Pastoral Overview

This monthly blog series contains a brief pastoral overview of each chapter of the 2nd London Confession. Written by a pastor for his flock, this series is a lovely collection of articles aimed at introducing congregations to the confession.

Chapter 6 - Of the fall of man, of sin, and of the punishment thereof

Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them whereby death came upon all: all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.

They being the root, and by God’s appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free.

Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, Ch6, P2 & 3.

How Sore a Plague is Sin

The doctrine of Scripture that is the most offensive and unpleasant for the natural man to accept is the teaching concerning humanity’s fall. Learning about the extent, depth and consequence of the fall can be the most depressing of realities. It brought death to all men and made all children of wrath, leaving them unable to change their state. Yet, it can be one of the most helpful for the regenerate to grasp. When properly understood, it assures the believer of salvation and furnishes practical application for the Christian life. 

No other teaching accurately explains the world we live in and the personal experience of the human heart. Contrary to modern thought, humanity is not on the rise in the process of evolution. Instead, it is fallen from the place of life to death. ‘God made man upright, but he [i.e. man] has sought out many schemes’ (Ecclesiastes 7:29).

God placed humanity in the garden of Eden with a command not to eat of the tree of good and evil, declaring, ‘for in that day that you shall eat it you shall surely die’ (Genesis 2:17). On the day when Adam sinned and broke God’s law by taking and eating the forbidden fruit, our first parents fell from their original righteousness and communion with God. Thus, death entered the world and thus spread to all men. 

There are many objections against the biblical doctrine of the fall, but two especially are raised. The first objection is to the Biblical teaching of the total depravity of the human soul due to the fall. Not only does sin spread to all, but it also defiles every faculty of the body and soul. Therefore, the whole of a person: heart, mind, will and conscience, has been damaged to such an extent that no one can come to God in their own strength. 

Not only does sin spread to all, but it also defiles every faculty of the body and soul. Therefore, the whole of a person: heart, mind, will and conscience, has been damaged to such an extent that no one can come to God in their own strength.

The natural man cannot accept this because he will not believe what God says is true. Humanity’s natural disposition is against God and his word. His mind is darkened because his deeds are evil. He prefers to choose his own way, thinking that man’s wisdom is sufficient. Thus, he defiles his conscience by thinking and acting against his created purpose to glorify God. The second objection is to the Biblical teaching that Adam is the federal head of the human race. The natural man refuses to accept that Adam’s sin is imputed to all humanity, and because of what he did, all die.

Thus, the natural man denies reality and lives a lie, for he cannot deny that evil and death exist. Indeed, he cannot deny his insatiable desire to rebel against God and that the bloody murder and sacrifice of Jesus Christ were necessary to redeem his fallen humanity. He refuses to believe that he requires the deliverance from an eternal death that he earned and deserves.

This imputation would be bad news if not for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Although the imputation of Adam’s sin to all seems unfair, the gospel’s message is that many are made righteous through one man’s act. ‘For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous’ (Romans 5:19). Therefore, the biblical understanding of the fall is vital for comprehending the blessed free grace of salvation. 

The teaching of original sin should not be neglected. It lies at the foundation for why we need God’s salvation. The neglect of this teaching can bring the Christian deep disappointment and frustration, failing to realise how deep sin has shaped and affected us as human beings. Sin reigns in the hearts of the unregenerate person but also remains in those who have become Christians. Thus, we should not be shocked or surprised by our failings. Sin is powerful and still present in the Christian experience. However, the believer is pardoned in Christ.

Consequently, sin continues to be mortified by the power of the Holy Spirit. Believers must recognise that sin has been dealt a death blow in the death of Jesus Christ. It no longer has dominion over them. A new principle of life now reigns in every believer. Though Christians may fail to live according to God’s law, they can rest in Christ’s finished work and find strength through the Holy Spirit’s power to put the body’s unholy deeds to death. Their ultimate victory over sin is as sure as the fall itself. 

How sore a plague is sin, to those by whom ’tis felt! 

The Christian cries, Unclean! Unclean! E’en though released from guilt. 

I’ll bear the unequal strife, and wage the war within; 

Since death, that puts an end to life, shall put an end to Sin. 

Joseph Hart

Chris Rees

Chris Rees

Minister, Bethesda Baptist Chapel, Narberth, Wales