A gracEmail subscriber asks whether Adam “infected” his descendants with the spiritual disease of sin or merely “exposed” his posterity to that fatal malady.
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I understand Scripture to teach that Adam did both those things. Certainly he exposed all humankind to sin. God originally created a sinless world and if Adam had not sinned, his descendants would have been born that world without sin. However, Adam did sin and all his descendants have entered a world filled with sin instead. “Sin came into the world through one man” (Rom. 5:12). In a manner of speaking, Adam also infected his descendants with the spiritual disease of sin. Of course this “infection” is not physically transmitted in any biological or genetic sense.
In God’s arrangement, Adam represented all his natural descendants and what he did counted for all of them, just as if they personally had done the very thing he did in their name. (In the same way, the perfect doing and dying of Jesus, the Second Adam, counted for all those whom he represented, and God treats them as if they personally had done all that Jesus did for them in their name.) “By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (Rom. 5:12; 5:19). We are sinners by nature, and we prove that by sinning for ourselves as soon as we learn how.
Jesus freed us from sin’s penalty (by his past act of “justification”). He now frees us from its power (through the present process of “sanctification”). Someday he will deliver us from sin’s very presence (by our future “glorification”). We do not deserve any of that, and we must give God the glory for it all. In every respect we may say that “where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Rom. 5:20). Because of Jesus’ accomplishments, none who is finally lost will be lost merely because of Adam’s sin. All who are finally lost will have rejected God for themselves.