in them, as Bildad seems to explain it, ( Job 25:5Job 25:6
) ; the stars are reckoned the more dense and thick part
of the heavens, the moon has its spots, and by later
discoveries it seems the sun is not without them, and the
heavens are often covered with clouds and darkness, and
the present ones will be purified with fire at the general
conflagration, which supposes them unclean, and they shall
pass away, and new ones succeed, which implies
imperfection in the former, or there would be no need of
others; this is the proof Eliphaz gives of what he had
suggested in ( Job 15:14 ) .
How much more abominable and filthy [is] man
In his natural, corrupt, and unregenerate estate; man, as a creature, was not abominable, but becoming sinful he is; he is so in himself, cast out to the loathing of his person, being full of wounds, bruises, and putrefying sores, yea, like a dead corrupted carcass, for he is dead in trespasses and sins, ( Ephesians 2:1 ) ; and he appears to be corrupt by the abominable works done by him, as all the works of the flesh are; yea, he is abominable to himself, when made sensible of his state and case; he then abhors himself, and repents of his sins, he loathes his sins, and himself for them; and must be much more so in the sight of God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, as man is nothing else than a mass of sin, and therefore must be "filthy"; for sin is of a defiling nature, it defiles the body and all its members, and the soul with all its powers and faculties: man is naturally and originally filthy, being conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity; nor can a clean thing be brought out of an unclean; he is internally and universally unclean, his heart is a sink of sin, desperately wicked, and wickedness itself; his mind and conscience are defiled, and there is no place clean; and this appears outwardly in his actions, in his life and conversation, which is filthy also: for if the ploughing of the wicked is sin, and the righteousnesses of men are filthy rags, how impure must the immoral actions of wicked men be? man is so impure, that nothing but the blood of Christ can purify his heart, and purge his conscience from dead works, and make white his outward conversation garment:
which drinketh iniquity like water;
it is as natural to him to commit iniquity as it is for a man to drink water when he is thirsty, and he does it with equal gust, delight, and pleasure; as cold water is delightful to a thirsty soul, so is sin to a sinner, a sweet morsel he holds in his mouth; various lusts are various pleasures, though these pleasures are but for a season: sin, like water, is easy to be come at, it is near at hand, it easily besets men, and is all around them, and they easily give into it; everyone turns to his wicked course as readily as the horse rushes into the battle; and the phrase may be expressive of the abundance of sin committed, like large draughts of water greedily taken down by a man athirst, and repeated again and again; moreover, as water drank enters into men, and is taken down as an harmless thing, yet often proves very hurtful and pernicious to them when drank while they are hot, and occasions disorders, which issue in death; so sin, though it may seem harmless, and be pleasing and refreshing, going down like water, yet it works like poison, and is the gall of asps within a man, and ends in eternal death, if grace prevents not. This is the conclusion and application of the whole to man, arguing from the greater to the lesser, and so proving the impurity and imperfection of man, and that he cannot be clean and righteous before God of himself. (4)
The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Psalms 14:2,3
Verse 2. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men. As from a watchtower, or other elevated place of observation, the Lord is represented as gazing intently upon men. He will not punish blindly, nor like a tyrant command an indiscriminate massacre because a rumour of rebellion has come up to his ears. What condescending interest and impartial justice are here imaged! The case of Sodom, visited before it was overthrown, illustrates the careful manner in which Divine Justice beholds the sin before it avenges it, and searches out the righteous that they perish not with the guilty. Behold then the eyes of Omniscience ransacking the globe, and prying among every people and nation, to see if there were any that did understand and seek God. He who is looking down knows the good, is quick to discern it, would be delighted to find it; but as he views all the unregenerate children of men his search is fruitless, for of all the race of Adam, no unrenewed soul is other than an enemy to God and goodness. The objects of the Lord's search are not wealthy men, great men, or learned men; these, with all they can offer, cannot meet the demands of the great Governor: at the same time, he is not looking for superlative eminence in virtue, he seeks for any that understand themselves, their state, their duty, their destiny, their happiness; he looks for any that seek God, who, if there be a God, are willing and anxious to find him out. Surely this is not too great a matter to expect; for if men have not yet known God, if they have any right understanding, they will seek him. Alas! even this low degree of good is not to be found even by him who sees all things: but men love the hideous negation of "No God," and with their backs to their Creator, who is the sun of their life, they journey into the dreary region of unbelief and alienation, which is a land of darkness as darkness itself, and of the shadow of death without any order and where the light is as darkness.
Verse 3. They are all gone aside. Without exception, all men have apostatized from the Lord their Maker, from his laws, and from all the eternal principles of right. Like stubborn heifers they have sturdily refused to receive the yoke, like errant sheep they have found a gap and left the right field. The original speaks of the race as a whole, as a totality; and humanity as a whole has become depraved in heart and defiled in life.
They have altogether become filthy; as a whole they are spoiled and soured like corrupt leaven, or, as some put it, they have become putrid and even stinking. The only reason why we do not more clearly see this foulness is because we are accustomed to it, just as those who work daily among offensive odours at last cease to smell them. The miller does not observe the noise of his own mill, and we are slow to discover our own ruin and depravity. But are there no special cases, are all men sinful? "Yes," says the Psalmist, in a manner not to be mistaken, "they are." He has put it positively, he repeats it negatively,
There is none that doeth good, no,
not one. The Hebrew phrase is an utter denial concerning
any mere man that he of himself doeth good. What can be
more sweeping? This is the verdict of the all seeing
Jehovah, who cannot exaggerate or mistake. As if no hope
of finding a solitary specimen of a good man among the
unrenewed human family might be harboured for an instant.
The Holy Spirit is not content with saying all and
altogether, but adds the crushing threefold negative,
"none, no, not one." What say the opponents to the
doctrine of natural depravity to this? Rather what do we
feel concerning it? Do we not confess that we by nature
are corrupt, and do we not bless the sovereign grace which
has renewed us in the spirit of our minds, that sin may no
more have dominion over us, but that grace may rule and
Behold, I was born in iniquity, etc He now proceeds further than the mere acknowledgement of one or of many sins, confessing that he brought nothing but sin with him into the world, and that his nature was entirely depraved. He is thus led by the consideration of one offense of peculiar atrocity to the conclusion that he was born in iniquity, and was absolutely destitute of all spiritual good. Indeed, every sin should convince us of the general truth of the corruption of our nature. The Hebrew word יחמתני, yechemathni, signifies literally, hath warmed herself of me, from יחם, yacham, or חמם, chamam, to warm; but interpreters have very properly rendered it hath conceived me. The expression intimates that we are cherished in sin from the first moment that we are in the womb. David, then, is here brought, by reflecting on one particular transgression, to east a retrospective glance upon his whole past life, and to discover nothing but sin in it. And let us not imagine that he speaks of the corruption of his nature, merely as hypocrites will occasionally do, to excuse their faults, saying, “I have sinned it may be, but what could I do? We are men, and prone by nature to everything which is evil.” David has recourse to no such stratagems for evading the sentence of God, and refers to original sin with the view of aggravating his guilt, acknowledging that he had not contracted this or that sin for the first time lately, but had been born into the world with the seed of every iniquity.
The passage affords a striking testimony in proof of original sin entailed by Adam upon the whole human family. It not only teaches the doctrine, but may assist us in forming a correct idea of it. The Pelagians, to avoid what they considered the absurdity of holding that all were ruined through one man’s transgression, maintained of old, that sin descended from Adam only through force of imitation. But the Bible, both in this and other places, clearly asserts that we are born in sin, and that it exists within us as a disease fixed in our nature. David does not charge it upon his parents, nor trace his crime to them, but sists himself before the Divine tribunal, confesses that he was formed in sin, and that he was a transgressor ere he saw the light of this world. It was therefore a gross error in Pelagius to deny that sin was hereditary, descending in the human family by contagion. The Papists, in our own day, grant that the nature of man has become depraved, but they extenuate original sin as much as possible, and represent it as consisting merely in an inclination to that which is evil. They restrict its seat besides to the inferior part of the soul and the gross appetites; and while nothing is more evident from experience than that corruption adheres to men through life, they deny that it remains in them subsequently to baptism. We have no adequate idea of the dominion of sin, unless we conceive of it as extending to every part of the soul, and acknowledge that both the mind and heart of man have become utterly corrupt. The language of David sounds very differently from that of the Papists, I was formed in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me He says nothing of his grosser appetites, but asserts that sin cleaved by nature to every part of him without exception.
Here the question has been started,
How sin is transmitted from the parents to the children?
