Sin - A Summary of the Christian Faith by Henry Eyster Jacobs - Chapter 8

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Question: What is “concupiscence”?

The temper or attitude or disposition of man’s heart and mind in antagonism to all that God wants and is. This concupiscence is not limited to any one of the commandments, but is directed against them all.

(You can find other chapters of Jacobs’ book here.)

1. What is sin?

1 John 3:4 — “Sin is lawlessness.”

2. What does this mean?

That God has fixed a standard, and that whatever in state or in act, fails to meet its requirements is sin.

3. What is the standard?

His Law, or the eternal rule of right by which He has prescribed what He wants His creatures to be, to do, or to refrain from doing.

4. Give 3 then, a somewhat fuller definition.

Sin is to be otherwise, and to do otherwise, than God means us to be or do.

5. Who is the cause of sin?

“They teach that although God creates and preserves nature, yet that the cause of sin is the will of the wicked, i. e., of the devil and ungodly men, which will, unaided of God, turned itself away from Him” (Augsburg Confession, Art. Xix).

6. How many kinds of sin are there?

Two: Original and Actual.

7. What is Original Sin?

“Since the Fall of Adam, all men begotten according to nature, are born with sin, that is without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; and this disease or vice of origin is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Ghost” (Augsburg Confession, Art. 2).

8. Where then does Original Sin begin?

In the Fall of Adam. Rom. 5:12 — “Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all sinned.”

9. But is Original Sin a Scriptural term?

No, but a term employed by the Church to express the truth taught in the above passage, as well as frequently elsewhere in Scripture.

10. Does it always refer to the same thing?

Sometimes it designates the act of disobedience to God’s prohibition in Paradise (“Original Sin originating”), or the First Sin of our race. Sometimes it refers to the corruption or depravity of human nature in consequence of the First Sin (“Original Sin originated”). Article Second of the Augsburg Confession uses it in the second sense.

11. What was the significance of the prohibition in Paradise?

It was a test of obedience.

12. What was involved in the disobedience?

Before the external act of reaching forth the hand and taking the forbidden fruit, there was doubt in the intellect (Gen. 3:3), an inordinate desire for greater resemblance or equality with God in the will (Gen. 3:5), and lust for the gratification of sense beyond what God allowed (Gen. 3:16).

13. What commandment was violated?

In breaking one commandment, the whole Law was violated.

Break one link of a chain and the whole chain is broken; cut an ocean cable at one point, and the whole cable is severed.

James 2:10 — “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”

14. Why is the sin known as “the sin of Adam”?

Because while Eve fell and was involved in all the consequences of the Fall, he was the head of the race, and had he proved faithful, God could have provided another mother for his descendants. 15. What were the consequences of the Fall?

(a) The loss of the divine image, in its strict sense, or the perfections with which human nature was endowed at creation (see above, Chapter Vii, 26-30).

(b) Guilt, or the disgrace and moral taint resulting from sin.

(c) A state or habit of sin. For the lack of the perfections of the divine image is of itself sin. If the sum of the commandments is love to God, the absence of this love is assuredly sin.

(d) Punishment, the inseparable attendant of guilt.

16. What was the Punishment?


Gen. 2:17 — “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” Rom. 5:12 — “Death passed upon all men, for that all sinned.” Rom. 6:23 — “The wages of sin is death.”

17. How many forms of this punishment are there?

Three: Death Spiritual, Temporal and Eternal.

(a) Spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God, or the interruption of the life-communion which the soul had with God.

Eph. 2:5 — “Even when we were dead through our trespasses made he us alive together with Christ.”

Col. 2:13 — “And you being dead through your trespasses.” Cf. Matt. 8:22; Luke 9:60; 15:24; 1 Tim. 5:6.

What the soul is to the body, God was to the soul. With the interruption of this relation, all spiritual life vanished.

(b) Temporal death, or the separation of the soul from the body.

Eccl. 12:7 — “The dust returneth to the earth as it was, and the spirit to God who gave it.”

(c) Eternal death is the eternal state of the soul reunited with the body and separated from God. This is called also “the second death” (Rev. 2:11; 20:14; 21:8; Chapter Xxxix).

18. How do these three unite?

They are only stages of one and the same death. As in bodily death, one sense, or one portion of the body dies before another, or a twig may blossom even after cut from its stalk, so the separation of the soul from God results in temporal death, and temporal death culminates, if unarrested, in eternal death.

19. How was the warning, “In the day that thou eat est thou shall surely die,” fulfilled?

The spiritual death was immediate, and even the processes of temporal death began at once. But the fact that the culmination is reached only by a long process, is doubtless due to the provision which God was making for man’s redemption. The shadow of the Cross already fell across the human race, and protected it from the full heat of the divine wrath.

