If we are born in sin, how is it fair for God to judge us for our sin?
Sin nature is inherited; this is what is meant by being "born in sin." Is it fair for God to judge us for our sin if we have no choice but to be born with a sin nature? The answer to this question lies in understanding where sin came from, God's response to sin, and God's provision for our sin.
The reality is, God's nature demands that He be just in everything He does (Deuteronomy 32:4; Daniel 4:37; Revelation 15:3). Sin is rebellion against God, and He warned Adam that disobedience would result in death (Genesis 2:17). Adam chose to rebel against God anyway, and the result of that rebellion is death for the entire human race. Romans 5:12 says, "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—" (Romans 5:12).
We are not responsible for Adam's sin. However, as the representative and progenitor of humanity, Adam's sin did affect all of us. And, we are individually responsible for our own sin; we each make choices throughout our lives to either obey God or to rebel against Him. The sad truth about the corruption that sin brought into the world is that we choose to rebel more often than we choose to obey. God is the author of life. Sin is that which is against God. Sin results in death, and God is perfectly just in this reality (Romans 3:23; 6:23).
Yet God is also merciful (see, for example, Genesis 3:15, 21–24; Psalm 86:5; Micah 7:18; Ephesians 2:4–5; Hebrews 4:16). In the same way that His nature demands justice, so, too, God's nature demands mercy. These two attributes seem to be in contradiction, yet they exist in perfect harmony. What is so beautiful about this harmonious existence of justice and mercy is how it exists, or rather in whom it exists—in the person of Jesus Christ.
God's justice demands eternal punishment for rebellion because He is holy and righteous. God's mercy demands that the punishment be rescinded. Enter Jesus Christ, who, "For the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. He is fully God. Yet He took on human flesh, becoming fully human as well. God Himself entered into His creation to provide the means of rescue for His creatures (Genesis 3:15). Jesus lived a sinless life. Then He died to pay the ultimate death penalty for sin (Hebrews 9:11—10:18). Paul said, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). In other words, God placed the sin of you and me upon Jesus Christ even though He never committed a sin so that the perfection and righteousness of Jesus Christ could be placed upon us and we could stand before God justified and free from the penalty of our own sin. How is that fair?
Rather than allow all of humanity to remain separated from Him and condemned, God has provided the way of salvation. Jesus took on human flesh, lived a fully human life, died on the cross, and rose back to life. To claim that God is unfair to judge those who are born in sin is to misunderstand the nature of God, the nature of sin, and the nature of salvation. God has provided rescue and freely offered it to all. Those who reject His way of salvation choose to remain in the condemnation wrought by their own sinfulness (John 3:36; Romans 1:18–32). God allows this rejection, but He does not rejoice in it (Ezekiel 18:23).
Having inherited sinful tendency from Adam does not absolve anyone of personal responsibility for their own sin. Though we are born dead in sin and natural enemies of God, we have no excuse for remaining that way (Ephesians 2:1–10). "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). God's mercy and grace have been freely extended to all who will receive it. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God" (John 3:16–18).
God is not unfair (Romans 5:6–11; 1 John 4:9–10). He is just, He is merciful, and He loves you with so much love that He was willing to enter into His own creation and become the way of salvation so that you could have life and spend eternity with Him (John 10:10; 14:6; Revelation 20:11—22:5). One thing is for certain, the reality of salvation and the fact that God offers it freely to all—to every human born in sin—isn't fair. But it is just and it is merciful. God is not unfair in judging us for the sins that we commit, and He certainly isn't unloving for providing a substitute to be punished in our place in the person of Jesus Christ.
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