And this question has led to another regarding the
transmission of the soul, many denying that corruption can
be derived from the parent to the child, except on the
supposition of one soul being begotten of the substance of
another. Without entering upon such mysterious
discussions, it is enough that we hold, that Adam, upon
his fall, was despoiled of his original righteousness, his
reason darkened, his will perverted, and that, being
reduced to this state of corruption, he brought children
into the world resembling himself in character. Should any
object that generation is confined to bodies, and that
souls can never derive anything in common from one
another, I would reply, that Adam, when he was endued at
his creation with the gifts of the Spirit, did not sustain
a private character, but represented all mankind, who may
be considered as having been endued with these gifts in
his person; and from this view it necessarily follows that
when he fell, we all forfeited along with him our original
There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes,.... Not in the eyes of God, who sees the heart, and all the impurities of it, as well as of life and conversation; nor in the eyes of others, though such may appear outwardly righteous before men; but in their own eyes, in their own conceit and imagination, trusting in themselves that they are righteous: but such have not their eyes opened or enlightened to see the plague of their own hearts, the spirituality of the law of God, the perfection of righteousness that requires; nor the righteousness and holiness of God himself; nor the imperfection and insufficiency of their own; did they, they would not seem pure and righteous to themselves. No man is pure by nature, or through anything done by them; but by the grace of God, and through the blood and righteousness of Christ; and such are far from being pure in their own eyes, or as considered in themselves: but those who are pure neither by nature nor by grace, yet think they are so. There were some such in Agur's time, and such were the Scribes and Pharisees in Christ's time; there were a generation of them; and there are of the same sort in our days, as Papists, Perfectionists, and all self-justiciaries; see Luke 18:9;
and yet is not washed from their filthiness; their native, original, and universal pollution by sin they have from their birth, and which is increased by numerous actual transgressions; and from which none are or can be washed but those who are born of water and of the Spirit, or are washed with the washing of regeneration; and are washed from their sins in the blood of the Lamb, whose blood cleanses from all sin; and are arrayed with the fine linen, clean and white, the righteousness of the saints, which is the righteousness of Christ imputed to them: whatsoever is short of these leaves men unwashed from their filthiness, whatever opinion they may have of themselves; see Job 9:30, Jeremiah 2:22. (7)
Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Ecclesiastes 8:11
The reason why the wicked persevere in sin: God's delay in judgment (Mt 24:48-51; 2Pe 3:8, 9). "They see not the smoke of the pit, therefore they dread not the fire" [South], (Ps 55:19). Joab's escape from the punishment of his murder of Abner, so far from "leading him to repentance," as it ought (Ro 2:4), led him to the additional murder of Amasa. (8)
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6
Thus does the whole body of the restored Israel confess with penitence, that it has so long mistaken Him whom Jehovah, as is now distinctly affirmed, had made a curse for their good, when they had gone astray to their own ruin. "All we like sheep went astray; we had turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him." It is the state of exile, upon which the penitent Israel is here looking back; but exile as being, in the prophet's view, the final state of punishment before the final deliverance. Israel in its exile resembled a scattered flock without a shepherd; it had lost the way of Jehovah (Isaiah 63:17), and every one had turned to his own way, in utter selfishness and estrangement from God (Isaiah 56:11). But whereas Israel thus heaped up guilt upon guilt, the Servant of Jehovah was He upon whom Jehovah Himself caused the punishment of their guilt to fall, that He might make atonement for it through His own suffering. Many of the more modern expositors endeavour to set aside the paena vicaria here, by giving to הפגּיע a meaning which it never has. Thus Stier renders it, "Jehovah caused the iniquity of all to strike or break upon Him." Others, again, give a meaning to the statement which is directly at variance with the words themselves. Thus Hahn renders it: Jehovah took the guilt of the whole into His service, causing Him to die a violent death through their crime. Hofmann very properly rejects both explanations, and holds fast to the fact that בּ הפגּיע, regarded as a causative of בּ פּגע, signifies "to cause anything to strike or fall upon a person," which is the rendering adopted by Symmachus: κύριος καταντήσαι ἐποίησεν εἰς αὐτὸν τὴν ἀνομίαν πάντων ἡμῶν. "Just as the blood of a murdered man comes upon the murderer, when the bloody deed committed comes back upon him in the form of blood-guiltiness inflicting vengeance; so does sin come upon, overtake (Psalm 40:13), or meet with the sinner. It went forth from him as his own act; it returns with destructive effect, as a fact by which he is condemned. But in this case God does not suffer those who have sinned to be overtaken by the sin they have committed; but it falls upon His servant, the righteous One." These are Hofmann's words. But if the sin turns back upon the sinner in the shape of punishment, why should the sin of all men, which the Servant of God has taken upon Himself as His own, overtake Him in the form of an evil, which, even it if be a punishment, is not punishment inflicted upon Him? For this is just the characteristic of Hofmann's doctrine of the atonement, that it altogether eliminates from the atoning work the reconciliation of the purposes of love with the demands of righteousness. Now it is indeed perfectly true, that the Servant of God cannot become the object of punishment, either as a servant of God or as an atoning Saviour; for as servant of God He is the beloved of God, and as atoning Saviour He undertakes a work which is well pleasing to God, and ordained in God's eternal counsel. So that the wrath which pours out upon Him is not meant for Him as the righteous One who voluntarily offers up Himself but indirectly it relates to Him, so far as He has vicariously identified Himself with sinners, who are deserving of wrath. How could He have made expiation for sin, if He had simply subjected Himself to its cosmical effects, and not directly subjected Himself to that wrath which is the invariable divine correlative of human sin? And what other reason could there be for God's not rescuing Him from this the bitterest cup of death, than the ethical impossibility of acknowledging the atonement as really made, without having left the representative of the guilty, who had presented Himself to Him as though guilty Himself, to taste of the punishment which they had deserved? It is true that vicarious expiation and paena vicaria are not coincident ideas. The punishment is but one element in the expiation, and it derives a peculiar character from the fact that one innocent person voluntarily submits to it in His own person. It does not stand in a thoroughly external relation of identity to that deserved by the many who are guilty; but the latter cannot be set aside without the atoning individual enduring an intensive equivalent to it, and that in such a manner, that this endurance is no less a self-cancelling of wrath on the part of God, than an absorption of wrath on the part of the Mediator; and in this central point of the atoning work, the voluntarily forgiving love of God and the voluntarily self-sacrificing love of the Mediator meet together, like hands stretched out grasp one another from the midst of a dark cloud. Hermann Schultz also maintains that the suffering, which was the consequence of sin and therefore punishment to the guilty, is borne by the Redeemer as suffering, without being punishment. But in this way the true mystery is wiped out of the heart of the atoning work; and this explanation is also at variance with the expression "the chastisement of our peace" in Isaiah 53:5, and the equally distinct statement in Isaiah 53:6, "He hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." It was the sin of all Israel, as the palindromically repeated kullânū emphatically declares, which pressed upon Him with such force when His atoning work was about to be decided, but עון is used to denote not only the transgression itself, but also the guilt incurred thereby, and the punishment to which it gives rise. All this great multitude of sins, and mass of guilt, and weight of punishment, came upon the Servant of Jehovah according to the appointment of the God of salvation, who is gracious in holiness. The third turn ends here. It was our sins that He bore, and for our salvation that God caused Him to suffer on our account. (9)
But we are as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. Isaiah 64:6
6. We have all been as the unclean. The believers go on in their complaint; for they deplore their condition, because God appears to take no account of them. Hebrew writers are not agreed as to the meaning of the words בגד עדים (beged gniddim). Yet it is certain that it denotes something which is vile and worthless, and which, on account of its filthiness, stinks in the noses of men. But here two things ought to be observed; first, that believers confess their guilt, and are justly punished for it; and, secondly, that they nevertheless complain of the severity of the punishments which they endure, not to blame God, but to move him to compassion; just as a culprit, when he endeavors to mitigate the severity of a judge, lays before him his own distresses and calamities. Some commentators torture this passage, by alleging that the Prophet, when he speaks of the pollutions of sins, describes all Jews without exception, though there still remained some of them who were sincere worshippers of God. But there are no good grounds for this; for the Prophet does not speak of individuals, but of the whole body, which, being trodden under foot by all men, and subjected to the utmost indignity, he compares to a filthy garment.
There are some who frequently quote this passage, in order to prove that so far are our works from having any merit in them, that they are rotten and loathsome in the sight of God. But this appears to me to be at variance with the Prophet’s meaning, who does not speak of the whole human race, but describes the complaint of those who, having been led into captivity, experienced the wrath of the Lord against them, and therefore, acknowledged that they and their righteousnesses were like a filthy garment. And first, he exhorts them to a confession of their sin, that they may acknowledge their guilt; and next, that they should nevertheless ask pardon from God, the manner of obtaining which is, that, while we complain that we are wretched and distressed, we at the same time acknowledge that we are justly punished for our sins.
