We are just getting started in our study of the 15 gifts God gives us in salvation, and already we have a bit of controversy. Some people will read today’s verse and find it strikingly similar to yesterday’s (David did write them as part of the same psalm after all!). I’ll admit that the gifts of admission and confession are incredibly similar—even synonymous at times. But the way that we are using them in this study has a bit more nuance.
When we studied confession yesterday, our focus was on the object against whom we sinned, namely God. In confessing our sin, we are acknowledging that God is holy and righteous and just, and we fall far short of that standard. We look at the things that we have done and realize that we are unworthy of this holy God.
Today, I’d like to go a little deeper than that. It’s one thing to confess the sins you’ve done; it’s an entirely different thing to admit who you are. It is this essence of being to which David turns in today’s verse.
Please read Psalm 51:5.
The word “conceive” occurs more than 50 times in Scripture. The vast majority of those references are paired with the phrase “and bore a son.” This pairing was a stylistic way of describing a child coming into the world. A handful of references talk about conception without explicitly mentioning birth. For instance, Solomon’s bride refers to her mother as “her who conceived me” (Song of Solomon 3:4). Job laments both the day “on which I was born,” and “the night that said, ‘A man is conceived’” (Job 3:3). Referring to one as the day and the other as the night specifically indicates two different times. Hosea refers to the mother of his children as “she who conceived them” (Hosea 2:5). And here, in psalm 51, David declares: “my mother conceived me.”
While this isn’t the point of today’s post, I felt compelled to mention these verses affirming what the Bible teaches us: life begins at conception. From the moment that a person is conceived, they are alive. That’s the good news!
The bad news is what David tells us in this verse: from the moment that a person is conceived, they are also “in sin.” We are all “brought forth in iniquity.” We are all conceived “in sin.” This has nothing to do with the manner in which we are conceived. It is not a commentary on the nature of sex. It has everything to do with our human nature. When Adam rebelled against God by eating the forbidden fruit, “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Adam’s “one trespass led to the condemnation for all men… by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” (Romans 5:18, 19).
Before we ever had the opportunity to choose right from wrong, we were born with sin guilt. Before we ever actually sinned, we were guilty of sin. Adam’s sin was passed on to all of his descendants. Contrary to what many people want to believe, we weren’t born good; we weren’t even born neutral; we were born as sinners.
We don’t want to believe this! We want to believe that: deep down, we are all good people. But real life shows us this isn’t true. You don’t have to teach a child to be selfish, to lie, or to say the word “no.” They do this naturally, because they are born as sinners. Instead, you have to teach a child to share, to tell the truth, and to say “yes, ma’am.”
Even though this is common sense, common sense is not all that common. We still think of ourselves as good. God gives us a marvelous gift in our salvation where He helps us to admit that we are not good. From the moment that we came into existence, from the moment of conception, we were in sin. Once we admit this, we can either despair, or come to the same conclusion as that of Paul in Romans: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (7:24-25).
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