Total Hereditary Depravity (Eighteen)

It is written:

“I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.” (Romans 7:9)

This is one of the most powerful passages of Scripture regarding the fact that infants and small children are sinless, and that the teachings of original sin and total depravity are unbiblical. Let’s notice several things.

First, the context. Paul is writing of the fact that under the Law of God, all sinners are guilty for the simple fact that they have (like their human father Adam) broken the Law of God (cf. Romans 5:12, 14). Prior to that decision to rebel against the Lord, Paul teaches us in Romans 7:9 that he (and all humans beings) are ‘alive.’

Second, notice the idea of being “alive” in this passage. Paul is discussing spiritual life, not physical life. A person usually does not die physically when he breaks God’s Law, but he does die spiritually (cf. Isaiah 59:1-2). Paul is wanting us to understand that he is discussing a very situation, not hypothetical. This is made especially clear by the fact that in the words “was alive,”, Paul uses the indicative mood.

“indicative. n. The mood that presents the verbal idea as being actual or real, as opposed to that which is only possible or intended (Lat. indic-ativus, “stating”).” (Matthew S. DeMoss, Pocket Dictionary for the Study of New Testament Greek, 790 (Kindle Edition); Downers Grove, Illinois; InterVarsity Press)

“In general, the indicative mood is set apart from the others in that it is the mood normally used to address actuality, while the others—collectively known as the oblique moods—normally address potentiality.” (Daniel B. Wallace, The Basics of New Testament Syntax: An Intermediate Greek Grammar, 4153 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)

Paul is simply wanting us to see that every person born into the world is born spiritually alive, and remain in that condition until they choose to sin against God. A study of different Bible translations clearly demonstrates that this is largely understood.

Romans 7:9 (CEV)-Before I knew about the Law, I was alive. But as soon as I heard that command, sin came to life,

Romans 7:9 (ASV)-And I was alive apart from the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died;

Romans 7:9 (BBE)-And there was a time when I was living without the law: but when the law gave its orders, sin came to life and put me to death;

Romans 7:9 (DRV)-And I lived some time without the law. But when the commandment came, sin revived,

Romans 7:9 (ERV)-Before I knew the law, I was alive. But when I heard the law’s command, sin began to live,

Romans 7:9 (ESV)-I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.

Romans 7:9 (Amplified)-Once I was alive, but quite apart from and unconscious of the Law. But when the commandment came, sin lived again and I died (was sentenced by the Law to death). [Psa 73:22]

Romans 7:9 (ESV)-I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.

Even the early translations of the New Testament into other languages document this!

Romans 7:9 (Syriac)-And I, without the law, was alive formerly; but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died;

Finally, these facts show clearly that Paul knows nothing of the doctrines of original sin and total hereditary depravity. The comments of McGuiggan on this text are illuminating:

“If they died when they sinned a sin that wasn’t like Adam’s, that might suggest the opposite of Godet’s view. If they died as a result of their own sin and it wasn’t like Adam’s, then they surely didn’t die from Adam’s sin. The distinction between theirs and Adam’s would be non–existent if they had died because of Adam’s sin. Colossians 2: 13 leaves me with the definite impression that people are dead through their own trespasses and sins. Ephesians 2: 1 gives me the same impression. In Romans 7: 9 I hear Paul saying: “I was alive apart from the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.” He spoke of himself being “alive” and he didn’t mean physically. He spoke of meeting–up with the command of God and dying. It doesn’t look to me that Paul believed he was born spiritually dead due to Adam’s sin. It sounds like he died because he sinned. If, as we are told, by people like Steele and Curtis Thomas, Paul was born dead, estranged from the womb, spiritually dead, it would seem he chose the wrong speech in Romans 7: 9 & 10 for he claims he died after he had been alive. He was slain (7: 10) by sin after he had been alive apart from the law. Paul, like everyone else, according to the Calvinistic approach to these issues was born enslaved to sin and spiritually dead. Robertson and Godet (and even Wuest) hold that 7: 9 has reference to the time of Paul’s childhood when he was alive. But this surrenders the whole Calvinistic case. Since Paul was no exception and he claims he was alive at one point before he came under law, then we know that everyone else is in the same position. He met up with the law when he was “alive.” He broke the law and “died.” He didn’t die physically so you know he died spiritually. He died spiritually when he sinned and not when Adam sinned. Paul wasn’t born dead! He died even though he didn’t sin a sin like the sin Adam sinned!” (Jim McGuiggan, The Book Of Romans, 3099-3122 (Kindle Edition); Lubbock, Texas; Sunset Institute Press)

In our next lesson, we will learn about the teaching of the early Christians on this subject.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

Leave a Reply

Powered by

Up ↑