And we all fade as a leaf. This is a very beautiful comparison, which shews that men utterly fade and decay when they feel that God is angry with them; as is admirably described in Psalm 90:6; 103:16. Justly, therefore, are we compared to leaves; for “our iniquities, like the wind, carry us away.” (10)
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. Jeremiah 13:23
will not escape this ignominious lot, since wickedness
has so grown to be its nature, that it can as little
cease therefrom and do good, as an Ethiopian can wash
out the blackness of his skin, or a panther change it
spots. The consequential clause introduced by גּם אתּם
connects with the possibility suggested in, but denied
by, the preceding question: if that could happen, then
might even ye do good. The one thing is as impossible as
the other. And so the Lord must scatter Judah among the
heathen, like stubble swept away by the desert wind,
lit., passing by with the desert wind. The desert wind
is the strong east wind that blows from the Arabian
Desert; see on Jeremiah 4:11. (11)
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9
The heart is deceitful above all things,.... This is the source of the idolatry and creature confidence of the Jews, sins which were the cause of their ruin; and though what is here said is particularly applicable to their hearts, yet is in general true of the heart of every man; which is "deceitful", and deceiving; and puts a cheat upon the man himself whose it is: it deceives him with respect to sin; it proposes it to him under the notion of pleasure; it promises him a great deal in it, but does not yield a real pleasure to him; it is all fancy and imagination; a mere illusion and a dream; and what it gives is very short lived; it is but for a season, and ends in bitterness and death: or it proposes it under the notion of profit; it promises him riches, by such and such sinful ways it suggests; but, when he has got them, he is the loser by them; these deceitful riches choke the word, cause him to err from the faith, pierce him through with many sorrows, and endanger the loss of his soul: it promises honour and preferment in the world, but promotes him to shame; it promises him liberty, but brings him into bondage; it promises him impunity, peace, and security, when sudden destruction comes: it deceives him in point of knowledge; it persuades him that he is a very knowing person, when he is blind and ignorant, and knows nothing as he ought to know; and only deceives himself; for there is no true knowledge but of God in Christ, and of a crucified Christ, and salvation by him; see 1 Corinthians 3:18 it deceives in the business of religion; it makes a man believe that he is a very holy and righteous man, and in a fair way for heaven, when he is far from that, and the character it gives him; in order to this, it suggests to him that concupiscence or lust, or the inward workings of the mind, are not sin; and it is only on this principle that it can be accounted for, that Saul, before conversion, or any other man, should be led into such a mistake, as to conclude that, touching the righteousness of the law, he was blameless: it represents other sins as mere peccadillos, as little sins, and not to be regarded; and even puts the name of virtue on vices; profuseness and prodigality it calls liberality, and doing public good; and covetousness has the name of frugality and good economy: it directs men to compare themselves and their outward conduct with others, that are very profane and dissolute; and from thence to form a good character of themselves, as better than others; and as it buoys up with the purity of human nature, so with the power of man's freewill to do that which is good, and particularly to repent at pleasure; and it puts the profane sinner upon trusting to the absolute mercy of God, and hides from him his justice and holiness; and it puts others upon depending upon the outward acts of religion, or upon speculative notions, to the neglect of real godliness; see James 1:22. The man of a deceitful heart, the hypocrite, tries to deceive God himself, but he cannot; he oftentimes deceives men, and always himself; so do the profane sinner, the self-righteous man, and the false teacher; who attempts to deceive the very elect, but cannot; yea, a good man may be deceived by his own heart, of which Peter is a sad instance, Matthew 26:33. The heart is deceitful to a very great degree, it is superlatively so; "above all", above all creatures; the serpent and the fox are noted for their subtlety, and wicked men are compared to them for it; but these comparisons fall short of expressing the wicked subtlety and deceit in men's hearts; yea, it is more deceitful to a man than the devil, the great deceiver himself; because it is nearer to a man, and can come at him, and work upon him, when Satan cannot: or "about", or "concerning all things" (q); it is so in everything in which it is concerned, natural, civil, or religious, and especially the latter. The Septuagint version renders it "deep"; it is an abyss, a bottomless one; there is no fathoming of it; the depths of sin are in it; see Psalm 64:6 and, seeing it is so deceitful, it should not be trusted in; a man should neither trust in his own heart, nor in another's, Proverbs 28:26, "and desperately wicked": everything in it is wicked; the thoughts of it are evil; the imaginations of the thoughts are so; even every imagination, and that only, and always, Genesis 6:5 the affections are inordinate; the mind and conscience are defiled; the understanding darkened, so dark as to call evil good, and good evil; and the will obstinate and perverse: all manner of sin and wickedness is in it; it is the cage of every unclean bird, and the hold of every foul spirit; all sin is forged and framed in it; and all manner of evil comes out of it, Revelation 18:1 yea, it is wickedness itself, Psalm 5:9, it is so even to desperation; it is "incurably wicked" (r), as it may be rendered; it is so without the grace of God, and blood of Christ:
who can know it? angels do not, Satan cannot; only the spirit of a man can know the things of a man within him; though the natural man does not know the plague of his own heart; the Pharisee and perfectionist do not, or they would not say they were without sin; such rant arises from the ignorance of their own hearts; only a spiritual man knows his own heart, the plague of it, the deceitfulness and wickedness in it; and he does not know it all; God only knows it fully, as is expressed in the next words, which are an answer to the question; see 1 Corinthians 2:11. (12)
The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net. That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward; and the great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up. The best of them is as a brier: the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge: the day of thy watchmen and thy visitation cometh; now shall be their perplexity. Micah 7:2-4
2. That there were so many wicked mischievous people among them, not only none that did any good, but multitudes that did all the hurt they could: "They all lie in wait for blood, and hunt every man his brother. To get wealth to themselves, they care not what wrong, what hurt, they do to their neighbours and nearest relations. They act as if mankind were in a state of war, and force were the only right. They are as beasts of prey to their neighbours, for they all lie in wait for blood as lions for their prey; they thirst after it, make nothing of taking away any man's life or livelihood to serve a turn for themselves, and lie in wait for an opportunity to do it. Their neighbours are as beasts of prey to them, for they hunt every man his brother with a net; they persecute them as noxious creatures, fit to be taken and destroyed, though they are innocent excellent ones." We say of him that is outlawed, Caput gerit lupinum-He is to be hunted as a wolf. "Or they hunt them as men do the game, to feast upon it; they have a thousand cursed arts of ensnaring men to their ruin, so that they may but get by it. Thus they do mischief with both hands earnestly; their hearts desire it, their heads contrive it, and then both hands are ready to put it in execution." Note, The more eager and intent men are upon any sinful pursuit, and the more pains they take in it, the more provoking it is. 3. That the magistrates, who by their office ought to have been the patrons and protectors of right, were the practicers and promoters of wrong: That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, to excite and animate themselves in it, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh, for a reward, for a bribe, with which they well be hired to exert all their power for the supporting and carrying on of any wicked design with both hands. They do evil with both hands well (so some read it); they do evil with a great deal of art and dexterity; they praise themselves for doing it so well. Others read it thus: To do evil they have both hands (they catch at an opportunity of doing mischief), but to do good the prince and the judge ask for a reward; if they do any good offices they are mercenary in them, and must be paid for them. The great man, who has wealth and power to do good, is not ashamed to utter his mischievous desire in conjunction with the prince and the judge, who are ready to support him and stand by him in it. So they wrap it up; they perplex the matter, involve it, and make it intricate (so some understand it), that they may lose equity in a mist, and so make the cause turn which way they please. It is ill with a people when their princes, and judges, and great men are in a confederacy to pervert justice. And it is a sad character that is given of them (v. 4), that the best of them is as a brier, and the most upright is sharper than a thorn-hedge; it is a dangerous thing to have any thing to do with them; he that touches them must be fenced with iron (2 Sa. 23:6,7), he shall be sure to be scratched, to have his clothes torn, and his eyes almost pulled out. And, if this be the character of the best and most upright, what are the worst? And, when things have come to this pass, the day of thy watchmen comes, that is, as it follows, the day of thy visitation, when God will reckon with thee for all this wickedness, which is called the day of the watchmen, because their prophets, whom God set as watchmen over them, had often warned them of that day. When all flesh have corrupted their way, even the best and the most upright, what can be expected but a day of visitation, a deluge of judgments, as that which drowned the old world when the earth was filled with violence? 4. That there was no faith in man; people had grown so universally treacherous that one knew not whom to repose any confidence in. (13)
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. John 3:19
And this is the condemnation of him that believes not in Christ; that is, this is the matter and cause of his condemnation, and by which it is aggravated, and appears to be just:
that light is come into the world: by which is meant, not natural or corporeal light; though natural darkness is, by some, preferred to this, being more convenient for their evil works; as by thieves, murderers, and adulterers: nor is the light of nature designed, with which every man is enlightened that comes into the world; which, though but a dim light, might be of more use, and service, than it is; and is often rejected, and rebelled against, by wicked men, and which will be the condemnation of the Heathen world: but rather the light of divine revelation, both in the law of God, and Gospel of Christ; especially the latter is here intended; and which, though so great a favour to fallen men, is despised, and denied by the sons of darkness: though it may be best of all to understand it of Christ himself, the light of the world, and who is come a light into it; see ( John 8:12 ) ( 12:46 ) , who may be called "light", because he has set revelation in its clearest and fullest light; he has declared the whole mind, and will of God concerning the affair of divine worship, and the business of salvation: grace, and truth, are come by him; the doctrines of grace, and the truths of the Gospel, are most clearly brought to light by him; the types, and shadows of the law are removed; and the promises, and the prophecies of the Old Testament, are most largely expounded by him, and most perfectly fulfilled in him: and besides; he is the author and giver of the light of grace, by which men see themselves to be what they are, lost and undone sinners; and see him to be the only able, willing, suitable, sufficient, and complete Saviour: and he it is that now gives the saints the glimpse of glory they have, and will be the light of the new Jerusalem, and the everlasting light of his people hereafter. He, by his incarnation, may be said to "come into the world" in general, which was made by him, as God; and as he was in it, as man; though he was not known by it as the God-man, Mediator, and Messiah: and particularly he came into the Jewish world, where he was born, brought up, conversed, lived, and died; and into the Gentile world, by the ministry of his apostles, whom he; sent into all the world, to preach the Gospel to every creature, and spread the glorious light of it in every place:
