In reality, only two men have changed the course of human history (albeit, in God’s one predetermined plan). Some have created segues to limited effect, but only two have changed the entire flow or direction of humanity.
All people in history have been constrained by one man and his one action that has produced one result. The man impacting all people everywhere and at all times is Adam. His story is captured in Genesis 1–3; and an explanation of his significant life is summarized in Romans 5:12–21.
The lasting influence of Adam, upon all people, is the impact of his one action. Adam willfully sinned against God. Adam had one precept from God, by which to live. He simply had to choose life, but using his will, he chose death.
Death is the penalty for sin (Rom 6:23). All who are guilty of sin must die. All sinned, all die. The apostle Paul put it this way, “In Adam, all die (1 Cor 15:22a).” All people are guilty of sin, by association to Adam. We are related to this first man, and God constitutes us altogether in him. Humanity, in Adam, is an organic whole. Adam is the federal head of all people ever conceived in the womb.
Adam’s one offense spread to all people like a poison. His own death sentence has become a death sentence to all people. When Adam sinned, he died to God. His external union with God was severed. God has treated the entirety of Adam’s posterity in the same way Adam was treated. All people are conceived in their mother’s womb as dead to God. We are shapen in iniquity (Ps 51:5). Those who are murdered in the womb are guilty of sin. Those who die from complications at childbirth are guilty of sin. The reason? All sinned (Rom 5:12).
Someone may wish to object at this point and say, “Babies in the womb and at childbirth have not had the opportunity to yet sin against God…they must be innocent!” While it is true, that babies do not yet employ their sin nature to act on sin, we must learn more about imputed sin, that is, the original sin of Adam credited to each one’s account.
The Bible teaches us the imputation of sin, just as it teaches us the imputation of righteousness. This dual imputation is directly linked to the two men noted at the outset. The imputation of sin is linked to Adam; while the imputation of righteousness is linked to the second Adam, Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:47).
Adam did his work (sin), and Jesus Christ did his work, which was to live sinless and to die on the cross of Calvary. One man worked his transgression, and all in him were credited with his offense. God judged all people in Adam, and all were judged guilty of his sin. This is the meaning of the doctrine of imputed sin.
Is that fair that we are deemed guilty by association? Before we answer that question, let us consider the parallel person and work of Jesus Christ. This, again, can be referenced in Romans 5:12–21.
Jesus Christ, the last Adam, is the Son of God who took on flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14), yet without sin (2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15). He lived in active obedience to His Father, God, and to the Law of God. He suffered and died in passive obedience on the cross. The merits of His perfect, finished work are what secures His right standing before the judgment of God as a man. “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am will pleased,” is the judgment of the Father toward His Son.
God’s acceptance of the work of Christ, in dying on a tree and being buried in a tomb, is seen in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (Acts 17:31). He was raised because of our justification (Rom 4:25). We are justified, that is, declared, “not guilty,” before the judgment of God because of his precious blood shed (1 Pet 1:19). God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…the helpless, the ungodly, the unjust, enemies (Rom 5:6, 8, 10).
Christ Jesus’ right standing, as a man before God, is credited to the account of others, in the same way as Adam’s sin was credited to others…by imputation. God judges all in Adam because of Adam’s one work. God judges all in Christ because of His one work. Death is applied to all in Adam; life is applied to all in Christ…by imputation (1 Cor 15:22). Simply put, in both cases, we get what we have not earned.
What makes both cases of imputation fair? God is showing no partiality by the means of imputation. In Adam all die, but in Christ, all live (1 Cor 15:22). Does this mean all people, everywhere and through history are in Christ?
Not all people are in Christ. The universality of sin means the wages will be paid in the universality of death. There is not a universal salvation of all humanity because there is not a universality in redemption (Jn 10:11, 15; Eph 5:25), nor a universality in election (Rom 9:22–23; Rev 13:8; 17:8; 21:27).
God has chosen to save some but not all people, according to His good pleasure. His decree to save them is eternal, and His will was executed in their being predestined to election before creation (Rom 8:30; Eph 1:4–5). It was also executed in Christ’s death in their place, on their behalf, and for their benefit (Rom 5:8; Eph 5:25; 1 Pet 2:24). God’s will was also executed when He sent His Spirit to their hearts, to resurrect their souls in the work of regeneration (Jn 3:1–8; 14:26; 15:26; Rom 5:5; 2 Cor 5:5; Eph 2:5; Col 2:13; 1 Pet 1:3).
When the Spirit of Christ causes one to be born again of God (1 Pet 1:3), it is proof that this person’s sin has been imputed to Christ on the cross, and it is the public witness by God that Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to His elect, redeemed, regenerate child…who did not earn original sin, nor did she earn her salvation (Rom 4:5; 1 Cor 1:30). Both were imputed to her, one in judgment and the other in mercy.
Spokane Valley, Washington
May 22, 2022