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Doctrine Illuminated: The Fall of Humanity

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[8 minute  read]


In these Doctrine Illuminated articles, the core beliefs of Addison Street Community Church are fleshed out in more detail. Begin by examining the section of the Doctrinal Confession, found at the top, and then discover an explanation of each of its lines below.


 
Section 6. The Fall of Humanity. 
“We believe that humans were created good, but by voluntary disobedience of God’s law fell from their holiness and happiness. As a result of Adam’s sin, and by their own choice, all people are now sinners without excuse and subject to the just condemnation of God’s eternal judgment.”

What’s wrong with the world? Why is there so much injustice, disagreement, and suffering that we hear about (or even witness) on an almost daily basis? These questions resonate with all people because everyone feels the ugly repercussions of what the Bible calls ‘sin.’ Understanding what the Scriptures teach about sin helps us understand several things. For example, why can life often times be so incredibly difficult? Or, why does evil seem to prevail everywhere we look? We were originally created good, but have inherited a sinful nature from the first person who willingly disobeyed God’s gracious boundaries. And we, too, have become disobedient by our own rebellious choices. Read on to understand how to better live in light of these grim realities.


“We believe that humans were created good, but by voluntary disobedience of God’s law fell from their holiness and happiness.”

In the book of Genesis, we read that on the sixth day of creation God made man and woman in his own image. Everything the Lord had created up to this point was declared “good” (see for example Genesis 1:10). But once humanity was made, he said that everything was very good. He then put man in the garden of Eden to work it and keep good care of it. Adam and Eve, the first couple, lived a perfect life there with no wrong or injustice, in the direct and constant presence of their Creator. Further, God put in the garden of Eden the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And he told Adam that he and his wife could eat from absolutely any tree they’d like except for that one tree—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they disobeyed, God said, they would surely die. You may know the story–they voluntarily disobeyed and were subsequently expelled from that paradise, falling from their perfect state of holiness and happiness. Since then humanity has been cursed by sin and its troublesome consequences.


“As a result of Adam’s sin, and by their own choice, all people are now sinners without excuse.”

And this sin ultimately leads to death for all people. Romans 5:12 says that death spreads to all men because all sinned. Therefore, no one can blame Adam and Eve for all the suffering in the world. Ultimately, we all suffer because we’re all sinners. And this attempt to transfer guilt to someone else has been around since original sin. (We call it original sin not only because it was the first transgression but also because it is the origin of the human sinful nature.) When Adam blamed Eve—and even God—for what he had done, he said to the Lord, “The woman whom you gave me to be with, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12). But he wasn’t alone. Eve, too, tried to transfer her guilt to someone else. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Genesis 3:13). Pointing the finger at others won’t help us get rid of the trouble and death that sin produces. Nowadays, the idea that injustice is only the product of what other people do to certain groups is propagated and widely accepted. While consequences may linger from what past generations have done, the Scriptures teach that “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). And as Romans 3:23 clearly states, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Playing the victim game won’t fix the problem. But let’s remember that the gospel is the good news that Jesus died for the forgiveness of our sins. To apply this news to our lives it’s important to deny the tendency we have to transfer the hurt and guilt we carry in unique ways and deal first with our own sin and rebellion against God.    

 
“[Humans are] subject to the just condemnation of God’s eternal judgment.”

God is good. This is at the same time both a great and terrifying truth. Since God is good, he cannot let the guilty go unpunished. And we have observed experientially and biblically that all people have sinned. So God’s judgment is certain and right, and condemnation is just. But God’s goodness also provides salvation. At the cross of Jesus Christ, God punished the sins of his people through Jesus Christ, their substitute. That is why the psalmist prophetically stated that “love and faithfulness meet, righteousness and peace kiss” (Psalm 85:10). What God told Moses about his own character was here most climactically and clearly seen. “The Lord passed before [Moses] and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty…’ ” (Exodus 34:6–7). At the cross the Lord clears the guilty by punishing Jesus in their place, thus offering forgiveness for sin. All those who do not put their faith in Christ’s sacrifice will face God’s judgment and his just condemnation. 


The doctrine of sin has often been ignored, diminished, and distorted. The acceptance that something is wrong with the world is nearly universal, but most people tend to avoid what the Bible teaches about sin and its unfolding effects. Modern culture tries to fix the wrongs that have been done by focusing on the sin of generations past. At the human level, hardly anyone denies that the reason we suffer is because of human oppression and the consequences of the shortcomings of past generations. But at the Divine level we are not to see ourselves only as victims, but to deal with suffering in the face of our own sin and guilt. There was just one man in history who suffered even though he was perfectly righteous—Jesus Christ. We must understand that we all need a personal Savior because we can’t adequately solve our own biggest problem, the sinful nature inside of us. Only then will the gospel will make sense, for though it’s true that Jesus died for the sins of his people collectively, it can only reach each one of us if we accept our individual responsibility for sin.



