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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, May 27, 2012

“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).

We would not know why man is so sinful if it were not for passages like this in the Bible. Man is so intelligent and so noble at times. And yet man is so twisted and strange at other times. I read with horror in the newspaper on Thursday about a thirteen-year-old girl who tried to murder her mother for telling her to come home at 10:00 PM each night! Incredible! Were it not for verses like our text we could not understand the origin of the depravity in the human heart. The Apostle emphasized the root of sin – coming from the sin of the first man, Adam. He also said that many are made righteous by the last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christians were “made” sinners by Adam – and they were “made” righteous by Christ. So, the disobedience of the first Adam is contrasted with the obedience of Christ, the last Adam. The disobedience of the first Adam made us sinners. The obedience of the last Adam (Christ) made us righteous. We went over that last week, but I need to tell you again that the little Greek word “tŏ” was left untranslated in the King James Version. It means “the.” Putting it back in clarifies some things that may come to mind. Putting it back in, the text would read,

“For as by one man’s disobedience [the] many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall [the] many be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).

All of mankind (the many) were “made” or “formed” as sinners by nature, which we inherited from Adam.

I pointed out that this is not “unfair.” It is only a fact of life. My grandfather William Hymers came from England to Canada and then, with his family, he came down to California. That’s why I was born an American. I was “made” an American by the act of my grandfather, a man I never knew, who died several years before I was born. There is nothing unfair about me being born in America because of the decision of a man who lived before I was born. It’s just a fact of life. And so, it is just a fact of life that your first relative, Adam, sinned and his sin-nature passed down to you and me. My grandfather became an American, so I was “made” an American by his act of coming here. Adam became a sinner, so I was “made” a sinner by his sinful act.

“For as by one man’s disobedience [the] many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall [the] many be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).

As Dr. Watts put it,

Lord, I am vile, conceived in sin,
   And born unholy and unclean;
Sprung from the man whose guilty fall
   Corrupts the race, and taints us all.
(“Lord, I Am Vile” – Psalm 51 – by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).

There is nothing “unfair” about it. It is just a fact of life, it is not “unjust” as Lord Bertrand Russell thought. But Bertrand Russell also thought it was unfair to leave us in this ruined state without helping us. But, you see, God has sent us help. It’s right there, in the second half of our text, “so by the obedience of one shall [the] many be made righteous.” In that same chapter in Romans we read,

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

God has provided a way for us to escape from the prison of sin, which came to us from Adam. “But I don’t like the way God has provided!” someone says. You sound to me like a spoiled child, pounding its fists on its high chair and screaming, “I don’t like this food!” “Well,” the poor mother says, “it’s all we’ve got. Eat it or go hungry.” I think you see the point. Either Christ saves you from your sin, or you go hungry – and ultimately go to Hell. Nothing is “unfair” about it. Those are just facts of life.

Some people think that Adam’s sin was a small act, far too small to result in the ruin of the entire human race. But it would also seem that an old Canadian farmer’s decision to come to America was a small thing. Yet his “small” act resulted in all his offspring being “made” Americans. And you are here tonight listening to me preach because he did that long before I was born. In physics that is called the “butterfly effect,” an important part of “chaos theory.” It simply means that small changes in initial conditions can lead to great variations later on. “By one man’s disobedience [the] many were made sinners.” That principle is true in physics and it is true in life.

This is called “original sin” by orthodox theologians. Dr. W. G. T. Shedd said that “original sin” is equivalent to “corrupt nature,” “evil disposition” and “apostate will.” How does “original sin” affect us? Last Sunday night I told you that it does three main things.

1.  First, original sin has blinded you to the reality of spiritual things. The Apostle Paul called this “the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18). Because of original sin an unconverted man can only hear us talk about the love of Jesus. But he cannot know Jesus himself because original sin blinds his heart. Only the operation of the Holy Spirit in regeneration can make spiritual things real. Only the Spirit of God can “give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ “ (II Corinthians 4:6).

2.  Second, original sin has defiled your conscience. The Bible says, “Even their mind and conscience is defiled” (Titus 1:15). When we talk about Jesus cleansing your sins, it seems like a small or unimportant thing to you because your conscience is defiled by original sin. Only when the Holy Spirit convicts you to the point that your sin becomes unbearable will you seek Jesus to “purge your conscience” with His own Blood (Hebrews 9:14).

3.  Third, original sin has corrupted your will to the point that the Bible says you are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). In his book, The Bondage of the Will, Luther (1483-1546) showed from the Bible that man’s will (his ability to decide for God) is not merely injured, but is dead. The whole foundation of the Reformation rested on the doctrine of man’s will being dead. The Reformers said that only God can bring a man’s will to life. They quoted Romans 9:16, “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” “And you hath he quickened [brought to life], who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:5). I know that the Bible says, “whoseover will” in Revelation 22:17. But lost men cannot do that until God makes them willing. Every Protestant and Baptist believed that for centuries until Finney came along in 1821 and viciously attacked the doctrine of original sin over and over in his sermons and books. Finney was not an Arminian. He was a complete Pelagian heretic. He rejected the Bible’s teaching on original sin. He taught that man could save himself by making a “decision.” The title of one of his most famous sermons shows what a heretic he was. It was titled, “Sinners Bound to Change Their Own Hearts.” Finney thus followed the heretic Pelagius (c. 354-418 AD), who denied original sin and taught that man can save himself by making a “decision” to be a Christian. Thus Finney, following Pelagius, rejected what the Bible teaches, that man’s will is dead because of original sin. But it wasn’t the Bible that was wrong. It was Finney who was wrong. After reading his testimony, I am personally convinced that Finney was a lost man, and that his views were “doctrines of devils” (I Timothy 4:1; cf. II Peter 2:1-2).

