What is Sin?

The Nature and Fall of Man

by Paul G. Burbidge



            Here we are to take up a much despised subject in our day. A subject that men have ignored, avoided, and tried to nullify since it happened. Adam hid from it. Cain tried to nullify it with his bloodless sacrifice. Today, men, women, and youth continue on in Cain’s example—going about to establish their own righteousness. Our subject is who man was, what of his fall into sin, and who man is now.


            You might wonder, as we embark on this evangelism training, how a subject of such depth will help you in bringing men to Christ. You might be looking for a method to follow, and if you could work salvation in the heart of any person that just might work. A person is only saved by the mercy of God through His wounded and interceding Son, Christ Jesus. And no man ever came to Christ Jesus repenting of their sins and trusting in Him alone for all hope of salvation from sin except they first get a substantial view of their depravity.


            Yours is not the station of the saviour of souls, only Christ can save. Yours is the station of herald—the herald of truth. The person that desires the fruit of souls won for Christ must start by bringing the truth of personal sin to those that they would see saved by the mercy of God. Remember, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick.” Jesus said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mk.2:17)


The Original Nature of Man

The creation of the first man is given in general terms in Genesis chapter one, and in detail in the second chapter of Genesis. Adam was the name of the first man and in the image of God, God created him. “Lo, this only have I found,” says the Preacher, “that God hath made man upright.“ (Ecc.7:29) Adam was created upright—honest, just, and conformable to God’s standard. (Webster’s 1828) The account given to us by the Holy Ghost in Genesis 1:26 and 27 reads…


“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”


Adam bore the image of God written in finite terms, if you will. He was given dominion over all creation, (Ge.1:26) which has no voice with which to praise their Creator. (Ps.19:1-3) Adam was given fellowship with his Creator and walked in obedience for a time. He, no doubt, gave voice to the praises due the Creator from His creation. Adam, in uprightness, thoroughly loved his Creator and Lord.


Adam was created a tripartite being, as it has been termed. Man is made up of three parts, the body, soul, and spirit. (1The.5:23; He.4:12) The LORD God gave man a body from “the dust of the ground,” He breathed into Man’s body “the breath of life”—his spirit—and “man became a living soul.” We must not confuse man, a tripartite being, with God, who is a triune being. Man is not a tri-unity because each of his parts are not co-equal with the other. It takes all three of man’s parts to make a single man. God, on the other hand, is three co-equal and co-eternal persons in one God.


Man’s body is his material part. It is called our “earthly house” in 2nd Corinthians 5:1 and a “tabernacle” (i.e. tent) in 2nd Peter 1:13 and 14. This clearly pictures for us both the temporary nature of our bodies and the eternal nature of our soul and spirit. The separation of the immaterial souls and spirit from the body is called death. (Ja. 2:26; Ge.35:18) Death means separation!


The soul of man is his (immaterial) self-conscious life. The soul is the place of our emotions, intellect, and will. We see this in how God uses the terms “soul,” “heart,” and “mind” interchangeably in His Word. We can see from the Psalms that God uses heart and soul synonymously, saying: “pour out your heart before him” (Ps. 62:8) and “When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me.” (Ps. 42:4) David tells us that “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart,” in Psalm 51 and in Psalm 119:20 he proclaims, “my soul breaketh.” Solomon, in Proverbs, attributes the act of “thinking” to the heart. (Pr. 23:7a) as well as the Psalmist, “Let them not say in their heart.” (Ps.35:25) The man that denies the existence of God Almighty is a fool, and Psalm 53:1 tells us that such foolishness is said from the heart. The Holy Spirit tells us in Proverbs, to “keep thy heart with all diligence.” Why does God tell us this? “For out of it [the heart] are the issues of life.” (Pr.4:23)


The spirit of Man is man’s immaterial part that gives him consciousness of God, his creator and Master. There is no communion with the Living God without a spirit. Man was created with a spirit so that he might commune with his Creator. We should be reminded of the verse in the Gospel of John, “God is a Spirit.” This fact about God requires that “they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (Jn.4:24) Having a spirit that is living (i.e. joined) unto God Almighty, who is life, is essential to worshipping and serving God. Paul tells us that “The Spirit [Holy Spirit] itself beareth witness with our spirit [the regenerated spirit of man—Jn. 3:3], that we are the children of God.” (Ro.8:16) This teaches us that communication with God is only done on a spiritual level. God cannot be apprehended (laid hold of) by the physical senses, intellectual reasoning, or emotional conditioning. God can only be personally known at the spiritual level.


