All Israel Shall Be Saved - Part III
“And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” —Romans 11:26
The historical arguments in church councils hotly debated the topic of the sin nature, especially with Augustine and Pelagius in the fifth century.
Pelagius denied that human sin is inherited from Adam. Moreover, Pelagius believed that death was not a consequence of Adam’s disobedience—Adam had only introduced sin into the world as a corrupted example. In his teachings, Pelagius believed that there was no connection between Adam’s sin and the moral condition of mankind. Pelagius found no real need for the special enabling power of the Holy Spirit. Although he believed that almost all of the human race had sinned, he also believed that it was possible not to sin. God predestinates no one, except in the sense that He foresees who will believe and who will reject His influences. God’s forgiveness comes to all who exercise “faith alone,” but once forgiven, Pelagius believed and taught, man has power of himself to live in a manner pleasing to God. Sinning, according to Pelagius, was a choice one makes.
Augustine’s View Of Original Sin
Throughout his life, Augustine struggled with sexual lust and other sinful desires. In his work titled, The Confessions of Saint Augustine, Augustine revealed his inability to overcome sin and its dominating power, which he found to be stronger than his own willpower. In his quest to find answers, he sought and studied Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, and (finally) Christianity. This brought his journey of experiences to some philosophical conclusions from which he shaped his opinions, but not entirely from the Word of God. In turn, he would go to the extreme of Pelagius’ teachings, thereby making their two perspectives on sin irreconcilable.
Augustine felt that nothing less than irresistible divine grace could have saved him from sin and only the constant flowing of grace could keep him from sinning. To Augustine, Adam’s sin had enormous consequences. Adam’s power to do right was gone. He died spiritually—and soon he died physically. Augustine taught that the whole of the human race was in Adam, and they shared his fall. Man was now incapable of any good (saving) act. From the smallest infant to the eldest, Augustine believed that every individual deserved nothing but damnation.
Salvation To Augustine
The human race was fallen and incapable of doing good, so God would supply the free gift of grace. But, out of the mass of the fallen race, God would choose some to receive this grace, which came from the work of Christ and, ordinarily, through the church—especially through its sacraments.
Augustine taught that the necessity of water baptism as a regenerating grace, which gives man back his freedom to serve God (though that service is imperfect), requires the constant gift of more grace. Those to whom God does not send His grace are lost. God chose who would and who would not receive His grace.
Augustine believed that no man could be absolutely sure, even if he currently enjoyed God’s grace, that he would be saved. Only those whom God gave the added grace of perseverance—His divine aid to the end of life—would be redeemed. Salvation is fully from God, and man plays no part in it. Furthermore, Augustine would bind membership in the visible church to the receiving of grace. A baby must be water baptized into the church, and, if it died otherwise, it would be damned.
The Message Of The Cross: Sin Nature
Adam was created in the image and likeness of God, as a son of God. When he disobeyed God, he chose to do so. God did not predestinate Adam to sin. As the representative man—and being instructed by God of what was expected of him—Adam willfully sinned against God. Sin separated and put enmity between Adam and God. In his fallen sinful condition, Adam could only reproduce after his own likeness (Gen. 5:3; Rom. 5:12-19; I Cor. 15:21-22).
The principal of sin—the sin nature—became the way that man would function. It became his nature to sin. The fall was a result of pride—not initially brought by a sinful nature but by personal desire for Adam to rule his own life, and make himself to be like God. Instead of willfully submitting to God, Adam willfully rebelled and tried to establish himself as his own authority. Therefore, Adam would now be governed by his new sinful nature instead of God’s direct leading. God would immediately protect the progeny of Adam and his race by removing him from the garden of Eden to prevent him from eating from the Tree of Life and rendering him fallen for eternity. God would kill an animal and take its skin to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness—their self-awareness and guilt—signifying the sacrifice of an innocent victim, which was necessary to cover (atone) for their sin.
Paul would tell us the consequences of how the fallen sinful nature functions. In Ephesians 2:1-3, he said we were “dead in trespasses and sins.” The separation and enmity between fallen man and God was set on man now living according to the “course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air (Satan and the world system) the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience.” All unredeemed walked—ordered their way of living—“in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” The fallen nature of man is disobedience to God and makes all men by nature “children of wrath” (under God’s judgment).
Pelagius was wrong to think that Adam was not the fountain of sin that affected mankind and was only a bad example. Augustine was wrong to think that man was rendered annihilated and incapable of having no will to choose God or to reject Him. Augustine believed that God was the author of sin by suggesting that God predestinated certain men to sin, while others would receive His grace.
Next month, we will continue this series by explaining how the sin nature rules the unsaved, and how it can rule and reign in believers who do not have the correct object of faith.