Original Sin 23 – Ephesians 2:3

Posted: March 18th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Original Sin | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Original Sin 23 – Ephesians 2:3

This verse (or actually just a portion of it) is typically used to support the notion of original sin as inherited guilt. However, for the purpose of this discussion, I’m going to quote all of Ephesians 2 verses 1-10. (And I would even urge people to go reread all of Ephesians again if it’s been a while since you’ve done so.)

1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

The part of the above that was used by St. Augustine to support the idea that we inherit guilt is the phrase “by nature children of wrath.” This was a part of his larger idea that instead of God interacting with the will and actions of each individual human eikon, after Adam all humanity became one big lump of sin. Tied to this interpretation is that we were born sharing a nature subject to God’s wrath.

However, there’s a problem with that interpretation, which is why I quoted the entire excerpt above. As Paul often does, he is contrasting two things — the kingdoms of death and of  life. All humanity was dead, subject as a result to the “prince of the power of the air“, bound by our passions, and the wrath of which we are all by nature children is the wrath flowing from the ruler of that kingdom — not God’s wrath. By contrast, God — who loves us — has made us alive in Christ, freeing us from the wrathful rule of the prince of the power of the air, and created us anew for good works rather than in bondage to our passions.

I love Ephesians. I fall in love with its vision all over again every time I read it. But it doesn’t say anything about human beings inheriting guilt. Trying to lift that one phrase in an effort to make that point does violence to the text.


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