According to Genesis, God looked upon all that He created and declared it good, and this declaration includes both Adam and Eve. In Adam's and Eve's case, not only is their creation declared good because God created them, but Scripture also instructs us that God created them in His image: "And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Gen. 1.27). And Theologians have argued ever since about what the image of God means, perhaps with as many opinions as Theologians. Still, any meaning must include righteousness, holiness and truth, for Scripture states that believers are renewed in God's image with these characteristics (Eph. 4.24; Col. 3.10). Clearly, then, the present state of humanity, enslaved to sin and doomed to die, was not God's original creation.
Paul tells us in Rom. 5.12 that through the sin of one man came death and sin. And that through this one transgression there resulted in condemnation to all of humankind (Rom. 5:18). The context, Romans 5:12-18, easily determines that this one man is Adam. Through Adam's sin, Paul says, sin and death came into the world as a judgement that all suffer. What sin of Adam responsible for sin and death in humanity is Paul referring to? The answer is back in Genesis. In Genesis 2.17, God gives Adam a command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam was free to eat from all the other trees in the garden, however, if he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil Adam would surely die. The Word of God says, "When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate" (Gen. 3.6).
Because of Adam's sin, God pronounced a curse on both Adam and Eve. To Eve God said: "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you shall bring forth children; Yet you desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." To Adam God said: "Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; By the sweat of you face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return." Their punishment was severe. Eve would bear her children in pain, Adam would have to work hard to produce his food, and both would die, returning to the dust from which they came. Adam and Eve also suffered the lost of fellowship with God and became alienated from Him. In other words, they died spiritual, before they died physically. This is evident from Adam's and Eve's attempts to hide from God after their fall, from God's banishing them from the Garden, and from the fact that all those born since are dead spiritually.
However, the judgments inflicted on Adam and Eve are suffered by all of humanity. In other words, the judgments that came upon Adam and Eve also came upon all their descendants, including you and me! Furthermore, not only do we suffer the same penalty, but also we share in the same guilt. The Apostle Paul writes: "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men . . .(Rom. 5:18). The question is, why are we apparently condemned and made to suffer for the sin of Adam.
Not surprisingly, diverse views abound on this question. Some deny any connection at all between Adam's fall and humanity's sufferings, while others try to diminish the effect of Adam's sin on humanity. The first two views cited below deny or lessen the effect of Adam's sin on humanity, and conflict with Paul's explicit teachings in Rom. 5.12-19 and 1 Cor. 15.22. The last two views acknowledge the full consequence of Adam's sin on humanity, and endeavor to understand how it has occurred.
The Council of Carthage rightly condemned both Pelagius and his doctrines as heretical in A. D. 417.
The FLSB (3) on Jn. 1.9 comments: "Christ illumines every person who hears His gospel by imparting a measure of grace and understanding in order that the person may freely choose to accept or reject that message. Apart from this light of Christ, there is no other light by which we may see the truth and be saved." (4) However, Jn. 1.9 is merely speaking of knowledge. However, humanity's problem is not merely a lack of knowledge, but inability. They, according to Scripture, "love darkness." Man does not need knowledge, He needs a new heart.
Although this view rightly defends the orthodox view of original sin, it has two major problems. First, "If the relationship to Adam were simply that of seminal union, that of being in his loins, this would not provide any explanation why the sin imputed is the first sin alone. We were as much in his loins when he committed other sins and these other sins would be just as applicable to us as his first sin if the whole explanation of the imputation of his first sin resides in the fact that we were in his loins." (7). Secondly, "Neither does it give an answer to the important question, why Christ was not held responsible for the actual commission of sin in Adam, for He certainly shared the same human nature, the nature that actually sinned in Adam." (8) That humanity was present in Adam as urged by the realistic view I do not question, however, whether this is the ONLY basis for the imputation of Adam's sin is doubtful.
Some understand "therefore" as having a local connection with verse 10, "Having been reconciled, we shall be saved (in) his life." Having said this, Paul explains in verses 12-19 how this alienation has taken place, and how we are reconciled back to God. Others feel that the connection is more general, a summation of all that Paul said from 1.16-5.11. Having explained the great doctrine of justification by faith, Paul shows in 5.12-19 how God justifies through faith in Christ. It may also be true, as Lloyd-Jones points out, that Paul has both connections in mind. In any event, clearly in verse 12-19, Paul shows how God justifies the ungodly, and remains just while emphasizing that justification is all of grace, not of works.
