Question: “Why do I face the consequences of Adam’s sin when I did not
eat the fruit?”
Answer: The Bible says, “Sin entered the world
through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men,
because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). It was through Adam that sin
entered the world. When Adam sinned, he immediately died spiritually—his
relationship with God was broken—and he also began dying physically—his body
began the process of growing old and dying. From that point on, every person
born has inherited Adam’s sin nature and suffered the same consequences of
spiritual and physical death.
We are born physically alive but spiritually dead. This is why Jesus told
Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). Physical birth provides us with a sinful
human nature; spiritual rebirth provides us with a new nature, “created to be
like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).
It may not seem fair
to be saddled with Adam’s sin nature, but it’s eminently consistent with other
aspects of human propagation. We inherit physical characteristics such as eye
color from our parents, and we also inherit their spiritual characteristics. Why
should the passing on of spiritual traits be any different from the transmission
of physical traits? We may complain about having brown eyes when we wanted blue,
but our eye color is simply a matter of genetics. In the same way, having a sin
nature is a matter of “spiritual genetics”; it’s a natural part of
However, the Bible says we are sinners by deed as well as by
nature. We are sinners twice over: we sin because we are sinners (Adam’s
choice), and we are sinners because we sin (our choice). “All have sinned and
fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We are more than potential
sinners; we are practicing sinners. “Each one is tempted when, by his own
evil desire, he is dragged away” (James 1:14). A driver sees the speed limit sign;
he exceeds the limit; he gets a ticket. He can’t blame Adam for that.
did not eat the fruit.” True, but Scripture says that we, individually and as a
human race, were all represented by Adam. “In Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22). A
diplomat speaking at the United Nations may do or say things that many of his
countrymen disapprove of, but he is still the diplomat—he is the officially
recognized representative of that country.
The theological principle of
a man representing his descendants is called “federal headship.” Adam was the
first created human being. He stood at the “head” of the human race. He was
placed in the garden to act not only for himself but for all his progeny. Every
person ever born was already “in Adam,” represented by him. The concept of
federal headship is clearly taught elsewhere in Scripture: “One might even say
that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was
still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him” (Hebrews 7:9-10, ESV). Levi
was born several centuries after Abraham lived, yet Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek “through Abraham.” Abraham was the
federal head of the Jewish people, and his actions represented the future twelve
tribes and the Levitical priesthood.
“I did not eat the fruit.” True, but
all sin has consequences beyond the initial wrongdoing. “No man is an island,
entire of itself,” John Donne famously wrote. This truth can be applied
spiritually. David’s sin with Bathsheba affected David, of course, but it also
had a ripple effect that affected Uriah, David’s unborn child, the rest of
David’s family, the whole nation, and even Israel’s enemies (2 Samuel 12:9-14). Sin
always has undesirable effects on those around us. The ripples of Adam’s
momentous sin are still being felt.
“I did not eat the fruit.” True, you
were not physically present in the actual Garden of Eden with the juice of
forbidden fruit staining the corners of your guilty mouth. But the Bible seems
to indicate that, if you had been there instead of Adam, you’d have done
the same thing he did. The apple, as they say, doesn’t fall far from the
Whether or not we think it’s “fair” to have Adam’s sin imputed to
us doesn’t really matter. God says that we have inherited Adam’s sinful nature,
and who are we to argue with God? Besides, we are sinners in our own right. Our
own sin probably makes Adam look like a puritan in comparison.
good news: God loves sinners. In fact, He has acted to overcome our sin nature
by sending Jesus to pay for our sins and offer us His righteousness (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus took the death that was our
penalty upon Himself, “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”
(2 Corinthians 5:21). Note
the words “in him.” We who were once in Adam can now be in Christ by faith.
Christ is our new Head, and “in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians
Recommended Resource: Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie.