Doctrine of Original Sin by Susan VanWagenen

Susan was gracious and sent me her original study on this topic she presented to Living Word Chapel’s Friday Bible study on February 17, 2012.  Hope you enjoy this well-researched topic. The only change I made to her document was to make the names of lucifer, satan, and the devil in lower case. I don’t like honoring these beings with capital letters.

Have a blessed day and enjoy the study.

Doctrine of Original Sin by Susan VanWagenen

Understanding sin and its nature has been a challenge for man since the beginning.  Many Christians do not differentiate between “sin” and “sins” or, put another way, the “sin principle” and “the acting out/fruit of sin”.  They use the terms interchangeably, and understandingly so, and a great deal of confusion arises.  I have grappled with this subject for quite a few years myself, and I am only beginning to scratch the surface.  I have seen people struggle with sin and live in bondage because of a lack of understanding.   So I think of this sharing as a beginning – a place to start to divide the Word concerning sin, sins, and the sinful nature.

In my opinion, Bible translators often cause confusion by their choice of words.  Sin is a case in point.
(1 John 3:4 “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.”).  Notice, sin is singular in this verse and refers to the principle of sin.  However, it also says “practices” sin, which refers to committing a sin.

(1John 5:17 “All unrighteousness is sin”.)  So according to these two verses, sin (the sin principle) is lawlessness and unrighteousness, or a breaking of God’s laws/commandments and not being in right standing with God.  It is a rejection of His plans and purposes for our lives.  Sins (plural) are the practicing or acting out of the sin principle.  I think translators would have been better off using “offense” or “transgression” instead of the word “sins”, and why not capitalize “sin” (singular) when referring to the sin principle in order to differentiate between the two?  You see how confusing it gets?

So, let’s go back to the beginning.

1) Where did sin (the sin principle) come from?


Rom 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and deathby sin; and so death  passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

According to Rom. 5:12, sin  – the sin principle – (or lawlessness – a breaking of God’s laws and unrighteousness – a state of not being in right standing with God) came into the world by means of one man – that one man being Adam.  So sin was not in the world before the fall.  Everything in the world was in right standing with God.  Adam opened the door for sin to enter.  However, where sin was before the fall or how it came to exist in the first place is the question.

1Jo 3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

According to 1John, the devil was always lawless and unrighteous, even from the beginning.  From the beginning of what?   According to Ezekiel 28:15, when he was created, lucifer was “perfect in all thy ways.”  Since he wasn’t lawless when he was created, he must have become lawless when he fell from God’s grace.  So, when did satan fall?  There are 3 main theories as to when satan fell:

1) “Gap Theory.” This view understands Genesis 1:1 as describing the original creation.  Some who hold this theory say that there was a pre-Ademic race of men (ape men) created during this time and it was also when dinosaurs were created.  Between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2 is a gap which could have been millions of years.  Genesis 1:2 they say, describes conditions as a result of God’s judgment on the world, and Genesis 1:3 and following describes a “re-creation” of the world.  This theory was devised in order to try to harmonize the facts of Genesis chapter one with evolutionary theory and their so-called geological ages.   Biblically, this theory doesn’t hold water.

2) The second theory says he fell between Gen. 2 & Gen. 3. These people hold to a recent earth (the age of the earth in terms of thousands of years, not millions of years) and they hold to a literal six-day creation week.  This theory says that the Creator made the heaven(s) and the earth in six days and He made all that is in the heaven(s) and the earth in six days (Exodus 20:11).  Since the angels, including lucifer, are part of all that is in heavens, they conclude that the creation of lucifer took place during the six days of creation.  The key to understanding when satan fell is to understand when he was created. If a person places the creation of lucifer within the six day week of creation, then he is forced to say that satan’s fall took place after Genesis chapters one and two while Adam and Eve were alive. This view is forced to conclude that the fall of satan and the fall of Adam were events that took place at about the same time in history, and that these two events were not separated by a very long period (perhaps by only a matter of days).  This argument is weak, however, for all would agree that satan is a fallen creature as Genesis chapter three begins. Prior to man’s fall, Adam still had dominion even though a fallen devil was present. Adam’s total dominion was affected by Adam’s sin, not by the presence of a fallen devil.

