Born in Iniquity: Psalm 51 (part 6)

“Behold, in iniquity I was birthed,

and in sin, my mother conceived me.”

(Psalm 51:7 {Psalm 51:5 in English Bibles})

 

A diamond is formed when coal is compacted under a great deal of force, essentially squeezing a great deal of matter into a small object.  Beloved, the same is true with verses like this one!  How much doctrine is found in these few words (6 words in the original Hebrew).  In this short little verse we find one of the great proofs and reminders of the doctrine of Original Sin as it is passed down from generation to generation.  David is not talking about his mother’s sin in this verse, but continuing to grieve over his own—even as an unborn baby.  Mankind is not free from sin at birth as the ancient heretic Pelagius asserted, no, we are born knowing sin, we will live all of our lives knowing sin’s awful taste, and we will die in sin—how great is our need for a savior!  Oh, how great is our need for Jesus!

So why is it important that we hold so clearly to this doctrine.  First of all, it is Biblical, and to deny scriptural truth is both folly and heresy.  Secondly, were it possible for a child to be born without sin, it would be possible for that child to live without sin—and were one to live without sin, one would no longer need a savior.  And were it possible than men could stand as righteous before God in the merit of their own righteousness, it would make Jesus’ life, ministry, and death meaningless and unnecessary, and to suggest that would again be folly and heresy.

Pelagius was an English monk in the early Roman Empire, who came to live in Rome around the year 390 AD.  Pelagius saw the excesses of the people and attributed their sinful behavior to the doctrine of Free Grace.  Rather than exhorting people to strengthen what they had been given by God (2 Peter 1:5-8), he denied Original Sin and Total Inability, ultimately saying that if God expects us to live up to his perfect law, we have the ability to do so.  Augustine would be the one who refuted Pelagius and Pelagius’ theology would be branded as heretical.  Augustine carefully defended these two doctrines, showing first that throughout scripture, since the fall of Adam and Eve, men and women have been born with sin in their lives (this being one of the proof-texts) and secondly, because we have sin, we stand condemned before a righteous and holy God.  God expects us to be perfect as he is perfect (Matthew 5:48), and with sin in our lives, it is impossible for us to be perfect—we cannot measure up, no matter how noble or honorable we are, our record is still marred.

Yet, beloved, that is the good news!  Though we are far from perfect, though we were born in sin, having inherited it from our fathers and being born under the federal headship of Adam, though we have added to that inherited sin our own sin and willful disobedience of God, though we stand wretched and poor before the throne of God’s judgment, if we are trusting in Christ as our Lord and Savior we will not be judged by the measure of our own righteousness, but we will be judged by the measure of the righteousness of Christ!  Hallelujah!  Adam failed in his headship, but God did not leave us to ruin and gave us a second Adam, a new federal head, the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, so that if we believe in him with our heart and confess him with our lips, trusting him as our Lord and Savior, we would not perish in judgment, but be delivered, not because of who we are, but because of who Christ is.  And, oh, how that is such good news!

So, beloved, here we stand with David:  guilty as charged.  In fact, there has never been a time when we have not stood before God as guilty and deserving of condemnation.  This should always be before us, but at the same time, how it is especially clear when we must repent from acts of willful disobedience.  This was the anointed King of Israel, and he stands guilty of murdering a friend to cover up his adultery with that friend’s wife—how wretched David must have felt as he gazed upon the filth of his heart.  Loved ones, work to nurture within yourselves a healthy recognition of your own inability.  Let it not be an excuse for immorality, but let it drive you more and more to a sense of reliance on prayer and God’s provision.  Learn to hate your sins—especially the “pet” sins that you have sought to hold onto—and work to live in a way that glorifies God in every moment of your day.  Strive to be holy as God is holy (Leviticus 11:45).

Holy, Holy, Holy!  Though the darkness hide thee,

Though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,

Only thou art holy, there is none beside thee

Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

-Reginald Heber

 

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