This is part 4 of a 10 part series on the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. This reformed systematic theology for children was prepared for my own family. Much of the content is based on Bruce Ware’s Big Truths for Small Hearts. This article reviews our human nature and our sin.

Our Human Nature and Our Sin

God’s Masterpiece

The most glorious part of God’s creation is man himself. Man and woman are greater than the

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:3-9)

Attributes man is unique in God’s creation
  • Man was created at the very end of the week of creation.
  • Man was created in God’s image.
  • Man was given the responsibility to rule over all the animals of the earth.
  • Man’s creation is described in greater detail in Genesis 2.
Principles to remember about man’s uniqueness
  • We need to be humble in light of God’s goodness to make us in his image.
  • We should see human life as very dear and precious, never to be taken lightly.
  • God values human life so much that in Genesis 9:6 he requires putting someone to death for the crime of murder.

Made in God’s Image

“Then 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 birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28)

Both men and women are created completely in the image of God. They are of equal value and importance to God.

We are made in God’s image through our inner qualities.

God is spirit and does not have a body. The main way we are made in God’s image is through the inner qualities God has put within us.

We have minds and emotions and an ability to choose. We have an inner character with the design to be holy, loving, forgiving, truthful, and faithful.

Sin did great damage to these qualities. We are remade into the image of God through what Christ has done for us.

“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 1and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:8-10)

We are made in God’s image through our responsibility.

We are called to do whatever God commands us. We are to act as God wants us to act, and this is part of what it means to be made in God’s image.

Other Aspects of Our Human Nature

We are creatures, and God is the creator.

We must admit our complete dependence on God for everything in our life. All creation is dependent on God. Because we have the capacity to understand this truth, we can honor God and thank God each day.

God has complete rights over us, and as his creatures, we should render complete obedience and love to him. Anything less would be a crime against the great majesty of God and would be deserving of everlasting judgment.

God has given us the ability to know the difference between right and wrong.

Animals have emotions and some capacity to follow commands. Man has a unique moral nature and conscience.

“For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.” (Romans 2:14-15)

Because of sin, our ability to tell right from wrong is obscured. Wven though they often don’t work correctly, our moral natures give us the ability to know right from wrong and to act accordingly. Therefore, God will judge our actions and motives of our hearts.

Our bodies as well as our souls were created good.

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:31)

Some believe that our soul is good, but our body is bad. That is not true. Our bodies and every part of us are damaged by sin. Still the human body is one of the good gifts that God has given to us as human beings.

While man and woman are completely equal in value before God, woman is under man’s leadership and authority since she was created after him, to be of help to him.

“So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:21-23)

“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” (1 Timothy 2:12-15)

“For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” (1 Corinthians 11:6-10)

Men and women are equal in their common human natures, both being made in the image of God. God gives men and women different roles in the home and in the church. We are equal and yet different at the same time, and in this we reflect something of how the Persons of the Trinity relate.

How Sin Came into Our World and What Sin Is

Biblical account of man’s fall

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” (Genesis 3:1-7)

Truths about sin
  • Sin works by deceiving us, causing us to doubt the truth and believe in falsehood.
  • Sin causes us to turn from God and His ways in order to do what we think is best.
  • Sin always results in harm, ruin and death.

How Sin Has Spread to All People

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned – for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:12-19)

When Adam sinned, all of us who come from Adam would receive sin in our own inner lives (our natures). We are born into this world with sinful natures that trace back to the sin of Adam. Adam’s sinful nature results in our having sinful natures. And Adam’s guilt and condemnation carry over to our being guilty and deserving death.

“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5)

We sin in our own lives because we were already sinners in Adam. We come from Adam into this world as newborn sinners, and later when we know better, we act out that sin.

“For each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.” (Luke 6:44)

A tree does not become an apple tree when it produces its first apple. A tree bears apples because it already is an apple tree.

We are responsible along with Adam for Adam’s sin. The Bible declares that since Adam was the first human at the head of the human race, what he did affected all of us who come after him. We may not like this, but this is how God sees it. God always sees things correctly, exactly as they are.

When we act sinfully, we act in ways that we desire and intend. So God is right to hold us responsible for our sin. We need to accept the fact that as sinners by nature and as sinners by choice, we are deeply guilty before God. We cannot shift the blame. Before God, we are guilty for our sin, and we cannot pass off our guilt to anyone else.

The Punishment for Sin

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

The death spoken of here means more than dying physically or having your body die. Death for sin involves most importantly a separation from God and all that God is. To be separated from God is to be separated from everything that is good.

“They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.” (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10)

When everything that is good is removed from us, what we have left is painful and miserable and horrible beyond our imagination. The Bible states clearly that the punishment for our sin involves great misery that can never be ended.

“And in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.” (Luke 16:23-26)

Jesus taught a lot about hell and eternal punishment.

“And throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:42)

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41)

“And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:43-48)

When we see how great the punishment for our sin is, we realize in new ways just how great our sin is before God. And when we see the greatness of our punishment for sin, we also see better the greatness of Christ’s sacrifice to bear our punishment in our place.

Great punishment, great sin; great punishment, great Savior.


Basic Christian Beliefs Series

Part 1Who Is God?
Part 2What Is the Trinity?
Part 3God the Sovereign Creator
Part 4Our Human Nature and Sin
Part 5Person of Jesus Christ
Part 6Works of Jesus Christ
Part 7Holy Spirit
Part 8Our Salvation
Part 9Church of Jesus Christ
Part 10Second Coming of Jesus Christ

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