3)  The third theory is that satan fell prior to Gen. 1 – that the fall of satan took place prior to Genesis chapter 1 assumes that the creation of lucifer and his fall both took place prior to Genesis 1:1 and that his fall took place prior to the creation of Adam and Eve, not after their creation.  It was not satan’s sin that spoiled and ruined the earth and caused all of creation to be subject to vanity (Rom. 8:19-23). It was Adam’s sin which did this. The earth was not cursed because of lucifer’s fall, but because of Adam’s fall. Before the earth was cursed, was it not a VERY GOOD paradise even though satan was present?

In my opinion, the third theory is the best explanation – that satan’s lawlessness took place before the beginning of the creation of the universe; and by entertaining the devil and disobeying God, Adam allowed sin to enter the world and the human race.

(If anyone wants more information about these 3 views, I have a website that goes into depth: .)

Not only did sin enter the world but it brought death with it.  Sin and death are like Siamese twins – they work together.  Remember, death is not annihilation; it is separation.  After Adam and Eve sinned, separation came between mankind and God, between mankind and creation, between the man and his wife and even between the spirit/soul/body of the individual beings, even to the point of the body returning to the earth and the spirit/soul being released in death.  So death (separation) entered into all of creation when Adam sinned.

And it did not end with Adam and Eve.  Death/separation “passed upon” all men.  The word “upon” means “into”.  It passed into all of mankind because all had a share in the offense (all have sinned).  How is it possible to share in an offense when one hasn’t been born yet?

2)  How is the sin principle passed on?


Unrighteousness passed into mankind by procreation.  Adam was created in God’s image and likeness.

Gen 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.


He was similar to God (likeness) and represented God (image).  Likeness means “similitude” or similar to, resembling.  Image is a representation of something/someone – a representative.  So man was originally created similar to God to be His representative.

The fall was a turning point.  Before the fall, man was righteous before God and operated as a “spiritual being”, or spirit-led being.  The fall caused him to be separated from God.  He no longer received life from God and he became a “natural/physical being.”

After the fall, we see a change take place:

Gen 5:3 And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat [a son] in hisown likeness, after hisimage and called his name Seth:

Adam was created in God’s likeness and image, but Seth was procreated in Adam’s likeness and image.  Seth was like Adam and represented him/man.  Before the fall man was God’s representative.  After the fall man no longer represented God, he represented mankind.

1Cr 15:49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

Only by being born again do we then become representatives of God.

To me this makes a lot of sense.  How could a being, created like God but separated from Him be His representative?  He couldn’t.  It is only by rebirth that man once again unites with and represents God.

Jhn 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Only “spirit” can be born of and represent “Spirit”.  Flesh is born of and represents flesh.

At the cross of Christ, things reached a turning point once again.  When Christ died on the cross 2000 years ago, I died with Him (that’s what the Bible says).  There were 2 deaths that day – His and mine.  When He was buried, I was buried with Him.  There were 2 burials that day – His and mine.  When Christ was resurrected, I was resurrected with Him.  There were 2 resurrections – His and mine.  He did more than die in my place, He took me with Him.

Natural man dies with Christ and through rebirth becomes a ”spiritual being.” He once again is “like” God  – a spiritual (Spirit-led) being, and is in God’s “image” – God’s representative.

Now just in case somebody wants to throw in a monkey wrench by quoting James 3:9 which says:

Jam 3:9 Therewith bless we God,  (speaking of the tongue) even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.

Your particular version might use the word “image” instead of “likeness/similitude”, I checked 18 different translations.  Fifteen used either likeness or similitude and only 3 used image.  I am satisfied that man has never lost his “likeness” to God, but ceased to be God’s representative after the fall, which is restored at new birth.

There are 2 views about how sin is passed on:  1) Federalism:  Legal view – Adam as the federal head or representative of mankind sinned and original sin and its penalty (condemnation) were imputed to all future generations.  2) Seminalism: Genetic/physical view – The sin nature and spiritual death were transmitted via procreation.

I think that both views have merit.  For me, federalism speaks to why sin is imputed to all mankind, and seminalism speaks to how it is imputed.

