What Sin Brought To Man
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Ephesians 2:1-3NKJ
Question 23 of the Larger Catechism asks, “Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?” It gives the answer, “The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.” Last week we looked at the doctrine of original sin; how all mankind sinned in Adam and fell with him in his first transgression. This week we examine the effects of original sin as we consider what this fall brought to all men.
When Satan tempted Eve to sin, he promised that by so doing, her and her husband would “be like God.” The temptation assured of a level of equality with God that God Himself was trying to keep from them. Thus, when Satan declares to the woman that she would not die if she ate from the tree as God had warned, he impugns God’s motives, “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” (Gen. 3:5). In other words, Satan’s whole ploy was designed to get Eve to believe that God only said you would die if you ate from the tree because He wants to frighten you in order to keep you lower than Him. He does not want you to receive the increase in knowledge and power that you will surely get from the tree. Adam and Eve soon found out that it was Satan who was the real manipulative liar and not God. But if our first parents did not receive the benefits that Satan had promised, what did transgressing God’s commandment bring to them and to all of us, their seed?
In answering this question the Catechism is uncharacteristically brief; “The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.” However, a lot of Biblical truth is contained in these few words! First, all mankind was brought into an estate of sin by the fall. We all have sinned and we all continue to sin (Rom. 3:23). We are, in fact, conceived in sin (Psa. 51:5). With the exception of “Jesus Christ, the righteous,” (1 John 2:1), the Bible consistently teaches “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins,” (Eccles. 7:20). Fallen man lives in a state of sin. We have a sinful nature in which “nothing good dwells,” (Rom. 7:18). This sinful state is not something that just characterizes some of our behavior; it is rooted in the very core of our being. It is who we are. The Bible speaks of our sinfulness as flowing from the very heart of man, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). Jesus taught that a man is defiled, not by those things with which he comes in contact, but by everything that flows out of his heart (Matt. 15:18-20). In the fall we were all made sinners, and now apart from the grace of God all that we do is sin.
Second, the Catechism describes our fallen condition as an estate of misery. The Bible teaches that when sin entered the world through one man, death entered through sin, and because all sinned in the one man, all suffer the same judgment, and all die (Rom. 5:12-19). Death and every evil, pain, and suffering that comes short of death is the common lot of all mankind. Because of the fall we all know sorrow, hurt, disease, weakness, frailty, betrayal, loss, hatred, strife, hardship, frustration, rebellion, persecution, oppression, loneliness, sadness, disappointment, and every other adverse thing. Truly the Westminster divines were accurate when they stated that the fall brought all men into an estate of misery.
As the Scripture at the head of this article puts it – the life of the unconverted sinner is a life of death. For to live in sin is to live in death. It is to be miserable without even knowing it; living in sinful passion, seeking to fulfill evil desires, without any love of what is good, lovely, righteous, and true; being destined only for the everlasting wrath of God. May God grant us an ever-increasing understanding of the misery of our fallen condition, that we would continue to grow in our love of Jesus Christ who saves us from the wrath and misery to come, of which the evils in this world are only the slightest token!