A. The section of Scripture that begins with this verse contrasts the effects of Adam’s sin with the results of Christ’s sacrifice.
B. Paul will use the occasion of sin’s entrance into humanity by Adam and Eve’s disobedience to prove that all-Jews and Gentiles alike, are sinners.
C. This section has created unrest for some people for they wonder why they are held responsible for a bad decision our first parents made.
D. So we must examine whether Paul is teaching we are responsible for Adam and Eve’s sin or whether he is showing how we are all guilty by being their descendants-while not actually guilty of their sin.
E. Very few-if any, would argue the presence of sin in people. It is very evident by their actions and attitudes. If we could examine the inner workings of even the most charitable person who is not a believer, we would no doubt discover that often their actions are tainted by improper motives.
F. Those who would doubt their sinfulness only need to examine their actions by the clear teachings of God’s Word to conclude they do miss the mark God has established to find acceptance with him.
G. Paul has already established all have sinned (3:23). Now he will examine how sin is transmitted, inherited or played out by Adam’s descendants.
I. The Truth About Sin
A. Paul connects Adam’s sin to the entire human race.
B. Now we might ask about Eve. After all, wasn’t she the one who gave into Satan’s temptation?
C. While this is true, we will find Adam was considered the federal or natural head of the human race in God’s eyes.
D. Adam also entered into sin with eyes wide open while Eve was deceived by the serpent. The result, however, was the same.
E. Before we examine how this plays out, let’s state some truths about sin as well as some of its results.
F. While Adam and Eve committed the first sin of the human race, sin began in heaven when Lucifer-an angel, decided to rebel against God’s rule and took other angels with him. He then wanted to spread this infectious disease to the human race. He was successful as we read in the story of Eve’s giving in to temptation and leading her husband to do the same.
G. Sin is a spirit of independence from God. This was true with Lucifer and is played out in all individuals who want to live apart from God’s control over their lives. It is exhibited in the idea that “life is all about us” and we do not need anyone telling us how to live.
H. Sin is rebellion against God since it is an affront to his holy nature.
I. Sin blinds us to God’s purpose and leads us to think we know best and will not really endure the consequences God says come with sin.
J. Sin separates us from God since he cannot have anything to do with it.
K. Sin permeates our mind. Our minds become Satan’s playground, and all temptation begins here. We think, feel, and then act. Eve thought about what the serpent was telling her before feelings of becoming like God arose in her mind. Then she acted on what she desired.
L. With sin comes feelings of fear and shame as well as the possibility of having our consciences seared if we continually ignore the voice of God as Pharaoh of old did (he hardened his heart against God’s message and God allowed that hardening to continue).
M. Sin enslaves us just as surely as the chains did the African villagers who were carted from their homeland and transported to America. It is a bad habit we cannot break in our own power.
N. Not only does it separate us from God, but it separates us from others as well.
O. If not dealt with, it will eventually result in experiencing the full wrath of God’s fury.
II. The Death Trap of Sin
A. Theologians disagree over whether Adam and Eve would have died had they not sinned.
B. The question is whether or not physical death was a consequence of sin or whether humans would have died even if they had not disobeyed.
C. Regardless of where we fall on this spectrum, their sin brought spiritual death, and physical death arrived eventually. It was of course not immediate for they lived a number of years after their disobedience and had many children.
D. If physical death was a consequence, we can possibly conclude that their bodies began to age immediately.
E. Spiritual death was an immediate disconnection between them and God. The relationship as it had been was severed, and with spiritual death comes present and eternal consequences-eternal death being the final consequence.
III. The Universal Consequences of Sin
A. Not only did Adam and Eve’s disobedience bring death to them, but that same spiritual (and possibly physical) death spread to all their posterity.
B. Then Paul makes a statement that might confuse or bother us: “for everyone sinned.”
C. How could the entire human race-which had not even been born, sin because our first parents did?
D. We might even propose this is unfair. So let’s examine this matter in depth and ponder some conclusions that have been reached by great theological minds.
E. As we attempt in our own human way to get back into God’s mind before the creation, I think we have to conclude-based on what Paul teaches, that the entire human race was bound up in Adam. That is, he was the federal or natural head. God could look at Adam and see everyone who would ever be born.