I want to share with you an interesting theory based on seminalism.  I say “theory” because I don’t have any scientific background, so I cannot judge it.  The theory is based on meiosis – which is the process of cellular division which produces gamete cells (reproductive cells – egg, sperm).  Gamete cells have half the number of chromosomes that other cells have, so that when the egg and sperm unite, each brings half the number needed = 46.

To produce a sperm cell, a cell divides and produces 2 cells, each with 23 chromosomes.  Then a second division takes place.  The 2 cells divide but do not reduce the number of chromosomes – they duplicate themselves.  Four cells are produced each having 23 chromosomes.  This process is called symmetrical meiosis because it involves equal (symmetrical) division.

The egg has a totally different process called asymmetrical meiosis.  During the first division, one cell with 23 chromosomes is formed, plus a “polar body” (non-functioning cell containing discarded genetic material).  During the second division, more genetic material is discarded and all nutritional material is absorbed by the primary cell – egg. So instead of producing 4 cells, each with 23 chromosomes (as in the case of sperm), you have 1 egg cell with 23 chromosomes, plus the polar bodies which are later discarded by the body.

That’s the biology behind the theory.  The theory goes on to say that the discarded material in the polar bodies includes “sin” or the “sin principle” (or sin nature).  According to this theory, the egg is pure and contains no sin.  When impregnation takes place, the egg becomes contaminated by the sin principle in the sperm, which did not discard any genetic material during its meiosis.

Now if this theory is credible, then Ex 34:7 makes sense:  “visiting the iniquity of the fathers  (no mention is made of mothers) upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth [generation]”. 

This is not an indictment against men.  It is a possible explanation of how the sin principle is transferred from Adam into all of mankind.  It was Adam who allowed sin to come into the world.  Therefore it seems logical that it is through the male that the sin principle would be transferred.  The word “fathers” in Ex 34:7 means: father, head of household, grandfather, forefather.  So it definitely refers to the male gender.

This would also solve the problem that the Catholic church dealt with by adding the doctrine of “immaculate conception”.  Their problem was:  How could a perfect man (Jesus) be conceived by an imperfect person (Mary)?   Mary had to be without sin so that her son would not be contaminated – therefore, the doctrine of immaculate conception:  Mary “…was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin…”  It amazes me that the main player, the father – God – perfect, sinless, holy – doesn’t seem to have a place in this scenario.   But I’ll extend a little mercy here.  If they had known about meiosis and the theory we just looked at, they would not have had a problem in the first place.  A sinless Father produced a sinless Son.  If the mother’s egg was devoid of sin, having it removed by the polar bodies, there would not have been a problem.

3) Where is the sin principle?

Rom 7:17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Rom 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing

So, according to Romans, sin dwells “in my flesh”.  The word “flesh” sometimes means the non-spirit part of us – the soul/body.  Other times it refers to just the physical part of us – the body.  That’s the definition of the word here.  Sin dwells in my body at the genetic level.  That’s why we have not been delivered from the “presence” of sin, only from its power and penalty.  That’s also why the flesh is said to be our enemy.

Gal 5:17 For the fleshlusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

According to Galatians, the flesh is in opposition to the Holy Spirit and tries to prevent us from walking according to the Spirit.

4) Do I have a sin-nature?

For those who like to “argue the scriptures”, this is a great topic.  Get into this one and you can go round and round forever.  In my opinion, the answer is no – a born again believer does not have a sin-nature.

The KJV does not use the term “sin nature”, nor does it use the term “sinful nature”.  The NIV, however, uses “sinful  nature” twice:

Rom 7:25 (NIV) Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin


The KJV translates Romans 7:25 this way:

Rom 7:25   I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
Rom 8:3 (NIV) For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.

The KJV translates 8:3 this way:

Rom 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

When the NIV uses the term “sinful nature”, KJV uses “the flesh”.   As a matter of fact, out of 16 translations that I checked, 2 used “sinful nature”, 1 used “human nature”, 1 “corrupt nature”, and 12 used “flesh”.  But we really should save the argument about which Bible version is the right one for another time.

