What Saith the Scripture?


Fellow ship > An Urgent Call to Christian Perfection (Part III) Back to the Basics


An Urgent Call to Christian Perfection

An Exposition of the Doctrine of Christian Perfection

by Tom Stewart

III. Back to the Basics: The Principles of the Doctrine of Christ

  A. "Laying again the foundation"

henever problems occur in Christian endeavor, we would do well to check the foundational "principles of the doctrine of Christ" (Hebrews 6:1). The confidence of Paul writing to the Hebrews was his certainty that they would "go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God" (Hebrew 6:1).

  B. Existence of God

The existence of God is the foundational assumption of true religion. Scripture assumes the existence of God at the outset.
"In the beginning God..." (Genesis 1:10). Everything Scripture reveals to us about who God is and what He does, constitutes the foundation of why we are obliged to obey God. Man stands before God without excuses because God has already made Himself known to man. "For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20). No man can come to God if he does not believe in the existence of God. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).

  C. Faith in God

Faith in God is a voluntary act of the human will turning toward God. Again,
"he that cometh to God must believe that He is" (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is the action of the human heart reaching up to God, while grace is God reaching down to man. When they embrace, a man is saved. "For by grace are ye saved through faith" (Ephesians 2:8). You must believe God for yourself, because no one else can do it for you. Even God will not do it for you. "Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the LORD Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:30-31). He who believes is saved.

  D. Repentance of sin

Repentance of sin is a voluntary act of the human will turning from sin.
"Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). Either a man will turn away from his sin or he will perish from it. The LORD Jesus warns all unregenerate mankind of impending doom if they do not choose to turn away from their sin. "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24). To repent is to turn your back on sin and turn toward God. To sin is to turn your back on God and embrace sin. No man can be both sinful and holy. For this reason Christ makes clear the only alternatives to unregenerate man: repent or perish!

  E. Sin

Sin, like faith, is a voluntary act of the human will. Sin is the human will entrenched against God.

    1. Scriptural definition of sin

      a. Transgression of the law

"Sin is the transgression of the law" (1John 3:4). To transgress the law is to break the law. Scripture does not represent sin as an honest accident, but as a willful, criminal breaking of God's law. Notice that sin is never represented by God to be anything but a willful refusal to do what one knows he ought to do.

      b. All unrighteousness

"All unrighteousness is sin" (1John 5:17). Again, man must first choose unrighteousness before it would be proper to label him a sinner. "He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous" (1John 3:7). If you commit sin, you are a sinner. If you commit murder, you are a murderer. Commit one sin, you are a sinner. "Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin" (John 8:34). "He that committeth sin is of the devil" (1John 3:8).

      c. Whatsoever is not of faith

"Whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23). God gives us simple choices. Choose faith or sin. If you choose faith, you reject sin. If you choose sin, you reject faith. You must be a saint or a sinner, but not both. To say a Christian was a sinner who is now a saint is correct. A Christian was a sinner who is now saved is also correct. "He that is not with Me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth abroad" (Matthew 12:30). Either saved or a sinner, but never both.

      d. Knoweth to do good, and doeth it not

"To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (James 4:17). Sin means we must first know what good we are to do for us to choose not to do it. When we know what the good is that must be done, then, and only then, can we choose it or refuse it. You cannot sin without first a knowledge of what you should or should not do, i.e. Thou shalt, thou shalt not. This knowledge the Scripture calls the Law. Voluntarily transgress that Law and you become a sinner.

    2. In Adam's fall, we sinned all?

If a man is properly called a sinner only because of his transgression of God's Law, then what must we make of the old, but popular sentiment: In Adam's fall, we sinned all? This has been a common position in the past, as well as the present, but we have been warned to
"be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men" (Ephesians 4:14). Instead of accepting the position that we have been born sinners with a sinful nature, we should "prove all things" and only "hold fast that which is good" (1Thessalonians 5:21). Before making the accusation of "heretic" toward those who reject the belief that all men are sinners by birth and not simply by choice, before defending the doctrine of sin nature as "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3), would you not do well to examine the Scripture? "What saith the Scripture?" (Romans 4:3).