20. You spoke of “the processes of temporal death.” Explain this?

By “processes” I mean all infirmities and diseases of body and soul, and the suffering which they bring. The healthiest body has its organs enfeebled or diseased. Since the Fall, health is only a relative term.

21. But were this guilt and this punishment limited to our first parents?

Rom. 5:12 — “And so death passed upon all men, for that all sinned.”

22. How can we be responsible for the sin of another?

In one sense, Adam’s sin was not the sin of another. All humanity was in Adam, and in him lost the endowments that pleased God. Beside, he stood not only as the organic head, but as the federal head of the race.

1 Cor. 15:22 — “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

23. But have we not an express declaration, “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father” (Ez. 18:20)?

The prophet is speaking of actual sins, which he enumerates in the context. We do not participate in the guilt of any ancestral sin, since that of Adam. The common nature derived through our parents has been corrupted by Adam’s sin; this, with all its sin, we inherit. But the specific sins to which this common corrupt nature led in my ancestors since Adam do not belong to me.

24. How then about Ex. 20:5, “Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children upon the third and upon the fourth generation of them that hate me”?

Here the children share in the guilt of the actual sins of parents by following their example, and committing like sins.

25. What two terms have theologians used to explain the relation of Adam’s sin to his descendants?

Immediate and Mediate Imputation.

Immediate Imputation is when the first sin in the Garden of Eden is said (as above, 22) to be ours. Mediate Imputation is where the sin of Adam is viewed as the source of the corruption of human nature which has followed, and this corruption is found to merit God’s wrath.

The argument of Mediate Imputation is that if the condition of our nature is sinful, and this sinfulness came from Adam, our responsibility for this sinful state means that we partake in his guilt for its existence.

26. Which form of the doctrine is taught by Lutheran Church?

Both; but in accordance with the thoroughly practical character of our Church, chief stress is laid upon the latter, since it is most effective in convincing men of their being by nature beneath God’s wrath. Hence the Augsburg Confession in Article 2, defines Original Sin as the corrupt state of our nature, and lays all emphasis upon “Original Sin originated” (see above, 10), which many theologians, particularly in the Reformed Church, regard not as sin itself, but as a punishment of sin.

27. Into what elements does the Augsburg Confession resolve Original Sin?

Into a negative, viz., “to be without the fear of God and without trust in God,” and a positive element, “to have concupiscence.”

28. How can the former be sin?

By being a violation of the First Commandment, which is the sum of all the commandments. Not to be able to fear and love God is of itself want of conformity with God’s Law (see above, 1-4); it is being otherwise than what God wants us to be.

29. What is “concupiscence”?

The temper or attitude or disposition of man’s heart and mind in antagonism to all that God wants and is.

Rom. 8:7 — “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”

1 Cor. 2:14 — “The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him.”

Matt. 15:19 — “For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, railing.”

James 1:14 — “Each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed.”

Gal. 5:17 — “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit.”

This concupiscence is not limited to any one of the commandments, but is directed against them all. Augustine, and after him, the Medieval Church, was inclined to place its chief sphere in desires contrary to the Sixth Commandment.

30. How extensive is Original Sin?

With one exception, all are its subjects. The Augsburg Confession uses the words, “All men born according to the common course of nature are born with sin,” in order to exempt from its statement the humanity of Christ.

Heb. 4:15 — “In all points, tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Heb. 7:26 — “Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.”

31. Prove this universality.

The entire argument of the fifth chapter of Romans is to the effect that the presence of death is a proof of sin, and that whoever dies must have sinned. The death of Christ we know occurred by His bearing the sins of the human race. “Death reigned,” we are told in v. 14, “from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression,” i. e., even where actual sin was wanting.

So in John 3:3, 5, 6, our ‘Lord expressly excludes from the kingdom of heaven all who are not regenerate. In the words, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” He declares that every one who comes into this world is in such condition that for entrance into the new life a great internal change must occur.

In Eph. 2:1-5 St. Paul refers to Christians as having been dead in trespasses and sins, and by their very nature “children of wrath.”

32. But it is explicitly declared, “Where there is no law, there is no transgression’ (Rom. 4:15). Does not Ms exempt infants who cannot know the law?

The passage must be understood in accordance with the context. The argument of Paul is that death proves sin, and the violation of law, and that even though they be not guilty of actual transgression, in sinning after the similitude of Adam’s sin, their death shows that they have transgressed otherwise and are under law. Other passages that might be cited concerning the innocence of little children must also be interpreted with respect to actual sins, and not to Original Sin.

