For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19NKJ
Question 22 of the Larger Catechism asks, “Did all mankind fall in that first transgression?” It gives the answer,“The covenant being made with Adam as a publick person, not for himself only, but for his posterity, all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell in that first transgression.” Last week we looked at how God, in His providence, ruled over man’s fall into sin, having ordained it and ordered it according to His good purposes. This week we examine the doctrine of original sin; that in Adam all mankind is fallen and guilty before God.
This doctrine is difficult for the natural man, in the pride of his fallen-ness, to swallow. We cry out with a feigned concern for justice, “Why should I be charged with the guilt of another’s sin? If I had been in the garden, I would have done better than Adam and Eve. I would have never sinned! It’s not fair!” Many similar statements could be multiplied to express the world’s frustration and hatred of the Biblical truth of original sin. Let’s look at some of these protests and answer them from the pages of Scripture.
First, why should we be charged with Adam’s sin? Because, as the Catechism declares, Adam was a publick person. Adam was created as the federal head of the race (1 Cor. 15:48-49). In Adam, mankind was put to the test by God. Adam knowingly acted not for himself alone, but for his posterity. If Adam had passed the test, we all would have passed and been confirmed in righteousness and everlasting life forever. Adam failed. He sinned against God. As our head he sinned not for himself only, but for the whole human race. And since Adam’s sin truly is our sin, Adam’s punishment is justly our punishment. Thus, death, suffering, and pain entered our world and everyone experiences them; that is, everyone descending from Adam by ordinary generation. This limitation is made to exclude Christ, who descended from Adam, not by ordinary generation – the egg of a human mother and sperm of a human father – but by extraordinary generation – the Holy Spirit conceiving Jesus in Mary’s virgin womb. Jesus alone, of all mankind, did not inherit original sin. The Bible teaches that Jesus came as the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45), as a second representative of humans.
Here is where some protest that they would have done better than Adam, they would have stood where he failed. If only God would have had the wisdom to make them the representative of the race instead of unstable old Adam! Stated this way we see how such an objection is really an attack upon the justice and fairness of God. God’s perfect goodness and justice ensure to us that He picked an adequate and fair representative of the race. Adam was the very best of us. Since Adam fell, we know that we would have fallen also, and much sooner and more easily than Adam. This claim is proven true every time you, as a Christian, willfully sin and choose to do what you know is against the command of God. For as a Christian you cannot complain to God that your sinful nature is to blame. Every Christian has a new nature (2 Cor. 5:17); and greater is He who is within us than He who is in the world (1 John 4:4); and no temptation has overtaken you for which God has not already given you the ability to withstand and to escape (1 Cor. 10:13). Thus you, as a Christian cannot blame your sins on Adam, or claim you would have done better. Every time we, as Christians, sin, we prove that God was right to represent us in Adam. We prove we are truly Adam’s descendants.
It is telling that most people who do not like the idea of being condemned in Adam have no problem with being justified in Christ! This fact shows that their complaint is really not an objective criticism made for the sake of strict justice, but rather it is another deceptive attempt at denying our responsibility for sin in order to get out of our just punishment. Yet, if it is unjust for us to be represented to our hurt in Adam, then it is equally unjust for us to be represented to our salvation in Christ. Beloved, let us cut through all of this foolishness and say with Scripture that God’s imputation of Adam’s sin and guilt to us was just. We prove the justice of it every day. Let us cease complaining against God for our own evils that we have done, and let us humble ourselves, confess and own our sins, and rejoice in the salvation we have in Christ!