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Are We Born with a Sinful Nature?

Psalm 51.5

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • December 10, In the year of our Lord, 2017


  1. Are we born with a sinful nature?
    1. Does Psalm 51.5 affirm that born with Adam’s sin?
    2. Does the fact that humans sin prove
      1. that since Adam’s sin,
      2. we are all born with a sinful nature,
      3. that we have inherited Adam’s sin?
  2. This, as you may know, is a common teaching, but
    1. whether common or not,
    2. we want to know whether the Bible teaches this doctrine.


  1. That Which Implies False Doctrine Is Itself False Doctrine
    1. Arguing that we are born with a sinful nature has led to grievous error.
    2. Claiming that we are born with a sinful nature
      1. implies that children are born are sinful,
      2. hence they are condemned.
        1. That teaching led further to infant baptism.
        2. If children have sin in anyway,
          1. they stand condemned.
          2. Therefore, they need to be saved.
            1. Baptism clearly has a part in our salvation.
            2. Therefore, the world’s largest denomination and
              1. some other churches
              2. came up with the practice of infant baptism.
      3. So although infants do not know
        1. of their condemnation and need for repentance and
        2. although they cannot believe,
          1. people still believe that their children must be saved, because
          2. they have sin that leads to condemnation in hell.
    3. Another implication is this: If we are born with a sinful nature,
      1. then Mary was born with a sinful nature, and
      2. that would mean that Jesus was born with a sinful nature.
        1. However, no one wants to affirm the latter doctrine.
        2. Therefore, they came up with a way
          1. in which Mary was not born with a sinful nature.
          2. Viola! they came up with the Immaculate Conception.
            1. The Virgin Birth refers the conception of Jesus and
            2. the Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Mary.
              1. The Immaculate Conception means
              2. that somehow Mary’s parents conceived her without transferring Adam’s sin to her.
    4. The Bible never says anything about baptizing infants.
      1. The New Testament always shows
        1. penitent
        2. believers
          1. experiencing baptism.
      2. Infants and young children for many years
        1. are not aware of sinful behavior and the need to repent of it, nor
        2. can they reason out their own belief.
          1. Why does the Bible show penitent believers as subject to baptism?
          2. Because they have sin from which
            1. they need to repent and
            2. for which they need forgiveness.
      3. You cannot find any infants or young children doing these things.
    5. The Immaculate Conception is not biblical doctrine because
      1. we are not born with a sinful nature,
      2. hence there was no need for an Immaculate Conception of Mary, for
        1. she would not pass on any sin to Jesus.
  2. What Does This Imply about God?
    1. If you are born with Adam’s sin and with a sinful nature,
    2. how can God condemn anyone?
    3. Affirming that we are born with a sinful nature
      1. implies that God does not give every person a fair start at life, but
      2. allows them to be tainted from the beginning.
        1. How could He rightfully hold us responsible for sin
        2. if we are born with a sinful nature?
    4. Does not Psalm 100 affirm that He made us?

      3 Know that the LORD, He is God;
      It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
      We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
      (Psa 100.3)

      1. Yet, if He made us with a sinful nature,
      2. how could the psalmist then say in verse 5 these words?

        5 For the LORD is good;
        His mercy is everlasting,
        And His truth endures to all generations.
        (Psa 100.5)
  3. Ezekiel 18
    1. Ancient Israel had a saying
      1. that reflected the same idea
      2. that people have today that we are born in sin,

        1 The word of the LORD came to me again, saying, 2 “What do you mean when you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying:

        ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
        And the children’s teeth are set on edge’?

        3 “As I live,” says the Lord GOD, “you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel.

        4 “Behold, all souls are Mine;
        The soul of the father
        As well as the soul of the son is Mine;
        The soul who sins shall die.”
        (Ezekiel 18.1–4).

    2. Then the Lord refuted their thinking and argument,

      19 “Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?’ Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live. 20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18.19–20).

      1. This point is so strong that the Founding Fathers of America
      2. put it in our Constitution,

        The Congress shall have power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted (Article III, Section 3, 2nd paragraph).
  4. Psalm 51
    1. According to the preface,
      1. David wrote this Psalm after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
      2. Nathan the prophet showed David that the Lord knew what He had done,
        1. including having Bathsheba’s husband killed.
        2. David typically loved God and hated evil, but
          1. on this occasion he disdained God and loved evil, and
          2. when Nathan showed that God knew what David had done,
            1. it tore David up.
            2. He wrote Psalm 51 as he poured his heart out to God.
    2. He pled for mercy,
      1. confessed his sin,
      2. saying that he came into a sin-filled world,

