Are We Born With A Sin Nature?

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According to some of our religious friends, the text in Ephesians 2:3 is supposed to teach that babies are born with a “sin nature” or a “sinful nature” and that they are under the wrath of God because of that nature. But isn’t it a monstrous and a blasphemous dogma to say that God is angry with any of his creatures for possessing the nature with which He created them? (Genesis 1:26-27). Never! God is not angry with men for possessing the nature He has given them, but only for the “perversion” of that nature (Ecclesiastes 7:29 – note the word “inventions” – KJV or “schemes” – NIV). The Bible represents God as angry with men for their wicked deeds (John 3:19), and not for the nature with which they are born.

Definition of “Nature”

The word “nature” in this text has nothing at all to do with what man is by birth. The word nature here refers to the “character” of contemporary sinners before they were converted. Note Ephesians 2:3, “Among whom also we all had our conversation (manner of life) in times past…” After their conversion to the Lord, Paul states in Romans 6:11 that their “old character” (nature) was now “dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The word “nature” can be used in two distinct senses. It may refer to what man is involuntarily because of his birth, or it may refer to what man is voluntarily, by choice and apart from birth. The Apostle Paul uses it in the latter sense in the text under consideration. They were not children of wrath by birth. They were children of wrath because of voluntary wickedness. This is evident from the context of Ephesians 2:3. The context shows that Paul did not have his eye on their birth at all when he used the word nature. On the contrary, he had his eye wholly on the conduct of contemporary sinners before they were converted to Christianity. He calls attention in verses one and two to the fact that, before their conversion, they had “walked according to the course of this world,” in “trespasses and sins.” In verse three, he calls attention to their former fellowship with other sinners in fulfilling the “lusts of the flesh” and “the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” And then, summing up the wickedness, the guilt, and the deserved punishment of their former life, he says “and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”

To teach from this text that babies are born with a sinful nature, and that they come into this world under the awful wrath of God because of that nature is a perverted doctrine! Do we really believe that God is really ready to let loose the terrors of his anger and the consuming fires of his wrath upon innocent little babies for the nature with which they are born? If the church is teaching such an abominable, God-dishonoring doctrine, may God forgive us!

Example Of Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve had two natures; yet we know that they were not “created” with two natures. They had the nature they were created with, which was good and upright (Genesis 1:27; Ecclesiastes 7:29), and they also had a sinful nature after they had sinned! It was this last nature, a “voluntary” nature, which made them “by nature the children of wrath.”

Three Distinct “Natures”

Men may have a “nature” in three distinct ways:

1) By Birth – This is the good and upright nature with which we are all created (Genesis 1:26-27; Ecclesiastes 7:29).

2) By Having Sinned And Come Short Of The Glory Of God (Romans 3:23) – This is a “voluntary nature” (Joshua 24:15; 1 Kings 18:21; Matthew 6:24). It is the nature that makes us enemies of God, children of the devil, and “by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3).

3) By Being Born Again (John 3:3) – This is also a “voluntary” nature in which we, by faith, become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). In order for a child of God to “maintain” that “divine nature”, he (or she) must “voluntarily” and “continuously” be “transformed” and “renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Romans 12:2; Colossians 3:10).

The word “nature” in the Bible, when it refers to our birth, never refers to a “sinful nature”. This is shown in Romans 2:14, which says, “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law…” Now the word “nature” in this text does refer to the nature we receive at birth. But it is evident that the word nature used here is not a “sinful nature”. For how would a sinful nature ever cause us to “do by nature the things contained in the law”? A sinful nature would not cause us to do the things contained in the law. A sinful nature would only cause us to commit sin! (See Romans 1:26-27; Romans 2:14-15; I Corinthians 11:14). These passages show that our “nature” teaches us the differences between right and wrong, but never “causes” us to do the wrong.

Conclusion

To maintain that we are born with a sin nature is to charge God, the Author of our nature, with creating “sinners”. Men are not “born short of the glory of God.” They “sin and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Our Lord took on human nature and “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Therefore, we know that human nature is not sinful in itself. Finally, that babies are not born with a “sin nature” and are not “children of wrath” by birth is evident from what Jesus said of them: “for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16).

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22 Responses to “Are We Born With A Sin Nature?”

  1. musixstrings says:

    Your explination of Rom 3:23 is leaving out a key word. “…ALL have sinned…” either knowingly or unknowingly. Your suggestion that all sin is volintary does not account for the sins committed unknowingly. Certianly if you inadvertently missed a speed limit sign, and are now 5-10 mph over the speed limit, and are pulled over for speeding…does that make you any less guilty? Sure if you would have known, you would have complied, but you are still guilty of breaking the law.

