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THEOLOGY > Sin > Man's Disobedience > Universality of Sin 


The book of Genesis records the Fall, the event which marked the entrance of sin into the life of Adam and, through Adam, the entrance of sin into the human race. What became true of Adam, therefore, is now true of every child of Adam. His existence became an existence in sin, a state of sin, from which flowed Adam’s individual acts of sin, meaning that Adam was a sinner by nature and by deed; in both his person and his practice, he became evil (see: Adam’s Rebellion and Sinful State and Sinful Acts). And the state that became his is the state that is characteristic of every person (see: The Principle of Identification).

Sin is universal, with no exceptions—every person is a sinner by nature and is a sinner by conduct, a sinner because of his state and because of his acts. Various facts can be used to support this obvious blight that afflicts all of mankind.

Teaching of Scripture

The chief evidence for the universality of sin is the teaching of Scripture. Without question this is the affirmation of God’s Revelation; and if the fact of worldwide sin can be established from Scripture then no other arguments need to be given, for the teaching of Scripture always settles an issue. It is definitive and final (see: The Significance of Truth). From the following passages the universal experience of sin is established:

Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gen. 6:5);

If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin (I Ki. 8:46);

There is none who does good, not even one (Ps. 14:1);

God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one (Ps. 53:2-3);

For no one living is righteous before You (Ps. 143:2);

The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9);

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23);

None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one (Rom. 3:10-12).

Additional passages: Prov. 20:9; Eccles. 7:20; 8:11; 9:3; Isa. 53:5-6; Rom. 3:19; Gal. 3:22; Eph. 2:3; Jas. 3:2; I Jo. 1:8, 10; 5:19

From the above passages the conclusion is self-evident: every person is a sinner and every person commits sins—all people are included and no individual is excluded.

Sin and Death

Additionally, the Scriptures relate death to sin, with death being the results of sin: “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23); and in Rom. 5:12 we read: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Sin and death are connected; where there is sin, death follows. So death is as widespread as sin.

It is obvious that all people die. Thus, the universality of sin is confirmed in the fact that every person dies, both young and old. If the Scriptures are true in relating death to sin, then the universality of death attests to the universality of sin (see: Death and Reflections on Physical Death).

Evil Parents Produce Evil Children

It should seem evident that evil parents are not able to produce good children or even neutral children, especially given the fact that like produces like. And this is exactly the teaching that is found in the Scriptures.

When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image (Gen. 5:3);

The intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth (Gen. 8:21);

Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one (Job 14:4);

What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous? (Job 15:14);

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me (Ps. 51:5);

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him (Prov. 22:15);

A child left to himself brings shame to his mother (Prov. 29:15);

That which is born of flesh is flesh (Jo. 3:6).

Why should it be thought that evil parents can produce children that are good, or children that are not inclined toward evil? From a polluted spring polluted water flows. Evil is not learned; it is the very nature of man; man does not become evil because of what he does, rather, he does what he does because he is evil (see: Darkened Image, Death, and Depravity). And this nature of man that is set on evil is inherited from the parents.

Common Experience of Man

Each individual sees prodound evil in his own life and also observes it in the lives of others. So obvious is the presence of wickedness deep within the life that it cannot be denied by anyone who is truthful in his conclusions that are drawn from personal examination and observation of others.

To some degree every individual knows his own heart, the inner workings of his mind, and the public display of these private thoughts and imaginations. And the internal expressions are neither pleasing nor desirable (Jer. 17:9). If honesty is adhered to then each person must admit that on the inside there is pride, selfishness, egotism, and all sorts of emotions and intents that forward the agenda of the individual, most often at the expense of others. The passions of the heart compel the individual to indulge his many and varied desires. Of utmost concern is self-satisfaction and self-aggrandizement. Man is in love with himself.

This manifestation of sin appears in the very young, at the earliest age. Anger at not getting one’s way does not have to be taught; it is automatic and evident from birth. The same is true for selfishness, the refusal to share and the determination to keep all the toys for oneself—this outward display of inner evil is repeated
ad nauseam when siblings or friends are together during the early years. Instruction in lying is not necessary. It is spontaneous; whereas, the responsibility to tell the truth must constantly be stated and emphasized. These and myriad other examples of the evil that lurks within and that appears with the beginning of life are more than sufficient to establish the universality of sin.

Coupled with the above is the observation of those who are referred to as saints, individuals in many diverse religions who are reputed to have reached some level of positive living. Even these so-called saints testify of personal sin and their continuing struggle to overcome the inner drives of the heart.

Religions of the World Accept the Fact of Evil

Support for the universality of sin also resides in the fact that the religions of the world have some sort of denial or mortification of the body or soul which is practiced by the devotee in order for the follower to become better. This assumes that the present status of the follower is not what it should be, so there is a method afforded by the particular religion whereby the conduct of one’s life will improve or advance. There would be no need for such teaching and practice if every individual’s life was as it should be.

Concepts of Saviors and Salvation Predicated on Existence of Evil

In varying ways, world religions have teachings that involve some sort of salvation. All such teachings are based upon the sinfulness of the race; man needs to be saved from something, usually himself, either in his conduct or in his thinking, or both.

But there is no need of a savior and/or a plan of redemption if there is no sin; salvation is meaningless if there is nothing to be saved from, no personal or societal evil. To be saved you must have the need of being saved.

In the Christian teaching the truth is that all men need salvation, thus that which is essential to the Christian faith is predicated on the sinfulness of all men. Because of individual sin, the Savior, who for the Christian is Jesus, is man’s salvation; this means that salvation is not something that is obtained but is Someone that the sinner comes to know.

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