Lest any begin to take issue with his statement, by arguing that God gave no oral or written law after the first covenant had been broken, and therefore they should not inherit the sentence of death, Paul offers these explanatory comments.  He first says that sin was in the world from the time of the fall until the giving of the law.  This is quite evident simply from a reading of Genesis.  For what did God destroy the old world in the flood, except for their sin and wickedness?  The entire history of the patriarchs is a history of their contending with sin, both their own indwelling sin, and the sin that existed in their own families, and in the cultures which surrounded them.  It was sin which drove the Egyptians to persecute and enslave the Hebrews, and sin which caused the Israelites to murmur and disbelieve God, even before He uttered the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai.

But, Paul says, sin is not imputed where there is no law.  This is a difficult statement, for by the sound of it he could be saying that God did not charge the inhabitants of the world with sin before He issued the law.  I do not, however, think this is the argument.  First of all, he has already shown in chapter 2 that there is a law written even on the consciences of the Gentiles, by which they approve or excuse one another, and by which they shall be judged.  Secondly, as we continue on to verse 14, I think we shall see that he is not arguing for the innocence through ignorance of the pre-Sinai world, but is designing to prove the imputation of original sin by the fact that infants were subject to the penalty of death, even before the law was given.  The argument is, I admit, a difficult and challenging one, and I do not pretend to answer every question or objection in these brief thoughts.

The next 5 verses are given as a parentheses in our Authorized Version, even though the thought is not a subsidiary one to the theme the apostle has taken up.  Nevertheless, he does seem to interrupt his stream of argument to interject some explanatory thoughts, which help to clarify the crucial doctrine he is establishing.  There has been some debate as to whether these verses should be considered as parenthetical, but I see no reason to quibble with the conclusion of our King James translators.

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The apostle has just pinpointed the cause of death in the world as being original sin.  He has shown that sin entered into the world through one man’s sin, Adam (not Eve, who historically sinned first, but Adam, who stood as the representative of the race).  Because of Adam’s sin, the sentence of death passed upon our guilty parents, and all of their posterity.  The guilt of that original transgression was charged not against Adam only, but against all of those whom he represented, which is all the children which have ever sprung from him and his wife.

Even more remarkable, perhaps, and more profound, is the concluding statement of verse 12: “And so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”  It cannot be stressed too much how important it is to understand and believe these words.  Let them be considered with the utmost care, and prayerful attention given to them as warranted.  Paul says first that death passed upon all men.  This we all ought to understand.  When Adam tasted the forbidden fruit, he not only brought death upon himself, but upon all his posterity.  It is vital that we here recognize the vastly important doctrine of federal headship.  Adam was not a private man, acting upon his own responsibility and with repercussions only for himself.  He acted as a representative of his race, fully as much as when a congressman or senator votes, and their vote is accredited as being the will of all the people of their district or state.  When Adam received the fruit from his wife and bit into it, it was every single child that would ever descend from his loins rebelling in him.  When we speak of original sin, we very often mean that the corruption of nature which Adam received when he sinned is passed from father to child through every generation.  This is unquestionably a great truth, and an essential part of the doctrine of original sin; but it is not the whole truth.  Not only is the corrupt nature passed on to us, so also is the guilt of that first sin. 

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This is the only conclusion which may logically be drawn from the final words, “For that all have sinned.”  Not every human being has sinned as an act of direct, open, willful rebellion, like Adam did.  Some infants never see the outside of their mother’s womb, and others are born with such crippling mental deficiencies that it could never be affirmed that they knowingly committed an act of sin.  And yet, nonetheless, they are counted as sinners, and suffer the penalty of sin, which is death.  Why is this?  Because all have, in fact, sinned.  They may not have sinned in their own right, with brazen face and high hand against the authority of heaven, but there is sin upon their persons which God must punish.  That is the sin of Adam, whose guilt condemned not himself only, but all of his posterity, for whom he acted as representative.  Every one of us is guilty of having tasted the forbidden fruit, because Adam was our representative who was acting in our behalf during that period of humanity’s probation in Eden.  This is a very challenging doctrine, and one hateful to our flesh, but the man who rejects it must also reject the blessed truth the apostle is preparing to bring in, namely, the representation of Jesus Christ, by which the guilty may be accounted righteous.

