WHAT CHRISTIANS WERE AND ARE
In this study we shall consider two scriptures. Ephesians 2:3 declares of Christians, “We all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath even as others.” However Romans 8:16,17 states, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children–heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” These two passages furnish us with two very important themes–what Christians were and what they are. These differences are indicated by the two expressions: “the children of wrath” and “the children of God.”
First, let's give careful attention to what all Christians once were. The Bible says, “We were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” The pronoun “we” refers to Jews who became Christians, and the word, “others” refer to Gentiles who became Christians. Therefore, the expression includes the entire human race -- Jew and Gentile. The brotherhood of Churches of Christ stands diametrically opposed to the interpretation placed on this scripture by probably 95% of the religious world. Both Catholicism and most denominational churches are in agreement on this passage. They maintain that all people are born in sin. According to the false concept the words, “we were by nature the children of wrath, ” mean that we were born so. This is known in church creed books as the doctrine of, “Total Hereditary Depravity.” They would have us believe that we are born with a tendency to sin, and we inherited this tendency from Adam and Eve through our parents. This necessarily implies that all babies are sinners at birth, and they are born with a sinful nature. That is an awful charge to make against God our Creator.
The Bible does not teach such a falsehood. This could not explain the sin of Adam and Eve, for they had no parents to inherit sin from. They sinned from their own free choice, and so does everyone else. I believe this doctrine of inherited sin to be one of the worst errors ever to creep into the human mind; it is one of the doctrines of Satan and his demons. This terrible idea has led to other religious errors which eventually corrupted the New Testament plan of salvation. This erroneous belief that babies are born in sin led to the belief that babies need to be saved from the moment of birth, and it makes the claim that God's wrath is on every baby born into the world because of the original sin of Adam and Eve.. To save newborn babies, they invented another falsehood. The doctrine of infant baptism was devised, and it is claimed that it forgives only the sin inherited from Adam and Eve. This supposedly saves the child from hell should it die in infancy.
To support this dreadfully bad theological doctrine, they refer to certain very poetical passages which speak of the sinfulness of human beings very early in life. For example Psalm 58:3 says, “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.” No sound Bible teacher will understand those words literally. Why? Babies don't speak lies; they can't even talk. Babies are not liars, thieves, murderers or immoral. Estranged from the womb is just a poetical way of saying that we all begin to sin very early in life. David said they, “go astray,” that is, when they are accountable and come to the knowledge of right and wrong. They are not born astray; they go astray. It is a horrible teaching that charges little pure and innocent babies with being sinners. David made a similar statement in Psalm 51:5, “Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” David had just committed adultery with Bathsheba, a married woman, and she was carrying David's child. To cover up his sin, David had her husband murdered. He felt so guilty, so sinful and so ashamed that he felt he had sinned all the way back to his childhood. All that he meant was that we all start sinning as soon as we are old enough to know right from wrong. The meaning is we are born into a sinful world, and we all go astray very early in life. We all sin just exactly like Adam and Eve sinned. . Satan is the author of evil and temptation. He tempts us all, and as soon as a child is old enough to know right from wrong, the child becomes accountable to God. All of us succumb to evil desires very early in life. The falsehood of inherited sin is proven beyond all dispute in the New Testament. I John 3:4 says, “Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law, for sin is the transgression of the law.” No one sins until God's law is transgressed, and it is impossible for a baby to transgress or disobey God's law.
From a careful study of God's word, we can rightfully conclude that as babies we indeed inherit a sinful world and a sinful environment, and perhaps sinful parents, but we do not inherit sin. The Bible indeed says that Christians were by nature the children of wrath before their conversion, but it does not say when they became children of wrath. Ephesians 2:1-3 speaks of a time when those Christians lived a very bad life. The words “by nature” means by long practice and confirmed habit they had acquired a sinful nature. We do not inherit a sinful nature; we acquire a sinful nature by our own choice. Paul meant a sinful life had become second nature to them. People curse and take God's name in vain so often in their speech that cursing become second nature to them. When Paul said they were by nature children of wrath, he did not mean it was a matter of birth. It was a matter of living sinfully for such a long time that it was natural for them live a sinful, disobedient life. Thayer's
Greek Lexicon states that the words, “by nature,” sometimes carry the meaning of a mode of feeling and acting which by long habit has become natural. We call it second nature. Because of our depraved nature, caused by long indulged sinful habits, we are exposed to the wrath of God That is what Christians were before they became Christians: “By nature the children of wrath.” The Bible teaches acquired depravity and not hereditary depravity. The only things we inherited from Adam and Eve were physically weakened bodies and death.
