Published in the late 1680s, The New England Primer was the standard textbook for schoolchildren in the American colonies during the eighteenth century. To teach the alphabet, the Primer used short, rhyming couplets. Perhaps the most famous of these was the verse for the letter A: “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.”
For the next few days we will turn our attention to the content of our evangelism. What is the message we communicate to our unbelieving neighbors? As The New England Primer said, we must acknowledge that “we sinned all.”
Today’s passage makes it clear that every one of us has sin in our hearts. Sin is not only what we consider especially bad thoughts or actions, such as racism or murder. Nor is sin committed only by a certain group of people—notice that “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile” (v. 22). Sin is the fundamental problem of every human heart.
And we are powerless against sin (v. 9). Throughout the Scriptures, sin is pictured as a dangerous and powerful enemy. It is a beast, crouching and ready to pounce (see Gen. 4:7). It is a murderer whose house is filled with corpses of her previous victims (see Prov. 9:13–18). It is a crippling weight and a clever trap (Heb. 12:1). Even when we think we are doing the right thing, our actions are still tarnished by sin.
Our sin is rebellion against God’s holiness, and it alienates us from God. Sinful people cannot have a relationship with a holy God. Our rebellion places us under the just wrath of God (v. 5). Like the lost son in Jesus’s parable (see Luke 15:11–16), each of us has rejected the good life God intended for us and now faces death and judgment alone.
Our gospel message begins with the solemn truth that every human being has rebelled against God. This is admittedly not the happiest part of our evangelism, but we must not gloss over it. A doctor cares for her patients best when she tells them the true severity of their illness so that they can be convinced of the necessity of treatment.