4 Man in need of redemption

215 Why are human beings in need of redemption?


Since the fall into sin, all human beings have been sinners: they have been tempted to sin by the evil one. No human being can live without sin. Each one is mired in sin. It is from this condition that God desires to liberate—in other words, redeem—mankind.


The fall into sin and its consequences: see Questions 88→ et seq.


216 What does “redemption” mean?


The original meaning of “redemption” had to do with the act of untying ropes and shackles. In the context of the sacrifice of Jesus, “redemption” refers to the liberation of human beings bound by the shackles of the evil one.

217 Where does evil come from?


It is impossible to rationally comprehend or explain where evil comes from.

218 What is evil?

Evil is a destructive power opposed to God.

219 How does evil reveal itself?


Evil reveals itself in various ways, for example, in the form of destruction, lies, envy, or greed. It ultimately leads to death.

220 Does evil also exist as a person?


Yes. Evil is also manifest as a person and, among other things, is called the “Devil” or “Satan” (cf. Matthew 4: 1; Mark 1: 13). As an enemy of Christ, he is also described as the “Antichrist”.

221 How did evil come to mankind?


God gave human beings the opportunity to decide for obedience or disobedience toward Himself. When human beings turned away from God and decided for disobedience toward Him, evil was manifest. Evil is thus not created by God, but likely permitted by Him in that He did not prevent human beings from making their own decision.

222 Will evil always exist?


No. Evil will not always exist. The power of the evil one has already been broken by Jesus Christ. In 1 John 3: 8 it says the following concerning this: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” After the kingdom of peace, evil will be given one last opportunity to stand up in opposition to God. Thereafter it will be fully neutralised. In the new creation, evil will have no place.


Kingdom of peace: see Questions 575→ et seq.

223 What is related in Holy Scripture concerning the fall into sin?


God had commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which stood in the middle of the garden of Eden. God also made them aware of the consequences of breaking this commandment: “For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2: 17). The Devil influenced the first human beings and awakened doubt in God’s word: “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3: 4, 5). Adam and Eve gave in to temptation. They rebelled against God, transgressed His commandment, and ate of the fruit of the tree. This disobedience toward God is described as the fall into sin.

224 What were the consequences for mankind of the fall into sin?


The fall into sin brought about changes in the lives of human beings, which they could not reverse. They began to be afraid of God and hid themselves from Him. The relationship of human beings toward one another also suffered, as did their relationship with the creation. Since then, the life of man has been filled with toil—and has been limited: “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3: 19).

Another consequence of the fall into sin was the separation between mankind and God: God drove the first two human beings from the garden of Eden (cf. Genesis 3: 23-24).

“Therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.”  Genesis 3: 23-24

225 What was God’s position toward fallen mankind?


God’s love for mankind remained intact even after the fall into sin. Despite their disobedience, God attended to them: in His loving care, God even clothed Adam and Eve with tunics of skin (cf. Genesis 3: 21).

The love of God for fallen mankind is revealed in perfect fashion in the sending of Jesus Christ, who conquered sin. “Therefore, as through one man’s offence judgement came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5: 18-19).

226 How was the further development of mankind after the fall into sin?

After the fall into sin, the sins of mankind increased at an appalling rate: first Cain slew his brother Abel even despite God’s warning (cf. Genesis 4: 6-8).

As time progressed, human beings began to sin more and more. God decided to punish them and sent the great flood. Only Noah found grace in the eyes of God. At God’s commandment Noah built an ark in which he and his family were saved (cf. Genesis 6: 5-7, 17-18).

Even after this judgement, human beings persisted in their disobedience toward God. For example, the Bible tells of the tower of Babel. God caused the builders of the tower to fail in their endeavour owing to their arrogance and striving for fame: He confused their languages so that they could no longer understand one another (cf. Genesis 11: 1-8).

“Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel and killed him.”  Genesis 4: 8

227 Did the fall into sin have consequences for all human beings?

Yes. Since the fall into sin, all human beings have been subject to the power of sin. Sin leads to separation from God, in other words, spiritual death: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5: 12). The inclination to sin (concupiscence) remains present within mankind. Human beings cannot return to a state of sinlessness through their own power.


Spiritual death: see Questions 89→ et seq.

Inclination to sin (concupiscence): Through the fall into sin, a predisposition to sin came into being in man. This is called ‘concupiscence’. It is from this that all sinful thoughts and deeds originate. Even though sins can be forgiven, the inclination to sin remains intact.

228 Did the fall into sin also have consequences for the creation?

Yes. Mankind’s fall into sin had far-reaching consequences for the creation: the ground was cursed: “Because you have [...] eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field” (cf. Genesis 3: 17, 18). The creation, which was originally perfect, has since been damaged. The creation must also be liberated from the curse that rests upon it.

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption. [...] For we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now.”  Romans 8: 20-22

229 What is sin?

Sin is everything that opposes the will of God and is contrary to His being. This includes all words, deeds, and thoughts that are contrary to the will and being of God. It is also sin to intentionally neglect to do good (cf. James 4: 17). Human beings incur guilt with God with every sin they commit.

230 What is the distinction between sin and guilt?


Sin is absolute. It can therefore not be relativised. It separates from God.

By contrast we may assume that God, in His righteousness and mercy, assesses the degree of guilt an individual incurs with Him through sin differently in each case.

Explanation concerning the extent of guilt incurred: A distinction must be made in assessing the amount of guilt associated with a sin, for example, if someone has stolen out of hunger or to satisfy a craving for some luxury. In both cases a sin has been committed, namely a violation of the Seventh Commandment. However, the degree of guilt a person incurs through this sin can be different. In His omniscience, God will always be fair in judging the degree to which a person has incurred guilt through this sin. Certain influences and situations to which people are exposed, for example, societal structures, situations of need, and pathological dispositions, will also play a role.

231 How can this separation from God be undone?


In order to enter into the nearness of God, sin must be forgiven.


Forgiveness of sins: see Question 652→

232 Who defines what is sinful?


God defines what constitutes sin. By no means can human beings define this for themselves.

233 How can we recognise what is sinful?


We learn what is sinful—in other words, what is contrary to the will of God— from Holy Scripture. This includes:

  • violations of the Ten Commandments (cf. Exodus 20: 20),
  • breaking vows given to God (cf. Deuteronomy 23: 22),
  • refusing to believe in Christ (cf. John 16: 9),
  • stinginess, envy, and the like.


This is also made clear to us in the sermon inspired by the Holy Spirit.

234 With what gifts did God equip sinful mankind?


God has endowed human beings with a conscience, reason, and faith. When human beings make use of these gifts, it is the correct response to God for the care He shows them.

235 How are we to engage the conscience, reason, and faith?


The conscience, reason, and faith are always to be aligned with Jesus Christ.

236 What is the purpose of the conscience?

The conscience can help a human being make decisions that correspond to the will of God. The conscience distinguishes between what is good and what is evil. In addition, if the conscience is governed by reason and faith, it allows human beings to recognise whether they have incurred guilt before God or their neighbour through their conduct.