TheoThought 300

David W. Hegg

 

Anthropology:

The Effects of Adam’s Sin

Imputed Nature? Inherited Guilt?

 

Introduction: As every physician knows, you cannot heal a disease until you properly diagnose it. Knowing the extent of the problem is essential to solving it. When it comes to solving the human problem of spiritual separation from God we are really talking about reversing the effects of sin. But exactly what are those effects? How has Adam’s sin affected his posterity? Do we inherit a sinful nature and are not guilty until we actually sin? Or have we as well inherited the guilt of Adam’s sin? Further, to what degree are our human abilities eroded due to the presence of sin?

 

The answers to these questions will lay the foundation for future lessons on the extent of mankind’s depravity, issues of free will, and the plight of the unevangelized.

 

1. Definitions:

 

A. Nature, what is it?

 

Merriman-Webster:

 

“the inherent character or basic constitution of a person or thing : essence.”

 

When we talk about the human nature in the context of this lesson we are asking about the effects of sin on the inherent character or basic constitution of each individual human being.

 

B. Sin, what is it?

 

• Westminster Larger Catechism

 

Q 24: What is sin?

A: Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, any law of God, given as a rule to the reasonable creature.

 

• Grudem:

 

“Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature.

(Systematic Theology, pg. 490)

 

• Calvin:

 

“Yet it is at the same time to be noted that the first man revolted from God’s authority, not only because he was seized by Satan’s blandishments, but also because, contemptuous of truth, he turned aside to falsehood. And surely, once we hold God’s Word in contempt, we shake off all reverence for him. Fro, unless we listen attentively to him, his majesty will not dwell among us, nor his worship remain perfect. Unfaithfulness, then, was the root of the Fall.”

(Institutes, Vol. 1, Book II, chapt. 1, section 4)

 

C. Guilt, what is it?

 

Merriam-Webster:

 

“the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty; culpability.”

 

When we speak of this guilt in this lesson we are talking specifically about the opinion of God regarding the sinner. Guilt is the moral verdict God has of those who are seen as having participated in sinful thoughts or acts.

 

2. The Sin of Adam

 

Scripture:

 

Gen. 3.1   Now  the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.   He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You  shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden,  3 but God said,  ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”  4  But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.  5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  6 So 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 to be desired to make one wise,  she took of its fruit  and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her,  and he ate.  7  Then the eyes of both were opened,  and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.  8   And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool  of the day, and the man and his wife  hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”  10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid,  because I was naked, and I hid myself.”  11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”  12 The man said,  “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”  13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said,  “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

 

Hos. 6.7    But  like Adam they  transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me.

 

Rom. 5.12   Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and  death through sin, and  so death spread to all men because  all sinned -- 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but  sin is not counted where there is no law.  14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of  the one who was to come.

 

Implications:

 

When we consider the sin of Adam, and Scripture’s teaching concerning it, we can conclude the following:

 

1) Adam’s sin brought the inevitability of death into the world.

 

Rom. 5.12   Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and  death through sin, and  so death spread to all men because  all sinned

 

2) Since death is the sentence God lays on those who sin, we can also say that Adam’s sin brought the inevitability of sin into the world.

 

Rom. 3.23 for  all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Rom. 5.12   Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and  death through sin, and  so death spread to all men because  all sinned.

 

3) Since all sin, and all die as a result, we can say that Adam’s sin made both the guilt of sin, and the inevitability of sin (a sin-infected nature) part of human nature from that point on.

 

At this point, we must grapple with these two questions:

 

1. How am I considered guilty of a sin I didn’t commit?

 

2. How can God be fair in holding me guilty of a sin I didn’t commit?

 

 

3. The Imputation of Adam’s Sin

 

The answers to both questions are to be found in the doctrine of imputation.

 

Definition

 

Imputation …

 

Grudem: “to think of as belonging to someone, and therefore to cause it to belong to that person.” (Systematic Theology, pg. 495)

 

In a theological sense imputation is the assignment of something to another person’s account. It can be either negative or positive.

 

Abram

 

Gen. 15.6 And  he believed the LORD, and  he counted it to him as righteousness.

 

Rom. 4.1   What then shall we say was gained by  Abraham,  our forefather according to the flesh?  2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but  not before God.  3 For what does the Scripture say?  “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”  4 Now  to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.  5 And to the one who does not work but  believes in  him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 

 

The Justification of Sinners

 

2Cor. 5.21  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become  the righteousness of God.

