THE RUINATION OF MAN
(See Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 6)
If a person makes a mistake you might hear him justify it by saying, “Well, I am human!” Others would say, “We all make mistakes!” To be sure it’s worse when a doctor or a surgeon or a pharmacist makes a mistake. People’s lives can be put at risk. But regardless of who is making the mistake the fundamental question is: Why? Why do we all make mistakes? What’s wrong with us? It doesn’t answer the question merely to say, “To err is human.”
To be sure, our mistakes can at times be honest mistakes or at times they may be deliberate. But that doesn’t change the fact that we all make mistakes regardless of our intentions. But why do we make mistakes, why do we err? Well, the Christian would answer that by saying, “It’s because man is fallen.” Each of us makes mistakes because each of us has a fallen nature. In other words, it’s now the nature of man to get things wrong – whether it is wrong thoughts, wrong words, or wrong deeds.
So, we may at times make errors in our thinking, speaking, and doing. Who would argue against this? Who would deny that they’ve ever made a mistake? Is there anyone among us who is perfect? No? Well, how can this be since God created man perfect in the beginning?
The Fall of Man
The Fall of man was man’s very first mistake! The Fall of man is the mother of all mistakes! The wise man Solomon says, “Truly, this only I have found: That God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes” Ecclesiastes 7:29. Is Solomon mistaken when he says this? No, because that is what God says; and God doesn’t make mistakes. Solomon wrote that under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit. And anyway, the LORD God declared everything very good on the sixth day when He had finished making everything, including man.
So, what happened to man? Well, God had planted Adam and Eve in His garden – the Garden of Eden. And God permitted them to eat of every tree in His garden bar one – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God threatened them with pain of death upon the eating of that forbidden fruit. But a smooth-talking serpent arrived on the scene and somehow managed to get Eve to dialogue.
We know that it was the Devil who was using the serpent like a ventriloquist’s dummy. So, Eve had an encounter with Satan at the foot of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan, who is very subtle and very clever, deceived Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” Genesis 3:6.
So, the first mistake was to listen to Satan instead of God. Adam should have run and got his garden shotgun and blasted the snake! Okay, you’re going to tell me that he should have called on the Lord – fair enough. Regardless, Adam and Eve should not have sided with the Devil and his scheme – but they did! So the fall of man from his upright position of righteousness and goodness took place upon the clever instigation of Satan.
But where was God in it all? Why didn’t God stop it? Well, the holy and wise God was pleased to permit the fall of man, having purposed to order it to His own glory. In other words, God intended to use the fall of man to bring glory to Himself.
How does God glorify Himself by the fall of man? Well, in the words of John the Baptist, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29. This Lamb of God is, of course, Jesus Christ who, immediately before He went to the cross, said these words to His Father, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” John 17:4&5.
So we see then, that God had His Son’s cross in mind when He permitted the fall of man. God, therefore, glorifies Himself in His salvation of sinners.
The Sin of Man
The sin of man brought with it the corruption of our human nature. The first sin meant the loss of the state of original righteousness. And it also meant loss of communion with God. And further, it meant that man had become dead in sin.
So, the sin of man brought with it a dramatic change or alteration to man’s inward makeup. If you plunge, let’s say, your car into a river it won’t function the way it was intended. The water will get into every nook and cranny of the car. Well, so it was when Adam plunged mankind into sin.
By eating the forbidden fruit Adam broke God’s Moral law that God had written on our heart. And, just as happens when you use your car as a boat, so Adam used his body contrary to His manufacturer’s specifications. God had made man to be a vehicle for keeping the Ten Commandments – an instrument for righteousness. But man converted himself into being a vehicle for sin, which sin is the transgression of God’s Law. So, like a car at the bottom of the Red River, man sunk himself in sin. He cut himself off from the loving fellowship he enjoyed with God.
By his sin man made himself dead to God and the things of God. In a word, man by his sin, became dead spiritually. That’s what we mean by “dead in sin”. Spiritual things belong to the Spirit of God, and unless the Spirit of God graciously regenerates a man, that man will remain spiritually dead to God.
There is no aspect of fallen and sinful man that escapes the effects of sin. Sin permeates the whole of our being. That’s what Calvinists mean by “Total Depravity”. They don’t mean that man is as totally evil as he can be. But rather they mean that like the car at the bottom of the Derwent River is flooded throughout with water, so man is flooded throughout his entire being with the effects of sin.
It’s as it says in Genesis before the great global flood in Noah’s day, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” Genesis 6:5. That still stands true of man’s heart today. This is what it means to be dead in sin. It means that that aspect of man that produces his thoughts is corrupted. Yes, even our thoughts are corrupted
Man has become waterlogged with sin – man is “sinlogged”! And as a waterlogged branch will sink to the bottom of the River Leven, so man would sink to the lowest depths of depravity – were it not for the restraining hand of God. To be sure there are those who have sunk pretty low – Adolf Hitler for one. But “Total Depravity” doesn’t mean everyone is as evil as can be. It simply means that the corruption of sin in man extends throughout his entire body, soul, and spirit.
