Do we choose to sin?


Do we sin by choice or not? David stated he was brought forth in iniquity (Psa. 51:5) and Paul stated that everyone was made sinners in Adam (Rom. 5:19)? So, do we sin by choice or are we just made sinner robots from birth?


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

Romans 5:19 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.

The above verses teach that the entire human race (except for Jesus Christ) was born with a sinful nature. We each inherited this sin nature from Adam when he sinned in the garden. As the federal head of all mankind, his guilt was imputed to all his seed — to both you and I. Some definitions are warranted here.

What is Federal Headship?

In Romans 5:12-21, Paul teaches that God deals covenantally with the human race under the concept called "Federalism." Essentially, federalism or federal headship has to do with representation; that is, one person acting on behalf of another. The American legal system uses a similar concept called a "power of attorney," which is a written authorization to allow someone to represent someone else for some legal matter.

Similarly, the entire human race may be summarized under the representation of two Adams:

(1) the first Adam in the garden is the federal head of the entire human race under the covenant of works (Gen. 1-2) and

(2) the second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:45, 47), is the federal head of all believers under the covenant of grace (Rom 5:12-21).

The entire human race is naturally born under the federal headship of the first Adam in the garden. Adam as the federal head of the human race corrupted all his seed. So, all humanity is collectively guilty and condemned before God. Every human is totally depraved and lost.

What is Imputed Sin?

Imputed sin deals with the fact that the guilt of our federal head — the first Adam — is credited not just to Adam himself, but also to all humanity (Rom. 5:15, 18, 19). This doesn't mean we are personally guilty of Adam's sin (we're not) but that his sin was credited to our account or ledger. In this way all of us, except Christ, who was born of a virgin, are regarded as having sinned in the first Adam and share in his guilt.

Sin is a Choice

Because of Adam's representation we each have a sinful nature. And because of our sinful natures we make individual choices to sin (cf. Psa. 58:3: Eccl. 9:3). However, no one is forcing us sin. We sin by choice. We do this on our own accord. And on the day of judgment when we stand before God each of us will be held accountable for what we have and have not done (Prov. 8:36; Ezek. 18:20).

So, it's a universal fact that everyone (except Christ) sins (Rom. 3:1-18). Even Christians sin (cf. 1 John 1:8-10; 2:1). And absolutely none are saved by their own works (cf. Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5-6).

Only in Christ can one be forgiven. Just as the first Adam represented all humanity, Christ is the federal head of all believers. He is their representative, and his righteousness is imputed to them when they believe in him. In Christ we have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

Related Topics

How are original sin and imputed sin different?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).