    God gave the Old Testament law to show us that no matter how hard we try, we can make ourselves righteous, buy chosening not to sin. For even those who do not believe there is a God, knows right from wrong, and also has a choice. Don’t you think they are trying in their own way to be good?

    Romans 5:12 teaches us the consequences of Adam’s sin is not only physical, but also spiritual death, or a separation from God.

    Other examples…
    Prov 21:16
    Mat. 8:22
    Luke 15:32
    John 6:53
    Eph. 2:1 & 5:14
    Col. 2:13
    1 Tim. 5:6
    Rev. 3:1

    How can one live, and yet be dead as the Bible describes? So, Romans 5:12 is not talking about a physical death, but a spiritual death or separation from God.

    Yes, we are responsible for our own sin & actions, and sin can affect many others than just ourselves.

    But that still does not address the issue of our old sin nature.

    Does anyone have to teach a child to be bad?
    When they throw a fit, and want their own way (selfishness & pride), how did they learn that? Can they make a choice at 1 or 2 years old? do they even understand or know about God or making a choice to sin? I don’t think so… SO, how do they come about such behavior? It comes naturally…Right?

  2. sarah says:

    we MUST not be guilty of arguing and replying against God
    WE were all born in sin —-it does not mean that we are bad or horrible but simply that God SAYS we are “dead in trespasses and sins”
    HE says it and we MUST bow to it and thank Him for His grace and mercy

  3. Zack says:

    Thanks Mike! How can you argue with that?

  4. David Liberty says:

    Great post on the false doctrine of original sin. I have wrestled with this for quite some time and have come to the same conclusion as you have on this issue. I am in a denomination that believes in original sin and in a seminary that also believes in this doctrine. It is rare to find any evangelical protestant denomination that does not hold to the “original sin” doctrine. I am really prayerful and concerned about how I should approach this and preserve truth in my ordination interview and theology classes. I thank you for your insights and pursuit of the TRUTH.

  5. Brenda says:

    If you do not believe children are born rebellious and sinful then you will not discipline them and you will leave the poor things to suffer greatly in life! If you do not believe that man is depraved you will say oh poor thing, you were originally good but when you were neglected and abused something happened to cause you to be a murderer and vicious killer. You might as well be of this world because if your foundation is faulty then all else is vulneralbe.

  6. Tankone says:

    Let us go back to Lucifer before the fall.

    1.) Why did he sin against God?

    2.) Did he have a sinful nature?

    The answer to the questions is, He sinned because he chose to sin.
    It was not because he had a sin nature, he did it willingly.

    Now let us go to Adam and Eve. God created them perfect and yet they sinned. Why, because they chose to sin. They, like Lucifer did not have a sin nature, they willingly chose to sin. Adam and Eve did not sin because they were sinners.
    Sorry all you Calvinist.

  7. katherine says:

    you have no proof at all for your 3rd paragraph about babies under definition of nature. you can’t just go by what you think or believe God would or wouldn’t do to babies. we sin because we’re sinful..we aren’t sinful because we sin. to tankone: adam and eve did choose to sin. humans weren’t sinful until that point though. at that point (the fall of man)…men because by nature, sinful. think about death, the wages of sin are death. the book of Romans (specifically romans 5:12 and 6:23) tells us that death both spiritually and physically is the result of sin. so..if we are sinful becuase we sin, there would be a way to avoid death because there were apparently be a way to avoid sin. but no one can avoid death. jesus was sinless. but he did not die, he willingly and by choice took on our sin and gave up his life. soo yeahh.

  8. Johan says:

    Man does not have a so called “sinfull nature;” the problem within man, is a carnal mindset (yes, you can call this a “sinfull nature,” but this originate only after he is born) — its to think differently as God — and because of this mindset, man sin. The evil thoughts that comes from man, comes from that mindset (way of thinking), and this carnal mindset, originate from of the knowledge God warnt man not to “eat” of, and this knowledge is pass on from generation to generation, and so that carnal mindset is born in all generations. Sin only come in, after that mindset was born (from of that knowledge), in them, that same day.

    The rebirth means, it’s a new spiritual mindset that is born of the Spirit/Wisdom of God, in true disciples of the Lord; in those who received that from above. Not through the bible, or bible study, or going to church, but only through the Living Word of God which is the Spirit of Wisdom from above, the Spirit that proceed of God — through the Spirit of His mouth (Ps 33:6).