Again, in my opinion, the term “sinful nature” should not be used.  Our problem is that sin dwells in our flesh.  Before we die with Christ, we serve sin.  A person who serves sin is a sinner.  When we are reborn, sin’s power over us is broken and we no longer serve sin but God.  The Bible calls such people “saints” which literally means “holy ones”.  Holy ones are not sinners, nor do they have a sinful nature.  They have partaken of the divine nature.  That’s why John says:

1Jo 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

Using Strong’s Concordance, this verse literally says, “Every individual who is Fathered out of  (by) God makes not a share in missing the mark because himself (God’s) seed (Holy Spirit) abides in him: and he cannot have the ability to miss the mark, because he is Fathered by God.”  This is referring to the spirit of man which is a new creation.

Whoever is born again does not sin (habitually), because God’s seed (Holy Spirit) is in him giving him a new nature which does not serve sin.  It is against his nature for a born again person to habitually sin.  Do we sometimes miss the mark?  Yes, because sin dwells in our flesh, and whenever we walk according to the flesh we miss the mark.  But when we walk according to the Spirit, we cannot sin.

So many of God’s children have been duped into thinking that they really are not new creatures in Christ, even though the Word of God says they are.  Experientially, they still see themselves as they were before they were born again – all-be-it “new and improved” to some extent.  But why would God raise me to new life (old things have passed away, all things have become new) and put that same old sinful nature in me?  If I am in the same state after dying with Christ, then why would He bother?  It makes no sense.

Legally, any sin a Christian commits is not held against him.  Why?  Because Christ already paid the penalty.  That’s what pleading the blood is all about.  It is a legal tactic – the prosecutor (Satan) accuses the brethren; the judge (God) says, “How do you plead?”  The defense attorney (Jesus) answers on our behalf, “Not guilty by reason of the shed blood,” and he presents evidence that pure, sinless blood was shed in payment of the believer’s sin.  Case dismissed.

So why then do we need to confess our sins and repent?  Not for God’s sake – God is satisfied with the blood of Christ.  It’s for our sake – in order that we might appropriate God’s forgiveness and restore fellowship with Him.  We need to reckon ourselves dead to sin (separated from sin) and balance our accounts.  Anyone who has done any bookkeeping knows about debits and credits.  By confession we agree that we have an offense in the debit column; and by repentance we move it to the credit column mark the offense “paid in full”, and close the books.  It is up to each of us to keep our accounting up-to-date and not allow Satan to build his case against us.

Rom 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the lawof sin and death.

We are under a different legal system – the law of the Spirit.  Since we are no longer under the law of sin and death, God does not hold sin to our account.

Rom 5:13 For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is  no law.

Imputed, like reckon, is an accounting term which means to pass to one’s account.  God does not hold us accountable under the Old Covenant law because under the New Covenant we are under a new and different legal system.

Col 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
Col 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us (OT law), which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

Because we are believers, joined with Christ who is the head of the body (our federal head), we are no longer subject to the power and penalty of sin.  Too many Christians are buried under guilt and shame.  Too many Christians see themselves as failures.  Too many Christians have resigned themselves to a mediocre life of fighting a losing battle with sin.  Lies – all lies of Satan.  Jesus did it all for us.  He broke sin and Satan’s power and he paid our penalty.  And He said, “It is finished!”

Watchman Nee puts it this way, “Consider yourselves dead to sin” must be followed by “let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies” (Rom 6:11-12).  Following the change of mentality there must be the bringing of “every thought captive to obey Christ” (2Cor 10:5).  The mind must be renewed completely, since any residue of its carnality is hostile to God” (Rom 8:7).

God desires believers’ minds to be totally renewed, but we have to do our part.  The salvation of our spirit took place when we were born again. The salvation of our bodies will be in the future.  And the salvation of our soul is a process and takes place by the renewing of our minds.

Consider yourself dead to sin and don’t let it have control over you.  Bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.  Don’t let your mind have free reign to think whatever it pleases.  The enemy loves and undisciplined mind.  Draw near to God and resist the devil.  Drawing near to God isn’t enough, we must resist the devil as well.  And walk according to the spirit, not according to the flesh.

John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.


