While God’s image is maintained in the human person (Gen 1:26; 5:1) it is now distorted through the sinful father’s imprint (Gen 5:3). Humanity is now thoroughly permeated with evil from the intent of their thoughts (Jer 17:9-10) to the results of their actions (Titus 1:15-16). The conscience, still the standard of human judgment for those without special revelation (Rom 2:14-15), is warped, darkened, and hardened by sin (Eph 4:17-19). Thinking is so futile that anything “spiritual” cannot be fathomed apart from restoration of The Spirit (1 Co 2:14). In so far as future salvation is concerned, people are blind (2 Co 4:4), lifeless (Rom 6:23; Eph 2:1), and helpless (John 6:44; 8:31-36; Eph 2:3). Humanity cannot save itself (cf. John 3:18; Acts 4:12). Similar to the ancient myth of Gilgamesh, Genesis 3:22-23 maintains immortality—apart from The Personal Eternal Triune Creator—eludes man and is unattainable through the temptation to be like God (3:2-5).
People are born with the seeds of sin planted deep within the soil of their person (cf. Gen 5:3; Ps 51:5; 58:3; Rom 5:12). There is no way that human beings can do anything to gain God’s acceptance (Rom 3:19-20). As it relates to eternal life, the “good” that people do is considered as putrid trash (cf. Isa 64:6; Phil 3:7-9). Christians struggle with sin (cf. Rom 7:17-25) even though The Father no longer holds our sin against us (cf. Rom 8:1-2).Christians should fear God, the One who gave the law (Ex 20:18-20), who controls our eternal destiny (Matt 10:26-28), and who holds the key to true education (Prov 1:7:9:10). Ecclesiastes 7:20 places the capstone on the discussion: “There is not a righteous person on earth that does right and never sins.”
Current cultural teaching suggests that environment, biology, psychology, or a combination of the three may be the reason for human perversions. While these may accentuate human behavior, they are not the root cause of it (Mark 7:20-23). Sin is said to go through a “gestation” process where death is the result (Jas 1:14-15). While some would contend that true freedom is removal of restraint, Scripture is clear that sin enslaves (Prov 5:22; Romans 6:6, 14, 16, 19-21). Self-gratification is the central compulsion of humanity (Eph 2:3). Natural aversion to responsibility avoids culpability at every turn (Gen 3:9-13). Each person sins as if they themselves were Adam (Rom 5:12). Nothing is hidden from God: even our thoughts are known (Ps 139:24-25; Heb 4:12-13). It is not only the act of rebellion for which all are accountable, it is the desire that spawns the deed which is also under judgment (Matt 5:21-22, 27-28).
Sin results in personal estrangement from God (Is 59:2) bringing both required wrath (Is 53:6) as well as internal conflict (Is 48:22), misery (Mic 7:1), self-loathing (Ezek 20:43), and restlessness (Is 57:20-21). Ultimately the sinner hardens themselves (Ps 95:8) and hates God (Ps 139:21). Men will venture down every avenue of trespass but, “The LORD…will not leave the guilty unpunished” (Nah 1:3). Every individual, every institution is pervaded by corruption. Internal restraint is the best recourse to limit and lessen sin. Necessarily, accountability within community is the best human boundary, a result of transcendent light pushing back the darkness within the human mind and every human neighborhood.
Dr. Mark Eckel is Professor of Leadership, Education & Discipleship at Capital Bible Seminary, Washington, D.C. This statement was originally written for “School Wide Biblical Integration,” an ACSI enabler in 2002, having been used in various venues since.