The Ancient Faith

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Ronny Wade

Does Psalms 51:5 teach that children are born in sin? No it does not. The KJV renders the verse as follows: “Behold I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”


Some of the later translations (falsely so-called) inject denominational bias into their rendition.

 The Living Bible: “But I was born a sinner, yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.”

Modem Language Bible: “Behold, in a sinful state I was born and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Even the much celebrated NIV is misleading: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

It seems evident to this writer that the intent of these translators is to advance their theories of inherited sin. Many commentators do the same, using this passage to prove (?) their particular denominational bent.

The Revised Standard Version renders the verse: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

  1. First of all in this passage David speaks of the condition of his mother, not himself i.e. “In sin did my mother conceive me.”
  1. Secondly, he speaks of himself, “I was brought forth in iniquity.” He did not say that he was born corrupt, or with a corrupted nature. The Bible says that people were born in a language Acts 2:8. This obviously did not mean that they were born speaking a certain language, but were born into a situation where a certain language was spoken. Likewise David was born into a world of iniquity. He was brought forth into a world where sin rules and prevails. To conclude that babies are born sinners is to conclude what is not taught in the Scriptures. In fact the very opposite is taught. Of Jacob and Esau it is said “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil. . .” (Rom.9: 11). These two were not sinners before they were born, but became sinners afterward.


Ephesians 2:1-3 is another text often used to prove inherited sin, notice: “And you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins. Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. Among whom also we had our conversation in times past in the lust of our flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”

Some conclude from this verse that all people are born sinners, and are by nature the children of the devil. However, notice that Paul declares that the people here addressed had been “dead.” They were not born dead but had died as a result of their “trespasses and sins.” They were dead because they “walked according to the course of this world.” These people were not born in sin but had become sinners as a result of their disobedience to God, which is the way we all become sinners.

That is how Adam became a sinner. Adam did not inherit sin. If he did he had to inherit it from his father who was God. We know that cannot be the case. The scriptures teach that God cannot be tempted, nor does he tempt any man, but we are tempted when we are drawn away by our own lust and enticed (James 1: 13-15). Hence, Adam sinned through temptation.


If indeed infants are born in sin, as some claim, should they die, will they be lost? This is a question the advocates of hereditary total depravity do not like to face. In an attempt to avoid it, they assert that “elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who worketh with and where, and how he pleaseth” (Presbyterian Confession of Faith, Chap. 10: Sec.3). Such an answer does not solve their problem, however. What about the non-elect infant? What happens should he/she die? Must they spend eternity in hell?

Who can believe that such is the case, especially since Jesus himself said “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14).The truth of the matter is simply that infants are not born in sin. They do not inherit sin from anyone. Psalms 51:5 does not so teach, nor does any other passage in the Bible. It is a doctrine of man not of God. ”The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”

(This was originally published in the April 1997 edition of the Old Paths Advocate in “The Querist Column. The headings were added for reading ease.)

 Recommended articles:

Introducing the Church of Christ – Ronny Wade

God’s Sevenfold Unity – Jerry Cutter

Repentance – J. W. McGarvey


The Ancient Faith website is a thematic collection of scholarly yet simple Bible essays and sermons, many of which were composed by Restoration preachers such as J.W. McGarvey, Moses Lard, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Campbell. These courageous men of faith through hours of Bible investigation studied themselves out of denominationalism, asking for “the old paths” (Jer. 6:16) and seeking to return to “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We hope you will join with these men in their fervent plea to restore “the ancient order,” “the ancient gospel” or, as it was sometimes called, “the ancient faith.”