and men loved darkness rather than light:
the Jews, the greater part of them, preferred the darkness of the ceremonial law, and the Mosaic dispensation, and even the traditions of their elders, before the clear Gospel revelation made by Christ Jesus; and the Gentiles also, for the most part, chose rather to continue in their Heathenish ignorance, and idolatry, and to walk in their own ways, and in the vanity of their minds, than to embrace Christ, and his Gospel, and submit to his ordinances, and appointments; and the generality of men, to this day, love their natural darkness, and choose to walk in it, and to have fellowship with the works of darkness, and delight in the company of the children of darkness, rather than follow Christ, the light of the world; receive his Gospel, and walk in his ways, in fellowship with his saints: the reason of all this is,
because their deeds were evil;
which they chose not to relinquish; and Christ, his Gospel and ordinances are contrary to them; for the doctrine of the grace of God, which has appeared, and shone out in great lustre, and splendour, in the world, teaches men to deny ungodliness, and worldly lusts; and therefore it is hated, and rejected, by men. (14)
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. John 6:53
53-58. Except ye eat the flesh . and drink the blood . no life, &c.-The harshest word He had yet uttered in their ears. They asked how it was possible to eat His flesh. He answers, with great solemnity, "It is indispensable." Yet even here a thoughtful hearer might find something to temper the harshness. He says they must not only "eat His flesh" but "drink His blood," which could not but suggest the idea of His death-implied in the separation of one's flesh from his blood. And as He had already hinted that it was to be something very different from a natural death, saying, "My flesh I will give for the life of the world" (Joh 6:51), it must have been pretty plain to candid hearers that He meant something above the gross idea which the bare terms expressed. And farther, when He added that they "had no life in them unless they thus ate and drank," it was impossible they should think He meant that the temporal life they were then living was dependent on their eating and drinking, in this gross sense, His flesh and blood. Yet the whole statement was certainly confounding, and beyond doubt was meant to be so. Our Lord had told them that in spite of all they had "seen" in Him, they "did not believe" (Joh 6:36). For their conviction therefore he does not here lay Himself out; but having the ear not only of them but of the more candid and thoughtful in the crowded synagogue, and the miracle of the loaves having led up to the most exalted of all views of His Person and Office, He takes advantage of their very difficulties and objections to announce, for all time, those most profound truths which are here expressed, regardless of the disgust of the unteachable, and the prejudices even of the most sincere, which His language would seem only designed to deepen. The truth really conveyed here is no other than that expressed in Joh 6:51, though in more emphatic terms-that He Himself, in the virtue of His sacrificial death, is the spiritual and eternal life of men; and that unless men voluntarily appropriate to themselves this death, in its sacrificial virtue, so as to become the very life and nourishment of their inner man, they have no spiritual and eternal life at all. Not as if His death were the only thing of value, but it is what gives all else in Christ's Incarnate Person, Life, and Office, their whole value to us sinners. (15)
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Before sin entered the world Adam enjoyed a threefold privilege in relation to God; he was in communion with his Maker; he knew Him, and he possessed spiritual life. But when he disobeyed and fell, this threefold relationship was severed. He became alienated from God, as the hiding of himself painfully demonstrated; having believed the Devil’s lie, he was no longer capable of perceiving the truth, as the making of fig-leaf aprons clearly evidenced; and he no longer had spiritual life, for God’s threat "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" was strictly enforced. In this same awful condition has each of Adam’s descendants entered this world, for "that which is born of the flesh is flesh"—a fallen parent can beget nought but a fallen child. Every sinner, therefore, has a three-fold need—reconciliation, illumination, regeneration. This threefold need is perfectly met by the Savior. He is the Way to the Father; He is the Truth incarnate; He is the Life to all who believe in Him. Let us briefly consider each of these separately.
"I am the way." Christ spans the distance between God and the sinner. Man would fain manufacture a ladder of his own, and by means of his resolutions and reformations, his prayers and his tears, climb up to God. But that is impossible. That is the way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death (Prov. 14:12). It is Satan who would keep the exercised sinner on his self-imposed journey to God. What faith needs to lay hold of is the glorious truth that Christ has come all the way down to sinners. The sinner could not come in to God, but God in the person of His Son has come out to sinners. He is the Way, the Way to the Father, the Way to Heaven, the Way to eternal blessedness.
"I am the truth." Christ is the full and final revelation of God. Adam believed the Devil’s lie, and ever since then man has been groping amid ignorance and error. "The way of the wicked is as darkness; they know not at what they stumble" (Prov. 4:19). "Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Eph. 4:18). A thousand systems has the mind devised. "God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions" (Ecclesiastes 7:29). "There is none that understandeth" (Rom. 3:11). Pilate voiced the perplexity of multitudes when he asked, "What is truth?" (John 18:38). Truth is not to be found in a system of philosophy, but in a Person-Christ is "the truth": He reveals God and exposes man. In Him are hid "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3). What tremendous folly to ignore Him! What will it avail you in Hell, dear reader, even though you have mastered all the sciences of men, were acquainted with all the events of history, were versed in all the languages of mankind, were thoroughly acquainted with the politics of your day? O, how you will wish then that you had read your newspapers less and your Bible more; that with all your getting you had got understanding; that with all your learning you had bowed before Him who is the Truth!
"I am the life." Christ is the Emancipator from death. The whole Bible bears solemn witness to the fact that the natural man is spiritually lifeless. He walks according to the course of this world; he has no love for the things of God. The fear of God is not upon him, nor has he any concern for His glory. Self is the center and circumference of his existence. He is alive to the things of the world, but is dead to heavenly things. The one who is out of Christ exists, but he has no spiritual life. When the prodigal son returned from the far country the father said, "This, my son, was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found" (Luke 15:24). The one who believes in Christ has passed out of death into life (John 5:24). "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" (John 3:36). Then turn to Him who is the Life.
"I am the way." Without Christ men are Cains-wanderers. "They are all gone out of the way" (Rom. 3:12). Christ is not merely a Guide who came to show men the path in which they ought to walk: He is Himself the Way to the Father. "I am the truth." Without Christ men are under the power of the Devil, the father of lies. Christ is not merely a Teacher who came to reveal to men a doctrine regarding God: He is Himself the Truth about God. "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." "I am the life." Without Christ men are dead in trespasses and sins. Christ is not merely a Physician who came to invigorate the old nature, to refine its grossness, or repair its defects. "I am come," said He, "that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
"No man cometh unto the Father but by me" (verse 6). Christ is the only way to God. It is utterly impossible to win God’s favor by any efforts of our own. "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 3:11). "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). "There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:6). Let every Christian reader praise God for His unspeakable Gift, and "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath newly-made for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith" (Heb. 10:19-22). (16)
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there in none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Romans 3:10-12
The several passages cited here, and in some following verses, are taken out of the Psalms and Isaiah; and are brought to prove, not only that the Jews are no better than the Gentiles, being equally corrupt and depraved as they; but also to show the corrupt state and condition of mankind in general: and the words are not always literally expressed, but the sense is attended to, as in this passage; for in the original text of ( Psalms 14:1 ) , it is, “there is none that doth good"; from whence the apostle rightly infers, "there is none righteous”; for he that does not do good, is not righteous; and therefore if there is none on earth that does good and does not sin, there is none righteous upon earth, "no, not one" single person. The Jews allegorizing that passage in ( Genesis 19:31 ) , "there is not a man in the earth to come into us", remark on it thus, ``(Urab qydu vya Nya) , "there is not a righteous man in the earth"; and there is not a man that rules over his imagination.''
There is none righteous as Adam was, in a state of innocence; for all have sinned, and are filled with unrighteousness, and are enemies to righteousness; none are righteous by their obedience to the law of works; nor are there any righteous in the sight of God, upon the foot of their own righteousness, however they may appear in their own eyes, and in the sight of others; nor are any inherently righteous, for there is none without sin, sanctification is imperfect; nor is it, either in whole or in part, a saint's justifying righteousness; indeed there is none righteous, no, not one, but those who are justified by the righteousness of Christ imputed to them.
This is rightly concluded, from what the Psalmist says, ( Psalms 14:2 ), "The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men", on all the children of men, Jews and Gentiles, "to see if there were any that did understand"; and it appears, upon this survey of them, there was not one understanding person among them: man thinks himself a very wise and understanding creature, though he is born a very ignorant one: true indeed, he has not lost by sin the natural faculty of the understanding, so as to become like the horse and mule, which are without any; and it must be allowed, that natural men have some understanding of things natural, civil, and moral; though there is none that understands even these, as Adam did: but then they have no understanding of things spiritual; no spiritual knowledge of God; no true sense of themselves, their sin and misery; nor do they truly know the way of salvation by Christ; nor have they any experience of the work of the Spirit of God upon their souls; nor any experimental knowledge of the doctrines of the Gospel: no man can understand these of himself, by the mere strength of reason, and light of nature; nor can even a spiritual man fully understand them in this life; in consequence of this account and character of men it follows, that that worships him in Spirit and in truth, or prays to him with the Spirit, and with the understanding; who seek him chiefly, and in the first place, with their whole hearts, earnestly, diligently, and constantly; who seek him in Christ, and under the assistance of the Spirit; who seek after the knowledge of God in Christ, communion with him through the Mediator, or his honour and glory.