So powerful is original sin that man’s will is dead toward God. The Bible says that those of you who are unregenerated are “dead in your sins” (Colossians 2:13); “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Dr. John L. Dagg was the first Southern Baptist theologian. Speaking on the effect of original sin on man’s will, he said,

The Scripture representations of man’s inability are exceedingly strong. They are said to be without strength [Romans 5:6], captives [II Timothy 2:26], in bondage [II Peter 2:19; Romans 6:16, 17]...dead [Ephesians 5:14; Colossians 2:13], etc. The act by which they are delivered from their natural state, is called regeneration, quickening or giving life... and it is directly ascribed to the power of God...Our views concerning our...condition by nature are wholly incorrect, if we imagine that a little work [a little “decision”], which we can effect at pleasure, will set all right...A true sense of our inability would drive us to him [Christ] who is able to save (John L. Dagg, D.D., A Manual of Theology, Southern Baptist Publication Society, 1858, p. 171).

In other words, how can a person whose will is “dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5) make a “decision” to trust Christ? Dr. Dagg said it is not possible. So did all Baptists and Protestants before Finney poisoned evangelism by attacking original sin.

Iain H. Murray pointed out that British Arminians, under John Wesley, also believed that man’s will was ruined by the fall, and in man’s “utter inability to save himself” (The Old Evangelicalism, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005, p. 156). John Wesley himself said he believed in “the total fall of man and his utter inability to do any good for himself [apart from] converting grace” (quoted in Five Great Evangelists by John H. Armstrong, Christian Focus Publications, 1997, pp. 118-119).

John Wesley said, “In Adam all died, all human kind, all the children of men who were in Adam’s loins...every one descended from him comes into the world spiritually dead, dead to God, wholly dead in sin; entirely void of the life of God...every man born into the world now bears the image of the devil in pride and self-will...This then is the foundation of the new birth – the entire corruption of our nature. Hence it is, that, being born in sin, ye must be ‘born again.’ Hence every one that is born of a woman must be born of the Spirit of God” (The Works of John Wesley, Baker Book House, 1979 reprint, volume II, p. 68). Again, Mr. Wesley said, “Art thou able to change thy own heart, from all sin to all holiness? to quicken a soul that is dead in sin, – dead to God, and alive only to the world? No more than thou art able to quicken a dead body, to raise to life him that lieth in the grave. Yea, thou art not able to quicken thy soul to any degree, no more than to give any degree of life to a dead body. Thou canst do nothing, more or less, in this matter; thou art utterly without strength” (ibid., volume V, p. 84).

With the ruin of man’s will having been stated by all those Protestants and Baptists, I was startled when I read what Billy Graham said about original sin. Billy Graham said, “Man’s ruin was complete...But the will of man remains intact. The first man used his will to choose death. You must use your will to choose life.” (Decision Magazine, February 2012, pp. 4, 5).

In other words, Billy Graham believes that man’s will was not ruined by the fall! Incredible! Was Billy Graham right and Luther, Wesley, John Dagg, and all theologians and preachers before Finney wrong? Of course not! It is Billy Graham and modern “decisionists” that are wrong! They have unwittingly followed Finney without knowing it. Little do they realize the error of Finney who said, “The human will is free, therefore men have power or ability to do all their duty” (Finney’s Lectures on Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1969 edition, p. 325). Billy Graham said the same thing, “The will of man remains intact” or free “to choose life.” That may sound good, but it is pure Finneyism! Finney’s view of the freedom of the will is the ancient heresy of Pelagianism, a doctrine which denies that the human will was ruined by original sin, and teaches that man’s will by nature is free to bring about his own salvation by a choice he is capable of making by himself. This is the unscriptural doctrine of Pelagianism which we see in today’s “decisionism” (For a definition of Pelagianism see Paul E. G. Cook, Fire From Heaven, Evangelical Press, 2009, p. 127).

If your will “remains intact” let’s see you use it to become a real Christian! Go ahead, make a “decision.” Try it! Many have, but they have failed – and so will you! As Dr. John Dagg said, “A true sense of our inability would drive us to him [Christ] who is able to save.”

One young man heard me say all this last Sunday night. After the sermon Dr. Cagan asked him, “How can you be converted?” That young man said, “I’m going to leave the past behind and focus on the Lord.” Dr. Cagan said, “You can’t do that. Your will is ruined. And even if you could do that, how could it wash your sins away?” Another young man said to Dr. Cagan, “I prayed and it doesn’t work.” Of course “it” doesn’t work! Whoever said “it” does? No prayer, and no “decision” can save you. You can only be saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, through simple faith in Him!

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Take a look at yourself. See how hopeless and helpless you are! Say with Joseph Hart, “None but Jesus, none but Jesus, can do helpless sinners good.” Please stand and sing that hymn. It’s number 7 on your song sheet.

“For as by one man’s disobedience [the] many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall [the] many be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).

Come, ye weary, heavy-laden, Bruised and broken by the Fall;
   If you tarry till you’re better, You will never come at all:
Not the righteous, Not the righteous, Sinners Jesus came to call!
   Not the righteous, Not the righteous, Sinners Jesus came to call!

Lo! the incarnate God, ascended, Pleads the merit of His blood;
   Venture on Him, venture wholly, Let no other trust intrude;
None but Jesus, none but Jesus, Can do helpless sinners good.
   None but Jesus, none but Jesus, Can do helpless sinners good.
(“Come, Ye Sinners” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).

You cannot save yourself! Fall before Jesus! Trust Him alone! “None but Jesus, none but Jesus, can do helpless sinners good.”

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Romans 5:15-19.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Lord, I Am Vile, Conceived in Sin” (by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).