Just for Catholics

How Sinful are We?

Question: In your biblical plan of salvation, you said that original sin has corrupted our nature, whereas I was taught that our nature is wounded. I think this is a key issue.

Answer: Yes, this is a crucial doctrine and the implications are wide-ranging. We would agree that every person is a sinner: Jews or Gentiles "are all under sin. As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:9,10). But, just how sinful are we? Are we merely wounded but still capable of moral and spiritual good, or has sin infected and corrupted every aspect of our being? Do we still have the spiritual ability in us to reach out to God? A wrong diagnosis of our spiritual condition has disastrous consequences because we'll end up applying an inadequate treatment.

So, what does the Bible say about us? How does God look upon our heart? He says: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

The gravity of our condition can be seen by God's description of our heart. He says that our heart is stony; it is insensitive and hard. Furthermore, God does not merely cure it. The heart has been so badly wounded that it cannot sustain life. "I will take away the stony heart," God tells his people. It is hopeless, it has to be removed and changed with a new one. “I will give you an heart of flesh.” Nothing short of a spiritual transplantation will do.

Or consider the following scriptures: "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world...even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved...And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him..." (Ephesians 2:1,2,5 and Colossians 2:13)

Wounded? Yes, and more, much more than that! We were mortally wounded by sin. We are by nature dead in sins. We can't be helped by taking some medicines and by a little spiritual assistance along the way. As a paediatrician, I have seen many sick children. As long as the child is alive, we do everything possible to help him recover. However, if the child dies, medicines are useless and we cannot do anything more. The situation is - humanly speaking - hopeless.

We would never appreciate the sinfulness of our hearts, or the greatness of God's salvation, until we realize that we're not merely wounded by sin. We are spiritually dead. We need something more than help. We need life. And that, God alone can give.

Sometimes it is said that by his sacrifice on the cross, the risen Christ redeemed the whole world, meaning that he opened the door of heaven. He made it possible for us to be saved, but now it up to us to get up and walk through that open gate. Frankly, I think that's an incomplete and inaccurate picture. For, knowing how the Bible describes our spiritual condition, it would be like Jesus removing the stone in front of Lazarus’ tomb and saying, "I have done my part; I opened the door. Now it's up to Lazarus to come out if he so desires."

Jesus had to do something more. He had to give life to the corpse and only then could Lazarus come out! It is the same with us who are dead in sin. We have no natural desire to come to Christ for salvation. Left to ourselves we simply rot in our sins. It is only if the Father draws us to Him, do we come to the Saviour. Jesus said: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day...Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father” (John 6:44,65). For our salvation, we are completely dependent on the grace of God.

Copyright Dr Joe Mizzi. Permission to copy and distribute this article without textual changes. < BACK TO Q&A