Does the Punishment for Original Sin Fit the Crime?

May 19, 2017 | Apologetics, Article, Creation, Ethics, Theology

Note: This post makes mention of Ravi Zacharias. It is with a heavy heart that I must acknowledge a tragic independent report concerning evidence of sexual abuse and predatory behavior on the part of Ravi Zacharias. This man was a huge inspiration to me, as is evident from reading my blog, and the news was more than heart shattering. Some ministries leaders have come to the conclusion that removing articles about and references to Ravi is the right move; I have come to a different conclusion, and here is why:

  1. Though I cannot begin go to imagine the grief or pain of those Ravi hurt and the emotional toll of his behavior, it is also the case that to discredit a piece of information due to the character of the source of such behavior is to commit the genetic fallacy. If I quote or mention Ravi, it is because I believe those items to contain truth value on their own merit.
  2. To go back and change previously written information without a careful disclaimer is, I believe, a form of revisionist history. If a disclaimer must be offered anyway, I believe there is value in keeping the material accessible. So while I know it is a difficult ask to say, “Just trust the ideas and disregard his personal character,” I must ask that of you as a careful thinker.
  3. I have seen a lot of comparisons by Christians to not removing Ravi’s work because biblical characters like King David and others had fallen into terrible sin, and they have obviously been given to us as a gift to learn from (Romans 15:4). Why “cancel” Ravi if we’re not “cancelling” the Bible? It does seem to me, though, that there are two problems with this line of thinking: (1) These books are inspired by God and thus we can trust his revelation to us. They were examples given for a purpose. (2) These characters also seemed to show true biblical repentance of their wicked actions. Ravi remained unrepentant until his dying day. Therefore, I do not think these are 1-and-1 comparisons. This behavior reflects SERIOUS error and dangerous behavior on the part of Ravi and, to an unknown degree, RZIM as a whole, and that must not be taken lightly or swept under the rug.

I do not expect you to agree completely with this decision. I do ask that you respect the thought, prayer, and seeking of counsel in which I engaged regarding it.

When taking an “objective” look at the Bible, many seekers and atheists find what they claim to be problems and contradictions. One of the “problems” we apologists encounter frequently is whether the punishment, namely Hell, actually fits the crime that was committed. The first thing we must point out is that there is a blatantly obvious contradiction in the very question. Your first line of defense as a Christian is to simply show the non-believer the erroneous nature of the question they are asking. From there, you can hope to engage in a helpful dialogue. Here is the problem: Without God to dictate the very nature of right and wrong, there is no basis upon which to judge God for punishing anyone. The problem often boils down to a fundamental misunderstanding both of the nature of God and also of the nature of the “crime” that was committed. Nevertheless, the problem persists. So what can be understood about this? Can one woman, having eaten a “forbidden fruit” in the beginning of time, somehow send all who will not believe on Jesus Christ to Hell? To the Christian, this sounds like a pretty shallow statement, but this is foolishness to the unbeliever! Let’s look at what the Bible says about the concept of “Original Sin.” I pray that by the time you are done reading you will have an even better appreciation for and understanding of just what God has done for you.

Grace vs. Mercy vs. Justice

  Before we can even begin to understand the effects of Original Sin on the world and what it took to redeem mankind, we must have a fundamental understanding of a few terms. We must also understand that God’s moral character is perfect, and is the ultimate standard of morality against which everything else should be judged. In other words, we cannot look at God and say, “that was right!” or “that was wrong!” concerning some action that He took. God is just (1 Thessalonians 1:6), and whatever our human perception of an action that was taken by God, we can know that what God did is 100% right, true, and justified. When God judges us, whether it be regarding our sin nature as a lost person, sin in our lives as a believer, or our works as a believer, there are three possible moral “judgments” God chooses to make.  They are grace, mercy, and justice. Now, I could make this section alone a few thousand words and dig deep into the doctrine of each of these, but we will save that for a later time. For now, here is what you need to know: Justice is getting that which you deserve; Mercy is you not getting that which you deserve; Grace is you getting that which you don’t deserve. All throughout the Bible, we see examples of these actions being carried out. I get seriously disturbed at those who request “justice” on the part of God. My friend, if you request justice from God, you are requesting a one-way ticket to Hell. We will see why in just a few moments. Without the marvelous mercy and grace of God, we would have absolutely no hope. Thank God, He has been good to us! Now that we have a basic understanding of these concepts, let’s take a look at the “crime” itself:

Examining the Crime–Original Sin?

