Q16: Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?

A: The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity (Gen. 1:28; 2:16-17); all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression (Rom. 5:18).


I. All mankind sinned in Adam (Rom. 5:12).

A. All men are sinners (Rom. 3:23).

1. Death is the punishment for sin (Rom. 6:23).

B. All men die (Heb. 9:27).

1. Even little infants die.

C. If all men die and death is punishment for sin, it is undeniable that all mankind sinned in Adam and fell with him in his first transgression.


II. There is an aspect of oneness regarding Adam and all other members of the human race, those born by “ordinary generation.” Christ is excluded from ordinary generation.

A. God made of “one blood” all the nations of men (Acts 17:26).

B. Adam “begot a son in his own likeness, after his own image” (Gen. 5:3).

1. Only bad fruit can come from a bad tree (Matt. 7:17).

2. A clean thing cannot come out of an unclean thing (Job 14:4; 25:4).

C. Christ is the exception to this universal rule, and this is the reason the catechism speaks of those descending from Adam by “ordinary” generation.

1. Christ—though as man descended from Adam (Lk. 3:23, 38)—was not born by ordinary generation.

a. The Virgin Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:25; Lk. 1:34-35).

(1). Christ did not sin, nor fall in Adam: He was not born corrupt and guilty (Heb. 4:15; 7:26).


III. The Representative Principle pervades all of Scripture.

A. Parents are the representatives of their children (Ex. 34:6-7; Jer. 32:18).

1. Analogy: the punishment of the felon involves his family in his disgrace and misery; the spendthrift and drunkard bring poverty upon those connected with them.

B. David was told that the sword would “never depart” from his “house,” due to his taking of Bathsheba as his wife (2 Sam. 12:10).

1. Absalom killed Amnon (13:28-29).

2. Joab killed Absalom (18:14-15).

3. Solomon ordered deaths of Adonijah and Joab (1 Ki. 2:24-25, 29-34).

C. Abraham’s covenant with God was also for his posterity (Gen. 17:7).

1. The posterity shared in the promises and in the curses.

a. The children suffered equally with the parents for covenant violations, whether famine, pestilence, or war (Lev. 26:14, 22, 29, 40-46); even bore the “brunt” of the parents’ sin (Num. 14:33).

IV. God appointed Adam to be the representative head over the human race.

A. The curse of God strikes precisely at Adam and Eve’s image-bearer tasks.

1. Be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:27-28), becomes the multiplication of pain in childbirth (3:16).

2. The exercise of dominion (1:26, 28), becomes toil to get food from the ground until it claims them at death (3:17-19).

3. The original holiness (i.e., piety towards God) Adam possessed (cf. 2:19) was lost, as they hid from God (3:8, 10).

4. The original righteousness (i.e., justice towards neighbor) Adam possessed (cf. 2:23-24) was lost, as blame-shifting began (3:12-13).

a. It is undeniable that all humanity suffers the same penalty of our first parents’ sin: pain in childbirth, labor to survive, loss of original holiness and righteousness.

B. The imputation of sin from the one man Adam; life to many from the Second Adam (Rom. 5:12-21).

1. The sin of Adam is the judicial ground of the condemnation for all represented by him, and the obedience of Christ is the judicial ground of justification for all represented by Him. In this parallel between representatives we see similarities and differences.

2. Paul’s plan in this passage is that he asserts the doctrine, proves it, comments on it, applies it, and draws conclusions from it.

a. V. 12: Paul asserts his doctrine. Sin and death passed to all men because all sinned in, or through, the one man.

b. Vv. 13-14: Paul proves his doctrine. Punishment (“death”) presupposes sin and sin presupposes law, for sin is “not imputed when there is no law.”

(1). Death still “reigned from Adam to Moses,” meaning all men are subject to punishment and are therefore chargeable with sin and violating law (v. 13).

(a). “Law” cannot be that of Moses, for men died prior to it being given.

(b). “Law” cannot be that which is written on heart (Rom. 2:14-15), for death is upon those who never commit actual sin (infants). “No man can understand the
grounds of this imputation [to infants], so as to be able perfectly to justify it on principles applicable to human life. It must always stand, not on our ability to see
its justice, but on our belief that God speaks true, and that it is just, as the Judge of all the earth in all things does justly, whether we are able to see it or not”
(Romans, Robert Haldane).

(c). The ground of affliction must be sought outside of self, i.e., in the sin of our first parents, hence Adam is a “type” of Christ (v. 14).

c. Vv. 15-17: Paul comments on his doctrine. The great parallel has similarities and differences.

(1). The similarity is the one man’s sin condemning all he represents, while the second Adam’s (1 Cor. 15:45) righteousness justifies all He represents.

(2). The differences are threefold.

(a). That by one man’s offense many died, much more shall grace abound to many men (v. 15).

(b). That if for one offense condemnation came to all, the free justification is from many offenses (v. 16).

(c). That death reigned through Adam, life through Christ (v. 17).

d. Vv. 18-19: Paul applies this doctrine. The solidarity works both ways.

(1). If man in union with Adam is condemned for his offense, so those in union with Christ will be justified on the ground of His righteousness (v. 18).

(2). As one man’s disobedience constituted us sinners, so one Man’s obedience constituted us righteous (v. 19).

e. Vv. 20-21: Paul draws two conclusions. Sin abounds and grace abounds.

(1). The law was not designed for justification, but that sin would abound on the consciousness of men (cf. Rom. 7:7).

(2). That where sin abounds, grace abounds much more.

f. The main point of the passage turns on the term “one” (used 12x), expressing clearly the principle of solidarity.

(1). In Adam all sinned (vv. 12, 15-19; cf. 1 Cor. 15:22).

(2). In Christ many are righteous (vv. 14-16, 18-19, 21).

(a). Union with Adam is the cause of death, union with Christ is the cause of life (1Cor. 15:45).


V. Application.

A. Use, of knowledge.

1. Due to the sin of our first parents all humanity has been plunged into ruin. Let this be a lesson of humility to all—fallenness is the common denominator of humanity.

B. Use, of testing.

1. Let us test our view of sin against this dreadful fact that one sin (Adam’s sin was no “little” sin) ruined the whole world.

2. Parents: do we realize the effect our lives have upon our children?

C. Use, of exhortation: sinners and saints.

1. Sinners. The offer of Christ as Savior from sin is made to you and you are called to personally embrace Him. Accept the offer lest you perish, not only from your breach of the first covenant, but also for despising the covenant of grace that alone can recover sinners. “How then can man be righteous before God” (Job 25:4)? Answer: Cast self upon the representative work of Christ for life.

2. Saints. Wonder at the redemption purchased by Christ. How strong must the power of Christ be, that could stop the torrent of Adam’s sin, even when increased with innumerable actual transgressions (Rom. 5:16).

Print Friendly, PDF & Email