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THEOLOGY > Sin > Man's Disobedience > By One Man 


The race is united; that is, the race is not merely the accumulation of multiplied individuals who are isolated and independent, but the race is essentially a unit by virtue of both Creation and the Fall (see: Racial Solidarity).

The race is one because physically all of the individuals who constitute the race are descended from one individual, from one blood—every person is related to Adam; he is the father of all people. The oneness of the race is true because all individuals are descended from that one man, regardless of ethnicity or color. In the sense of creation, every individual is my brother or sister. Therefore, there is no basis for a sense of individual or ethnic superiority—all people are part of one large family.

What is true of the race because of Creation is also true because of the Fall. Morally all men are united and are equal, because every person is inclined toward evil, meaning that every person has a corrupt nature. There is no person who does not sin; in fact, because of each man’s state, it is impossible for any man not to sin. What is the source of this sinful state that all men share?

By one man, meaning Adam, sin entered the race of men. But what does this statement mean? Exactly what is the relationship of Adam to the race? How is his sin related to my sin? Is it true that the fate of Adam was intended to be the fate of the race? If the sin of Adam did affect the race, then upon what basis?

The sin of the one was the sin of the all.
Because of our IDENTIFICATION with Adam
what happened to him happened to us;
this relationship,
which was determined by God,
guaranteed that Adam’s act
and the consequences of his act
would accrue to each member of the race.

This above statement reflects the teaching of Paul in Romans 5:12-21; the text establishes this relationship and the accompanying consequences. The passage is a comparison and contrast between Adam and Christ, and the effect that their two acts have on mankind, the entire race (Adam) and on the company of the elect (Christ); Hodge asserted: “Few can doubt, and few ever have doubted, that the Apostle does here clearly teach that the sin of Adam is the judicial ground of the condemnation of his race” (ST, II, 203).

Instead of a full exegetical presentation of the passage, several significant phrases from the passage will be discussed. Though the word “identification” is not used in the passage, the concept conveyed by the word is clearly the intent of the text.

1. “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (v. 12)

“through one man” - because of Adam, by means of Adam, on account of Adam; the consequences of sin visited upon the race are the responsibility of Adam; his act is the basis for the visitation of the consequences; it is through the one man Adam that sin entered; in this sense we were identified with Adam—we were associated with him, or we were one with him; our solidarity with him insured sameness; because of this identification what happened to Adam happened to us (see: The Principle of Identification).

“death spread to all men” – death is unnatural; it was not a given for man in his original created state; but now death is the lot of all men; contrary to the non-Biblical thinker, death has not always been a part of the created order; death, like sin, is an intruder, an interloper.

The cause of death is sin; when sin entered, death followed; death is true of all men because of their identification with the sin of Adam.

Death in its comprehensiveness is the meaning of the word; whether spiritual death or physical death is intended is not specified; it would seem that both are included.

“all sinned” - hermarton is an aorist verb, which indicates a completed action in the past; the verb should be taken in an active sense; it is speaking of what happened in connection with Adam, not what happens to each individual; Paul is affirming that when Adam sinned all people sinned; it happened because all people sinned in/with/through Adam; the act of Adam was his own as well as ours because of the principle of identification; therefore, each man’s corruption and guilt are his own, for the consequences visited upon man were judicial, but in a more profound sense they were moral; the act of Adam was my act; “all sinned”; though I was not there, I was there, and Scripture teaches that when Adam sinned I sinned.

The question is this: does this verb speak of what the race, human nature, did in Adam, or does it speak of Adam’s sin which was applied to the race? Is the unity with Adam based on seminal relationship (participation), or natural descent, a representative relationship (imputation)? Or, is identification the correct perspective?

The precise manner is not specified, but the main point is lucid: all people sinned in the sin of Adam; in the sin of Adam, sin became the plight of all men; Paul does not definitively explain the relationship of Adam’s sin to everyman’s sin, but the fact of the association is without question (see: The Principle of Identification).

God reveals to man what God chooses to reveal to man; there are some things man cannot know because it is not intended for him to know.

2. “by the one man’s offense many died” (v. 15)

“Many” is identical to the “all” of verse 12; in these words, “many” and “all,” every man is included with the exception of Christ, who was not descended from the seed of Adam but was virgin conceived.

“Offense” refers to Adam’s sin in the Garden (see: Adam's Rebellion); even though Eve ate first, the consequences flow through and from Adam; it is “one man” not “one woman”; and the one man Adam is in contrast with the one man Christ.

“Died” speaks of a past act and the resulting state associated with that act; so man does not become sinful when he commits his first sin, but commits his first sin because he is sinful; that is, man is dead, he died in/with/through the offense of Adam; all men were identified with Adam.

3. “the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation” (v. 16)

“one offense” – refers to Adam’s sin in the Garden (see: Adam's Rebellion).

“the judgment” – Adam’s act was not without consequences; associated with the deed of Adam was “judgment,” suggesting the judicial aspect of the act; the judgment resulted in a fallen state before God and a corrupt condition for man.

“condemnation” – to be condemned is to be guilty, deserving of present wrath and destined for future wrath; because of the condemnation and man’s inability to remove the condemnation, man is in need of “the one Man, Jesus Christ (v. 15).

4. “by one man’s offense death reigned” (v. 17)

“one man’s offense” – refers to Adam’s sin in the Garden (see: Adam's Rebellion).

“death reigned” – death began its domination and rule not by virtue of Creation but as a consequence of the sin of Adam.

5. “through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation” (v. 18)

“one man’s offense – refers to Adam’s sin in the Garden (see: Adam's Rebellion).

“judgment” – see #3 above

“condemnation” – see #3 above.

6. “by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” (v. 19)

“one man’s disobedience” – refers to Adam’s sin in the Garden (see: Adam's Rebellion).

“many were made” – translation is of katestathesan, from kathistemi, an aorist passive verb indicating past completed action; constituted sinners because of Adam; when Adam sinned God determined that all would be in a state; of sin; it means that many became sinners or were made sinners; “made” sinners because of Adam’s act and also because the identity of that act with each individual that would come from Adam; to be made is to be caused.

Paul attributes the current state of man to the deed of Adam. He writes: “by one man’s disobedience the 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 “sinners” 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 principle of identification was operative.

The future state of all people was 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.

Paul is succinct in the epistle to the Corinthians: “in Adam all die" (I Cor. 15:22); death is the curse, the enemy of all people, because of Adam. It is said of Adam that “all those descending from him by ordinary generation sinned in him and fell with him in his first transgression” (Reymond, New Systematic Theology, 449)

It seems that the Biblical teaching is more identification than representation; man was associated with Adam in his deed without it being the typical covenantal relationship found in some Reformed circles with the stress on Federal Theology and its formal series of covenants (see: Representative and The Principle of Identification).

It is amazing that the two areas in which all people are equal (Creation—all are made in the image of God; and the Fall—all partake of a sinful state from Adam) are rejected as facts by secular thinkers. Yet, on the other hand, these same thinkers affirm the solidarity of mankind, even while denying the only two valid areas of similarity and identity. If Revelation is rejected, then where is the normative basis for equality of the members of the race?

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