"Therefore, just as through one man . . . (5:12)." Both the context and 1 Cor. 15.22 make it clear that Adam is this "one man." Here Paul begins his grand contrast between the one man Adam, with the one man Jesus Christ. By this one man, Paul argues, sin entered the world. Sin had existed before, but Adam was the cause of sin entering the world, and with sin came death. Death was not a natural part of God's creation. God did not create Adam with a natural law of death. Death came into creation because of Adam's Sin. In Genesis, God tells the first man that if he eats of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would surely die. Death is that judgement for Adam's sin. However, death did not only affect Adam, for "so death spread to all." Why? "Because all sinned."
The meaning of the phrase "Because all sinned" is the focal point of a long running debate. Does Paul mean "all sinned" literally, therefore they die? In other words, is Paul saying that because everyone sins, everyone dies, or is Paul saying that death came to all because all are somehow guilty of Adams sin? Grammatically both interpretations are possible. However, the context seems to favor the latter interpretation, that we are all guilty of Adam's sin, therefore we all die.
Most commentaries agree that verses 13-17 are a parenthetical explanation of "because all sinned." Paul felt the need to explain more fully "because all sinned" and this he does until verse 18 where He restates what he began at the end of verse 12. In verses 13-14 Paul explains that although no Law existed from Adam to Moses all nevertheless die, even those who did not sin after the same manner as Adam. In verse 15, Paul says that by the Adam's transgression the many died. "The many" are those in Adam, as "the many" at the end of verse 15 are those in Christ. In verse 16, Paul tells us that those in Adam are condemned, while those who are in Christ are justified. In verse 17, Paul says that through Adam's sin death reigned. In verse 18, Paul clearly says that through Adam's sin there resulted in condemnation to all men. Again, the parallelism employed by Paul makes "all men" to mean "all men" in Adam, as the "all men" in the second half of the verse refers to "all men" in Christ. The context, therefore, suggests that when Paul said "because all sinned" he was refereeing to the fact that all are guilty of Adam's sin and as such all die. Nevertheless, no matter what one believes to be the reason for death in the world, the Scripture explicitly states all are condemned not only because personal sin, but also for Adam's sin: "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men" (vs. 18). A . A. Hodge rightly summarizes: "Paul here proves that the guilt,--legal obligation to suffer the penalty-of Adam's sin is imputed to us, by the unquestionable fact that the penalty of the law which Adam broke has been inflicted upon all." (10)
Consider also: (a) Infants die, yet are guilty of no personal sin. For some to insist "because sinned" refers to actual sins fails to answer the question of why infants who are not guilty of personal sin die. Some evade this by saying that death is part of the natural law. However, Paul says death entered the world through the sin of Adam. Furthermore, to say death is part of natural law solves nothing since God ordained this supposed natural law, and, therefore, the question must be answered: Why did God ordain this law? And as John Murray rightly observes: "If all die because they are guilty of actual transgression, then they die because they sin just as Adam did. But Paul says the reverse; some died even though they did not sin after the pattern of Adam" (Romans 1.183).
(b) If "all sinned" refers to sin in general, that is, all have committed acts of sin and consequently death results, then to maintain the parallelism between Adam and Christ, we are forced to say that doing righteousness has justified us. This, however, is a denial of the very doctrine Paul has expounded from the beginning of his epistle.
Many examples of one suffering the penalty of another's sin can be found in Scripture. Achan not only brought death onto himself for his sin, but on his family too. Amalek's treatment of Israel, brought death and destruction on all his people (1 Sam. 15.2-3). Jeroboam's actions, because he was his house's representative, brought death for all his house (1 Kgs. 14.9-11). Canaan is cursed for the sin of his son (Gen. 9.25). No Ammonite or Moabite was allowed into the Lord's assembly for ten generations because of the actions of others (Deut. 23.3-4). Gennhazi's sin resulted in all his descendants being cursed with leprosy (2 Kg. 6.27).To charge God with injustice for imputing Adam's sin, along with its consequences, to humanity cannot be supported from Scripture.