In ( Psalms 14:3 ) ; it is said, "they are all gone aside"; as persons in debt: man had a considerable stock of righteousness, holiness, knowledge but he has run through all, has contracted large and numerous debts, has been obliged to hide himself, has been used as a bankrupt, and turned out of house and home: Christ indeed has undertook to pay, and he has paid all the debts of his people; and has put them into a better state than ever Adam was in: in ( Psalms 53:3 ) , it is rendered, "everyone of them is gone back"; that is, from God; from his commands, and from their former state and condition: here the phrase is rendered by the apostle, "they are all gone out of the way": that is, out of the way of God and his precepts, out of the way of holiness and righteousness, of light and life; into their own ways, the ways of sin, Satan, and the world of darkness, and of death: so Aben Ezra explains it, "out of the right way"; Kimchi and Ben Melech paraphrase it, "out of the good way: and so" the word (wxlan) , in ( Psalms 14:3 ) and ( Psalms 53:3 ) ; is translated, "they are become filthy"; which R. Aben Ezra interprets by (wtxvn) , "they are corrupt"; and R. Solomon Jarchi by (lwqlql wkphn) , "they are turned to corruption"; the metaphor is taken from stinking flesh, which is tainted and corrupted, and so good for nothing, hence here rendered "unprofitable"; for so men being corrupted by sin, are of no use, service, and advantage to God, to men, or to themselves; but, on the contrary, nauseous to God, and to all that are good, and hurtful to themselves and others: for and therefore must be unprofitable. There is none that can do good in a spiritual manner, without the grace of God, strength from Christ, and the assistance of the Spirit; and there is not even a spiritual man, that can do good perfectly, and without sin. (17)
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. I Corinthians 1:18
For the preaching of the cross,.... Not of the Christian's cross, which he is to take up and bear for the sake of Christ; though this is a doctrine taught by Christ, and his apostles, and found to be true by the saints in all ages; and is what is had in great aversion and contempt, being very disagreeable to the natural man: but of the cross of Christ, the doctrine of salvation by a crucified Christ; or the doctrine of peace and reconciliation by the blood of his cross, and of righteousness, pardon, atonement, and satisfaction by the offering up of himself upon it as a sacrifice for sin, is here intended; and which is foolishness in the esteem of many; and that because man's wisdom has no hand either in forming the scheme of it, or in the discovery of it to the sons of men; and besides, being revealed, it is very disagreeable to the carnal reason of man. This way of preaching is very impolite and unfashionable, and therefore despised; it is a doctrine which is not received by the wise and learned, but has been in all ages loaded with reproach, stigmatized either as a novel or licentious doctrine, and attended with persecution; though the only doctrine God owns for conversion, which administers comfort to distressed souls, and is food for the faith of believers; yea, it is a display of the highest wisdom; is what angels approve of, and desire to look into; is wiser than the wisdom of men; it has made foolish the wisdom of this world, and is what is only able to make a man wise unto salvation; and yet this doctrine is accounted foolish, yea foolishness itself; but to whom is it so?
“to them that perish” All mankind are in a lost and perishing condition, by reason of sin, and want of righteousness. There are some who shall not perish; the Father has chose them unto salvation, the Son has redeemed them, and the Spirit sanctifies them; but there are others who do perish in their sins; wicked and ungodly men, Carried away with their own lusts and blinded by Satan, the god of this world: these are they that are lost, to whom the Gospel is hid, and who judge it foolishness; but their judgment of it is not to be regarded, being no more capable to judge of the glory and wisdom of the Gospel, than a blind man is of colours: but unto us which are saved; who are chosen in Christ unto salvation; whose persons and grace are secured in Christ, and in the everlasting covenant; for whom Christ has wrought out salvation; and to whom it is applied by the Spirit of God; and who are kept unto the full enjoyment of it by divine grace: to thest is the power of God; organically or instrumentally; it being the means of quickening them when dead in sin, of enlightening their dark minds, of unstopping their deaf ears, of softening their hard hearts, and of enemies making them friends to God, Christ, and his people: and it is likewise so declaratively, there being a wonderful display of the power of God in the ministration of it; as may be seen when observed who were the first preachers of it, men of no figure in life, of no education, illiterate mechanics, very mean and abject; into these earthen vessels were put the treasure of the Gospel, that the excellency of the power might appear to be of God, and not man; as also the doctrine they preached, a crucified Christ, disagreeable to the wisdom of men; the manner in which they spread it, not by force of arms, by carnal weapons, but spiritual ones; moreover, the opposition they met with from rabbins, philosophers, princes, kings, and emperors, and all the states and powers of the world; and yet in how short a time, maugre all opposition, did they carry the Gospel throughout the whole world, to the conversion of millions of souls, and the planting of churches everywhere; and which Gospel has continued and increased, notwithstanding the efforts of persecutors and false teachers, and all the power and artifice of men and devils; all which can be attributed to nothing else but the mighty power of God: add to this, that the Gospel is the power of God in the esteem of the saints, who know it to be so by inward experience; they have felt the power of it on their hearts; it has wrought effectually in them, and therefore they are the best judges, and are capable of giving the best account of it. (18)
But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead. II Corinthians 1:9
Even though Paul came to the verge of death, he did not die. God wanted him to abandon his reliance on himself and instead to put all his trust in God. Being at death's door means a complete abandonment of any trace of reliance on ourselves indispensable in God's service but realize that with body and soul we belong entirely to Jesus Christ. That is the trust Paul has in mind. (19)
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new. II Corinthians 5:17
The particular change, of which Paul has spoken, is one sign of the transformation that takes place in any man who is in Christ. “Ye judge after the flesh”, Jesus told the Jews. “I judge no man” (in such manner). No more does the man who is in Christ, because for him the old things have become new. The word all in not found in the most ancient MSS, but, whether it is in the text or not, Paul in the latter part of this verse is in fact saying, not only that the entire world of his experience changes for a man who is in Christ, but because there are new men in Christ the new order of things foretold in the prophet Isaiah has now become a reality (see Isaiah xIiii. 18). Each man regenerated by the Spirit of God is a new creation, and a world in which such new creations exist is potentially at least a new world. (20)
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. Ephesians 2:1-3
V. 1. And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. There is an intimate connection between this clause and the preceding paragraph. In v. 19 of the first chapter the apostle prays that the Ephesians might duly appreciate the greatness of that power which had been exercised in their conversion. It was to be known from its effects. It was that power which was exercised in the resurrection and exaltation of Christ, and which had wrought an analogous change in them. The same power which quickened Christ has quickened you. The conjunction καί therefore is not to be rendered also, "you also," you as well as others. It serves to connect this clause with what precedes. ‘God raised
Christ from the dead, and he has given life to you dead in trespasses and sins.’
The grammatical construction of these words is doubtful. Some connect them immediately with the last clause of the first chapter.—‘Who fills all in all and you also,’ i. e. ὑμᾶςis made to depend on πληρουμένου. This, however, to make any tolerable sense, supposes the preceding clauseto have a meaning which the words will not bear. Others refer the beginning of this verse to the 20th ver. of the preceding chapter or at least borrow from that verse the verb required to complete the sense in this. ‘God raised Christ, and he has raised you, ἐγείρας τὸν Χριστὸν, καὶ ὑμᾶς ἤγειρε. There is indeed this association of ideas, but the two passages are not grammatically thus related. The first 96 seven verses of this chapter form one sentence, which is so long and complicated that the apostle is forced, before getting to the end of it, slightly to vary the construction; a thing of very frequent occurrence in his writings. He dwells so long in vs. 2, 3, 4, on the natural state of the Ephesians, that he is obliged in v. 5, to repeat substantially the beginning of v. 1, in order to complete the sentence there commenced. ‘You dead on account of sin,—wherein ye walked according to the course of the world, subject to Satan, associated with the children of disobedience, among whom we also had our conversation, and were the children of wrath even as others—us, dead on account of trespasses hathGod quickened.’ This is the way the passage stands. It is plain, therefore, that the sentence begun in the first verse, is resumed with slight variation in the fifth. This is the view taken by our translators, who borrow from the fifth verse the verb ἐζωοποίησε necessary to complete the sense of the first.
Paul describes his readers before their conversion as dead. In Scripture the word life is the term commonly used to express a state of union with God, and death a state of alienation from him. Life, therefore, includes holiness, happiness and activity; and death, corruption, misery and helplessness. All the higher forms of life are wanting in those spiritually dead; they are secluded from all the sources of true blessedness, and they are beyond the reach of any help from creatures. They are dead.
The English version renders the clause, τοῖς παραπτώμασι καὶ ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις, ‘dead in trespasses and sins.’ But there is no preposition in the original text, and therefore, the great majority of commentators consider the apostle as assigning the cause, and not describing the nature of this death, ‘Dead on account of trespasses and sins.’ The former of these words is generally considered as referring to outward transgressions, the latter is more indefinite, and includes all sinful manifestations of ἁμαρτία, i. e. of sin considered as an inherent principle."The word ἁμαρτίαι," says HARLESS, "has, according to the metonymical use of the plurals of abstract nouns, a different sense from the singular; viz. manifestations of sin, undetermined however, whether by word or deed or some other way. The assertion of David Schulz that ἁμαρτία never expresses a condition, but always an act, deservesno refutation, as such refutation may be found in any grammar."
