Part III: How sin spread in the world


Romans 5:12-15 teaches: 

     “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that is to come.”

     Given the variety of views expressing how sin came into the world and spread, this verse proves a touchstone in discerning their validity.

a.       Sin came by the transgression of one man only.

     We may query this on the grounds that Eve sinned first and then Adam so this verse should read either ‘by one woman’ or, ‘by the primal woman and man’; but Adam was first given the responsibility not to eat of the forbidden fruit before Eve was created (Gen. 2:16-18). Eve’s knowledge of the tree would have thus come from Adam who had been directly appointed to follow God’s ruling. Furthermore, Adam was the head of Eve and Eve was not made of the dust of the earth as the entire animal creation including Adam but formed from Adam himself. Indeed, the very term ‘woman’ means ‘from man’, thus signifying that the two were one flesh (Gen. 2:23).

b.       Sin’s punishment passed on to all subsequent mankind.

     Just as Eve was naturally part of Adam, so were all who came from him. When Adam sinned, entire mankind sinned, because Adam and Eve were the sole progenitors of future mankind. Indeed, God designed entire mankind from their initial father Adam as an ethnic unity with no distinctions regarding their nature either in relation God or to their fellow-men. This we see clearly outlined in Acts 17:24-27, “God that made the world and all things therein  . . . . . And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.” Obviously this verse was written with the fall in view and the chance of salvation. There is thus no man, be he yellow, red, black or white who is not the offspring of Adam and shares his very sinful being.

c.        Sin and death reign since Adam

     This is a most debatable point in modern theology as the doctrine of imputation has come seriously under fire whether regarding Adam’s sin imputed to his offspring, our sin imputed to Christ, or Christ’s righteousness imputed to sinners. Some deny imputation outright arguing that mankind cannot be held responsible for their progenitor’s sins, nor can Christ be made responsible for our sins, nor can Christ’s faith and righteousness be God’s gifts to His adopted children. Others say that there was no true imputation because of an actual state i.e. Adam’s guilt being passed on to his offspring, our guilt to Christ, Christ’s righteousness to us, but that God chose to treat us as if this were the case, thus the term is merely metaphorical. This discussion becomes meaningless when applied to pre-Mosaic times. Death reigned from Adam to Moses because sin did. There are no post-Adamic ‘holy innocents’. Sin, however, was ‘imputed’ where the law was broken: i.e. the term imputation refers to an actual, non-metaphorical judgement of God.

d.       Death through sin is every man’s lot, though he might not have sinned like Adam

     In the eighteenth century, Jonathan Edwards, a great theologian but a fond dabbler in philosophical riddles, taught that man must be seen both as a natural and as a moral being. He did this to make it easier to analyse the effect of sin on man but managed to separate in man what Scripture sees as a unity. This led Edward’s students, including his son of the same name, to develop a dualistic theology of man in his nature and man as a moral being, seeing all that has to do with sin and faith merely in the moral sphere, leaving his natural capacities Adam-like. Furthermore, the moral side of man was attributed to his will so by the time this New Divinity, as it was called, reached England under Andrew Fuller, it had dwindled to “I can if I will”.

     In this verse, we see how the wages of sin relate to the whole man viewed as a unity and his physical damnation and death are very much part of his natural depravity. Natural, or moral, call man’s attributes what you will, they are all fallen and all damned because the wages of sin is death.

     Many teach that infants, strangers to the gospel, mentally retarded and the deranged are innocent in God’s sight, having only ‘original sin’, inherited from Adam. Each person must proceed from innocence to guilt by imitating Adam before being proclaimed guilty by God. However, this verse teaches that death comes to all because all have sinned, even if they have not sinned exactly as Adam.

e.        The first human sinner is a figure of Christ.

     An astonishing insight into the mind of God is revealed here. Though Adam was the earthly father of sin, his marriage to Eve is presented as a lasting ideal, reaffirmed by Christ (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5) and used as a picture of Christ and His Bride, the Church. Furthermore, Adam, despite his sin, points us to Christ, the great Restorer who is therefore called the Second Adam in the Scriptures. Thus Paul can conclude in Rom. 5:17, “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one Jesus Christ.”