Jamieson, Fausset  & Brown Commentary:


Col 2:14-15 – 14. Blotting outGreek, “Having wiped out”; coincident in time with “having forgiven you” ( Col 2:13 ); hereby having cancelled the law’s indictment against you. The law (including especially the moral law, wherein lay the chief difficulty in obeying) is abrogated to the believer, as far as it was a compulsory, accusing code, and as far as “righteousness” (justification) and “life” were sought for by it. It can only produce outward works, not inward obedience of the will, which in the believer flows from the Holy Spirit in Him ( Rom 3:21 7:2, 4 Gal 2:19 ).
the handwriting of ordinances–rather, “IN ordinances” (see on JF & B for Eph 2:15); “the law of commandments contained in ordinances.” “The handwriting” (alluding to the Decalogue, the representative of the law, written by the hand of God) is the whole law, the obligatory bond, under which all lay; the Jews primarily were under the bond, but they in this respect were the representative people of the world ( Rom 3:19 ); and in their inability to keep the law was involved the inability of the Gentiles also, in whose hearts “the work of the law was written” ( Rom 2:15 ); and as they did not keep this, they were condemned by it.
that was against us . . . contrary to usGreekadversary to us”; so it is translated, Hbr 10:27 . “Not only was the law against us by its demands, but also an adversary to us by its accusations” [BENGEL]. TITTMANN explains the Greek, “having a latent contrariety to us”; not open designed hostility, but virtual unintentional opposition through our frailty; not through any opposition in the law itself to our good ( Rom 7:7-12, 14 1Cr 15:56 Gal 3:21 Hbr 10:3 ). The “WRITING” is part of “that which was contrary to us”; for “the letter killeth” (see on JF & B for 2Co 3:6).
and took itGreek, and hath taken it out of the way” (so as to be no longer a hindrance to us), by “nailing it to the cross.” Christ, by bearing the curse of the broken law, has redeemed us from its curse ( Gal 3:13 ). In His person nailed to the cross, the law itself was nailed to it. One ancient mode of cancelling bonds was by striking a nail through the writing: this seems at that time to have existed in Asia [GROTIUS]. The bond cancelled in the present case was the obligation lying against the Jews as representatives of the world, and attested by their amen, to keep the whole law under penalty of the curse ( Deu 27:26 Neh 10:29 ).

About Heather Marsten

Welcome to Heather's Blog. I'm looking forward to meeting you and checking out your sites. I just moved about nine years of material over from another blog site, Xanga, who may close down mid-July. At first I was disappointed to make the move because I had a lifetime membership at Xanga and had to spend weeks transferring posts. But now I'm thrilled. Already I've met new bloggers and read many new websites. Blogging is a wonderful way to expand my horizons and garner new ideas. I'm a happily married mom of three young adults. My husband and I are proud to watch our children grow and venture out into the world. My daughter is still in college but my two sons have graduated. One has a job and the other just graduated and is in the process of finding a job in his field, physics. Anyone know of any jobs out there? I'm proud of our children and love watching them grow and mature. They've become fine, compassionate, and loving people. Empty nest? Nah, I'm too busy to let an empty nest bother me. Not enough hours in the day. My husband and I enjoy quiet time together and I have many interests to pursue - one of which is blogging :D I am a born-again believer and love God. As you read this blog, you will discover that Bible studies thrill me. There is so much wisdom contained between the covers of the Bible and I am fortunate to sit under the teachings of a remarkable pastor, Pastor Don Moore. Members of our church (Living Word Chapel in West Hurley, New York) are encouraged to teach and there are visiting pastors who stop by our church, I also study the Bible on my own and love sharing what I learn. One other passion is writing. My current work in process is a memoir. A scene from my memoir was published in a book called: Heavenly Company: Entertaining Angels Unaware - an anthology of angelic encounters compiled by Cecil Murphy. I'm hoping my memoir will encourage other survivors of abuse. I grew up in a home filled with abuse, including incest. For most of my life I was searching for something that would fill the void of not being loved by my parents. I tried many ways to find that love -- therapy, relationships, occult studies, and keeping my life so filled I had no way to think about my past. It was only when I discovered God that I was able to put the pieces of my life back together and walk forward in a joyous life. My nickname - wondering has changed from wondering where the heck God was in my life, to wondering what incredible adventure is going to happen next. I hope you enjoy my site. Please say hi, share some thoughts, and ask questions. I look forward to meeting you and checking out your sites. Have a blessed day. Heather
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