In Adam’s Fall We Sinned All
Sin entered into the world through one man (Romans 5:12).
I delight in the doctrine of justification by faith – the marvellous truth that God declares the unrighteous sinner (bound for hell due to his guilt) as righteous, putting him into the category of being righteous through the person and work of Christ. Even the faith that justifies the sinner is a gift from God (Eph.s 2:8-9). And clearly the Reformed doctrines of grace have experienced a Renaissance in the last fifty years, through book publishing companies like Banner of Truth, P & R, and Christian Focus; and through preachers like Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John Piper, and R.C. Sproul. Indeed Time magazine last spring noted that one of the ten major events of the year was the popularity of Calvinism.1
And while all these publishers and preachers noted above do a wonderful job of maintaining the balance of a full-orbed gospel, it seems that many who follow them have misrepresented these doctrines of grace. We tend to be reductionists in everything, including the gospel. We seem to think justification is the one thing necessary in gospel proclamation, but is this the full gospel? If we stress only justification then the result too often is an emphasis on forgiveness of sins without a corresponding pursuit and growth in personal holiness. We tend to hear preachers today glibly say, ‘None of us keeps the Law, but God forgives us anyway, so rejoice!’ Consequently growth and progress in personal holiness is not expected. If we fail to stress the sinfulness, impotence, and innate rebellion of man, then man in his folly and deceitfulness convinces himself that God has done himself a huge favour in giving man the choice and power to believe on Christ. This thinking results in a shallow, superficial brand of Christian who fails to look differently from the world. We all know the statistics about how evangelicals have as many divorces, abortions, and licentious sexual affairs as those from the world.
When Martyn Lloyd-Jones came to Aberavon, Wales in 1927 to pastor a small Presbyterian Church, the people largely were blue collar workers who, even prior to the Stock Market crash of 1929, were already steeped in unemployment and poverty. Through Lloyd-Jones’preaching a full-orbed gospel that stressed the rebellious nature of the unregenerate heart, the consequent unholy and unproductive life, and the utter unrighteousness of one’s standing before God, the Holy Spirit began a remarkable work of conversion and sanctification. The growth of the church at Sandfields was truly astonishing, and can be nothing short of revival. Almost all the growth in the church over the years was conversion growth, what he called people ‘from the world.’ In 1927, 146 grew to 165. By 1928 church membership was 196. In 1930 there were 70 conversions, and in 1931 there were 128.2 Among those converted was Bethan, Lloyd-Jones’ wife. While Bethan had grown up going to church, as she listened to her husband preach she soon became very uncomfortable with what she was hearing. After numerous Sunday morning sermons she thought to herself, ‘If this is what a Christian is, then I am not one.’ She was upset that she, a very moral, church-going person, would be grouped by her husband with prostitutes and drunkards. Finally she came to a place of peace and joy in Christ in 1928.3
If we are to see revival, if revival is the benchmark for the church, characterized by the mighty praying, mighty preaching, mighty conversions, mighty assemblies, mighty holiness, mighty generosity, mighty grass-roots evangelism, mighty societal impact, mighty leadership, and mighty combat of the book of Acts, then we must preach a full gospel. What are the Biblical components of this full gospel? We must be clear on five things in gospel proclamation – the sinner, the work of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and the nature of the Christian.
Let’s now take a quick look at the first of these. Who, what is a sinner? We must, of course, if we are to answer this question, go back to the beginning when Adam and Eve enjoyed perfect fellowship with God. They were told to be fruitful and to multiply, to subdue the earth and to rule over it (Gen. 1:28). They were given freedom to eat from any tree of the garden but one, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They succumbed to the devil’s temptation, took the fruit and suffered the damnable consequences, being cast from God’s presence. Both Psalm 51:3 and Romans 5:12ff make clear the innate sinfulness of sin. In Adam all mankind sinned, and in Adam, we all are born with a total inability to believe on Christ or to obey him. Man is guilty from the mother’s womb, and he develops, as he grows older, his own style of sinning. Three things have moved man away from God – he is born with a rebellious and blind heart, he has a guilty and offensive record, and he leads an unholy and unproductive life.
