These six Articles of faith set out the basic groundwork for a biblical theology of salvation. Before getting to the question of what Christ has done for us, it first must be established what need there is for salvation, and why. Article 9 gets the subject started by introducing the doctrine of original sin: we sin because we have naturally inherited a sinful nature. This is played out further in Articles 10, 11, 12, and 13 as the fallenness of the human estate is such that neither our good works nor even our free will are capable of laying hold of Christ without him “preventing us” – that is, taking the first step of freeing us from sin’s hold over us. Thus these Articles together teach of human sinfulness as a sort of spiritual death, in line with New Testament teachings such as in Romans 8:10 and Ephesians 2:1.
Article 14 takes this a step further, noting that we remain sinners even as redeemed Christians, and thus even then can never claim that our good works outweigh our sinfulness. God’s grace is what gets us started in the life of faith, and God’s grace is what sees us through, every step of the way.
Overall, these teachings reflect the Protestant understanding of Scripture and the Early Church Fathers, in contrast to the rather more “optimistic” view held by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians. Both tend to teach a level of freedom of the human will even from sin such that the yet-unsaved soul can cry out to God for salvation. Eastern Orthodoxy, further, holds to what we might consider a ‘softer’ version of the doctrine of original sin, seeing it more as an inheritance of Adam’s tendency to sin, rather than inheriting Adam’s spiritual death all-out.
Articles 9-14 may seem rather bleak subjects to study and discuss, but without these doctrines in place, the human need for the salvation offered by Christ is almost entirely negligible. The “bad news” must be understood before the “good news” can be appreciated.