Somebody please ask me what I’m doing blogging at 6:10am on Thanksgiving morning. I think I’m supposed t be sleeping. Somehow I’m wide awake, thinking about Black Friday adds, the theological ramifications of Wall-E (which I watched last night) and competing models of the transmission of Adam’s sin.
Well, first things first. As I am working my way through a quarter’s worth on lessons of the topic of evil and suffering in the Bible, I’m trying to connect the dots between what Adam did in the Garden of Eden and who we are today. I’m finding that Scripture says precious little about exactly how (key word, now) we can be caught up in Adam’s sin, or as Douglas Moo puts it “What is the relationship between Adam’s sin and ours?”
Seems that I have run smack dab into a bit of mystery here. The primary proof-text that most people would reference is Romans 5, especially verses 12, 18 and 19.
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all 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 until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.”
“But the free gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned )through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. “
“So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.”
It is not enough to say that we inherit Adam’s sin simply because we were physically present in Adam when he sinned. This is known as the “seminal” model of transmission or the “realistic” theory. I see a major problem with this because Eve sinned first, and certainly everyone born shares their physical substance with her too. Yet it is Adam who brought death to all men. Adam was a representative, federal, head in some way in addition to his paternal relationship to everyone. Additionally, the Bible indicates that people are considered sinners even before they are born (see Romans 5:8).
There seems to be some imputation of sin at work here. Wayne Grudem explains imputation in this way, “to think of as belonging to someone, and therefore to cause it to belong to someone.” That is, Adam did it and God counts it to you.
Now, to be sure, imputation is not the whole story. We have also inherited a corrupt nature from Adam that ensures that we will personally sin as well, but this fact does not cancel the truth of imputed sin. What Adam did brought condemnation on everyone long before they brought condemnation on themselves.
Before any of us rushes to condemn this as unfair, let me remind you that we have all personally sinned. Romans 5 seems to imply the we all sinned “in and with” Adam; our sin is the same as his and we are all personally guilty. All sin is idolatry. Adam sought to have what was rightfully God’s for himself (Genesis 3:6) in seeking to be like God; he believed the Serpent’s lie that eating the fruit would put him in competition with God and he ate. When we sin we are always ultimately seeking to heap glory reserved for God on ourselves (Col 3:5).
What’s really unfair is the murder of Jesus on the behalf of unrighteous men (Romans 5:8 again). Romans 5 teaches us that it is the imputation of the alien righteousness of Christ which makes forgiveness of sin possible. Just as through one man sin and death entered the whole world, so too is sin dealt with by one man. The glorious truth is that while we are all complicit in Adam’s sin, both by God’s just imputation and our own personal sin, God imputes Christ’s perfect work to us by simple faith. And by faith our sin is imputed to Him and punished on the cross:
“…and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)
There is no need to dispute the imputation of anyone’s sin to anyone else! Imputation is good.