Submitted by philip on Wed, 05/08/2013 – 10:21
By Archie England, NOBTS
Question: Does the sin of Adam impact all humanity? Did Adam’s sin render all others guilty before each one personally sinned?
NOBTS Professor Archie England responds: For the Apostle Paul, Adam’s first transgression caused death to come upon all humanity (Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:21). What God emphatically commanded (not eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Gen 2:17), Satan enticingly challenged. Deceived, Eve ate; but, knowingly Adam transgressed (Gen 3:6).
By this first act of sin, death resulted and caused all humanity to lose the ability to live physically forever. Consequently, sin and death would reign over all humanity. Except for the miraculous translations of Enoch and Elijah, no person would escape death’s plunge into the grave; no one escapes sin’s grip.
Though some deny “racial guilt” – that all bear Adam’s guilt – I’m not at all troubled by the corollary: all bear his judgment. This kind of judgment on one’s posterity surfaces in the Lord’s declaration to Moses: He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6,7). Similar imputations (from one to many) occurred in the sacrificial rituals. In the first example, the anointed priest sins so as to bring guilt on the people (Lev 4:3). In the second example, the unaccounted sins of the whole congregation render them all guilty (Lev 4:13). Bearing the guilt of another’s sin here reinforces the covenant communities’ responsibility to acknowledge and atone for sin. This concept becomes important in the messianic mission: the Servant (of the Lord) would himself bear our griefs,” carry “our sorrows, … our transgressions, … and our iniquities; … the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him (Isa 53:4-6).
Some further examples highlight this concept. Abraham’s faith, obedience, and covenant relationship blessed his seed, in particular, and all humanity, in general. Achan’s sin resulted in judgment of his entire family and possessions: For his guilt they perished. Forty years wandering impacted thousands not even born, at the report of the ten doubtful spies. The deportations of 722 and 586 BC likewise effected great horror on both the just and unjust. Consequently, Daniel confessed his sins, as well as those of his ancestors, once he understood Jeremiah’s prophecy (Dan 9). Ezra, the scribal priest, openly embraced the guilt of his wrongdoing plus that of his ancestors – the exile being evidence of their collective guilt (Ezra 9:7).
Individual sin always resulted in personal guilt! That’s the clear, major witness of the Old Testament. It seems likewise evident that to be born of Adam is to share his fate: Death. Truly, sin’s the curse, but Christ is the cure!