  “Original Sin” is a Christian term. It’s likely that many of you reading already understand this, but for those who are curious, I think it would be in order to take a look at this. In the very beginning of time, space, and matter, God created the heaven and the earth. Secular and Christian scientists alike interpret the evidence much differently, but the reality is that time, space, and matter all came into being at the exact same moment. Since nothing does not have the ability to spontaneously become something, and because we Christians have an accurate account from the person who was there, we contend that it was God who caused the worlds to be framed (Hebrews 11:3). Since that is true, we can believe what He says to us about the events that followed during the creation period and after Creation Week was finished. Now, we find from the Bible that God created a man named Adam. You and I exist, so it follows reasonably that before you and I got here, at one point in the past, there was only one of us. Evolution theory is 100% bankrupt in an attempt to explain this. Despite what is taught in our science classrooms today, evolutionists have no explanation for life coming from non-life, and even if there WERE a “single-celled organism” that was here and could have evolved into humans, we find from the latest DNA and biological evidence that this is just not possible. So God formed a man named Adam and decided that it was not good for this man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). He made a help meet for Adam, a woman named Eve, and placed them in absolute paradise–the Garden of Eden. The most important detail in the Story thus far is this: Adam and Eve were 100% sinlessBUT–they were not “God” nor were they “gods.” They had no knowledge of good and evil. They knew only utter perfection. They knew what it was like to walk (physically) with God and have communion with Him. Everything was perfect and everything was right, as long as they chose for it to be.  

The Choice

  Many critics of Christianity often wonder how it is that God made the world with evil in it. They cannot seem to understand why a God that claims to love and desire a relationship with every person (2 Peter 3:9) would cause evil, suffering, violence, hate, etc. to run rampant throughout the world. For the Christian, the problem of evil is not a problem at all. Remember, evil could not exist if God were not there to give us the standard by which to measure it against! But in this creation account, God tells us just exactly why the world is the way that it is! This, to me, is the remarkable thing about Christianity. It is not a religion–rather, it is simply the Story of the world. Everything we know to be true about the world is consistent with Christianity in every way. For that, I say, Amen! A quote from Ravi Zacharias might help us to understand. Ravi says (paraphrased), “The only world in which love is possible is the world in which we can choose to love.” In other words, if God had created us to love Him and not given us the choice, we would simply be mindless robots. But that is not how God created us. So, God created Adam in sinless perfection (Genesis 1:31) and then took of the body of Adam and formed Eve, his wife. He placed them in the garden and gave them one simple instruction: “Do not eat the fruit of Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (i.e., the “Forbidden Fruit”) or you will surely die.” Here we have something interesting. It seems that, on the surface, this scenario is akin to a mother telling her nefarious child to keep his or her fingers out of the cookie jar. As lighthearted as this illustration sounds, where do you think it comes from? The Story of the creation of the world! Unfortunately, the story recorded “In the Beginning” carries much, much more weight. You must remember that Adam and Eve were completely sinless. But not only were they sinless–and here is the key–they had no knowledge of sin. In other words, they did not even know that it was possible to do evil and sin against God. It was a completely foreign concept. Because of their created nature, they were able to sin, but they had no knowledge of sin. That is–until they ate of the fruit of the tree. Notice Genesis 3:7, right after they had eaten of the fruit: “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” We see from the above verse that they were indeed able to sin without knowing that it was sinful, but immediately when the choice was made, their entire world changed. In an INSTANT, they knew something was different. This was not a gradual process. And the very first thing they did is the very thing we do–they hid from God. Now, please don’t miss the implication here. God does not care that Adam and Eve ate a piece of fruit. Pop culture has used, abused, and misused this in so, so many ways. There was nothing poisonous about the fruit, and there was nothing inherently wrong at all with the fruit. The problem was not that they ate fruit; the problem was that they disobeyed the command of a Holy, Righteous, and Perfect God. Yes, if you know the story, the “tempter” (Satan) is not off the hook here. Satan tempted Eve by causing her to question the words of God (Genesis 3:1), and she succumbed to that temptation and caused Adam to sin as well. But the problem is that Eve disobeyed God, ate the fruit so that she could have the knowledge of good and evil and become as a god (Genesis 3:5), and therefore chose HERSELF over the God who gave her life and breath. This is Original Sin.  Recorded in verses 16 and 17 of Genesis 3 are the implications of the action: “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;” A few verses later, we find that Adam named his wife Eve because she was the “mother of all living.” If you move over that too fast, you will miss the point: Adam and Eve sinned, and therefore, that sinful nature is passed on from generation to generation (Romans 5:12). If the Story ended there, we would be in a big, big mess. Thank God it doesn’t.

