The following is a response to a request by Chad and Jamie.
WARNING! Some of what you are about to read is considered heresy by many Christian theologians. Consider carefully what you are reading before you accept any idea presented herein.
The following is a portion of a larger Bible study on why all people are sinners. In the course of this study, using only the Bible as my source material, I came to a conclusion that I was told later was heresy. This paper is currently under review by a minister and will be published on the internet later. Your comments and questions are welcome.
Let us examine one of the most extensive passages of scripture on the subject of sin.
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.
13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.
16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.
17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.
19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,
21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
From these verses we see that:
1 Sin (disobedience to the known commands/law/will of God) entered the world through Adam. (v 12)
2 (Spiritual) death entered the world through this act of disobedience. (v 12)
3 Death has spread to all people because all people have sinned. (v 12)
4 God does not charge people with sin where there is no law (standard of behavior). (v 13)
5 Spiritual death exercised an oppressive influence over people from the time of Adam to the time of Moses. (v 14)
6 It did not matter if people committed sins different from that of Adam, death still was the result. (v 14)
7 Adam is a pattern of Christ. (v 14)
8 The gift (of salvation from sinning) is different (the opposite) from the first offense (sin). (v15, 16)
9 The first offense caused many to die. (v 15)
10 The gift and the undeserved favor of God covered many. (v 15)
11 The one offense of Adam caused condemnation. (v 16)
12 The free gift (of salvation from sinning) brought justification (judicial innocence, acquittal) to many people. (v 16)
13 The actions of Adam caused death to exercise a dominant influence over many others. (v 17)
14 The actions of Christ caused an abundance of undeserved favor to be available to those who choose to receive it. (v 17)
15 The actions of Christ caused the gift of righteousness to be given to those who choose to receive it. (v 17)
16 The actions of Christ will allow those who choose to receive it to reign in this life. (v 17)
17 Because of Adam's offense, condemnation (judicial guilt) came upon all people. (v 18)
18 The righteous act of Christ caused the free gift (of salvation from sinning) to be available to all people. (v 18)
19 The righteous act of Christ caused those who receive it to be judged innocent before God. (v 18)
20 Adam's disobedience caused many to become sinners. (v 19)
21 The actions of Christ caused many to be judged innocent. (v 19)
22 The purpose of the Old Testament law is to expose, define and measure disobedience. (v 20)
23 The undeserved favor of God more than offsets the effects of sin. (v 20)
24 Sin exercised a dominant influence through/with death. (v 21)
25 The undeserved favor of God has reigned in righteousness resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ. (v 21)
Note that, according to this passage, sin did not spread to all men, death did (v 12). It says, sin entered the world (v 12). Obviously, the term “world” does not mean the dirt and plants and water of the planet, it means the people living in the world. Logic tells us that "sin" was not simply floating around in the air. The concept or principle of sin entered the world for Adam and Eve when they decided to commit a single act of knowing disobedience to the command of God.
Here is a point to consider: when did “sin enter the world”? Was it when Adam and Eve committed their first act of disobedience, or when Adam and Eve were created and given the ability to make moral/spiritual choices? Was “sin in the world” only after the incident at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or was “sin in the world” prior to that event in the form of potential? Are not all children potential sinners from the day they are born? The answer is yes. But this is not the same thing as an inheritance of a “sinful nature” as many espouse. It is simply the result of bad moral/spiritual choices that will inevitably be made.
And verse 12 says that all people have sinned. From this we understand that other people committed acts of disobedience after Adam and Eve did. And because all people have disobeyed God, spiritual death has spread to all of us. Sin and death are linked, but not as some have presented it. The concept described here is the reverse of what many Christian ministers teach. We must be careful to read what these verses say (and do not say). It is easy to interpret these verses as saying what we think they should say to support a preconceived concept.
What this passage does not describe is a cause of why or how all people after Adam sinned. Nowhere does this passage say that anything sinful was inherited or passed on genetically or spiritually. That all people are or were sinners is not at issue. The key question is WHY. And why all people are sinners is not described here.
Verse 15 is of special interest. It says that many died because of Adam's sin. Does this not teach that the spiritual/moral choice of Adam and Eve affected all people? Be careful. Paul is presenting a logical moral comparison. Read the rest of the verse. It says that “...the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.“
Does this mean that just because Jesus died as the complete sacrifice for all sins of all people that all people are automatically saved? No. We know from other scriptures that each person must engage with God/Christ/the Spirit in an act of repentance and conversion for the benefits of Christ's sacrificial death to be effective in our individual case. In the same way, just because Adam and Eve were the first sinners, they did not affect you and me directly. It is only when we participate in the same sort of activity that they did (disobedience) that we receive the same consequences that they did. So, in copying Adam's transgression we all die, just as he did.
The Greek word translated "reigned" in verse 14 is "basiluo". It means, to rule, to exercise authority, to influence, to force compliance.
The term "sin" is translated from the Greek word "harmateeah", and means, an offense, sin, to miss an intended mark, to err, to miss a prize or reward.