And not only does sin extend through the entire nature of man, it also extends through the entire human race. There is no one who escapes sin’s corrupting influence. As leaven leavens the whole lump, so evil has spread to all Adam and Eve’s posterity. It’s as Job says, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one!” Job 14:4. David testifies to this where he says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” Psalm 51:5.
So, we see then that the same death in sin and the same corrupted nature Adam and Eve experienced after sinning against God was transferred to all their descendants, including you and me. Therefore, like David each of us is conceived in iniquity and born with a sinful nature.
And not only do we inherit a sinful disposition from Adam, we also have the guilt of his very first sin imputed to us. Paul under inspiration of the Holy Spirit says in Romans 5:12-14, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all 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 those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come…”
So, when Adam sinned, all mankind sinned in him. We all sinned in Adam because Adam is the Federal head or Covenant head of the human race. Adam was our representative before God in the original Covenant of Works. Therefore the guilt of his sin is imputed to the collective account of the human race. This means that from the moment of our conception we bear the guilt of Adam’s sin, because that guilt is imputed to us by God – since we are part of the human race. So, we receive two things from our forefather Adam, 1. We receive the guilt of his first sin through imputation. And, 2. We receive the same corrupted nature he had when he sinned through ordinary generation.
When Sleeping Beauty (or was it Snow White?) ate the poisoned apple, she fell into a sleep-trance that could only be awakened by the kiss of the handsome prince. Well, when Adam ate the forbidden fruit, all mankind fell into a death-trance that can only be removed by the death and resurrection of the Lord of Glory. The main difference being that “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” is no fairytale, but true truth! He is the One who brings even the dead back to life – whether spiritually dead or physically dead!
To have a corrupted human nature, as we’ve seen, is what it means to be spiritually dead. Being dead spiritually means that we are inclined away from all spiritual good. God made man upright, but sin has made him like the Leaning Tower of Pisa! And because we lean away from spiritual good it means that our whole being tends toward evil. And because our whole being, body, soul, and spirit inclines toward evil we are going in the opposite direction from good. Romans 3:10-12, “There is none righteous, no not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no not one.”
Sin has incapacitated us – it has disabled us from doing any spiritual good toward our getting ourselves right with God. What good is a car after it has been on the bottom of the Brisbane River? Will you be able to start it up and drive it without doing a major work on it? Well, so it is with fallen man, because he is no good he can do no good – because every intent of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually.
But, I hear you say, what about helping elderly ladies across the street? Is that not good? We’re not saying that man cannot do things that appear to be right and good, for he can! But what we are saying is that even when we do those things we consider to be good, our motivation for doing them is shot through with sin.
We might do these kinds of things for praise from others, for self-satisfaction. And even if we were to do them for God’s glory, even then our action would be tainted by sin! Look, when you fish a car out from the bottom of the River Clyde, the reason it doesn’t go is more than the fact that it’s got a flooded carburettor! You might get it to look like it’s doing some good by rolling it down a steep incline. But the fact is that it has to be pushed and hauled before it will move. Well, it’s the same with fallen man when it comes to doing good – we’re not inclined that way. We need to coaxed and coerced into it – from birth! Doing good is not natural to us in our fallen state. It goes against our fallen nature.
The sin in man is on account of the Fall of Man. When Adam ate the forbidden fruit he poisoned the lot of us! And, whether you’re a doctor, or a surgeon, or a pharmacist, or whatever, you’ll know that there are always consequences for making mistakes.
The Punishment of Man
We’ve already considered part of the punishment of man when we looked at the imputation of the guilt of Adam’s first sin, and the corrupted nature we each inherit from him though ordinary generation. God warned Adam that if he ate the forbidden fruit he would surely die (Genesis 2:17).
Death is like barbwire consisting of three strands of tightly twisted wire. Spiritual death is the first instalment of the threefold nature of death. The second strand is physical death, and the third strand is eternal death. The barbwire of death is the punishment for our sins – we all are in a barbwire enclosure. What used to be a safety rail in the beginning has become a barbwire prison compound, and everything we do in this prison has the stench of death attached to it. For all mankind is sitting on death row. And it is our own sins that have imprisoned us.
