Original sin is a theological term that goes back to the fall of man. Man was created in God’s image, righteous and free. He was a free moral agent, freely able to choose God or turn away from Him. By eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he did the one thing he was asked not to do. Breaking God’s one commandment to him was sin. At that point, he was driven from the Garden of Eden and cut off from the tree of life (see Genesis 3:2-24).
From that moment on, the spirit of man was damaged. It is as if man is now born with a moral handicap. He is lame in the most important part of his being–his spirit.
That is original sin. The Bible says, “They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3). There is a rebellious nature in most children. They just like to do whatever you tell them not to do. This natural rebellion stems from man’s original sin. Instead of being morally free, man has a decided tendency toward sin–urged on toward evil by what is called “the world, the flesh, and the devil.”
Only those who come to Jesus can be rid of this tendency. That is the whole concept of being born again. Our spirits are re-created. Our spirits are now joined with God’s Spirit, and we have the ability to live a godly, holy life in Jesus Christ. On our own, we simply cannot do it. The apostle Paul says, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death” (Romans 7:24)? He says, the thing that I want to do, I cannot do. The good I would do, I cannot do, whereas evil lies close at hand (see Romans 7:15-20).
Paul struggled against his fallen nature until he realized that “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). He also said, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). The renewal and change in Jesus Christ can free people from the bondage of original sin.
We should keep in mind that original sin is a tendency to do evil, not an act of evil. Guilt comes when we commit acts of evil. There is no such thing as “original guilt.” God does not punish people for tendencies, only for what they do in light of what they know. Therefore, little babies do not go to hell because of original sin, because babies have never committed any sinful acts.