    3. Sin is criminal.

If it can be proved that all sin is only a result of personal choice to transgress God's law and not also the result of a sinful nature, then all sin must be a criminal act in the eyes of God. If it can be demonstrated from the Scripture that sin is the result of a sinful nature, then sin would simply be an unavoidable calamity. Free choice versus a constitutionally sinful nature. Criminal act versus an unavoidable calamity.
"Let God be true, but every man a liar" (Romans 3:4). Which position most accurately justifies God? Sin must be only a personal choice to transgress God's law or why would God say, "Sin is the transgression of the law" (1John 3:4)?

    4. Objections answered

Let us examine a few Scriptural passages that some claim support the concept that the human nature is sinful in itself.
      a. Genesis 5:3

"Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness and after his image; and called his name Seth." You must assume what you are trying to prove to use this text to support the sin nature position. You must assume that Adam had a sin nature, to prove that he passed it on to Seth. Illogical. Instead, the text asserts that man's moral nature, i.e., his ability to make choices of right versus wrong, just as the Creator makes, was passed from Adam to Seth concurrently with a physical birth.

      b. Job 14:4

"Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one." Job remarks about the plight of man, that the run down physical condition of man (physical depravity) is passed on to the next generation of man by physical birth. Physical depravity is not sin. Physical depravity is the resulting run down physical condition due to the actual commission of the first sin.
        (1) Death to the sinner

Spiritual death comes to all who sin. Adam was warned:
"in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:17). Scripture makes plain about sin... commit it and die. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:20). "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Moral depravity is sin. Moral depravity is sinning.

        (2) The flesh is the opportunity.

The flesh is the occasion for sin to take place. The flesh itself is not sinful, but when we attempt to satisfy a proper desire of the flesh (i.e., procreation), when specifically told not to (i.e.,
"Thou shalt not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14), that is sin... "for sin is the transgression of the law" (1John 3:4).

        (3) Sin had physical consequences.

Man's first sin ad physical consequences:

"enmity" between Satan and man, especially concerning his flesh (Genesis 3:15),

"sorrow" in the flesh for the woman in childbearing (Genesis 3:16),

(c) because of a
"cursed" ground (environment) man would toil with "sweat" to "eat" and finally die... "unto dust shalt thou return" (Genesis 3:17-19).

        (4) Physical depravity is the physical consequence of sin.

Adam's sin had physical consequences. Physical death must now be the rule for all man. The flesh, once an occasion for good...
"And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight [the flesh], and good for food" (Genesis 2:9)... now becomes the occasion for much evil.

Man's environment, as well as body, have been beat as a result of sin. This is physical depravity, which is not sin. However, when man obeys the normal, proper desire of the flesh, when commanded by the LORD to contain it, then man commits sin. This is moral depravity- the act of sinning. Physical depravity precedes moral depravity, but no man has the right to say that he committed adultery because his body forced him! So it would be proper for Job to assert in Job 14:4 that a physically depraved human will only beget another physically depraved human.

      c. "No man that sinneth not"

"There is no man that sinneth not" (1Kings 8:46); "For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not" (Ecclesiastes 7:20); "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10): all teach the universality of sin among the unregenerate, but do not prove that man has a sin nature, which he is born with. Sin is universal to all unregenerate man; however, of regenerate man God says; "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His Seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (1John 3:9). Notice, again, that sin is represented in these passages as an act, not a constitutionally sinful nature. Of unregenerate man, it is proper to say that none are righteous (Romans 3:10).

      d. Psalm 51:5

"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." David uses the strong language of repentance. Repentance is to take sides with God against yourself. So thoroughly did David condemn himself that he claimed that he even was conceived in sin in his mother's womb! His repentance and this language are proper; however, we should not forget the faithful Psalmist's claim: "O LORD God: Thou art my trust from my youth. By Thee have I been holden up from the womb: Thou art He that took me out of my mother's bowels: my praise shall be continually of Thee" (Psalm 71:5-6). No wonder the Apostle Paul could speak of his past life of sin and claim: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (1Timothy 1:15)! False piety? Not hardly! This is the same Paul who also wrote to Timothy: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (2Timothy 4:7). Remember that the context of Psalm 51 is repentance. King David is taking sides with the LORD against himself. Expect the language to correspond to this act of repentance!