The spirit of man and the soul of man are intricately related, as they are parts of one man, but are definitely separable as seen in Hebrews 4:12—“the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit…”


Man is everlasting. All men have a beginning, but not a single person will ever cease to exist. Whether lost in sin or redeemed by Christ Jesus, all will spend eternity in either the Lake of Fire or Heaven, respectively. Man is still tripartite and still everlasting! Nevertheless, Man has corrupted his original state with sin and now has a nature that draws nothing but the righteous and fierce anger of God.


The Nature of Adam’s Sin and the Effects of the Fall

We have looked at the original upright state of Adam before His jump into sin. Let us not think that when we refer to the “FALL” that Adam just accidentally tripped into sin. He did not. Adam sinned willingly, and upon serious consideration we will probably come to ask the question, why would he do such a thing?


Adam’s rebellion was wilful. In fact the Apostle Paul speaks of the people that lived on the earth prior to the Law of God being given and noted that they “had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.” (Ro. 5:14) Said another way, before the Law of God was given, men stilled sinned, but it was not strictly a transgression—the breaking of a known law. Adam had a direct and clear command, “thou shalt not eat.” Adam was not deceived by the Serpent like Eve. Paul tells us that “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (1Ti.2:14) Both were guilty of transgressing God’s law but Adam did it with his eyes wide open. Surely, this is the lowest of rebellion; to go into rebellion with no misconceptions at all; to look the Truth straight in the face and slap Him. This brings to mind Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness—Adam was the epitome of this text. Adam held the truth, first in righteousness. Adam knew the truth of creation for God created two of every creature before Adam’s eyes so that Adam could name the animals. (Gen. 2) Adam knew the truth of the person of God, having spent time with God personally and learning of his Creator. Adam knew the truth of the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and that if he did he would surely die. Adam once held these truths in righteousness. Upon yielding to the temptation presented by Eve, Adam wilfully decides to rebel against his loving Creator and simultaneously begins holding the truth of the knowledge of God in unrighteousness. Adam no longer wants to submit to God. I cannot help but think of God’s Words in Romans chapter one: “when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” (Ro.1:21, 22) Adam knew God; he turned away from rightfully glorifying God; he rebelled; he was unthankful. Adam became vain in his imagination as is seen in his vain attempt to provide a covering of fig leaves and his now foolish heart was darkened. This is the fall on mankind! Adam, knowing who God is and having partaken of God’s blessings and sweet fellowship, turned his back on all this. He did not do it because he was duped, but did it willingly.


            Adam immediately saw himself as naked and not fit for God, and not fit to fulfill his original purpose in creation. The Scriptures record for us that “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” (Ge. 3:7) Sin made Adam shame ridden. He immediately tried to hide from himself behind fig leaves and from God somewhere in the Garden. We should note that Adam’s conscience convicted him as soon as he sinned—Ge.3:7-8. He immediately knew that he was naked, he had lost all the blessings of personal friendship with God Almighty—he was destitute. Surely, his hiding from God also suggests that he knew that he no longer was protected by God. We know that all sinners are warring against God and that the carnal mind is at enmity with God. Adam now knew the terror of the LORD. (2Co.5:11) Adam had placed himself at war with God and now becomes fearful of the judgement of God.


            The effects of the fall will be further investigated in a moment, but first we should explain the federal headship of Adam over mankind. This will answer the question, why does Adam’s sin make me a sinner?


Adam’s Federal Headship Explained

            The fact of Adam’s federal headship is stated in Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Adam was created with a holy nature and a free will. But we must realize that for Adam to really be a free moral agent he must be given the opportunity to choose, or else what use is a will if there is never an occasion to exercise it? Therefore, God gave Adam the simple test of obedience that we have spoken of already. By the sovereign design of God Adam’s image was to be passed on through procreation and his children would bear their father’s image—just as your children bear your image. The rule of bringing forth after their kind applies to all of God’s creation. In addition to this please consider God’s point of view. The value of willing love, obedience, and service was not lost on God. God has never wanted slaves. He has always looked for willing and loving servants—there is a massive difference. God gave Adam the opportunity to choose God-rule or self-rule.


Adam failed the test and corrupted his nature with his sin. He went from a holy finite friend of God to a rebel and stranger. Sin escorted Adam, in an instant, from life to death. That is, from union with God to separation from God.