V. 2. Wherein in time past ye walked. Their former condition, briefly described in the first verse, as a state, of spiritual death, is in this and the verses following. more particularly characterized. They walked in sin. They were daily conversant with it, and devoted to it. They were surrounded by it, and clothed with it. They lived according to the course of this world. In this clause we have not only the character of their life stated, but the governing principle which controlled their conduct. They lived according to, and under the control of, the spirit of the world. The expression τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ κόσμου does not elsewhere occur, and is variously explained. The most common interpretation assumes that the word αἰών is here used in its classical, rather than its Jewish sense. It is referred to the old verb ἄω, to breathe, and hence means, breath, vital principle, life, life-time, and then duration indefinitely. According to the life of this world, therefore, means ‘according to the ruling principle, or spirit of the world.’ This is substantially the sense expressed in our version, and is much to be preferred to any other interpretation. In all such forms of speech the depravity of men is taken for granted. To live after the manner of men, or according to the spirit of the world, is to live wickedly, which of course implies that men are wicked; that such is the character of the race in the sight of God.
Others, adhering to the New Testament sense of the αἰών, translate this clause thus: according to the age of this world, i. e. in a way suited to the present age of the world, as it is now, compared to what it is to be when Christ comes. Others again give αἰών a Gnostic sense—according to the Eon of this world, i. e. the devil. To this Meyer objects: 1. That it is more than doubtful whether any distinct reference to nascent Gnosticism is to be found in this epistle; and 2. That such a designation of Satan would have been unintelligible to all classes of readers.
This subjection to sin is, at the same time, a subjection to Satan, and therefore the apostle adds, κατὰ τὸν ἄρχοντα τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ ἀέρος, according to the prince of the power of the air. In 2 Cor. 4, 4, Satan is called the god, and in John 12, 31, the prince, of this world. He is said to be the prince of the demons. Matt. 9, 34. A kingdom is ascribed to him, which is called the kingdom of darkness. All wicked men and evil spirits are his subjects, and are led captive by him at his will. It is according to this ruler of the darkness of this world, agreeably to his will and under his control, that the Ephesians lived before their conversion. Though there is perfect unanimity among commentators, that the phrase τὸν ἄρχοντα τῆς ἐξουσίαςis a designation of Satan, there is much difference of opinion as to the precise import of the terms. First, the genitive, ἐξουσίας, may be taken as qualifying the preceding noun—‘Prince of the power,’ for ‘powerful prince,’ or, ‘prince to whom power belongs.’ Or, secondly, ἐξουσία may be taken metonymically for those over whom power is exercised, i. e. kingdom, as it is used in Col. 1, 13. Or, thirdly, it may designate those to whom power belongs, as in the preceding ch. v. 21. ‘All principality and power’ there means, all those who have dominion and power. This last mentioned explanation is the one generally preferred, because most in accordance with Paul’s useof the word, and because the sense thus obtained is so suited to the context and the analogy of Scripture. Satan is the prince of the powers of the air, i. e. of those evil spirits, who are elsewhere spoken of as subject to his dominion.
Of the air. The word ἀήρsignifies either the atmosphere, or darkness. The whole phrase, therefore, may mean either, the powers who dwell in the air, or the powers of darkness. In favour of the former explanation is the common meaning of the word, and the undoubted fact that both among the Greeks and Jews it was the current opinion of that age that our atmosphere was the special abode of spirits. In favour of the latter, it may be urged that the Scriptures nowhere else recognize or sanction the doctrine that the air is the dwelling place of spirits.
That opinion, therefore, in the negative sense at least, is unscriptural, i. e. has no scriptural basis, unless in this place. And secondly, the word σκότος, darkness, is so often used just as ἀήρ is here employed, as to create a strong presumption that the latter was meant to convey the same meaning as the former. Thus, "the power of darkness," Luke 22, 53; "the rulers of darkness," Eph. 6, 12; "the kingdom of darkness," Col. 1, 13, are all scriptural expressions, and are all used to designate the kingdom of Satan. Thirdly, this signification of the word is not without the authority of usage. The word properly, especially in the earlier writers, means the lower, obscure, misty atmosphere, as opposedto αἰθήρ, the pure air. Hence it means obscurity, darkness, whatever hides from sight.
There is a third interpretation of this phrase, which retains the common meaning of the word, but makes it express the nature and not the abode of the powers spoken of. ‘Of the earth’ may mean earthy; so ‘of the air’ may mean aerial. These demons do not belong to our earth, they have not a corporeal nature; they belong to a different and higher order of beings. They are aerial or spiritual. This passage is thus brought into accordance with what is said in Eph. 6, 12. Evil spirits are there said to be ‘in heavenly places,’ i. e. in heaven. That is, they do not belong to this earth; they are heavenly in their nature, as spirits without the trammels of flesh and blood. Such at least is one interpretation of Eph. 6, 12. By powers of the air, according to this view, we are to understand, unearthly, superhuman, incorporeal, spiritual beings over whom Satan reigns. This interpretation seems to have been the one generally adopted in the early church.
The spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience, τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ νῦν ἐνεργοῦντος, κτλ. This again is a difficult clause. Our version assumes that the word πνεύματος, spirit, is in apposition with the word ἄρχοντα, prince. ‘The prince of the power of the air, i. e. the spirit, who now works in the children of disobedience.’ The objection to this is that πνεύματος is in the genitive and ἄρχοντα in the accusative. This interpretation therefore cannot be adopted without assuming an unusual grammatical irregularity. Others prefer taking πνεύματος as in apposition to ἐξουσίας. The sense is then either: ‘Prince of the power of the air, i. e. prince of the spirit, i. e. spirits, who now work;’ or, ‘Prince of the spirit, which controls the children of disobedience.’ The former of these expositions gives a good sense.
Satan is the prince of those spirits who are represented in Scripture as constantly engaged in leading men into sin. But it does violence to the text, as there is no other case where the singular πνεῦμα is thus used collectively for the plural. To the latter interpretation it may be objected that the sense thus obtained is feeble and obscure, if the word spirit is made to mean ‘disposition of men;’ which, to say the least, is a very vague and indefinite expression, and furnishes no proper parallelism to the preceding clause "powers of the air." But by spirit may be meant the evil principle which works in mankind. Compare 1 Cor. 2, 12. Luther and Calvin both give the same interpretation that is adopted by our translators. Beza, Bengel, and most of the moderns make spirit mean the spirit of the world as opposed to the Spirit of God.
The phrase children of disobedience (ἐν τοῖς υἱοῖς τῆς ἀπειθείας) does not mean disobedient children—for that would imply that those thus designated were represented as the children of God, or children of men, who were disobedient. The word children expresses their relation, so to speak, to disobedience, which is the source of their distinctive character. The word son is often used in Scripture to express the idea of derivation or dependence in any form. Thus the ’sons of famine’ are the famished; the ’sons of Belial’ are the worthless; the ’sons of disobedience’ are the disobedient. The word ἀπείθεια means, unwillingness to be persuaded, and is expressive either of disobedience in general, or of unbelief which is only one form of disobedience. In this case the general sense is to be preferred, for the persons spoken of are not characterized as unbelievers, or as obstinately rejecting the gospel, but as disobedient or wicked. The fact asserted in this clause, viz., that Satan and evil spirits work in men, or influence their opinions, feelings and conduct, is often elsewhere taught in Scripture. Matt. 13, 38. John 12, 31; 8, 44. Acts 26, 18. 2 Cor. 4, 4. The fact is all that concerns us, we need not understand how they exert this influence.
We do not know how the intercourse of disembodied spirits is conducted, and therefore cannot tell how such spirits have access to our minds to control their operations. The influence, whatever it is, and however effectual it may be, does not destroy our freedom of action, any more than the influence of one man over his fellows. Still it is an influence greatly to be dreaded. These spirits of wickedness are represented as far more formidable adversaries than those who are clothed in flesh and blood. Blessed are those for whom Christ prays, as he did for Peter, when he sees them surrounded by the wiles of the devil.
V. 3. Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past. It appears not only from ch. 1: 11, 13, and from the connection in this place, but still more clearly from v. 11 and those following, in this chapter, that by you in this whole epistle, the apostle means Gentiles; and by we, when the pronouns are contrasted as here, the Jews. The spiritual condition of the Ephesians before their conversion was not peculiar to them as Ephesians or as heathen. All men, Jews and Gentiles, are by nature in the same state. Whatever differences of individual character, whatever superiority of one age or nation over another may exist, these are but subordinate diversities. There is as to the main point, as this apostle elsewhere teaches. no difference; for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. There is also no essential difference as to the way in which different communities or individuals manifest the depravity common to them all. There is very great difference as to the degree and the grossness of such manifestations, but in all the two comprehensive forms under which the corruption of our nature reveals itself, "the desires of the flesh and of the mind," are clearly exhibited. The apostle therefore does not hesitate to associate his countrymen with the Gentiles in this description of their moral condition, although the former were in many respects so superior to the latter. Nay, he does not hesitate to include himself, though he was before his conversion as ‘touching the righteousness which is of the law blameless.’ All men, whatever their outward conduct may be, in their natural state have "a carnal mind" as opposed to "a spiritual mind." See Rom. 8, 5-7. They are all governed by the things which are seen and temporal, instead of those which are not seen and eternal. Paul therefore says of himself and fellow Jews that they all had their conversation among the children of disobedience. They were not separated from them as a distinct and superior class, but were associated with them, congenial in character and life.
