When Sin Is No More
“ARE we born in sin?” That question perplexed a graduate student in the United States soon after he started studying the Bible. Because of his Hindu background, the idea of inherited sin was foreign to him. But if sin is indeed inherited, he reasoned, denying or ignoring its reality would be useless. How could one find the answer to this question?
If inherited, sin must have had a starting point. Was the first man created wicked, so that he passed on evil traits to his children? Or did the defect develop later? Exactly when did sin begin? On the other hand, if sin is only an external, evil entity or principle, can we ever hope to gain freedom from it?
According to Hindu belief, suffering and evil are concomitants to creation. “Suffering [or evil],” notes a Hindu scholar, “like chronic rheumatism, only moves from one place to another but cannot be totally eradicated.” Evil certainly has been a part of the world of mankind throughout recorded history. If it predates man’s historical records, reliable answers about its origin must of necessity come from a source higher than man. The answers must come from God.—Psalm 36:9.
Man—Created Without Sin
Descriptions of the creation of man given in the Vedas are figurative, admits Hindu philosopher Nikhilananda. Similarly, most Eastern religions provide only mythological explanations of creation. Yet, there are both logical and scientific reasons for believing the Bible account of the creation of the first man.a Its very first chapter states: “God proceeded to create the man in his image, in God’s image he created him; male and female he created them.”—Genesis 1:27.
What does it mean to be created “in God’s image”? Simply this: Man was made in the likeness of God, having godly attributes—such as justice, wisdom, and love—that set him apart from animals. (Compare Colossians 3:9, 10.) These qualities gave him the ability to choose to do good or bad, making him a free moral agent. There was no sin in the first man, no evil or suffering in his life, when he was created.
Upon the man Adam, Jehovah God placed this command: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.” (Genesis 2:16, 17) By choosing to obey, Adam and his wife, Eve, could bring praise and honor to their Creator and remain free of sin. On the other hand, an act of disobedience would indicate their failure to meet God’s perfect standards and would make them imperfect—sinful.
Adam and Eve were not created divine. However, they did have a measure of divine attributes and the capacity to make moral decisions. Being God’s creation, they were sinless, or perfect. (Genesis 1:31; Deuteronomy 32:4) Their being brought into existence did not disrupt the harmony that had prevailed between God and the universe for ages until then. How, then, did sin begin?
The Origin of Sin
Sin occurred first in the spirit realm. Before the creation of the earth and man, God had created intelligent spirit creatures—the angels. (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:4-7; Colossians 1:15-17) One of these angels thought a great deal of his own beauty and intelligence. (Compare Ezekiel 28:13-15.) From God’s instruction to Adam and Eve to produce children, this angel could see that soon the whole earth would be filled with righteous people, all of them worshiping God. (Genesis 1:27, 28) This spirit creature desired their worship for himself. (Matthew 4:9, 10) Dwelling on this desire led him to take a wrong course.—James 1:14, 15.
Speaking to Eve through a serpent, the rebellious angel said that by forbidding the eating of fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, God was holding back knowledge that she should have. (Genesis 3:1-5) Saying that was a hateful lie—an act of sin. By stating this lie, the angel made himself a sinner. As a result, he came to be called the Devil, a slanderer, and Satan, an opposer of God.—Revelation 12:9.
Satan’s persuasive argument had an adverse effect on Eve. Putting her trust in the Tempter’s words, she allowed herself to be seduced and to eat some of the fruit of the forbidden tree. Her husband, Adam, joined her in eating the fruit, and both of them thereby became sinners. (Genesis 3:6; 1 Timothy 2:14) Clearly, by choosing to disobey God, our first parents missed the mark of perfection and made sinners of themselves.
What about the offspring of Adam and Eve? The Bible explains: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) The law of heredity was already in effect. Adam could not pass on to his children what he did not have. (Job 14:4) Having lost perfection, the first couple were sinners when their children were conceived. As a result, all of us—without exception—have inherited sin. (Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:23) In turn, sin has produced nothing but evil and suffering. Moreover, because of it, we all grow old and die, “for the wages sin pays is death.”—Romans 6:23.