One verse often used against the view that Adam's sin is imputed to us is Ez. 18.20: "The person who sins will die. The Son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity. . .." Note carefully that the passage's context is not about federal representation, but of a law-abiding person not being held guilty for the sin of a family member. In other words, it is a judicial matter among the Israelites. Nevertheless, however one interprets this passage one thing is certain, Ez. 18.20 does allow for exceptions, otherwise Christ cannot bear our sins, and we are left to make ourselves right with God by our own futile efforts. If there are exceptions, then certainly the fall can be one.
The effect of Adam's sin is all are born sinners (Rom. 5.19). All are what Reformed Theologians call depraved. The following section examines the Reformed doctrine of Total Depravity.
TD DOES NOT mean that this corruption has so altered our will that we cannot choose, our heart cannot feel, or our mind cannot think. These faculties, in this sense, are unchanged. However, the principle that governs these faculties, which causes the will to choose in a certain direction, the heart feels a certain way, and the mind to think a certain way, this sin has corrupted (15), therefore the faculties of our soul have a predisposition for sin. In this sense, no part of humanity is unaffected by the corruption of Original Sin. DEPRAVITY means that humanity has a fundamental propensity toward evil. Again, this does not mean all people are as evil as they can be. God has by His grace and mercy established safe guards to make sure humanity does not become as evil as capable. Government, law, family, the church, and God's common grace and mercy all exists in part to keep humanities' depraved nature from obliterating itself - but this in no way changes the fact of humanity's TD. Although people can perform natural good, civil good, and even external religious good, the indisputable teaching of Scripture is no unregenerate person can do any act acceptable with God. (16)
Inability means humanity cannot redeem itself from its sin and corruption; depravity means humanity has no inclination to redeem itself. Salvation is impossible unless God supernaturally intercedes by electing and calling a particular people for Himself.
"Man's common state of sin has often been compared to a diverse group of people standing on the bank of a wide river, perhaps a mile across. Each of them is trying to jump to the other side. The little children and old people can jump only a few feet. The larger children and agile adults can jump several times farther. A few athletes can jump several times farther still. But none of them gets near the other side. Their degrees of success vary only in relation to each other. In relation to achieving the goal they are equal failures" (20).
If we compare our good works with the good works of others, then we will have no difficulty in assuring ourselves that we are not that wicked - if even at all. We can always think of sins we have not committed. As R. C. Sproul said, even Hitler did not kill his mother! If, on the other hand, we measure our goodness by God's standards, standards that reveal His holy character, then we would be as Isaiah crying out, "'Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Host '" (Isa. 65).
(b) Others argue that it is not our corrupt nature as such that explains our sinfulness, but our freewill. If by this they mean we choose to sin, then we agree. Still, WHY does one choose to sin? This is the issue. If, again, the answer is freewill, then why has no one by his or her own freewill chose not to sin? A uniform effect necessitates a uniform cause. If one sins because he or she has freewill, then why is this so called freewill only used in one direction? (21). To say that the only reason for humanity's sinfulness is that we chose to sin, is little different from coming upon a person who is continuously walking in a circle, and when asked to explain this bazaar behavior says with philosophical forcefulness, "because I walk, I walk in circles." (22).
(c) Arminians argue that this doctrine destroys freewill. Calvinists, on the other hand, insist all of our actions originate within us and are determined by us, therefore, we act as free moral agents. "Man did not lose any of the constitutional faculties necessary to constitute him a responsible moral agent. He still has reason, conscience, and the freedom of choice. He has ability to acquire knowledge, and to feel and recognize moral distinctions and obligations; and his affections, tendencies, and actions are spontaneous, so that he chooses and refuses as he sees fit." (23) The choice belongs to us, therefore, we are responsible for all our behavior. Regarding salvation, the problem is not that humanity cannot will to come to God-as if there was a defect in the will, or that some outside force was preventing the will-but humanity sees no-good reason to come to God (24). An Illustration sometimes used to help understand this problem is that of a lion. Lions are carnivores, eating only meat. Offer a lion fresh meat, and he will gratefully devour it. However, offer the lion some hay for his meal and he will not eat it. If only offered hay for his meals, then the lion will eventually die of starvation, or perhaps-with justification-consume his foolish caretaker. The point is, it is not that the lion is physically unable to chew and swallow hay, but it is against the lion's nature to eat hay. He is a lion, not a donkey. In the same manner, while the will of man is physically able to choose God, he will not-it is against his nature. We do not make choices in a vacuum, and we can only exercise true freewill as we choose according to our nature.
