Original sin does not refer to the first sin committed by Adam and Eve “but to its consequences.” Original sin describes our “fallen, corrupt nature, out of which flow the actual sins we commit.” “Scripture does not tell us that we are sinners because we sin; rather, it affirms that we sin because we are sinners.”
Original sin “is itself a judgment of a righteous God upon creatures that He created to be good. As a penalty upon Adam and Eve for their sin, God gave them over, along with all their progeny, to their wicked inclinations.” (109).
“Adam and Eve were not created sinners, but they had the power [or ability] to sin.” They also “had the ability not to sin. God gave them the command not to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree, and they had the moral ability to obey God.”
At the fall, the human race lost “the ability not to sin. In other words, the power of sin is so deeply rooted in the hearts and souls of mortal people that it is impossible for us not to sin.”
“This does not mean we cannot do anything that conforms outwardly to the law of God.” For example, people keep the speed limit. “Mothers sacrifice for their children and people return the wallets of strangers without keeping the money they find inside.” Theologians “call such good deeds ‘civil virtue.’”
“But for an act to be truly good, to really hit the mark of God’s standard, it must correspond outwardly to what the law requires and it also must be motivated by love for God [Matt. 22:37-39].” But no one loves God perfectly. If we do outwardly obey God’s law, we do so only “because it serves our personal best interests.” “The Bible tells us that the desires of our hearts are only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).
“Jesus said, ‘No one is good except God alone’ (Mark 10:18), and Paul said, ‘None is righteous, no, not one’ (Rom. 3:10).” Therefore, we “are not morally able to do the good that God requires. When Jesus described the condition of man, He said, ‘No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father’ (John 6:65).”
The fall extends to the whole person – mind, heart, and body…. We become ill and eventually die…. We can think, but our thinking is distorted; we make logical errors and allow bias to cloud our judgement. We have wills; we have not the lost the ability to make choices,” but we “lost the ability to be perfectly righteous.”
“God has actually revealed Himself clearly, but we come to the text with biases that interfere with the light of God’s Word. There are many things taught in Scripture that we simply do not want to hear, so we find ways to distort the Bible in order to escape the judgment it brings to our consciences…. We spend so much time filling our minds with things other than a knowledge of His Word. We are lazy; we are not diligent in our pursuit of His truth.”
“So, to embrace Christ, to come to God and to do the things of God, requires that we somehow be liberated from the prison of original sin. This is accomplished for us by the sovereign, supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.” That is why Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3:3).
[Adapted from Everyone’s a Theologian by R.C. Sproul]