Conscience ‘Accuses’ or ‘Excuses’
Consider also the effect of sin on the behavior of the first human pair. They covered portions of their bodies and attempted to hide themselves from God. (Genesis 3:7, 8) Sin thus caused them to feel guilt, anxiety, and shame. Mankind today is all too familiar with these emotions.
Who has not suffered uncomfortable feelings because of withholding kindness from someone in need or has not felt remorse for saying words that should never have been uttered? (James 4:17) Why do we have such troubled feelings? The apostle Paul explains that ‘law is written in our hearts.’ Unless our conscience has become seared, any violation of that law produces an internal upheaval. So it is that the voice of conscience ‘accuses’ or ‘excuses’ us. (Romans 2:15; 1 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:15) Whether we realize it or not, we have an inner sense of wrong, of sin!
Paul was well aware of his sinful tendencies. “When I wish to do what is right, what is bad is present with me,” he admitted. “I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members.” So Paul asked: “Who will rescue me from the body undergoing this death?”—Romans 7:21-24.
Freedom From Sin—How?
“Liberation, in the Hindu tradition,” says one scholar, “is liberation from repeated births and deaths.” As a solution, Buddhism similarly points to Nirvana—a state of oblivion to external reality. Not having come to grips with the concept of inherited sin, Hinduism promises only an escape from existence.
On the other hand, the Bible’s means of liberation results in actual removal of the sinful condition. After asking how he can be rescued from sin, the apostle Paul proceeds to answer: “Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25) Yes, the rescue comes from God through Jesus Christ.
According to Matthew’s Gospel, “the Son of man,” Jesus Christ, came “to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28) As recorded at 1 Timothy 2:6, Paul wrote that Jesus “gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.” The word “ransom” signifies paying the price for the redemption of captives. The fact that it is a corresponding ransom stresses the efficacy of the price in balancing the legal scales of justice. But how could one man’s death be deemed “a corresponding ransom for all”?
Adam sold all mankind, including us, into sin and death. The price, or penalty, he paid was his perfect human life. To cover this, another perfect human life—a corresponding ransom—had to be paid. (Exodus 21:23; Deuteronomy 19:21; Romans 5:18, 19) Since no imperfect man could provide this ransom, God, in his infinite wisdom, opened up a way out of these straits. (Psalm 49:6, 7) He transferred the perfect life of his only-begotten Son from the heavens to the womb of a virgin on earth, letting him be born as a perfect man.—Luke 1:30-38; John 3:16-18.
In order to accomplish the work of redeeming mankind, Jesus had to maintain a clean record the entire time he was on earth. This he did. Then he died a sacrificial death. In this way Jesus ensured that the value of a perfect human life—his own—would be available to pay as a ransom for delivering mankind.—2 Corinthians 5:14; 1 Peter 1:18, 19.
What Christ’s Ransom Can Do for Us
Jesus’ ransom sacrifice can benefit us right now. By exercising faith in it, we can enjoy a clean standing before God and can come under Jehovah’s loving and tender care. (Acts 10:43; Romans 3:21-24) Rather than being overwhelmed with guilt for sins we may have committed, we can freely seek forgiveness from God on the basis of the ransom.—Isaiah 1:18; Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 2:1, 2.
In the days ahead, the ransom will make possible the complete healing of mankind’s sickly condition caused by sin. The last book of the Bible describes “a river of water of life” issuing forth from the throne of God. Along the river’s banks are bountiful fruit trees having leaves “for the curing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1, 2) Symbolically, the Bible here speaks about the Creator’s marvelous provision to free mankind from sin and death forever on the basis of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice.
The prophetic visions of the book of Revelation will soon be fulfilled. (Revelation 22:6, 7) Then all righthearted ones will become perfect, being “set free from enslavement to corruption.” (Romans 8:20, 21) Should this not move us to learn more about Jehovah God and his loyal Son, Jesus Christ, who became the ransom?—John 17:3.
a See the book Life—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation?, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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Adam brought sin and death on mankind
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Jesus’ ransom sacrifice brings freedom from sin and death