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THEOLOGY > Man > Man's Original State > Representative 


According to the Scriptures the human race, its condition and destiny, is best understood in terms of the two Adams, the first Adam and the Second Adam. The first Adam is associated with Eden and sin; the Second Adam is associated with Calvary and salvation: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22). What was lost by Adam was gained by Christ (see: Two Men-Adam and Christ).

Something happened to the race because of Adam; his individual action affected all of his descendants in a negative and corporate manner. All men since him have suffered because of him, because his sin was visited upon his children. In some sense Adam was the representative, the head or substitute, of the race, and in some sense the race was identified with Adam.

Scripture clearly establishes the representative nature of Adam in Romans 5, that is, the identification of Adam with the race:

through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin . . . because all sinned (v. 12; “sinned,” hemarton, is an aorist verb indicating a completed past action);

by the one man’s offense many died (v. 15);

the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation (v. 16);

by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one (v. 17);

through one man’s offense judgment came to all men (v. 18);

by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners (v. 19; “were made,” katestathesan, is an aorist verb indicating a completed past action; word means “to constitute” or “to cause to be”).

Romans 5:12-21 provides the basis for affirming solidarity between Adam and the subsequent human population of the earth, for the passage compares and contrasts the two Adams in their relationship to the race. In some manner the original Adam was the representative of the race in the Garden; his deeds were determined to impact his descendants. But in what sense was he our representative? How were we identified with him?

Various relationships have been proffered:

One, there is no immediate and direct relationship between Adam and the race. The only association is that all people, who are free like Adam, independently follow the example of Adam. As he sinned, so we sin; we merely repeat his blunder. Such was the teaching of Pelagius, and it is the position assumed by those who desire to defend the supposed autonomy of man and the implied free will of that autonomy.

Conversely, because man is free, he can contribute to his salvation. Christ becomes the example that man is to emulate, and the person of Christ serves to inspire one to do that which is right. When this path is followed, it brings acceptance of the person by God.

Two, all men were present seminally in Adam, so when Adam sinned, all of the members of the future race sinned. Within Adam was the race (Acts 17:26)—he is the literal father of all people; so the deed of Adam was our deed because we were in the seed of Adam. Such was the understanding of Augustine.

It would seem that even if seminal headship could be true of the relationship between Adam and the race, it can never be the basis for a solidarity between Christ and His people.

Three, some hold that the race inherited corruption (spiritual death, or depravity) from Adam but not individual guilt, meaning that man has the inclination to sin, but not the responsibility for sin from Adam; guilt for each individual comes when the received corruption from Adam results in an individual committing specific sins in the life. From Adam future men gained the tendency toward sin, but not a guilty sinful nature, that is, within each individual is a proclivity in the direction of sin, so strong that it will cause the individual to sin. And with the individual sin, comes personal guilt and condemnation before God. Such is the thinking of modern and ancient Arminians.

Four, Adam was the Federal or Covenant head of the race, as well as the natural head. If he had persisted in obedience, then blessing would have accrued to his descendants; but if he rebelled against God’s command, then his descendants would be the recipients of the consequence of his sin. Adam is understood to be the legal head of the race, and his deed and the effects of his deed—corruption, depravity, guilt, and condemnation—are imputed to the race by God because of the covenant that He made with Adam. Such is the view of many Reformed believers.

In light of the four concepts discussed above, a point that needs to be emphasized is that Adam was the representative or head of the race; this suggests a solidarity with the future population, but the representation or solidarity need not be defined in terms of Federal Theology with its Covenant of Works. The representation is to be understood in terms of identification (see: The Principle of Identification and Mutable).

Because of his representation and the identification of the race with him, coupled with his deed of disobedience, the race is both corrupt and guilty. Individuals are born with a fallen or sinful nature, incapable of doing anything good in the sense of meriting favor with God and contributing to personal salvation. When Adam sinned he sinned for the race (Rom. 5:12-19); he was the representative head of all people, in the sense that his deed was the deed of the race. So the race sinned in and with Adam, because the race wass identified with him. Thus there is a literal and a moral relationship between Adam and the race.

In the Garden, not only was Adam on probation, but through him the future race was also on probation. If he did right, then the race would benefit from his obedience; if he did wrong, then the consequences of his wrong would be applied to the race. This is the unambiguous and undeniable teaching of Romans 5. The solidarity between Adam and the race is such that what the “one” does, the “all” or “many” do; the sin of the “one” is the sin of the “all.” The solidarity of the race seminally makes possible the representative nature of Adam act.

Paul attributes the current state of man to the deed of Adam. He writes: “by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (v. 19). As pointed out above, the verb, “were made,” is an aorist, indicating an act in the past that is also a completed act; this means that the “sinner's state” is not a state that is developing in the present as personal sins are committed, but is a state that was accomplished and determined in the Garden. Individuals do not become sinners in the present because of the sins they commit but became sinners in the past because of the sin Adam committed.

Moreover, the verb, “were made,” (v. 19) literally means “constituted”; that is, the “many” (the future race) were “made,” (“constituted,” “caused to be,” “declared,” or “determined”) to be sinners. Their state was not their independent doing but it was visited upon them because of the doing of Adam; the race was not active in the bringing about of this condition but was passive. The future state of all people would be determined by Adam. It was really the determination of God; He determined that the state and destiny of the race would be dependent upon the act of Adam.

Is it right for God to determine that the actions of one man should affect all the lives of mankind? Should the race have a representative in the sense that the race is identified with him and his deed? The answer is “Yes!” It is right because God is God—whatever He determines is good (see: The Principle of Identification and Mutable).

Additionally, how can one who questions the relationship of Adam to the race accept the relationship of the person and work of Christ to the elect, the Just for the unjust? If it is deemed improper for the act of Adam to be impact the race, then how is it acceptable for the deed of the Christ to be imputed to all who believe, that is, the elect?

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