Are We Punished for Adam’s Sin?

By Elias Ayala (MDiv & M.A.T.)

Are We Punished for Adam's Sin?There is a sense in which we are and a sense in which we are not. On the one hand, because of Adam’s sin all men have inherited a sin nature as a result and hence all men are inclined to sin by nature. As Romans 5:12 is clear to point out. “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…” What is particularly interesting is that last statement: “because all sinned”. It is here where an important biblical concept needs to be drawn out so as to see the connection between Adam’s sin and the resultant sin nature that is inherited by Adam’s descendants.

In the Bible there is the concept known as “federal headship”. This concept is the teaching that the father is the one who represents his family, his descendants. While found throughout the scriptures, the concept is clearly represented in Hebrews 7:8-10 which reads “Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek me him.” Notice that it is said that Levi paid tithes via his father Abraham because Levi “so to speak” existed in the loins of his father Abraham. So Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, but it is rightly said that Levi who is born much later also paid the tithes via his representative head, his father Abraham, hence the concept of federal headship.

In like fashion, Adam being the first created man was the federal head of humanity. Hence, when Adam sinned, we “so to speak” all sinned in Adam. As a result, through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…” (Romans 5:12). Now while it is true that in this sense we are affected by Adam’s sin, we are not punished for Adam’s sin. Adam’s sin had consequences which affected all of his descendants, but on Judgement day God will not say: “How dare you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from.” We were not there in the Garden except in the sense that we were “yet in our father’s loins”.

The other side of the coin is that just as Adam represented all of mankind and hence all of mankind have been affected negatively by Adam’s sin, God in his mercy sent a Second Adam. “So also it is written, “The first man Adam, became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly” (1 Corinthians 15:45-48). Notice the mention of the “first man and the last man. Adam was the first who came from the earth, and the last man came from heaven (i.e. Jesus).

In like fashion, just as Adam represented all of his descendants as man’s federal head, so to Jesus, the last man, or the second Adam, represented all “who believe”. Just as man is negatively affected by the sin of Adam, in like fashion, “all who believe” reap the benefits earned by the perfect work of Jesus Christ. And hence, even though it was impossible to keep God’s Law perfectly, the rewards of keeping God’s Law perfectly are transferred to all who believe and have faith in Christ, our federal head. Just as the scriptures read: “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.” (Romans 5:18).

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