Wherein this congeniality consisted is stated in the following clauses. As the Gentiles so also the Jews had their conversation, i. e. they lived in the lusts of the flesh. The word ἐπιθυμία, lust, means strong desire, 105 whether good or bad. In Scripture most commonly it is taken in a bad sense, and means inordinate desire of any kind. The ‘lusts of the flesh’ are those irregular desires which have their origin in the flesh. By the flesh, however, is not to be understood merely our sensuous nature, but our whole nature considered as corrupt. The scriptural usage of the word σάρξ is very extensive. It means the material flesh, then that which is external, then that which is governed by what is material, and in so far sinful; then that which is sinful without that limitation; whatever is opposed to the Spirit, and in view of all these senses it means mankind. See Phil. 3, 4, where the apostle includes under the word flesh, his descent from the Hebrews, his circumcision, and his legal righteousness. Gal. 3, 3. 5, 19-21. In this latter passage, envy, hatred, heresy, are included among the works of the flesh, as well as revellings and drunkenness. It depends on the immediate context whether the word, in any given place, is to be understood of our whole nature considered as corrupt, or only of the sensuous or animal part of that nature. When it stands opposed to what is divine, it means what is human and corrupt; when used in opposition to what is intellectual or spiritual in our nature, it means what is sensuous. In the presentcase it is to be taken in its wide sense because there is nothing to limit it, and because in the following clause it is defined as including both,—"the desires of the flesh (in the restricted sense of the word) and of the mind." The word θελήματα rendered desires, means rather behests, commands. The things done were those which the flesh and the mind willed to be done. They were the governing principles to whose will obedience was rendered. Διανοία, mind, is used here for the whole thinking and sentient principle, so far as distinguished from the animal principle. Frequently it means the intellect, here it refers more to the affections. Comp. Col. 1, 21, "Enemies in your mind." Lev. 19, 7, "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy mind." Numbers 15, 39, "Follow not after your own minds." Jews and Gentiles, all men, therefore, are represented in their natural state as under the control of evil. They fulfil the commands of the flesh and of the mind.
And were by nature the children of wrath even as others, καὶ ἤμεθα τέκνα φύσει ὀργῆς. The expression " \children of wrath," agreeably to a Hebrew idiom above referred to, means ‘the objects of wrath,’ obnoxious to punishment. Compare Deut. 25, 2, ’son of stripes,’ one to be beaten. 1 Sam. 20, 31. 2 Sam. 12, 5, ’son of death,’ one certainly to die. The idea of worthiness is not included in the expression, though often implied in the context. The phrase ’son of death,’ means one who is to die, whether justly or unjustly. So ‘children of wrath,’ means simply ‘the objects of wrath.’ But as the wrath spoken of is the displeasure of God, of course the idea of ill-desert is necessarily implied.
The word φύσις in signification and usage corresponds very nearly to our word nature. When used, as in this case, to indicate the source or origin of any thing in the character or condition, it always expresses what is natural or innate, as opposed to what is made, taught, superinduced, or in any way incidental or acquired. This general idea is of course variously modified by the nature of the thing spoken of. Thus when the apostle says, Gal. 2, 15, ἡμεῖς φύσει Ἰουδαῖοι, we by nature Jews, he means Jews by birth, in opposition to profession. In Gal. 4, 8, it is said of the heathen deities that they are not by nature gods, they are such only by appointment, or in virtue of the opinions of men. In Rom. 2, 13, men are said to do by nature the things of the law, i. e. the source of these moral acts is to be sought in their natural constitution, not in the instruction or example of others. In Rom. 2, 27, uncircumcision is said to be by nature, i. e. natural, not acquired. This usage is common in the classic writers. Thus Plato, de Legibus, lib. 10, says, ‘Some teach that the gods are οὑ φύσει, ἀλλὰ τισὶ νόμοις,’ i. e. that they owe their divinity not to nature but to certain laws. Afterwards he says, ‘Some things are right by nature, others by law.’ In another place, he says, of certain persons, ‘They were φύσει barbarians, νόμῳ Greeks;’ by birth barbarians, but by law Greeks. In these writers the expressions, ‘by nature selfish,’ ‘by nature swift to anger,’ ‘by nature avaricious,’ &c., are of very frequent occurrence. In all suchcases the general sense is the same. The thing predicated is affirmed to be natural. It is referred to the natural constitution or condition as opposed to what is acquired. According to this uniform usage the expression, ‘We were by nature the children of wrath,’ can only mean, ‘We were born in that condition.’ It was something natural. We did not become the children of wrath, but were already such as we were born. In this interpretation commentators of all classes agree. RUECKERT, one of the ablest and most untrammelled of the recent German commentators, says: "It is perfectly evident from Rom. 5, 12-20, that Paul was far from being opposed to the view expressed in Ps. 51, 7, that men are born sinners; and as we interpret for no system, so we will not attempt to deny that the thought,’ we were born children of wrath,’ i. e. such as we were from our birth we were exposed to the divine wrath, is the true sense of the words." HARLESS, a commentator of higher order, says: " Unless we choose to explain the word φύσειin a senseless and inconsistent manner, we can account for its use only by admitting that Paul proceeds on the assumption of an enmity to God at present natural and indwelling. And sincesuch a native condition is not a fatuity, we can properly acknowledge no other explanation of the fact here incidentally mentioned, than that which in perfect consistency with the whole apostolic system of doctrine, is given in Rom. 5th." The simple fact is asserted, not the reason of it. It is by nature, not on account of nature that we are here declared to be the children of wrath. The Scriptures do indeed teach the doctrine of inherent, hereditary depravity, and that that depravity is of the nature of sin, and therefore justly exposes us to the divine displeasure. And this doctrine may be fairly implied in the text, but it is not asserted. In other words, φύσις does not mean natural depravity, and the dative (φύσει) does not here mean on account of. The assertion is that men are born in a state of condemnation, and not that their nature is the ground of that condemnation. This is, indeed, an old and widely extended interpretation; 109but it does violence to the force of the word φύσις, which means simply nature, and not either holy or corrupt nature. The idea of moral character may be implied in the context, but is not expressed by the word. When we say, ‘a man is by nature kind,’ it is indeed implied that his nature is benevolent, but nature does not signify ‘natural benevolence.’ Thus when it is said, men are ‘by nature corrupt,’ or, ‘by nature the children of wrath,’ all that is asserted is that they are born in that condition.
Others take φύσις to mean in this place simply disposition, character, inward state of mind; very much as we often use the word heart. According to this view, the word means not quod nascenti inest, sed quod consuetudo in naturam vertit. The sense then is: ‘We, as well as others are, as to our inward disposition or state of mind, children of wrath.’ All the expressions quoted by Clericus and other advocates of this interpretation, are really proofs that the word φύσις has not the signification which they assign to it. When it is said that Barbarians are by nature rapacious, the Syrians by nature fickle, the Lacedemonians taciturn, more is meant than that such is the actual character of these people. The characteristic trait asserted of them is referred to what is innate or natural. In other words φύσιςdoes not mean, in such cases, simply disposition, but innate disposition.
Still more remote from the proper meaning of the terms is the interpretation which renders φύσει truly, really. This is substituting an idea implied in the context for the signification of the word. When Paul says, the heathen deities are not by nature gods, he does indeed say they are not really gods; but this does not prove that by nature means truly.
Another exposition of this passage is, that the apostle here refers to the incidental cause of our being the children of wrath. Our exposure to the divine displeasure is due to our nature, because that nature being what it is, filled with various active principles innocent or indifferent, leads us into sin, and we thus become children of wrath. It is not by nature, but “durch Entwickelung natürlicher Disposition,”‘through the development of natural disposition,’ as Meyer expresses this idea. This is a theological hypothesis rather than an interpretation. When it is said men are by nature desirous of truth, by nature honest, by nature cruel, more is affirmed than that they become such, under the influence of natural principles of which these characteristics cannot be predicated. The very reverse is the thing asserted.