F. This does not mean God charges us with and punishes us for Adam’s sin, but everyone born since then has borne out their sinful heritage.
G. We are sinners by nature and choice. The sinful nature Adam and Eve inherited because of their rebellion has been passed to all their posterity so we are not “sinners because we sin” but rather “sin because we are sinners.” Hypothetically we could say we can choose not to but it will never happen. There is the possibility, but we do not have the power to bring it about.
H. We get caught up in the discussion of fairness when what we should be seeking is God’s mercy for this is the only way we can receive forgiveness and thereby regain the right standing humanity had before the Fall.
I. As we consider the matter of human nature, we should not be surprised by these circumstances. Children inherit their nature from their parents, not only through the genes but also in learned behavior.
J. So while not personally guilty of Adam’s sin, we repeat his sin because we have inherited his sinful nature.
K. How this sinful nature is passed from generation to generation has also been discussed by theologians. Some maintain it is inherent in the procreation process while others suppose we receive it when we commit our first sin and thus validate our heritage.
L. While the account of Adam and Eve shows the entrance of sin into the human race, and since we are all sinners as their descendants, it behooves us to ask why and how that makes us a sinner.
M. Consider again the following statements: “I am a sinner because I sin,” or “I sin because I am a sinner.” The first leaves open the possibility that a person could live without sinning. If this is so, it is possible not to need the sacrifice of Christ. The second statement proposes the reality that all will sin and have no choice in the mater (but at the same time are not robots).
N. No one will ever enter heaven on their own merit. We are not born good and then corrupted by our environment (though the environment exudes an influence on us). If this was so, it would again leave open the possibility of one somehow living a life free of sin-even though those who propose this scenario would readily admit it would never happen.
O. It is difficult to look at a newborn baby or consider a small child and think they have a sinful nature, yet they do, and time will bear this out. We are born “bad” and our propensity toward sin will become evident as we move toward the age when we can make choices between right and wrong.
P. From the various suggestions concerning how the sin nature is transferred from generation to generation, it seems best to say it comes through the biological process.
Q. If God actually creates the soul of the person (creationist view), this makes God the creator of evil if the child is sinful at birth.
R. The soul obviously is mixed with the person and is transferred just as human nature is. Just as we receive the traits and genes of our parents and ancestors through the genetic process, so the soul comes in the same way.
S. We must be careful at this point not to remove God from the process. It is not to say God has nothing to do with the forming of new life in the womb for he does.
T. This conclusion also seems to line up with why it was necessary for Jesus to be born of a virgin and not through the normal process. He was like us in all ways except he did not have a sinful nature. (This does not mean he could not have sinned had he chosen to.)
U. Adam was the natural head of humanity who failed to live up to God’s requirements.
V. The objection that God holds us accountable for something Adam did loses steam at this point. We are not accountable for his sin but our own which will pleasantly make itself known in due time. We are sinners from birth and are responsible from birth to God for our sins.
W. An analogy would be a mother who chooses to smoke, drink and use drugs during her pregnancy. When the child is born, there is a higher probability he will suffer some repercussions from her behavior. He may be a cocaine baby. While the child is not accountable for his mother’s sins, he has to pay for them through physical difficulties, some that may even last a lifetime. He may even have to die for his mother’s sins.
X. If we are sinners from birth rather than sinners because we sin, where does this leave us with matters like the “age of accountability,” mentally deficient individuals or those who die in infancy?
1. While responsible to God from birth for our sins, it would appear in keeping with God’s nature that he does not hold us accountable for them until we reach that point where we willfully sin against him with full knowledge of the consequences of those actions.
2. When talking with children about salvation, one of the first things I ask is if they understand what sin is and can give examples of it. If someone does not understand a concept, it is difficult to be saved from it.
3. I think we can also conclude that God’s grace takes care of those who die in infancy as well as those who are mentally deficient.
A. The result of Adam’s sin is that we are all sinners.
B. While not guilty of his particular sin, we all have inherited a sinful nature and are thereby responsible to God.