The Church, however, has for the most part disgracefully failed in its obligation to proclaim to the world the true nature of humanity's moral and spiritual condition. This failure would not be as disturbing if the churches only guilt were her silence on the matter, but not only does the church often fail to proclaim the true nature and source of humanity's ills, too often she joins in chorus with those who sing not of humanity's moral and spiritual inability and bankruptcy, but of its ability, not of its sinfulness, but of its goodness, believing that given enough time, education, and programs (tax dollars) humanity will put itself back into the garden from whence it was rudely exiled. More disturbing is, since many churches fail to proclaim the "bad news" to humanity, they are unable to proclaim the "good news" of the gospel. They have, therefore, created a new gospel. Many once preached and believed that Jesus Christ came to save us from the guilt of our sin. He came to set us free from the bondage of sin and death by paying the penalty of our sin, and delivering us from God's wrath and judgment. However, judging from much of the preaching heard on TV and radio these days, and by the countless self-help Christian books, Jesus did not come merely to save us from our sin, but to increase our cash flow, or to save us from our poor self image, our financial problems, our marriage problems or from our sexual, drug, and alcohol addictions through His 12 step gospel!
The Church must return to her roots. She must return to the preaching, teaching, and proclaiming of sound doctrine, beginning with the doctrine of TD. For this doctrine is, as Luther had said, "the hinge on which all turns," and is, as J. I. Packer has stated, "the ground on which the gospel rest." (b) What we believe about the doctrine of TD will be, if we act consistently in our thinking, the one doctrine that will determine what we believe about salvation by grace alone through faith alone, regeneration, the atonement, and many other doctrines of the Christian faith. In other words, what we believe about the doctrine of TD will be the one factor that will determine whether we hold to Reformed theology or to Arminian theology. The doctrine of TD is, as one writer has said, "the great divide of theology." (25) One cannot hold to this doctrine and reject Calvinism, without remaining theological shallow, or committing intellectual suicide. If one believes the doctrine of TD, then logic demands a Calvinistic view.
(c) It is only as we truly feel and understand the depth of our depravity that we can glory in the greatness of our salvation. If we believe that we are not so bad, or that our condition is not as bad as Calvinist make it out to be, then the depth of God's mercy reaching down for us is not so great. However, when we see the Lord of glory, transcending time and space to redeem a people who are altogether unworthy, to redeem a people who are dead in trespasses and sin, then can our hearts truly sing:
And can it be that I should gain interest in the Saviors blood?
Died He for me who cause His pain? For me, who Him death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be, that thou my God shouldst die for me?
Love so amazing , so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all!
The Doctrine of TD teaches us the significance of preaching the law. It is only as we encounter God's holy character that we develop an awareness of the depth of our sinfulness and need for a Savior, and it is in the law that God's Holy character revealed. God has one standard. It is His law. If you wish to know if you measure up to God's standard, then read what He says in Ex. 20. 1-17. Or, if you like, read what Jesus says, "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul and mind . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mt. 22.37-40), and, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt. 5.48). Impossible you say? No one can do what God demands! You are wrong. One has done what God demands, and His name is Jesus Christ. He perfectly fulfilled all of God's demands. The Scriptures teach that when we put our trust in Him, His obedience becomes our obedience; His righteousness becomes our righteousness (26) and when God sees us, He sees us clothed in His righteousness and the law is fulfilled (27). We are just in Christ! But what of our sins? The Scriptures also teach that all the sins of the believer, all our guilt, God imputes to Christ and He pays the price for us: "And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross" (1 Pet. 2.24), "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also receive, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15.3), "Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins" (Gal. 1.4). God will judge all according to His law. All have broken His law. Nevertheless, some will be found not guilty while others will be found guilty, condemned and cast into hell. The only difference between the two is: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (Jn. 3.16).