It is affirmed that love of truth, honesty, or cruelty are attributes of the nature of those spoken of. In like manner when it is said, ‘We are by nature the children of wrath,’ the very thing denied is, that we become such by a process of development. The assertion is that we are such by nature, as we were born. The truth here taught, therefore, is that which is so clearly presented in other parts of Scripture, and so fully confirmed by the history of the world and faith of the church, viz. that mankind as a race are fallen; they had their probation in Adam, and therefore are born in a state of condemnation. They need redemption from the moment of their birth; and therefore the seal of redemption is applied to them in baptism, which otherwise would be a senseless ceremony. (21)
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. Ephesians 2:12
12. without Christ-Greek, "separate from Christ"; having no part in Him; far from Him. A different Greek word (aneu) would be required to express, "Christ was not present with you" [Tittmann].
aliens-Greek, "alienated from," not merely "separated from." The Israelites were cut off from the commonwealth of God, but it was as being self-righteous, indolent, and unworthy, not as aliens and strangers [Chrysostom]. The expression, "alienated from," takes it for granted that the Gentiles, before they had apostatized from the primitive truth, had been sharers in light and life (compare Eph 4:18, 23). The hope of redemption through the Messiah, on their subsequent apostasy, was embodied into a definite "commonwealth" or polity, namely, that "of Israel," from which the Gentiles were alienated. Contrast Eph 2:13; Eph 3:6; 4:4, 5, with Ps 147:20.
covenants of promise-rather, ". of the promise," namely, "to thee and thy seed will I give this land" (Ro 9:4; Ga 3:16). The plural implies the several renewals of the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with the whole people at Sinai [Alford]. "The promise" is singular, to signify that the covenant, in reality, and substantially, is one and the same at all times, but only different in its accidents and external circumstances (compare Heb 1:1, "at sundry times and in divers manners").
having no . hope-beyond this life (1Co 15:19). The CONJECTURES of heathen philosophers as to a future life were at best vague and utterly unsatisfactory. They had no divine "promise," and therefore no sure ground of "hope." Epicurus and Aristotle did not believe in it at all. The Platonists believed the soul passed through perpetual changes, now happy, and then again miserable; the Stoics, that it existed no longer than till the time of the general burning up of all things.
without God-Greek, "atheists," that is, they had not "God" in the sense we use the word, the Eternal Being who made and governs all things (compare Ac 14:15, "Turn from these vanities unto the living God who made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things therein"), whereas the Jews had distinct ideas of God and immortality. Compare also Ga 4:8, "Ye knew not God . ye did service unto them which are no gods" (1Th 4:5). So also pantheists are atheists, for an impersonal God is NO God, and an ideal immortality no immortality [Tholuck].
in the world-in contrast to belonging to "the commonwealth of Israel." Having their portion and their all in this godless vain world (Ps 17:14), from which Christ delivers His people (John 15:19; 17:14; Ga 1:4). (22)
Theological implications and Scriptural conclusions:
We have seen in this survey of Scripture and commentary that man is dead spiritually. He does not desire the things of God.
Fallen man can lay no claim on God's favor. Man's wickedness is often manifested as religious works. See Genesis 4:3. Cain offered a religious work, the fruit of his own hands. Adam and Eve tried to cover their nakedness with the works of their own hands. God did not accept Adam and Eve's hand-made coverings or Cain's offering of self effort. Many man-made religions will dress themselves up such as Adam and Eve tried with outward religious trappings. These types of human works are filthy rags in God's eyes. Fallen man hates God and the things of God. Many fallen men seek to offend God by throwing humanistic religious works in God's face.
Man's nature is corrupted, and he makes all decisions based upon his corrupted or fallen nature. In the view of some man has a total and complete free will. Unfortunately many never bother to define what they mean by the term “free will” and the complicates the problem further by not proving this belief in free will from scripture. This belief may be popular and emotionally pleasing. Is it Biblical? Many simply assume that there is something called free will and that it is taught in the Bible. And, God cannot even save man in this system unless man through the exercise of his free will says "yes".
It is clear from the Scriptures that fallen man
is spiritually dead, and consequently cannot be free.
The problem arises for many people because they know
that they make choices or decisions. Man most certainly
does make choices. The question needs to be asked, why
does man choose one thing over another? The solution is
found in man's nature. Fallen man makes decisions that
are the result of the desires of his nature. Why does
man reject the Biblical God? Because it is his nature to
do so. Man chooses in harmony with his nature. Romans
tells us the following:
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? Romans. 6:16
Verse fourteen of this chapter says of those in Christ that we are no longer under the dominion of sin. We were the servant or slaves of sin. We yielded ourselves to sin because this was the inclination of our fallen nature. We are now the servants of righteousness and no longer the slaves of sin. Our sin natures have been changed. As the apostle Peter tells us that "ye might be partakers of the divine nature..." II Peter 1:4. The believer now has a new nature. We still make choices or decisions. Since we have a new nature our desires have been changed. We are now slaves of righteousness. Both the non-believer and the believer make choices but they are determined by either a corrupt nature or a changed nature. The will can said to be free if it is understood that this freedom is always in accord with the desires of man's nature. The believer is now a new creation in Christ. We follow Christ because we love Him and want to please Him. The Holy Spirit lives in the believer and guides us and convicts us to do what is right according to the scriptures.
When a person chooses Christ, one must ask, why did the person do this? Was it his decision on his own apart from God's action? Or, does man act or choose for Christ as a result of God changing his heart by the power of Holy Spirit? The Scripture declare that unbelievers are dead (not just sick) and have hearts of stone. Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit changes our heart of stone to a heart of flesh. As said, unbelievers are dead spiritually and Christ quickens us or makes us alive. We are risen from the dead when Christ regenerates us. Regeneration happens before we can exercise faith.
Therefore, Christ gets the credit for our decision to believe in Him. Unbelievers do not choose Christ, because they in their fallen state hate him and are spiritually dead. And furthermore, it should be noted that fallen man's nature is corrupt and fallen man freely chooses in harmony with his fallen nature to reject Christ. So then, when fallen man is regenerated and exercises faith in the Lord Jesus Christ's atoning work at Calvary, what credit does God get for this decision? “All” is the only possible correct answer.
Remember, we were the servants or slaves of sin. We yielded ourselves to sin because this was the inclination of our fallen nature. We are now the servants of righteousness and no longer the slaves of sin. Our sin natures have been changed. As the apostle Peter tells us that "ye might be partakers of the divine nature..." II Peter 1:4. The believer now has a new nature. We still make choices or decisions. Since we have a new nature our desires have been changed through the inward work of the Holy Spirit. We are now slaves of righteousness (not perfectly) by His grace.
In conclusion, both the non-believer and the believer make choices but they are determined by either a corrupt nature or a changed redeemed nature. The will can said to be free if it is understood that this freedom is always in accord with the desires of man's nature. It can be said that the will is bound, yet free. The believer is now a new creation in Christ. We follow Christ because we love Him and want to please Him. The Holy Spirit lives in the believer and guides us and convicts us to do what is right according to the Scriptures.
The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter VI Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment ThereofI. Our first parents, being seduced by the subtlety and temptation of Satan, sinned, in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin, God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory.
1. Gen. 3:13; II Cor. 11:3
2. See Chapter V, Section IV
II. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body.
3. Gen. 3:6-8; Rom. 3:23
4. Gen. 2:17; Eph. 2:1-3; see Rom. 5:12
5. Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9; Titus 1:15; Rom. 3:10-19
III. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.
6. Acts. 17:26; Rom. 5:12, 15-19; I Cor. 15:21-22, 49
7. Psa. 51:5; John 3:6; Gen. 5:3; Job 15:14
IV. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.
8. Rom. 5:6; 7:18; 8:7; Col. 1:21
9. Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Rom. 3:10-12
10. Matt. 15:19; James 1:14-15; Eph. 2:2-3
V. This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be, through Christ, pardoned, and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.
11. Prov. 20:9; Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 7:14, 17-18, 21-23; I John 1:8, 10
12. Rom. 7:7-8, 25; Gal. 5:17
VI. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal.
13. I John 3:4
14. Rom. 2:15; 3:9, 19
15. Eph. 2:3
16. Gal. 3:10
17. Rom. 6:23
18. Eph. 4:18
19. Rom. 8:20; Lam. 3:39
20. Matt. 25:41; II Thess. 1:9
Q. 13. Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created?
A. Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God [a].
[a]. Gen. 3:6-8, 13; II Cor. 11:3
Q. 14. What is sin?
A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God [a].
[a]. Lev. 5:17; Jas. 4:17; I John 3:4
Q. 15. What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?
A. The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein thy were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit [a].
[a]. Gen. 3:6
Q. 16. Did all mankind fall in Adam's first transgression?
A. The covenant being made with Adam [a], not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression [b].
[a]. Gen. 2:16-17; Jas. 2:10
[b]. Rom. 5:12-21; ICor. 15:22
Q. 17. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery [a].
[a]. Gen. 3:16-19, 23; Rom. 3:16; 5:12; Eph. 2:1
Q. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin [a], the want of original righteousness [b], and the corruption of his whole nature [c], which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it [d].
[a]. Rom. 5:12, 19
[b]. Rom. 3:10; Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24
[c]. Ps. 51:5; John 3:6; Rom. 3:18; 8:7-8; Eph. 2:3
[d]. Gen. 6:5; Ps. 53:1-3; Matt. 15:19; Rom. 3:10-18, 23; Gal. 5:19-21; Jas. 1:14-15
Q. 19. What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. All mankind by their fall lost communion with God [a], are under his wrath [b] and curse [c], and so made liable to all miseries in this life [d], to death [e] itself, and to the pains of hell for ever [f].
[a]. Gen. 3:8, 24; John 8:34, 42, 44; Eph. 2:12; 4:18
[b]. John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; Eph. 2:3; 5:6
[c]. Gal. 3:10; Rev. 22:3
[d]. Gen. 3:16-19; Job 5:7; Ecc. 2:22-23; Rom. 8:18-23
[e]. Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 5:12; 6:23
[f]. Matt. 25:41, 46; II Thess. 1:9; Rev. 14:9-11
Shorter Catechism was completed in 1647 by the
Westminster Assembly and continues to serve as part of
the doctrinal standards of many Presbyterian churches.
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