The Bible so often speaks of human depravity and our need for a Savior, that it’s hard to imagine why this could be such a controversial topic. In fact, the concept of human depravity is reinforced by all of the teachings throughout the New Testament concerning our freedom in Christ. (You have to first be enslaved or chained to something before you can be set free of it!) But truth be told, this idea of slavery to sin is uncomfortable to some. Are we really trying to say that people don’t have the ability to be “good” without Christ?
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One thing we need to remember before we dive into this topic is that human depravity (our need for a Savior due to our slavery to sin) does NOT mean we don’t have value. Jesus died for mankind while we were still sinners. He looked at us and saw value, not worthlessness.
Our need for a Savior does not mean we are less than. If anything, the story of our salvation demonstrates God’s love unconditional for us as His beloved creation. We are sinful, yes. We desperately need saving, and we have no means of saving ourselves. But God never stopped loving us… even to the point of death on a cross.
What happened in the Garden of Eden?
All my life, I heard this story one way. Adam and Eve sinned. We were separated from a holy God because of our sin. And Jesus came to die for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. Every aspect of the fall of man, as well as our salvation, was all about the problem of “sin.”
And while it is true that sin ruined it all, it is actually the result of that sin that changed everything.
- Death now reigned in the world. – Romans 5:14 tells us that “death reigned” after the sin of Adam. The truth is that once they knew both good and evil, once they gave the enemy a place to speak into their lives, and once they opened the door to evil in this world… death would follow. This was a consequence God so desperately wanted to spare them from when He commanded them not to eat the fruit.
- The earth suffered consequences as well. – When death entered the world, it didn’t just affect humans. The earth was also cursed. It is because of sin that trees, plants, and flowers die. The ground would now produce weeds and make life difficult for Adam as he now had to labor for his food. (Genesis 3:17-19)
- Darkness had dominion over this earth. – Colossians 1:13 refers to the kingdom of this world as the “domain of darkness,” and Ephesians 5:8 says that we were once “darkness” before becoming light in Christ Jesus. I find it interesting that before God spoke in Genesis 1, the earth was covered in darkness. His first words were… let there be light.
- There would now be unrest in our relationships. – This isn’t typically something that comes to mind when you think of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. But truth be told, God’s words to Eve were all about pain and unrest. When God said “in pain you will bring forth children,” I don’t think He was simply speaking of physical pain. Having children would now be difficult, and even painful in more ways than one. And not only that but her relationship with her husband would now be strained. Once equals in the garden, men and women would now be subject to the curse in their relationships. (Genesis 3:16)
- We would become spiritually blind and easily deceived. – Jesus came to restore sight to the blind, and all of mankind is included in this statement. The world would become so blind that they would serve hundreds of false gods, sacrifice their own children, treat people as property, etc. Even when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, they too were accustomed to worshiping idols and living for no one but themselves.
- The fall of man led to our captivity. – Slavery. Bondage. Captivity. We were bound to sin prior to Christ. Spiritually speaking, sin had a hold on our lives. It held a power that in our spiritual blindness, we couldn’t see.
- The separation of heaven and earth ultimately separated us from God. – This perhaps was the greatest consequence of them all. The Bible tells us that God is spirit. Yet, Adam and Eve were able to walk and talk with Him here on this earth. Heaven and earth were intertwined. The Garden of Eden, which contained the Tree of Life, was on this earth for them to consume and have eternal life. But the fall of man led to a separation. In His love for mankind, God removed Adam and Eve from the garden and put His ultimate plan into motion.
You see, sin separates us from God. But isn’t simply because you are filthy and God can’t look at you. How do I know this? Because Jesus regularly associated with sinners. The problem of sin and how it separates us from God goes much deeper than simply being “unclean.” Sin essentially ruined everything. It sent us straight into the kingdom of darkness, bound us in heavy chains, and destined us to die. (The wages of sin is death, is it not?)
Our wrestle with sin before Christ…
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” – John 8:34
The Garden of Eden changed everything for God’s creation. Everything became subject to the kingdom of darkness… including mankind. When we think of human depravity in a theological sense, it’s easy to view it as our inability to “be good.” We are terrible people who can’t do anything godly… right? But the truth is that depravity goes much deeper.
As we can see in the Garden of Eden, a lot happened that fateful day when Adam and Eve sinned. The entirety of God’s creation changed. We needed a Savior… and not just us, but all of creation.
For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. – Romans 8:19-21
Our relationship to sin prior to Christ was bondage to it. And those who have not accepted God’s free gift of salvation are still in bondage to it whether they realize it or not. (The Bible describes it as entanglement, bondage, slavery, etc.)
Scripture reinforces this idea of slavery to sin by confirming our freedom in Christ. Jesus came to set the captives free! And He wasn’t referring to actual prisons or chains, but spiritual ones.
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. …But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:17-18, 22-23 (NIV)
Our relationship to sin after Christ…
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. – Colossians 1:13
So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free. – John 8:36
This is the Good News! We are set free from sin!
Here’s the truth: Christians mess up. Just because we have been set free from the chains of slavery, doesn’t mean we will be perfect from that point forward.
When a child of God sins, it’s because we chose to submit to the flesh at that moment instead of submitting to the Holy Spirit. It’s as if we willingly walked back into our jail cell and put the chains back on ourselves.
When I had this realization of truth, I couldn’t help but think about all the times in my life when I did just that. I put the chains back on that Jesus died to set me free from. This is one of the reasons we are called to live holy lives. We have been set free from sin (and the death that it brings), therefore going back to it simply makes no sense.
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? …It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 4:8-9, 5:1 (NIV)
Next, we will be diving into the basic doctrine of who Jesus really is.
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.