"But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to them, because they are spiritually appraised" (1 Cor. 2.14). By natural, Paul means an unbeliever. The contrast in this passage is between those who have the Spirit and those who do not. Jude describes the natural man as one who does not have the Holy Spirit (Jude 19), and is, therefore, according to Rom. 8.9, an unbeliever.
"For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom. 8.5-8). Those whom Paul calls "according to the flesh" are obviously unbelievers. This is abundantly clear from verse 9. Unbelievers, according to Paul, will not, cannot, and have no desire to obey God's law; they cannot please God. Humanity's inability is forcefully stated here by the apostle Paul.
"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh, and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved" (Eph. 2.1-5). "Nature" (Gk. phuis) means "natural endowment or condition." (28) It is what we are by original sin in Adam. Paul does not say we become "children of wrath." He says we were by nature children of wrath. We are not born neutral, becoming sinners only by personal sin. We are born sinners. The phrase "children of wrath" is a Hebrew idiom meaning object of wrath. As much as many dislike this truth, Paul is saying that everyone is born in sin, and are, therefore, objects of God's wrath. Paul explains in Romans 5.12-19 that all are born objects of God's wrath because of the imputation of Adam's sin. (29)
"To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and conscience are defiled" (Ti. 1.15).
"And without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Heb. 11.6).
"The intent of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Gen. 8.21).
"Surely I have been a sinner from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (Ps. 51.5 NIV).
"For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting, and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these things proceed from within and defile the man" (Mk. 7.21-23).
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (Jn.3.3).
"This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darken in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart" (Eph. 4.17-18).
"We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (1 Jn. 5.19).
"Who can say, 'I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from sin' " (Prov. 20.9).
"There the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was very great on the earth, and that every intent of the thought of his heart was evil continually (Gen. 6.5).
"There is none righteousness, not even one; There is none who understands, there is none who seeks after God; All have turn aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, there is not even one" (Rom. 3.10-12). Note that Paul says very clearly that no one seeks after God and that there none do good. This entire passage proves the Calvinistic doctrine of TD.
Arminians often argue concerning those who never have an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel that if they would respond to the light God has given in creation, then God would send the gospel. Forgetting that this sentiment is lacking any Scriptural basis, Paul clearly says: NONE seek after God.
"And He was saying, 'For this reason I have said to you, that no can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father" (Jn. 6.65).
"For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God" (Rom. 6.23).
"The hearts of the sons of men are full of evil, and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives . . . (Ecc. 9.3).
"Can the Ethiopian change the his skin? Or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to do evil (Jer. 13.23).
"Who can make the clean out of the unclean? No one! (Job 14.4).
"And this is the judgment, that the light came into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil" (Jn.3.19).
(2) Christian Theology 2.135
(3) Full Life Study Bible
(4) P. 1590
(5) Systematic Theology, P. 619
(6) This view was also held and strongly defended by G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 2.30.
(7) John Murray, The Imputation of Adam's sin, P.38-39
(8) Berkhof, Systematic Theology. P. 242
(9) The New American Standard translates Hosea 6. 7, "But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant." This translation makes far better sense then the KJV's translation.
(10) A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology, P. 330
(11) John Calvin
(12) Rom.6.23; Mk. 7.21 "out of the heart . . . "; Eph. 4.17-18
(13) Rom.5.12-21; chap. 7; Eph. 2.3 "by nature children of wrath"
(15) Rom. 7.20.
(16) Heb. 11.6; Rom. 8.8
(17) WCF 9.3
(18) Jer. 13.23; Mt. 7.17-18; Jn.6.44-45, 65; 1 Cor. 2.14
(19) Rom. 3.11b; 8.7-8
(20) NT Commentary: Ephesians, P. 55
(22) Charles Hodge
. (23) Systematic Theology P. 248
(24) 1 Cor. 2.14; Rom. 8.8
(25) Linleigh, J. Roberts, Let us Make Man, P. 19.
(26) Rom. 5.19; Phil. 3.9
(27) Rom. 8.1-4
(28) A & G, P. 868.
(29) See Ps. 51.5
Revised Feb. 8, 1998