Man Fallen in Sin

God originally created man in His image, and the sixth day of creation ended with God proclaiming everything, including the creation of man as male and female, to be “very good” (Gen 1:31). Genesis 2 gives a complementary and more detailed account of the sixth day of creation (Gen 2:4-25). But then Genesis 3 comes, with its account of how man fell from his original sinlessness and God cursed all creation with decay. As the third article of The Baptist Faith and Message says,

In the beginning man was innocent of sin and was endowed by his Creator with freedom of choice. By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation. Only the grace of God can bring man into His holy fellowship and enable man to fulfill the creative purpose of God. The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image, and in that Christ died for man; therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.

Man was originally sinless, but Adam’s fall resulted in all his progeny being sinful thereafter. Nevertheless, all people still remain divine image-bearers.

From Sinless to Sinful

As the goodness of gender was one implication of the “very good” nature of God’s original creation (Gen 1:31), so the sinlessness of man is another. And God in His grace gave Adam a choice whether to obey God’s command not to eat from the forbidden tree (Gen 2:16-17). In the original creation, without a sin nature, Adam had absolute choice whether to continue in his sinless state or to introduce sin not only into his own life but also into all the created world if he ate the forbidden fruit.

Tragically, Adam chose to disobey God and therein became a sinner. Satan in the form of a serpent tempted Eve directly (Gen 3:1-5), but Adam “was with her” (Gen 3:6). Satan distorted God’s word (Gen 3:1) and then after Eve inaccurately quoted God’s command herself (Gen 3:3) denied God’s word outright (Gen 3:4-5). Adam was with her, Eve—but he didn’t correct the serpent himself or even correct Eve’s misquotation. Adam didn’t stop
Eve from eating, he allowed her to eat the forbidden fruit, and when she didn’t drop dead immediately, he joined her. Eve was deceived into sinning—but Adam sinned with eyes wide open, willfully, flagrantly. Adam failed as Eve’s husband, as a man of God, as priest-king of the garden of Eden. And in so doing he abdicated his throne over the rest of creation to Satan. By getting Adam and Eve to obey him in the garden and give in to temptation to disobey God, Satan gained mastery over the human race. He is “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30), “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4), and “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2). Satan boasted to Jesus in his own wilderness temptation, “all this authority and their [nations’] glory … has been delivered to me” (Luke 4:6). Indeed, as John summarizes, “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).

In describing the original fall into sin, the Bible shows that temptation comes not only from external sources (e.g., Satan) but also from internal desires (Gen 3:6). Eve saw the threefold goodness of the tree: its goodness for food, its physical beauty, and its desirability for acquiring wisdom, she took of its fruit and ate. God Himself proclaimed the tree to be good in these ways (Gen 2:9; 3:22). But it was wrong for Adam and Eve to take the tree’s fruit apart from God’s permission. Their desire for a good thing was greater than their desire for God, who is the greatest good, so they sinned.

Adam’s sin had immediate consequences. He and Eve felt shame. Sin broke their relationship not only with God but also with each other. Having broken trust with God, Adam and Eve could not trust one another. So they hid from one another by sewing together leaves into loincloths (Gen 3:7), and they attempted to hide from God, as well (Gen 3:8). Of course, they can’t hide from God, and God the just Judge passes judgment on them. Eve will have pain in childbearing, and there will be conflict between her and Adam (Gen 3:16). God’s judgment on Adam is most lengthy and last, because Adam bears covenantal responsibility for humanity’s fall into sin and the subsequent curse on the rest of creation. God curses the ground on account of Adam, and Adam’s work will be tiresome and troubled (Gen 3:17-19). Because of sin, Adam and Eve must be separated from God’s relational presence in Eden and be in exile to the east (Gen 3:23-24).

Because of sin, every life will end in death (Rom 6:23). Such is evident from the near-universal refrain of Genesis 5: “and he died” (Gen 5:5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 27, 31). “This unique litany of death … functions as the death-knell of the judgment in Eden.”1 Paul explains why everyone dies:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

Romans 5:12-14

In Adam all die, because in Adam we all fell. Adam was the founding father of the whole human race. He was our head. But he fell. He sinned. He
transgressed God’s law, and mysteriously, we sinned in him, also. From Adam, we all inherit “a nature and an environment inclined toward sin.” But as soon as we all have the ability to choose to sin, we sin. We rebel against God and are set against Him (Rom 3:9-20). None of us are able or willing to save ourselves. We need God’s grace in order to save us, as our plight is so severe that we are in fact dead in our sins (Eph 2:1, 8-9).

Sacred though Sinful

God had created to be His image bearers (Gen 1:26-27). By sin, Adam marred that image. Ever since Adam’s original sin, we all by nature and by choice continue to be like carnival house mirrors. We distort God’s image even more than we portray it. Only Jesus, the sinless perfect man, is “the exact imprint of His nature” (Heb 1:3). Though the divine image in each of us is effaced by sin, it is not altogether erased. All people continue to be made in God’s image. Through faith in Christ, that image may begin to be restored.

Jesus died for sin, so all people are “worthy of respect and Christian love,” as our statement of faith affirms. Christian unity transcends all ethnic differences because of Jesus’s death for our sins (Gal 3:28; Eph 2:13-18). Jesus commissioned us His people to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). The gospel should be proclaimed to “every nation and tribe and language and people” (Rev 14:6). By His blood, Jesus “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9). In the end, this pan-ethnic group will be “a great multitude that no one could number” (Rev 7:9). So we Christians should treat everyone we encounter with great respect and love, both through acts of sacrificial service and through telling them the good news of Jesus.

The Person of Christ

The Baptist Faith and Message has important confessions about both the person of Christ and his work. “Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin.” Friendship’s statement of faith discusses Christ’s person in terms of his incarnation and human nature.