The Nature of Legal Justice

  Before we jump straight to God’s plan for redeeming Original Sin and for punishing those who are at enmity with Him (James 4:4; Romans 8:7), we must first understand the nature of how justice works. This part will not take long, but it is important in order to gain a human understanding of how this works. I think this can be accomplished with a fairly simple and straightforward illustration. Now, I must say up front that this illustration is not attempting to show how God sees this situation. Truthfully, we just cannot compare to the high mind of an infinite God. Since the very definition of words like goodness, justice, morality etc. are found in His nature, my mere illustration comes nowhere close in comparison. Here it is: Suppose you don’t like what I am saying very much, and you decide to punch me in the face. My wife might get pretty upset with you and I doubt you’ll be invited over to dinner anytime soon; otherwise, no harm done. I am probably not going to call the cops, and you will not have any long-term consequences to face. Suppose, now, that you decided to punch the Chief of Police in your city/town. You will either be charged with a misdemeanor or felony depending on how severely your State prosecutes that action, and you will probably spend some money, do some jail time or community service–that sort of thing. Suppose, now, that you decided you hate President Trump and you punch HIM in the face. I don’t know this for sure, but I would assume that you could expect to spend the rest of your life behind bars. If not a life sentence, you would most definitely not be getting off easily. In each of these cases, nothing about the crime itself has changed. And yet we find, that even though the nature of the crime is the same, the consequences of committing the crime vary all the way from the lack of a dinner invitation to life behind bars. The ONLY difference to be found in each of these crimes is the person against which they are committed. Now, I understand that the severity of the crime itself definitely has an impact on the consequences (obviously the punishment would be different if you had murdered me rather than just punched me in the face), but in the case of Original Sin, we are talking about a man and woman eating a fruit they were told not to. I am not trying to downplay their sin; rather, I am trying to show you how one seemingly small crime changed the trajectory of all mankind. If the punishment is life in prison for assaulting the President, a mere man, how much more severe then should the punishment be for rejecting a Thrice Holy God–the very God who breathed into man the breath of life, and made him become a living soul (Genesis 2:7)? And the Bible claims, in Romans 6:23, that the payment for sin and rejecting God is death. This is talking about the “second death”–an eternity spent in the Lake of Fire with the devil and his demons. Pretty harsh punishment, but indeed, in that day, justice will have been righteously served.

The Plan and Necessity of Repentance

  Truth to be told, I could end the article with my last paragraph and have accomplished what I set out to do. I simply wanted to show how the punishment fits the crime. But I’m glad for the second part of Romans 6:23 that says, “…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” See, Romans 5:12 claims that death entered the world through the sin of one man–Adam. But notice a few verses later in Romans 5:15 – “But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.” God did not leave us out to dry. He gave us the most amazing gift ever given: His only Son.


The God Who Became Man

  This is the key differentiator between Christianity and every other religion in the world. Interestingly enough, this is the key factor that makes Jesus able to stand on His claim, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” When other religious systems clamor for your attention, they want you to do one thing, and one thing only: earn your way to a place in paradise. Now, it’s never that simple. Often, there are many hoops to jump through, many barriers to cross, and many steps that must be taken in just the right order to accomplish this. You know what the problem is? It’s impossible. Sin is so much a part of our nature that it is 100% impossible not to sin against Him in some way, shape or form, every day! And, can you imagine having to follow the rules instituted by religious systems such as Islam, Roman Catholicism, and Mormonism, only to find yourself truly unsure of your eternal destination until your dying breath? Every religion in the world says DO. Jesus Christ says, “It is finished.” Jesus paid for every sin, past, present, and future, all you must do is believe in Him and submit your life to Him in repentance. In our Story (and indeed, the Story of the world), God HIMSELF took on the form of a man, was beaten, bruised, scarred, spit upon, and died by crucifixion–the most brutal form of death even by today’s standards–to satisfy His wrath (1 John 4:10, “propitiation”).


God’s Plan Revealed

  See, God had a plan all along. Yes, sin entered the world through Adam. But God’s plan to eradicate that sin is found in the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. The resurrection is paramount. If Jesus had remained dead, He’d be no more worth serving than a Buddha, Mohammad, or Joseph Smith. But, that is not what happened. Jesus Christ rose on the third day after His death, and spent about 40 days on the earth revealing Himself to His disciples and well over 500 individuals at once who were apparently still alive to validate the claim in Paul’s day (1 Corinthians 15:6). He is now seated at the right hand of the Father (1 Peter 3:22), and there He makes intercession for us (Romans 8:34) to God. What are we saved from? An eternity in Hell, separated from God and therefore all traces of goodness, grace, and mercy, where we would forever know and feel the pain of our rejection of God and His righteous justice upon us. What are we saved to? An eternity of perfection, paradise, and power, where we will never cry another tear, feel another pain, or watch another loved one pass away. Where we will cry “Holy! Holy! Holy!” to the Lord God Almighty for the rest of our days. It is a perfect plan. It is God’s plan. Adam ruined humanity with his Original Sin, but Jesus redeemed humanity with His Righteous Blood. All that is left to do, is repent, believe, and accept His free gift. — Questions? Feel free to comment below and start the discussion, or click the blue button on the right (desktop only) to ask a question with a voicemail. We will do our best to answer in an upcoming post. Thanks!

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Hi, I’m Steve, an author, speaker, and Bible teacher with a heart for exploring God’s Word and God’s world.

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