Doctrine Illuminated: God's Purpose of Grace (9 min read)

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In these Doctrine Illuminated articles, the core beliefs of Addison Street Community Church are fleshed out in more detail. Begin by examining the section of the Doctrinal Confession, found at the top, and then discover an explanation of each of its lines below.


 
Section 11. God’s Purpose of Grace. 
We believe that God, in his grace, chooses to save sinners and to keep them to the end. Divine election is consistent with human free will. It excludes boasting and promotes humility. All true believers will be kept by God’s grace and will persevere to the end. Perseverance is the mark, which distinguishes true believers from professing Christians. 

How is it that God saves people who are totally unworthy of his love? This question is relevant to all of us since we’re all sinners who have all sinned and fallen short of his perfect glory. The answer is found in one single word. This word does several things: it brings us the hope that God has a purpose in our lives and gives us a blessed assurance that despite our responsibility for our sins, the work he began in us will be completed. This word is grace.  


“We believe that God, in his grace, chooses to save sinners and to keep them to the end.”

Salvation is an act of the grace of God through election. God chooses, God saves, God keeps. This dynamic is seen throughout the entirety of the Bible. It’s the Lord who chose and called Abraham to go to a land yet unknown to him, and it’s the Lord who promised to bless him and make him a great nation. His descendants are the nation who came to be known as the chosen people, the Israelites. David is the king chosen by God, according to His own heart—not by the will of the people—to reign over Israel and to be the one through whom the Eternal King would come, Jesus Christ. The New Testament affirms this reality when it says, “We love because he first loved us.” (John 4:19), and that “He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” (Ephesians 1.4) What great news the gospel delivers: we have been loved before the world even existed! Jesus also said that “all that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”  (John 6:37). So, it is sure: God will keep us to the end!


“Divine election is consistent with human free will.”

Human free will is not canceled by God’s sovereign election of the ones he saves. Actually, the Lord never acts against our will but gives us a new heart so that we’re able to freely follow him. In Ezekiel 36:26 the Lord says, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” This is a description of the effects of the New Covenant which God fulfilled by the coming of Jesus Christ who shed His blood for us. Instead of leaving his people with a heart of stone, incapable to respond to him with love, he gives his chosen a new heart that is soft and teachable, washed and transformed by his Holy Spirit. Notice that this is God’s initiative: he grants the new heart and a new spirit. And he does this so we can respond to him according to a new nature that isn’t set against him anymore. Inside the true believer—born again with a new heart he or she received from God—divine election and free will work consistently together.


“[Divine election] excludes boasting and promotes humility.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” This passage clearly teaches us that it is God’s grace that saves us. Grace is an undeserved gift. And there’s more. Even the faith we need to possesses for grace to be applied to us is a gift of God! How humbling it is to be reminded that there’s nothing we can do to earn salvation. It’s not through our work, resulting in the inability for anyone to boast. It promotes humility indeed! Reminding ourselves that even the faith through which we are saved is freely given, not produced by us, breaks all the pride that could still remain in our deceptive hearts.


“All true believers will be kept by God’s grace and will persevere to the end. Perseverance is the mark, which distinguishes true believers from professing Christians.”

Have you ever witnessed the dangerous scene of a child letting go of their parent’s hand to finish crossing a street? Isn’t it a scary scene? And how does this happen? We all know that it’s usually because of either the child’s ambition or the parent’s lapse of attention. It’s the parent’s responsibility to hold their child strong by the hand while crossing the street. When children are led by negligent hands, they tend to get distracted and run from real protection. In our spiritual lives, we’re like children. But God is never weak and never lacks attention and care. Jesus promised that he would never let us go. True Christians can have serious falls but never falls from grace. The Holy Spirit, whom they are sealed with, won’t let them. Those who fall away from Christ, as 1 John 2:19 says, “were never really with us.” Jesus himself warned against professing followers who are not his true disciples. “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matt. 15:8). And Philippians 1:6 reminds all the true believers to be “confident of this, that he [God] who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  What a blessed assurance it is that the Lord holds his children fast, and those who are truly his will persevere by his grace. It’s through grace that we’re saved. It’s through grace that the Lord holds us and keeps us in the path of perseverance. 


We believe in the doctrines of grace because we are totally depraved, meaning that all our being is infected by sin, and by our unregenerate nature we would never be able to respond faithfully to the gospel. Then God, unconditionally, chooses and calls some to be part of his people. This call is done through such irresistible grace to those to whom he gives a new heart. So, all those who are truly born again were not just saved by grace, but are also kept by grace to persevere to the end. The fact that the work of salvation belongs to the Lord from beginning to the end puts us in a position of total humility and gratitude before him. It all resounds to the praise of his glorious grace!

 

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