You and I were still in the loins of Adam at that time. Meaning, we were still, one day, to be born from Adam. Irregardless of the vast generations that span the time between us we are the sons and daughters of Adam.  All men bear the same nature of their father Adam. (same image) When the Apostle Paul says, “For as in Adam all die,” (1Cor.15:22) we are to understand that by virtue of being in the loins of Adam when he corrupted his nature through sin and thereby, dieing unto God, we also died. We also are born with that corrupt nature and are “dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ep. 2:1)


We can see this play itself out in history from the pages of the holy book of Genesis. We read in Genesis 5:1 that, “This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him.” Then in verse three, “And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth:” (Ge.5:1, 3)


The Condition of the Heart of Man after the Fall

We have now seen the fall from holiness to filthiness, and the fact and means of sin being passed upon all men. From here we turn our attention to a more detailed look at the condition of the human heart after the fall into sin. God gives at least a couple of extended judgements on the state of our hearts, one in Psalm fifty-three and the other in Romans three.


            “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good. God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Ps. 53:1-3)

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Rm. 3:10-18)


Sin causes the heart (i.e. understanding, will, etc.) to be darkened. (Ro.1:21) The judgement of God upon your heart is clearly seen in the above Scriptures. If that does not convince you, think upon the crucifixion of Christ Jesus for a moment. Do you not see there, the most vehement hatred against sin? From those bleeding wounds flowed the proof of God’s disdain for man’s sin. At Calvary, as we view it from the sacred pages of Scripture (and not graven images on TV screens, on T-shirts, or in picture books) we see the most vigorous wrath and the sweetest grace of God.


At this point the heart fights the truth, as it always does. Remember, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Je.17:9) The deceitful hearts that dwell in us will even mimic righteousness to lead men to believe that they are good. (Ro.10:3) As all are “shapen in iniquity” (Ps.51:5) we need to realize that our own hearts have turned us aside—“a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?” (Is.44:20)


            The Bible calls sin: Walking contrary to God-Le.26:21, Rebelling against God-Is.1:2, Rising up as an enemy-Mic.2:8, Striving with our Maker-Is.45:9, and Despising God-Nu.11:20.


            All sinners carry the titles: Haters of God-Ro.1:30, Resisters of God-Ac.7:51,    Fighters against God-Ac.5:39&23:9, and Blasphemers of God-Ps.14:1. This is the black depth of men’s wicked hearts. We would rid ourselves of God if we could—kill Him if we could. It has already been said, “Away with this man” (Lk.23:18), “crucify him.” (Mk.15:13)


            You may say, I have not done all of these things; many of the sins listed in the Scriptures are foreign to my life; my parents taught me right from wrong; Yes, I am a sinner, but not that bad. Maybe you have never committed all these things. But, the fact remains that all these things reside in the heart of every man, woman, and child—in your heart. But I have been in Sunday School and Church from my youth up, I hear some say. Maybe so, but Jesus said, “for out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” (Mt.15:19) You have the same heart that Adam had, and it is out of that heart, your heart, that you have committed the sins you have. It is out of your heart, given the opportunity, that you would commit all the abominations. People have asked for decades how the people of Nazi Germany could have slaughtered 6-million Jews. The answer is rather easy, “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Out of the same heart that gossips will come murder.


            The wickedness of the human heart is the same. From fallen Adam, who sinned in the full light of the knowledge of God, to men that are so blinded by their wicked, deceitful, sinful hearts that they call evil good and good evil. Lest we think that we are less culpable than Adam for sinning due to our ignorance and blindness we ought to remember that we also have abundant revelation. We should consider the times that we have wilfully disobeyed God, we have seen others do it, and have read of people in the Scriptures that rebelled against God in the full light of revelation. It is this nature that Adam has passed to you and me.



Our first father knew a glorious day, when the LORD “crowned him with glory and honour.” (Ps.8:5) Adam was given “dominion over the works of [God’s] hands.” (Ps.8:6) Since the time of the fall we hide ourselves from God in shame and terror. Instead of having dominion over the creation, man has “changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator.” (Ro.1:25)


With the scattered Church of Jerusalem in the book of Acts we need to go “every where preaching the word.” (Ac.8:4) In the spirit of the Apostle Paul we need to go, proclaiming that the times of ignorance about the Holy God and sin are over and God “now commandeth all men every where to repent.” (Ac.17:30)


Repentance is our call. It was the call of the prophets. It was the call of the first Baptist and it was the call of Christ and His Apostles. Why? Those of you that desire the fruit of souls consider your message in light of the doctrine of fallen man and your own selves.


Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

Ephesians 2:11-22