 

In these texts we see the concept of imputation as “counting”. That is, something is “counted” as something else. In Abram’s case, his belief was accepted, or counted, or imputed to his account as through it were the righteousness demanded by God.

 

In the case of sinners in general, Paul declares that God “counted” our sins as through they belonged to Jesus so that we might be “counted” as having the righteousness of God. Here we see double imputation: Our sin imputed to Jesus’ account, and the righteousness of God imputed to our account.

 

Scripture:

 

Psa. 32.2  Blessed is the man against whom the LORD  counts no iniquity,   and in whose spirit  there is no deceit.

 

(The inference above is that the regular practice is for the Lord to "count" iniquity. That is, to reckon or count our sin as ours, and recorded as so on our record. The blessing of God is when this no longer is the case! We understand this blessing as his grace in "counting" our sin as belonging to another. In the OT, it was symbolized by the scape goat, and by the Passover lamb.

 

Rom. 5.12   Therefore, just as  sin came into the world through one man, and  death through sin, and  so death spread to all men  because  all sinned—  13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but  sin is not counted where there is no law.  14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam,  who was a type of  the one who was to come.

 

Rom. 5.15   But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for  many.  16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For  the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought  justification.  17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness  reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

 

Rom. 5.18   Therefore, as one trespass  led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness  leads to justification and life for  all men.  19 For as by the one man’s  disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s  obedience the many will be made righteous.  20 Now  the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased,  grace abounded all the more,  21 so that,  as sin reigned in death,  grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

1Cor. 15.22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

 

 

Implications:

 

Paul’s explanation in Romans 5:12-21 is the foundational text regarding the imputation of Adam’s sin to us. As previously stated, Adam’s sin is “imputed” to the account of every one of his posterity so that we all bear the guilt of his sin. Additionally, the effects of Adam’s sin on our nature are also recognized. We come into this world both guilty and guaranteed to sin.

 

Guilt:

 

When we look carefully at Romans 5:12 we find a curious thing:

 

Rom. 5.12   Therefore, just as  sin came into the world through one man, and  death through sin, and  so death spread to all men  because  all sinned.

 

“…because all sinned:” This is Paul’s way of saying that, when Adam sinned, God saw him as a representative of all those who would come after him. All humanity was seen as “in Adam” when he sinned, and so his sin was not merely individual, but corporate. When Adam sinned it was actually the sin of the entire human race.  Paul confirms this in Rom 5:18 and 1 Cor. 15:22

 

Rom. 5.18   Therefore, as one trespass  led to condemnation for all men, … 

1Cor. 15.22 For as in Adam all die …

Here we see that the guilt of Adam's sin was counted as ours.The effect of his sin was imputed to our account.

 

Nature:

 

Not only did we inherit guilt from Adam, we also inherited corruption in the form of an inherently sinful nature. At our very core, sin has taken root, and has fundamentally changed the ability of mankind to have relationship with Almighty God. As a result of Adam’s sin, all were made sinners.

 

Rom. 5.19 For as by the one man’s  disobedience the many were made sinners,

 

Psa. 51.5  Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

 

Conclusion:

 

God’s perspective was that the whole human race was “in Adam.” He was our representative. His sin was our sin. Consequently, his guilt became our guilt, and the corruption that sin brought into his nature was passed along without exception to his posterity.

 

4. Pelagianism:

 

Named after Pelagius, the 5th century cleric who so strongly opposed Augustine, this theory teaches that the phrase “because all sinned” in Romans 5:12 refers to the actual sins men commit rather than the idea that in Adam’s sin, all sinned.

 

He taught that Adam sinned, we all sin, and hence, we all die because of our own sins. God pronounces the verdict of death on us because of the sins we commit. Adam is just a model for us today. We carry no adverse effects of his sin other than the knowledge of our own weakness, and the very clear lesson that sin brings terrible consequences.

 

Pelagius: “Everything good and everything evil, in respect of which we are either worthy of praise or of blame, is done by us, not born with us. We are not born in our full development, but with a capacity for good and evil; we are begotten as well without virtue as without vice, and before the activity of our own personal will there is nothing in man but what God has stored in him.” (Quoted in Documents of the Christian Church, pg. 53 from Pelagius’ writing titled De peccato originali)

 

(Note: We will see in later sessions that Pelagius also taught that Adam’s sin had no effect on our nature other than to show us that sin is our enemy.)

 

Problems:

 

1) It is not always the case that death comes on those who actually and voluntarily sin, as is true with infants who die before ever committing a sin.