33. Beside infecting all men, what further statement can be made concerning the extent of Original Sin?

It is pervasive. It belongs to all parts and powers of human nature. It is a disease or vicious and depraved habit corrupting the whole man. “It is a deep, wicked, horrible, fathomless, inscrutable, and unspeakable corruption of the entire nature and all its powers, especially of the highest, principal powers of the soul in understanding, heart and will” (Formula of Concord, 592). 34. What is the consequence of this corruption of the highest powers?

This will be considered hereafter at greater length, under “The Freedom of the Will.” But, meanwhile, we may recall what has been cited above in Chapter 1, 32:

“When even the most able and learned men upon earth read or hear the Gospel of the Son of God, and the promise of eternal salvation, they cannot, from their own powers perceive, apprehend, understand or believe and regard it true, but the more diligence and earnestness they employ, in order to comprehend, with their reason, these spiritual things, the less they understand or believe, and before they become enlightened or taught by the Holy Ghost, they regard all this only foolishness or fictions.”

35. Is this corruption then so great as to justify the assertion that, since the fall, man’s nature is sin?

No; for while the word “nature” is sometimes used in a loose sense, not for nature itself, but for a quality or disposition in the nature, as when we say, “It is the nature of the serpent to bite,” nevertheless the expression is to be avoided and condemned. Man’s nature is not sin, but sinful. Much as one may suffer from diphtheria or typhoid fever, no one can be said to become either of these diseases.

36. Was such error ever taught?

Yes, in the early days of Christianity, by the Martichaeans, and, shortly after the Reformation by Matthias Flacius Illyricus.

37. Repeat the arguments by which his error was refuted.

God created human nature; He cannot be said to create sin.

The Son of God assumed human nature; He did not assume sin.

He redeemed human nature; He does not redeem sin. He justifies and sanctifies human nature; He does neither to sin.

He will at the Last Day raise human nature from the dead; this He will not do with Original Sin.

Original Sin, therefore, is not substantial, but accidental to human nature.

38. How did Flacius come to advocate such a manifestly extreme position?

By his earnestness in refuting the opinion that Original Sin is only a slight corruption of man’s powers, and that he still retains some good in him to begin or cowork in things pertaining to God.

39. Has Original Sin equal power in all?

No. In some it reigns and makes them its slaves (Rom. 6:16; Titus 3:3). In others, it is resisted, and its dominion broken (Rom. 8:2,13).

40. How long does it remain?

Its guilt is removed in justification; its dominion is broken with the beginning of renovation, and gradually and successively disappears as renovation grows. Of this process a vivid picture is found in Rom. Vii. Its complete destruction does not occur until in death.

41. What other opinion has been advanced?

That of the Roman Catholic Church, following some scholastics, that, in the baptized, concupiscence is no longer sin.

42. How is this refuted?

The argument of Chemnitz is as follows: Concupiscence in the baptized is one of three things, either a good, or a matter of indifference or an evil. Can it be a good, when Paul says, “In me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18)? Can it be a matter of indifference, when he says again, “The good which I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not that I practice” (Rom. 7:19)? He cannot speak of concupiscence before baptism, but it is the baptized and experienced Christian who makes this confession. In the same chapter this concupiscence is repeatedly called sin, and its conflict with God’s law described.

43. What are the fruits of Original Sin?

All the wicked deeds forbidden in the Ten Commandments. The moral quality of every deed is determined by the moral quality or character of the doer.

Matt. 7:17 — “Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.”

Luke 6:45 — “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure, that which is evil; for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.”

Matt. 15:19 — “For out of the heart, come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, railing.”

All the sins of men are, therefore, organically united in the state of sin from which they spring. Original sin is the root; actual sins are the sprouts. Original Sin is the fountain; actual sins are the streams. Original Sin is the ocean; they are the waves that rise and fall upon it. Original Sin is the disease; actual sins are symptoms.

44. Where is this particularly taught?

By David in the Fifty-first Psalm. He traces his great sin which he confesses in verses 2-4, back to the source in Original Sin whence it came, vs. 5, 6, 10. (See Luther’s exposition.)

45. When actual sins are spoken of, in what sense must “actual” be regarded?

Not as synonymous with “real,” as though Original Sin were not in this sense actual, i. e., a reality; but “actual,” because existing in act, as distinguished from Original Sin which refers to state, condition, habit, temper or disposition.

46. Define Actual Sin?

Every action, whether internal or external, that conflicts with God’s Law, as well as every omission of an action which the same Law commands.