What is sin? Sin is the breach of the righteous Law of God. Adam and Eve crashed through the guardrail that God had placed around him and Eve – and all mankind. That guardrail was a safety rail. It was the righteous Law of God. But when Adam intentionally drove through the guardrail he landed us in the deep dark waters of sin. But if you were to read through Genesis three, where the Fall of Man is recorded, you won’t hear man cry out to God for help, even after we sinned. Why not? Well, it was because all mankind is now dead in sin – which deadness in sin began with Adam’s first sin. And to be dead in sin means that instead of crying out to God for help, you try to avoid Him, and you hide from Him.
After Adam and Eve had sinned against God it says in Genesis 3:8, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”
We know that God alone is good because Jesus says in Luke 18:19 “No one is good but One, that is, God.” And we know that God’s Law is good because Paul says in Romans 7:15&16, “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.”
So, God is good and His Law is good. Yet fallen man works very hard to hide himself from God and His Law. Why? Well, because it is part of God’s punishment on man for his sin. Again, spiritual deadness to God and the things of God is the first instalment of God’s punishment. Therefore, spiritual deadness is the first strand in the barbwire fence that separates us from God. And because we are separated from God we experience misery in this world. We are under the curse of the Law of God – it condemns us to death for our breaking of it.
So, another part of the punishment of man is a guilty conscience. Every mistake we make reminds us of our own fallenness. We know instinctively that we don’t measure up to God’s perfect standard. We know because God had written His Law on man’s heart in the beginning. So, fallen man tries to suppress the truth in unrighteousness. He pretends he is free, when, in reality, he is hemmed in on all sides by death. The indignity of physical death awaits – as do the everlasting torments of Hell, i.e., everlasting death. But God is a gracious God. He brings many Hell-deserving sinners back to life, but the justice or wrath of God abides on others (John 3:36).
But even those whom He graciously regenerates still have the remains of a corrupted nature in this life. To be sure it will be completely gone when they go to be with the Lord. And when their bodies are resurrected on Judgment Day all residue of sin will be gone from them forever. But, I’m sure this will be no surprise to you, even Christians sin! Why do we sin? We sin on account of the remains of our old corrupted nature. That’s what the Apostle Paul goes on about in Romans 7, “…what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” That’s the lot for the Christian this side of glory – even though we have been redeemed by Christ and regenerated by the Spirit.
Think about it, when God set Israel free from their bondage in Egypt the Israelites had to carry a pile of bones with them. The bones belonged to Joseph. Exodus 13:19, “And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had placed the children of Israel under solemn oath, saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here with you.’”
So, even though God had redeemed the children of Israel from the house of bondage, they still had to haul around with them the reminder of the death they had been set free from. The bones of Joseph would have reminded them of their own mortality. And so, even though all our sins have been pardoned through Christ, and even though our old nature has been mortified, i.e., put to death with Christ on the cross – even so – we still carry around with us the body of death! It is a reminder of our sins. It’s a reminder of our mortality. It is a reminder of the punishment for sin!
As the Apostle Paul goes on to say in Romans 7, “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:22-25a. So, the Christian delights in the Law of God, but he carries around with him the body of death.
The bones of Joseph were buried in Shechem in the land of Canaan only after the war of conquest had been won by the Lord’s army under Joshua. So the bones of Joseph were laid to rest after the children of Israel had settled in to the Promised Land. Joshua 24:18, “The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought out of Egypt, they buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought…” And so it is for you and me. We only get to give up this body of death, the corruption of sin, when we enter into glory.
The residue of sin, the remaining corruption is a measure of infirmities for the Christian. It’s our thorn in the flesh to keep us humble after glimpsing heaven through Christ and His cross. But, as the Lord said to Paul when He gave him a thorn in the flesh, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” 2 Corinthians 12:9.
When the Lord told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac his son, Isaac said to Abraham, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” To which Abraham replied, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering” Genesis 22:8. And of course, Abraham saw a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. He sacrificed it instead of his son. But God sacrificed His only begotten Son for us and instead of us! His Son is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
And as Adam broke through the crash-barrier of God’s Law and brought us death, so the Lamb of God burst through the barrier that keeps us in death to bring us life. Like a ram that has battered through a fence, He has breached the three-ply barbwire of death and has opened up the way of escape from bondage into the Promised Land. For with a crown of barbwire thorns on His head, He took away the punishment of our sins. Thus He took the threefold cords of death to the cross with Him. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be the righteousness of God in Him” 2 Corinthians 5:21.
So, the original righteousness we had in the garden (which righteousness we lost when Adam sinned), has been restored to us again in Jesus Christ.
I urge you all to turn your back on sin, even your own sins, and believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world! For His cross is the place where fallen man is made upright again. For His cross is the place where our sin is removed. For His cross is the place where our sins are punished. And His cross is where our communion with God is restored. His cross is the place where He has broken through the cords of death and set us free! And His resurrection on the third day is the proof of His victory over death – for us!
“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 8:28&39.