 

2) Most importantly, Paul’s whole argument is set on the fact that it was the one sin of the first man that brought about death to his posterity. On at least 5 occasions in vs. 15-19 this principle is stated:

 

vs. 15: many died through one man’s trespass

vs. 16: the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation

vs. 17: because of one man’s trespass death reigned

vs. 18: one trespass led to condemnation for all men

vs. 19: by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners

 

3) The Pelagian View destroys the analogy Paul is putting together in Romans 5. He shows clearly that, just as we are born guilty sinners through the one trespass of Adam, so also are we declared righteous by virtue of the one righteous act of Jesus Christ.

 

The great problem with the Pelagian theory is its assertion that men are under condemnation for only the sins they have committed themselves. If this were true, then it would follow that justification must be on the basis of the righteous acts men commit themselves as well, for the parallel between the two things is Paul’s main point in this text.

 

 

5. Declarations of Classical Protestantism

 

• Westminster Confession: (Chapter 6)

 

1. Our first parents, being seduced by the subtilty and temptation of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit … 2. By their sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. 3. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature onveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.”

 

• Augsburg Confession: (Chapter 2)

 

“Also they teach that, after Adam’s fall, all men begotten after the common course of nature are born with sin; that is, without the fear of God, without trust in him, and with fleshly appetite; and that this disease, original fault, is truly sin, condemning and bringing eternal death now also upon all that are not born again by baptism and the Holy Spirit.

 

“They condemn the Pelagians, and others, who deny this original fault to be sin indeed; and who, so as to lessen the glory of the merits and benefits of Christ, argue that a man may, by the strength of his own reason, be justified before God.”

 

John Murray: Hence the judgment of God with reference to sin can be scripturally stated by saying that God imputes sin, and this means that he reckons the sinner to be guilty of the sin which belongs to him or is committed to him. If we say that the trespass of Adam is imputed to posterity, all we can strictly and properly be regarded as meaning is that the sin of Adam is reckoned by God as the sin also of posterity. The same sin is laid to their account; it is reckoned as theirs.”

(The Imputation of Adam’s Sin, pg. 72)

 

 

5. Conclusions

 

We have seen that the sin of Adam is presented by Paul (primarily) as that which has brought the consequence of death down on all humanity. Specifically:

 

1) All of Adam’s posterity are born in a state of guilt before God, having had the guilt of Adam’s sin imputed to their account.

 

2) All of Adam’s posterity are born in a state of corruption, with sin having eroded their natural created state.

 

At this point, we must grapple with these two questions:

 

1. How am I considered guilty of a sin I didn’t commit? Because of my being “in Adam.” When Adam, who was my representative, sinned, it was as though I sinned. His guilt was imputed to my account, and his corruption was inherited by me.

 

2. How can God be fair in holding me guilty of a sin I didn’t commit? As Adam was my representative leading to sin and death so also Christ is my representative leading to life. In Adam I sinned and died; in Christ I am made alive as my sin is imputed to his account, and the righteousness of God imputed to me in him.

 

 

The next question is this: to what extent is human nature eroded? What effect has Adam’s sin had on human intellect, personality, will, and behavior?  It is to this question that we turn our attention in our next session:

 

Anthropology:

Total Depravity

 

 

Resources

 

Books

 

Creeds of Christendom, ed. Philip Schaff (Grand Rapids; Baker) 1983

 

Evangelical Theology, Michael F. Bird (Grand Rapids; Zondervan) 2013

 

Human Nature in Fourfold State, Thomas Boston (London; Banner of Truth) 1964

 

Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin; ed. John T. McNeill; Translated by Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia; Westminster) 1960

 

Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem (Grand Rapids; Zondervan) 1994

 

The Christian View of Man, H.D. McDonald (Westchester; Crossway) 1981

 

The Imputation of Adam’s Sin, John Murray (New Jersey; Presbyterian & Reformed) 1977

 

Westminster Confession of Faith, Free Presbyterian Publications (Glasgow; Bell and Bain Ltd) 1994

 

 

 

Articles

 

What is the biblical evidence for the imputation of Adam's Sin?

www.desiringgod.org/.../what-is-the-biblical-evidence-for-the-...

 

 

The Imputation of Adam's Sin | Monergism

www.monergism.com/topics/original-sin-fall/imputation-adam’s-sin

 

 

A Short Defense of Imputation - Credo House

www.reclaimingthemind.org/.../a-short-defense-of-imputation-or-am-i-re...