I must pause to note here that, if we discard the Genesis account and write it off as allegory or in any way as fictitious, Paul’s entire argument falls to pieces.  The whole biblical concept of federal headship, or original sin, and of imputation, is destroyed, if Adam was not literally the first man, and did not literally sin, as is described in the first pages of Genesis.  This is why the Christian church must utterly reject evolution, and any other theory or idea that would write off the account of the creation and the fall as incompatible with human science.  Our faith stands or falls according to the veracity of the Genesis account.  If it is false, there was no Adam, no original sin, no transmission of guilt; and thus also, we must conclude that there is no transmission of righteousness by another federal head, and thus the entire Gospel scheme collapses if we allow that Genesis is a myth.  We must then cling tenaciously to Genesis as much as to John or Romans, else we lose everything upon which our faith is pinned.

Beheaded For Christ

I would not often link to articles by Michael Brown, he being a thoroughgoing Arminian, albeit, I trust, a true child of God.  The article above, however, is an excellent reminder of the price that people are paying in many parts of the world to name the name of Christ.  We do not have to look back to the days of the Inquisition or the tyrannies of Nero and Caligula to find Christian martyrs who loved not their lives to the death, for they are abundant in our own day and time in many parts of the world.  The story Dr. Brown relates in this article is a remarkable own, and illustrates the saving and transforming power of the gospel, as well as reminding us that we are to pray for those who under persecution, for they are our brethren in one and the same Lord.

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Abraham’s Children

Who are the true children of Abraham?  Dispensationalism has muddied the answer to this question, but our Lord Jesus Christ makes it very plain.  He tells these Jews, who could certainly trace their physical pedigree back to Abraham, that they were seeking to kill Him, and this was very like Abraham, of whom they were so proud.  We must learn from this that our primary concern should never be over who the physical stock of Abraham is, but whether we are the spiritual children of the great father of the faithful.

In many ways, verse 12 through the end of the chapter is a new section, with a new thought.  Paul now gives the lengthiest and clearest discourse on federal headship to be found anywhere in the scriptures.  Nevertheless, it is not entirely disconnected from the preceding theme of assurance of salvation through justification.  Here, Paul is going to emphasize the necessity of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, instead of Adam’s sin.  The thought is still justification and the imputation of righteousness, and so it is not an abrupt diversion.  We must conclude this, if from nothing else, from the fact that he begins with the word wherefore; even if we cannot discern it, the apostle certainly did not think he was verging off into some new theme.


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Paul begins now to make some of the most profound statements in all of the Bible, and to present arguments that are absolutely fundamental to our proper understanding of man’s condition before God.  He begins by stating that it was by one man that sin entered into the world.  This, of course, as Paul will shortly make clear, and as every informed Bible reader ought to know, was Adam.  Of course, we know that the woman partook of the forbidden fruit first, but it was Adam to whom the command had been given, Adam who was the head of his family and of the race, and Adam who was held responsible by the Creator.  Death also came along with sin, just as God had threatened that it would.  Before He even took the rib from Adam to create the woman, God warned him that if he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die in that same day.  Through the persuasion of his wife, Adam did taste that forbidden fruit, and thus the sentence of death was passed upon him, his wife, and all of their posterity.  Of course, Adam lived for many hundreds of years after that day, though he never would have had to endure the pains of death at all if he had not sinned.  Nevertheless, the death of which God warned him, while it entailed physical death, primarily pointed to the spiritual death and ruination which fell upon him and the entire race, of which he was head and representative.  Instead of being alive to God, living in constant and uninterrupted communion with Him, Adam became dead to God, an enemy in his mind by wicked works.  Instead of being enjoying open, frank intercourse with his Creator, he became a sneak, who sought to hide and lie his way out of trouble.  Instead of living in the glow of paradise, with the hope of perhaps even better things yet to come, Adam became subject to the decay and dissolution of the body, and the even greater threat of eternal judgment as the righteous penalty of his sin against God.  This was the fatal consequence of that one act of rebellion by the first man.