      e. Psalm 58:3

"The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies". What a marked contrast to the faithful Psalmist who the LORD had "holden up from the womb" (Psalm 71:6)! Certainly the wicked do not have the power of speech at birth. This passage affirms that the LORD, the Alpha and Omega, views the wicked as utterly against Himself- from their birth to their certain death and judgment. Because the righteous cannot be labeled as being "estranged from the womb", it would be improper to say that this passage proves that all men are born sinners. Instead, this Psalm paints a bleak but accurate picture of the wicked man's birth and judgment.

      f. Romans 5:12

"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." It is common amongst evangelical theologians to say: Romans 5:12 means that all sinned by having a sinful nature. These theologians have taught that the possession of a human nature makes one a sinner without the need of committing one sin.

How to Commit Sin Without Even Trying... Be Born a Human Being by The Doctrine of Sin Nature. This facetious title only serves to dramatize a real position. Let's examine Romans 5:12.

Sin entered into the world by one man. That is the Genesis record of the first transgression in the garden of Eden... "and death by sin". The first man sinned and spiritually died (not to mention physically). "And so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Death passes upon all men because all men have sinned. The "wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). If you commit sin, you die. Only those who commit sin die. It just so happens that "all [men] have sinned". Because "all [men] have sinned"... "death [has] passed upon all men". Sin is an action, not a nature.

If we were to conclude that all men are sinners because Adam sinned, we would be just as logical in saying that all men are righteous because of Christ's free gift. Certainly we cannot maintain the universal salvation of mankind, but neither can we maintain that a man is a sinner by birth. Read the rest of the Romans 5:12-19 context. The comparison is between Christ and Adam
"who is the figure of Him that was to come" (Roman 5:15-19):




v.15 offense
results in
many dead


v.15 free gift
results in
abounded to many
v.16 judgment by one
results in


v.16 free gift is of many
results in
v.17 by one man's offense
results in
death reigned by one


v.17 by the gift of One, Jesus Christ,
results in
abundance of grace/ gift of righteousness
v.18 offense of one
results in
judgment upon all men
to condemnation


v.18 righteousness of One
results in
free gift upon all men to justification
v.19 one man's disobedience
results in
many were made sinners


v.19 obedience of One
results in
many be made righteous

Read Romans 5:18: "Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." Remember, the context is comparing Christ to Adam. Offense by Adam, righteousness by Christ. Judgment upon all men by Adam, free gift upon all men by Christ. Condemnation by Adam, justification by Christ. Look at the chart and think.

If it is proper to say:

(a) Adam's offense brings condemnation and judgment upon all men, and
(b) Christ's righteousness brings justification and the free gift upon all men;

then it would also be proper to say:

(a) If Christ's righteousness is only appropriated by a personal act of faith, i.e.,
"the righteousness of God which is by faith" (Romans 3:22), then
(b) Adam's offense (i.e., sin) should only be appropriated by a personal act of transgression [
"sin is the transgression of the law" (1John 3:4)].

Sin is not something we do because we have a sin nature and were born sinners, but because of a personal choice...
"he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous" (1John 3:7). Sin is a criminal act, not a calamity of our nature.

      g. Ephesians 2:3

"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." When we walked after the flesh and fulfilled the desires of the flesh- in direct opposition to the commandments of God's law- we "were by nature the children of wrath". To commit sin is to be morally depraved. And to be morally depraved is to be "by nature the children of wrath". Notice, Paul is inspired to say we were- not are- the children of wrath, when we walked after the flesh. When we stop walking after the flesh, we no longer are "by nature the children of wrath". Even still, Paul associates sin with personal choices and not with a constitutionally sinful nature. No man can rightly think, after reading Scripture: My sin nature made me do it, or I commit sin because I was born a sinner.

Think about it. What Scripturally justifies God the most?
"Let God be true, but every man a liar" (Romans 3:4). The doctrine of sin nature: that sin is the result of a necessary choice due to a nature over which we had no control? The doctrine of sin nature makes sin a mere calamity. Now what about the opposing position that makes sin only a deliberate choice of unbelief to reject the love of God "that we keep His commandments" (1John 5:3)? Sin now becomes a crime and not just a mere calamity. "But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful" (Romans 7:13).

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