To say that man is born with a rebellious and blind heart means that all his thoughts continually are evil and wicked (Gen. 6:5). His heart is deceitful and wicked (Jer. 17:9). In Romans 1 and 2 the Apostle Paul is making his case to the Roman believers that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. This includes not only the pagans who never knew of God, but also the nice, privileged Jews who grew up with the Law and Prophets. He says that none are righteous, none understand, none seek for God, their throat is an open grave, the poison of asps is under their lips, their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness, their feet are swift to shed innocent blood, destruction and misery are in their path, the path of peace they have not known, and there is no fear of God before their eyes (Rom. 3:10-18). Notice the utter inability of pagan or Jew to seek for God.
This denial of the doctrine of the total inability of man to call upon Christ is the very crux of the problem in modern day evangelicalism. To believe that man ‘holds the cards’, has the last say, is to open the door to any methodology that secures decisions for Christ. The result has been catastrophic to the evangelical church. Our churches are filled with people who are still dead in their sins. No wonder the church looks so much like the world!
And because man is born with a rebellious heart that loves sin and hates God (Rom. 8:5-8) it naturally follows that he also has a guilty record and offensive past. In David’s penitential psalm, written after Nathan showed him his sin of adultery and murder, David writes, ‘Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Thy sight, so that Thou art justified when Thou dost speak and blameless when Thou dost judge’ (Psa. 51:4). David is not saying that his sin had no consequences for Bathsheba or Uriah her husband, but he is saying that the very root of his sin was rebellion against the God of holiness, mercy, and grace.
I suggest the reason we feel so little gospel power in our lives and ministries, and the reason so few in our churches and communities glory in the cross of Christ is because we fail to give this issue its due. Our sin is utterly reprehensible and offensive to the God of holiness. He hates it! It is a stench in his nostrils. When missionaries like William Carey and David Brainerd witnessed the debauchery of those whom they were seeking to reach with the gospel, they were utterly grieved and broken. They were not mad at the pagans. They saw them as sheep without a shepherd, and were heartbroken over their sin, the consequences of it, and the destination to which their sin would take them.
May I suggest you think deeply and daily about your previous unregenerate and rebellious heart that so shamefully sinned against the God of grace. If you were to stand before God without the benefit of Christ’s righteousness, then you would not be able to explain yourself (Rom. 3:19). And though you may be a Christian, justified by the righteousness of Christ, you still sin, and you need also to see a measure of the depth of your daily disobedience to God, your wilful neglect and rebellion against him. Only then will you begin to experience the sweetness of the Saviour.
And finally, because you were born with a rebellious and blind heart, because you had a guilty and offensive past, you also lived an unholy and unproductive life. Every unbeliever in the world, regardless of his level of or lack of morality, is unholy and unproductive. Jesus says in John 15:5 that apart from him we can do nothing. You cannot bring forth fruits of repentance. You cannot believe on him. You cannot perfect holiness in the fear of God. You cannot love God or your neighbour as you must. You cannot make for yourself a new heart, though you are called to do all these things, and God holds you accountable for your disobedience. Paul captures this powerfully when he says that nothing good dwells in him, that is in his flesh, for the willing to do these good things is present but the doing of them is not (Rom. 7:18). Why is this true? In Romans 8:7-8 Paul says that the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God. Why? Because it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
I have often said that I feel so limited, so unable to preach the unsearchable and unfathomable riches of Christ, that I sometimes feel like one trying to learn a second language, who has yet to gain felicity in it. While I need to read and study all I can on the glorious theology of Christ’s atoning work, I have come to realize that my gaining felicity in preaching Christ crucified is not tied merely to a greater Biblical or theological knowledge of Christ’s passion. Instead it is something I must experience also in my heart as I contemplate the utter corruption and rebellion of my unregenerate heart, my truly offensive and guilty past record before God, and my ungodly and unproductive life for God and man. When I see these in light of the full-orbed salvation wrought by the Triune God – the Father’s electing grace, the Son’s sacrificial mercy, and the Spirit’s regenerating and renewing love for his people – then my tongue will be loosed to proclaim with greater clarity, passion, and power the glory of God as it is found in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- ‘The New Calvinism: Ten Ideas Changing the World Right Now,’ Time magazine, March 12, 2009.
- See Iain Murray’s chapter entitled ‘Revival’, pages 203ff in Volume One of his biography, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years, 1899-1939 (Banner of Truth, 1982).
- Ibid., pp 166-7. The story of these years in Aberavon is also told by Bethan Lloyd-Jones herself in Memories of Sandfields (Banner of Truth, 1983).
Rev. Allen M Baker is Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.
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