        1 Have mercy upon me, O God,
        According to Your lovingkindness;
        According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
        Blot out my transgressions.
        2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
        And cleanse me from my sin.
        3 For I acknowledge my transgressions,
        And my sin is always before me.
        4 Against You, You only, have I sinned,
        And done this evil in Your sight—
        That You may be found just when You speak,
        And blameless when You judge.
        5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
        And in sin my mother conceived me.
        (Psalm 51.1–5)
    3. David referred to his sin.
      1. He did not blame his mother or Adam.
      2. To emphasize the severity of his sin,
        1. he said that he had sinned against God alone,
        2. although he had sinned with Bathsheba and against Uriah.
          1. Why did he say that?
          2. This is poetry and this is how you speak as a poet.
    4. David referenced his mother, and
      1. two time periods,
      2. separated by nine months.
        1. He was brought forth in iniquity, that is at his birth, and
        2. he was conceived nine months earlier in sin.
          1. He either referred to his mother’s actions or
          2. the environment into which he had been conceived and born.
            1. I do not believe he referred to his mother’s actions, for
            2. that would not fit the context,
              1. nor would it fit what he was thinking and feeling, but
              2. the latter does fit.
                1. Sin came easy for him because
                2. he was surrounded by it.
    5. Psalm 51.5 again,

      Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
      And in sin my mother conceived me.
      (Psalm 51.5)

      1. David did not say he was born a sinner.
      2. Nor did he declare that he was born with a sinful nature.
        1. It is unfortunate that the best selling Bible in America,
        2. the NIV, the New International Version,
          1. has chosen to mistranslate this passage as follows,

            5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
            sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
            (Psalm 51.5)
          2. The NKJV, NASB, ESV, ASV, KJV, all refer to David’s mother
            1. as having conceived him in sin and
            2. as having brought him forth in iniquity.
              1. However, the NIV changes it to read
              2. that David was a sinner from birth.
                1. Even so he is using hyperbole to make a point.
                2. Kids learn this early, “I’m starving.”
    6. Psalm 58 speaks in a similar way,

      The wicked are estranged from the womb;
      They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.
      (Psalm 58.3)

      1. Saying the wicked are estranged from the womb,
      2. sounds like they are wicked before birth or at birth.
        1. However, what about the righteous?
        2. Are only the wicked going astray from the womb?
      3. Also, what did David say the wicked do as soon as they are born?
        1. They speak!
        2. They speak lies!
          1. The wicked are quite intelligent!
          2. It is not just that they lie, but
            1. they come out of the womb speaking!
            2. Why did David write those words?
              1. He did the same thing as he did in Psalm 51,
              2. he used hyperbole, exaggeration to make his point!
      4. They seem to sin as soon as they can.
    7. Also, compare the words of Job,

      (But from my youth I reared him as a father,
      And from my mother’s womb I guided the widow)
      (Job 31.18)

      1. I would like to see that one,
      2. a newborn helping old ladies cross the street!
        1. If Psalm 51 affirms that we are born with a sinful nature,
        2. then Job 31 affirms that we are born with a righteous nature.
      3. Which is it?
        1. We can’t have both.
        2. Actually, it is neither one.
    8. Look at the figurative use in the rest of the Psalm.
      1. I thought blood purged us from sin,

        7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
        Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
        (Psa 51.7)
      2. Did God break David’s bones?

        8 Make me hear joy and gladness,
        That the bones You have broken may rejoice.
        (Psa 51.8; Compare Pro 25.15)
      3. Psalm 51 is a poem of a man full of remorse for his sins.
        1. It is not prose.
        2. See David in deep grief over what he has done.
  5. What Jesus Indicated about Children
    1. Matthew 18 has the words of Jesus that we are to become as children,

      1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,  3 and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18.1–5).

      1. Heaven is for those born with a sinful nature who have not yet repented?
      2. No, children do not need to be as us, but we need to be as them.
    2. Later again, the Lord said to His apostles who were keeping back children,

      But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19.14).
  6. The King of Tyre
    1. The Lord had Ezekiel write to the king of Tyre, because
    2. he had started well, but then went into sin,

      14 “You were the anointed cherub who covers;
      I established you;
      You were on the holy mountain of God;
      You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.
      15 You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created,
      Till iniquity was found in you.
      (Ezekiel 28.14–15)
  7. VII.We Cannot Inherit Spiritual Traits (Whether Evil or Good)
    1. We learn evil or goodness.
    2. We practice wickedness or righteousness.
    3. We have to know to make the choice of good or evil,

      15 “Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings” (Isa 7.15–16).
    4. We cannot inherit a behavior for which we are then responsible.
      1. However, saying that we are born with a sinful nature implies it.
      2. Saying that we have inherited Adam’s sin also implies it.
        1. As the Lord said through Ezekiel,
        2. we are guilty for our own sin.


  1. And Isaiah 59 declares it is our own sin that separates us from God,

    1 Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened,
    That it cannot save;
    Nor His ear heavy,
    That it cannot hear.
    2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
    And your sins have hidden His face from you,
    So that He will not hear.
    (Isaiah 59.1–2)

  2. Even as you and I cannot transfer our sin to one another,
    1. so Adam could not transfer his sin to us, for
    2. we are accountable for ourselves,

      So then each of us shall give account of himself to God (Romans 14.12).