47. What are the causes of Actual Sin?

The concupiscence or inner depravity may work in two ways, viz., either spontaneously, or it may be stimulated to activity from without. To the former, James 1:14, 15 is especially applicable:

“Each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust when it hath conceived, beareth sin; and the sin when it is full-grown, bringeth forth death.”

When it is stimulated from without, it may be either by the devil or the World.

48. How does the devil tempt or stimulate mans inner depravity?

By suggesting the thought, and even the plan for carrying out the thought of sin, as in John 13:2. He has no power to force one to commit the sin which he suggests. The regenerate have greater power to resist him than the unregenerate.

James 4:7 — “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

1 Cor. 10:13 — “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will, with the temptation, make also the way of escape.” Cf. Eph. 6:11-13; 1 Peter 5:9.

49. How does the world stimulate man’s inner depravity?

By the teaching, suggestion, advice and example of wicked men and women; as well as by objects that appeal to sense and thus enkindle the desire of sin.

1 John 2:14, 15 — “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father’, but is of the world.”

50. What is meant by “an inner action”?

A desire or purpose to sin that is called forth or cherished (Matt. 5:27).

51. What effect has every actual sin?

A disposition of will inclining it to the repetition of similar acts of sin, and ultimately to a particular habit of sin.

52. How are sins classified?

First, into Voluntary and Involuntary. The former are those deliberately committed, with the knowledge that they are sins; the latter are committed in ignorance, or under the impulse of violent passion, sometimes known as sins of ignorance or infirmity, as contrasted with presumptuous sins.

Ps. 19:12, 13 — “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret sins. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins.”

1 Tim. 1:13 — “I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.”

53. What is a second mode of classification?

Into sins of commission, or positive acts conflicting with a negative commandment, and sins of omission, consisting in the negation or omission of acts, prescribed by an affirmative commandment.

54. A third?

Into sins directly against God, or those forbidden in the First Table of the Decalogue; against one’s neighbor, or those forbidden in the Second Table; and against oneself, as 1 Cor. 6:18, designates fornication, to which may be added drunkenness, suicide, etc.

55. A fourth?

Into sins of heart, mouth and deed. Our Lord treats of these in Matt. 5:21, 22. The first is the most grievous. Habitual hatred toward an innocent neighbor or purpose to injure long cherished in the mind is a more grievous sin than the harsh answer of one to whom injustice has been done.

56. What of the distinction between Venial and Mortal sins?

Of themselves, no sins are venial, but all are mortal. No such scheme of classification, therefore, can be adopted by which particular offenses can be said to be venial and others mortal. Whether a sin be venial or mortal is determined entirely by the relation of the sinner to Christ. The least sin knowingly and deliberately committed is inconsistent with faith, and is mortal. But the regenerate, in their infirmity, and against the most sincere effort of their hearts, are not without sins; these and only these are venial.

57. Is there any sin irremissible?

Yes. The sin against the Holy Ghost.

Matt. 12:31, 2) 2 — “Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in that which is to come.”

Mark 3:29 — “Whosoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, hath never forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”

58. Why is it irremissible?

Not because it exceeds the mercy of God, and the merits of Christ (Is. 1:18), but because the very means by which the grace of God is offered are despised and blasphemed. “It is not as though God were never willing to pity such sinners, for His protestation is universal in which He affirms with an oath (Ez. 18:32), that He does not will the death of him who dies. Neither is it as though Christ had not died and made satisfaction for such sin; for He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). But it is said to be irremissible by accident; because such sinners are so hardened as to be unwilling to receive Christ, the only remedy for their sins; but persecute Him, and with an inflexible purpose, persist in their fury; and thus cast themselves into eternal destruction. . . . But if it could so happen that they could be led to a knowledge of this sin, the mercy of God would be accessible even to them” (Baldwin, on 1 Tim. I).

The context in Matthew shows that Christ gave this warning when the Pharisees ascribed His works to the devil (Matt. 12:24). It is not said here that the Pharisees had already incurred such sin, for it seems to be one that belongs peculiarly to the period when the Holy Ghost is fully given, but the warning is that the culmination of such sin as they were committing would be the sin against the Holy Ghost. 59. Is it referred to elsewhere in Holy Scripture t

Heb. 6:4, 5, 6 — “For as touching those who were once enlightened, and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

Heb. 10:26 — “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins.”

60. What is here taught?

That they who commit this sin have been regenerate and godly persons who have deserted the faith, and that it is accompanied by peculiar hostility to the truth and open defiance of the Holy Spirit.

61. Are those who commit this sin ever troubled concerning it?

No. For they are abandoned by the Spirit, from whom all conviction of sin comes. (You can find other chapters of Jacobs’ book here.)

Originally published at: Comfort for Christians