What the Bible teaches about man and sin

The doctrine of man: The fall of all mankind.

Below is a question from the Westminster Shorter Catechism with answers and supporting Scripture proofs. Explanatory notes follow.

 

Q16. Did all mankind fall in Adams first transgression?

A. The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity1; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression2.

 

1 Genesis 1:28Genesis 1:28
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. moveth: Heb. creepeth  

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. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Genesis 2:16-17. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

2 Romans 5:18Romans 5:18
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. by the offence...: or, by one offence by the righteousness...: or, by one righteousness  

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. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

 

Adam’s sin brought about the Fall. This is the term used to describe man’s loss of original righteousness and his departure from the ways in which God created him. The Fall was an event that had direct and catastrophic effect upon Adam himself. He instantly began to decline physically and die; his spirit died within him and he lost fellowship with God; he was immediately ejected from Paradise and from the company of his God. But the effects of the Fall went far beyond this. Adam’s action plunged the entire human race into the misery of sin and death. This is a vital doctrine that relates to the entire scheme of redemption.

 

I AN IMPORTANT EXCEPTION.

When speaking of the fall of mankind it is always important to clarify that there is one exception to the statement that all mankind sinned and fell in Adam. The exception is found in Christ. He took into union with His deity a humanity that was truly ours. Cp Rom 8:3Rom 8:3
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: for sin: or, by a sacrifice for sin  

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— the nature that sinned is the nature that must bear the punishment if justice is to be satisfied. For Christ to make vicarious satisfaction for His people He must really and truly share their nature. Cp Eph 5:30Eph 5:30
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.  

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. The catechism preserves this distinction by the words “by ordinary generation”. Christ shares in the nature of Adam but not by ordinary generation. His virgin birth was extraordinary generation. The purpose of/reason for the virgin birth was the formation of a true humanity that is preserved from Adam’s sinful nature that is transmitted to his seed by ordinary reproduction. Christ had true humanity yet was sinless, Heb 7:26Heb 7:26
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;  

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— He was perfectly suited to fill our need of a Mediator because of His humanity and yet able to discharge that duty because He was sinless. His humanity was the product of the Holy Ghost creating His human frame of the substance of Mary yet preserving Him from Adam’s sin. Cp Matt 1:18Matt 1:18
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.  

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, Luke 1:35Luke 1:35
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.  

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.

 

II APART FROM CHRIST, ALL MANKIND FELL AND SINNED IN ADAM.

1. God charges all men with sin and guilt, and sentences all to the penalty of sin. Even, in some cases, before the individual has personally sinned i.e. infants, and the unborn who die. For this to be just, men must therefore be guilty before God quite apart from their personal sin. Cp Rom 5:19Rom 5:19
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.  

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, I Cor 15:22. Cp Rom 5:12Rom 5:12
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

12 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 that: or, in whom  

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— the sense of the words here (all have sinned) is a reference to the one act of sin that Adam engaged in: when the one sinned, all sinned. All are reckoned by God to have participated in the act of sin and therefore all partake of the guilt and penalty of that sin.

2. Two reasons may be given as to why all Adam’s natural descendents are reckoned to have participated in his sin; are guilty of his sin and justly suffer the penalty of that sin.

  • All of Adam’s descendents were represented by him federally in the covenant of works. Adam stood in federal relation to all his descendents. His actions were taken to be the actions of all whom he represented. There is an exact parallel in the work of Christ whose actions are accepted by God as the actions of those He represents in the Covenant of Grace. Adam was best suited to act as representative of his people because of the state that God had created him in. Further, being the first man and so naturally head of all his race, he was eminently qualified for this representative role. In Adam God dealt with the race and not with just one man. The commands of God to Adam illustrate this point, Gen 1:28Gen 1:28
    English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

    28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. moveth: Heb. creepeth  

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    .
  • All of Adam’s descendents had a real and natural existence in him. Some will object to being charged with the guilt of Adam’s sin, usually on the basis of a claim that they had no part in the sin and weren’t there. This is not true! I was there in Adam. Cp Heb 7:9Heb 7:9
    English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

    9 And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.  

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    — here the tribe of Levi is said to act even when Levi himself and the tribe that descended from him had not yet been born.

Men are not simply held by God as guilty sinners because they have descended from Adam, inheriting from him a corrupt nature. It is true that men have such a nature and are corrupt because of the transmission of Adam’s nature; but this is not the reason why they are counted guilty. They are guilty because they are counted as personally participating in Adam’s sin on the grounds given above. Men are not constituted guilty by God on any other basis than that of personal participation in the crime.

3. The charging of all men with sin is not some capricious act of God without reason or legal footing. It is grounded in the very principles of justice, being upheld by the revealed truth of God.

 

Next topic: The consequences of the Fall.

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