  9. giri says:

    my question is if man is not sinful by nature then aleast there must be some people in minority or quite a handful must not have sinned because it is not necessary that all of us must sin if there is a choice atleast SOME OF US MUST HAVE NOT SINNED OR ATLEAST SOMEONE but according to the BIBLE ALL OF US HAVE SINNED we attribute this to what we are all sinning as if it is a rule bible clearly says that all of us sinned whether we are sinful by nature or by choice if it is choice atleast some among us must have chosen differently but in reality that is not the case so what shall we say or how should we conclude .

    • Benjamin says:

      The Bible does not say all WILL sin. We shouldn’t teach our children that they will inevitably disobey God or we are just making things way easier for the devil.

  10. anony says:

    This sounds nice, but defies scripture..
    especially the Psalms quoted below..

    If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)
    If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. (1 John 1:10)

    Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies. (Psalm 58:3)

    Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward. (Job 5:7)

    Your first father sinned; your spokesmen rebelled against me. (Isaiah 43:27)

    Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5)

    Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned– for before the law was given, sin was in the world. (Romans 5:12-13)

    Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:15)

    There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins. (Ecclesiastes 7:20)

    • Peter D. says:

      Really? You distort scripture disgustingly. Take Psalms 51:5. You translate it “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” which, in actuality, the verse proclaims: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
      and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Which, obviosly implies simply that his mother conceived him in sin (fornication). Simple.

      • Rob says:

        Sorry… Peter? Do you know who wrote “Psalm” (no s) 51:5? It was King David. And you’re saying he was born through fornication? Before you tell someone they “distort scripture disgustingly,” you should probably do some research yourself. And that translation, The NIV is a very trusted translation. I feel as though you don’t really know what you’re talking about. Yes, David’s son was born through David’s fornication, but he wasn’t talking about his son, he was talking about himself, in full knowledge that he was prone to and was going to sin even before he came out of the womb thanks to the long lineage he came from… which started with Adam’s sin. Heard of “The line of David?” Even within that kingly line, they still all were born without a chance of being saved from hell without God’s intervention. Simple.

  11. hellbindercda says:

    All the scripture you guys use to support original sin actually support commited sin. Saying there is no one righteous and that there is no one who has not sinned is not at all saying they were born that way but that everyone in the world commits sins. This is an extremely important difference.

    It is a sad thing that Christians check their brains at the door. We make and support doctrines no one thinks through. then that doctrine which man made, is used to interpret the scriptures to fit it, and the cycle goes on and on.

    Like having God commanding men to bear children that are corrupt. Who start out evil appart from their own choice, who have no choice but to sin and thus are damned before they even start. who have no hope of salvation because of their involuntary condition without Gods direct divine intervention. intrervention which He only offers to a hand picked few and damns the rest (yes that is the complete package of doctrine here).

    How exactly could God via scripture call children a blessing, when they are born damned and God has no intention of saving most of them? How is that a blessing? How is having children a good thing?

    Modern Christian doctrine has become a complete travesty of the actual truth. If you dont think that is possible, the entire history of the church except for the first 100 years under direct supervision of the apostles demontrates this fact.

    God sent His son into the world to die for those who are WILLFULLY His enemies. That is the real mirical of Gods love and mercy.

  12. Justin says:

    For those of you saying we are born without a sin nature, we are, even a 2 year old child knows right from wrong. Define sin, its anything not of God, sin can be addressed properly even Jesus was tempted by sin through satin. but he addressed it in a Godly manner,not just because he was God in the flesh but he was MAN. You cant live a life without some type of sin, we all or going to sin Roman 3:23. It dont matter if we are a 2 year old or 55 years old its in our nature to understand right from wrong(sin).And its up to us to address sin in a proper manner. We are saved by Grace through Faith. May God be with you..

  13. Interesting article Mike, thanks for posting it, you make your point really well. Good stuff to chew on :)

  14. Jason says:

    Does the age of accountability come into play at all? If the child has not reached the age to realize what sin is, and dies, isn’t he/she forgiven? So God’s wrath wouldn’t come into play until the child recognizes what sin is and sins anyway.
    Curious for opinions..
    Thanks

  15. Jack says:

    so a child born to a non-Christian person and raised by the non-Christian person suddenly gets killed by a car. This child is seven and very hyper.
    I have always heard that children up to the age of accountability goes to heaven. The bible reads that sin will not enter back into heaven. Yes he knows the difference even if he was not taught.

  16. steve says:

    The wages of sin is death. Babies can die immediately after being born because they are born sinners with a corrupted evil sinful nature. Snakes give birth to snakes, and sinners give birth to sinners. Given a little bit of time and all babies quickly show their evil corrupted sinful disobedient natures. If you don’t agree, then you’ve never had children born of your evil sinful corrupted body.

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