Let us turn now from the past of our lives when Christians were children of God's wrath, to the happy message that rings out from our second text that tells us what Christians are. Now that we have become penitent, baptized believers in Christ the Bible says, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God”(Romans 8:16). The difference between Christians and non-christians is the difference between being the children of wrath and children of God. It's a wonderful thing that people who were once children of Satan should now be the children of God, and there are two witnesses to this fact – the Holy Spirit, the third person in the Godhead, and the Christian's own spirit. The Holy Spirit must speak first and tell me whether or not I am in God's new spiritual family on earth. He must speak first, and until He speaks I must not rely on some personal feeling or religious experience. I fear that many who claim to be Christians are not really Christians because they are relying on their own personal testimony and subjective experience rather than being guided and instructed by the Holy Spirit. No one can be a self-appointed Christian.
It is very important that we understand how the Holy Spirit bears witness to men and women that they are sons and daughters of God. How does the Holy Spirit tell us we have entered God's spiritual family? He does not speak to us supernaturally. He uses only the teaching method and instructs only through the written words of the New Testament. As the holy men of old wrote the Old Testament as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, so also holy men of God wrote the New Testament as they were moved by the Holy Spirit( 2 Timothy 3:16). The Holy Spirit is the true Author of the entire s Bible. He originated and regulated all true religion on the earth. The Holy Spirit does not speak directly and supernaturally to preachers or to individual Christians today. He does not exercise influence on anyone's heart today by some mysterious, supernatural or miraculous experience. Make sure your conversion is true to the teachings of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament and that you have done all that the Holy Spirit told you to do. Full obedience to the gospel is the first evidence of sonship, not faith alone.
If you cannot prove your obedience, you cannot prove your sonship. After your unquestionable obedience to the truth as Peter revealed it to the first 3,000 Jews who became Christians on the day the Christian religion had its beginning, you can also bear witness that you are now a child of God. When thousands of Jews, who had a part in crucifying Jesus, asked Peter what they must do to be saved, Peter delivered this message: “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”(Acts 2:38). Believing alone does not make a person a Christian. Peter's command was given to thousands of people who had come to believe in Christ and His resurrection. According to the teachings of the Holy Spirit, no one is a child of God until as a believer he commits his life openly to Christ by confession of Christ's divinity , repentance and receives the forgiveness of sins in baptism, the final act of obedience. . Baptism separates the saved from the lost. That is what the Holy Spirit tells everyone to do who believes in Christ. Dear reader, if you are not a Christian and desire to become a Christian, you go and do likewise.
After your unquestionable obedience to the truth as revealed by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, then your own spirit can also bear witness that you are now a child of God. You can look up to the sun, moon and stars and say to yourself, “This is my Father's world; He made them all. In Him I live, move and have my being..” Furthermore, since Christians are the children of God, they enjoy the privilege of sharing in the Father's inheritance. The Bible says to all who become Christians, “And if children, then heirs-- heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.” In Bible times it was the law that the firstborn son received a double portion of the inheritance; it was called the birthright. However, it is not so in God's New Covenant family. The last person who ever becomes a Christian will be as much an heir as those 3,000 Jews who first became Christians on the birthday of the church. I doubt if there is an angel in heaven who can tell us the full meaning of the expression, “heirs of God.” No one on earth can tell us the full meaning of being “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” The words are simple enough for even a child to utter, but only God fully understands what they mean, and the saved of earth shall go on learning throughout eternity all that is involved in those three short syllables. If you haven't found a church home, the body of Christians who wear no name but “Churches of Christ”(Romans 16:16) invite your investigation. Why not attend the services of a Church of Christ in your area next Sunday? You will be a welcome guest. Look in the yellow pages of the Telephone book under the heading, “Churches of Christ.”