This study is based upon the New City Catechism.

Text

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. (Romans 5:12)

Exposition

No man can keep the law of God perfectly. Did God create us this way? As we have seen, God created man naturallycapable of keeping His law, but what about morally? Was Adam’s heart formed hostile to God from the very beginning? Did Eve lack the moral faculties necessary to choose obedience?

First, before Adam’s disobedience, man was able to obey God. Solomon wrote, “God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes” (Ecclesiastes 7:29). For thousands of years, theologians have considered Genesis 3 to be an account of “the Fall,” when man sinned for the first time and fell short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). God called His creation very good (Genesis 1:31), and so we must see man as God originally made him – as sinless.

However, this is not to say that Adam’s creational state was identical to how we will be in eternity future, when we shall be “saved to sin no more.”[1] Adam was created without sin, but he was also created without righteousness. He had not disobeyed God, but neither had he obeyed God. Adam needed to conduct himself according to God’s will in order to enter into a full, glorious fellowship with Him.[2] Until that time, Adam remained in a probationary state. We see this probation in the borders of Eden. God’s will was that Adam expand his dominion unto the ends of the earth (v.28), but he was first given a relatively small garden to work and keep (2:15). If Adam had proved successful here, then he would have entered into new glories and joys in relation to God. The world and future glory would come with incremental subjugation.

This was Adam’s task, and we should assume that God equipped Adam with all things necessary to complete it – including a moral capacity to obey. If Adam was unfit for the task before him, then God could not call this “good” (1:31). Further, this would be uncharacteristic of God in Genesis 2, Who is concerned with providing everything necessary for the work which lay before Adam (2:18-25). Therefore, when Adam was created, he was endowed with any natural and moral capacities necessary to accomplish the work before him.[3]

Second, Adam’s disobedience enslaved humanity to sin. Despite possessing all things necessary for obedience, Adam disobeyed God. His disobedience brought death (v.17) as promised. Because of Adam’s unique position as the covenant head of humanity, his disobedience has a direct impact on all of us.[4] Paul explains this in Romans: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (5:12). First came sin, and with sin came death. If God is truly just, then He will see to it that the soul who sins will die (Ezekiel 18:20). Paul does not mean that death spreads to all men the moment each individual man sins (Romans 5:12; cf. Psalm 51:5). Rather, he means that, in Adam, all men sinned, and therefore death spread to all men.

Paul says that when Adam bit into the fruit, you did too, in a true sense. You did not bite into it literally, but covenantally. Adam was our covenant head in the Garden of Eden. Acting on your behalf, he sinned – therefore, you sinned. “Through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” (v.19). The thought, “That’s not fair,” should be immediately tempered with the reality that since your birth, you have hardly done anything but sin. You have demonstrated that, if in Adam’s place, you too would have fallen.

So Genesis 3 truly was “the Fall.” God did not create us unable to obey Him, but because of Adam’s disobedience, we have become morally corrupt. All those born of Adam are born in his likeness (e.g. Genesis 5:3). We are conceived with hearts naturally inclined to disobey God. All hope of earning eternal life vanished when Adam failed in his work. After thinking through the matter in some detail, we should firmly reject any notion that God created us unable to obey His law. He create us upright, but we have sought out many schemes (Ecclesiastes 7:29).


Question: Did God create us unable to keep his law?
Answer: No, but because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve we are all born in sin and guilt, unable to keep God’s law.


[1] Quote from “There is a Fountain” by William Cowper.

[2] e.g. Christ was exalted only after He had obeyed God, not when He was simply born sinless (Philippians 2:5-11; cf. Matthew 3:15; John 4:34; 15:10). Further, Christ not only had to bear our sin, but also earn for us righteousness. In salvation, our sins are imputed to Christ, and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us (2 Corinthians 5:21).

[3] However, this is not to say that Adam’s pre-Fall condition was equivalent to our conditions of future glory. One clear difference is that Adam was morally capable of sinning, but we shall not be morally capable of sinning.

[4] “Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come” (Romans 5:14, emphasis mine). Adam’s disobedience was unique in that it was imputed to all men.

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