Christ’s Incarnation

The confession’s discussion of Jesus’ incarnation begins with a re-affirmation of Jesus’ eternal deity: “Christ is the eternal Son of God.” This contention was a major point in a previous blog post on the Trinity. Christ’s incarnation deals with how the eternal Son of God became a human being. God the Son became the God-Man, Christ Jesus. “He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.” Both Matthew and Luke begin their Gospels by teaching that Jesus is the eternal God the Son incarnate.

Matthew teaches that Jesus is Immanuel in fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 (Matt 1:22-23). Jesus was virgin-conceived and virgin-born. The angel affirms Jesus’ conception in the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit to Joseph (Matt 1:20-21). Matthew teaches that Mary was still a virgin when Jesus was born (Matt 1:25). Jesus perfectly fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, which was that not only would the Savior be born of a virgin but that the Savior would in fact be God incarnate.

Luke likewise opens his Gospel with an affirmation of Jesus’ identity as the incarnate Son of God. In perfect agreement with Matthew, Luke teaches that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). Gabriel told Mary that her son “will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33). For his kingdom to be eternal, he must similarly be no mere man but the God-Man, even as prophesied by Daniel, “one like a son of man … was presented before [God]. And to him was given a dominion … an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away” (Dan 7:13-14). Jesus’ incarnation shows that he is the eternal Son of God, but his special conception in no way diminishes from his full humanity. As the second Adam, it is fitting that Jesus, like Adam, would have no human biological father. It is fitting that the offspring of the woman to crush the head of the serpent would be conceived and born of a woman without the biological help of any human man (Gen 3:15).

Christ’s Human Nature

Jesus Christ was both fully God and fully man. As a man, he had a full “human nature with its demands and necessities and identif[ied] Himself completely with mankind yet without sin.” Each part of this statement is important. Jesus took on the demands and necessities of human nature. He was fully human physically, intellectually, emotionally, and volitionally.

Fully human, Jesus was in his humanity constrained by space and time, even as God is spirit and omnipresent. As a man, Jesus experienced hunger that Satan strove to exploit (Matt 4:1-3). He got thirsty in the heat of the day (John 4:6-7). Jesus experienced the tragedy of homelessness (Matt 8:20). He needed sleep (Matt 8:24). As a human, Jesus “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom,” and he “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:40, 52). From the excruciating agony of the cross, Jesus thirsted (John 19:28-30).

Jesus as a man also knew the limitations of human knowledge. The most direct statement of the human limitation of Jesus’ knowledge, in addition to Luke’s statements that Jesus grew in wisdom as he grew from a child to an adult, comes late in Jesus’ ministry: “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matt 24:36). As a human being, Jesus experienced the reality of Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God.”

Fully human, Jesus had human emotions. He felt pity (Mark 1:41). He marveled at unbelief (Mark 6:6). He had compassion on people (Mark 8:2). He loved people (John 11:5). He got angry (John 11:33). His soul was greatly troubled on the eve of his crucifixion (John 12:27).

Finally, Jesus had a fully human will, as well as a divine will. As a boy, Jesus had to submit to Mary and Joseph as his parents, which he did (Luke 2:51). Even as an adult, his will is subservient to that of Father God (John 5:19, 30). Jesus’ submission of his human will to the divine will is most apparent in Gethsemane:

And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Mark 14:32-36

As a man, Jesus very naturally did not want to die. As a perfectly righteous man, Jesus very rightly did not want to experience the cup of the wrath of God. But even at this moment of greatest temptation, Jesus submitted his human will to that of God the Father. Donald Macleod describes Jesus’ triumph over temptation most poignantly:

he was not being called upon to mortify a lust. He was being called upon to frustrate the holiest aspiration of which man is capable … We must be careful not to misconstrue the effect of Jesus’s sinless integrity at this point. Far from meaning a shorter, painless struggle with temptation it involved him in protracted resistance. … The very fact that he was invincible meant that he endured the full force of temptation’s ferocity, until hell slunk away, defeated and exhausted.

The Person of Christ (Downers Grove: IVP, 1998), pp. 226-228

And Macleod’s quote gets at the truth of the last aspect of the Baptist Faith and Message’s discussion of Jesus’ human nature: his sinlessness. Scripture teaches that Jesus was both without a sin nature and that he never once committed a sin.

Numerous Bible verses affirm that Jesus did not have a sin nature. Paul calls Adam a type of Christ (Rom 5:14). Just as Adam originally did not have a sin nature, so did Christ not have a sin nature. His miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit also miraculously preserved his humanity from receiving a sin nature. Throughout his life, Jesus was in the position that Adam was in the Garden of Eden. But unlike Adam, Jesus never sinned. Both Paul and John explicitly state that Jesus was and is sinless: Jesus “knew no sin” Paul said (2 Cor 5:21), and John says, “in him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5). These statements not only affirm the sinless actions of Christ but also the sinless nature of Christ.

In addition to being sinless, Jesus never committed a sin. He was “like his brothers in every respect” and “suffered when tempted” (Heb 2:17-18). Because he never gave in to temptation, “he learned obedience” and was “perfect” (Heb 5:8-9). Because he was perfect, his sacrifice was acceptable to God (Heb 7:27-28). Peter teaches plainly, “he committed no sin” (1 Pet 2:22). Macleod’s comments are again helpful, “Nowhere in the structures of his being was there any sin. Satan had no foot-hold in him. … There was no affinity with sin. There was no proclivity to sin. There was no possibility of temptation from within. In no respect was he fallen and in no respect was his nature corrupt” (ibid., 222).

We at Friendship Baptist Church are so thankful that God became man in the person of Christ Jesus. We are so thankful that he was perfectly obedient in his full, human life. We are thankful for his sinlessness, which he credits to us through faith in him.