POOR, puzzled, muddle pated Paul! He had, according to some up-to-
date commentators, a great capacity for getting confused. Quite frequently his logic
halts. If anyone should doubt that in Romans 5:13,14 Paul became confused and wandered off
into a blind alley, we have the assurance of two reputable modern scholars that he did so.
One says: "The apostle finds the puzzle in verse 13 too much for him, and utilizes
the phrase `who is a figure' as a means of returning to the idea with which he began in
verse 12, that of the parallelism between Adam and Christ." The other says:
"Death passed through the race because all the members of the race, as a matter of
fact, sinned. To be sure, that leaves Paul in the position of having failed to explain the
connection of Adam's sin with the sin of all men. Perhaps he was content to have it
so." Undoubtedly confusion exists somewhere! If these sagacious gentlemen are right,
clearly Paul is at fault in his thinking or else he has been so unfortunate in his choice
of words as to say the opposite of what he means. We do not wish to be so impolite as to
question the accuracy of these scholars; but then, if Paul blundered, what becomes of
apostolic inspiration and authority? What we supposed was a divine revelation vanishes
like a piece of ice before the sunlight of a superior enlightenment and intelligence. We
should be duly grateful to be rescued from the blundering of this so incompetent apostle.
But, as we look at the interpreters and correctors of Paul, we hesitate. The question
arises, "Lord, to whom shall we go?" Has not this Paul proclaimed to us the
gospel of God concerning His Son? Have we not with him experienced its power for
salvation, and shared somewhat of his illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God in
the face of Jesus Christ?
Away from his interpreters we turn again to Paul. His words are few and clear and
authoritative. If he could read the interpretations his friends have imposed on these
verses, he probably would cry, "Lord, how are mine adversaries increased! Many are
they that rise up against me." Take for example, the statement above quoted:
"Death passed through the race because all the members of the race, as a matter of
fact, sinned." Coming from the source it does, it is surely not willful distortion,
though it is direct denial of what Paul says. The business of an expositor is not to
criticize the words of men, but to elucidate the Word of God. Yet when his unquestionably
sincere fellow believers have convictions that are contrary to what seems to be the truth
he must find some explanation of their error that satisfies himself. An examination of
widely held theories and the repudiation of what has obscured and perverted God's word may
become his duty. Accordingly we shall first seek to ascertain just what Paul teaches and
then to indicate some of the accretions of error that in popular religious thinking have
long adhered to these Scriptures.
For until law sin was in the world,
Yet sin is not being taken into account when there is no law,
But death reigns from Adam unto
Over those also who do not sin after the likeness of Adam's
Which is a type of that which is about to be.
This argument, though concise, is sufficient for the double purpose it serves. First,
it proves the assertions of verse twelve. The necessity for such proof remains, as will be
seen by examination of some explanations of the connection between Adam and the race. A
limited period of history serves to prove that death falls on those who are not held
personally accountable for their sin. Second, this period, which was conditioned by the
results of one man's offense, is the type of another period conditioned by the other Man's
For connects the foregoing assertions with the proofs. Until law sin was in the
world. The sin is that actually committed by each individual. Sin was here because
through one man sin entered the world. The manner of its dissemination is by the
propagation of the race from a sinful head. The causal connection between Adam's sin and
that of his posterity has been traced in the words "death came through into all
mankind, on which all sinned." All do not see that death, the penalty of sin,
includes a depraved condition from birth. Because death is not seen to be the link
between Adam's sin and ours, various theories of the imputation, or reckoning, of Adam's
sin to all men have been formulated. Imputation is an idea foreign to the text.
Transmission is a fact, and is the central thought. Sin and death are linked
interchangeably as cause and effect. If sin cast the blight of death upon Adam's whole
being, it depraved him. The transmission of death is the transmission of depravity.
"Original sin" was the name given by the older theologians to the results of the
operation of the law of heredity. That divine law is formally stated in Genesis in the
words "bearing fruit after their kind," and in our Lord's statement, "that
which is born of the flesh is flesh." The transmission from father to son of
physical, mental, moral, or other characteristics is universally acknowledged. Some, such
as Enoch and those who shall be changed in a moment, escape the crisis of death, but
mortality is nevertheless transmitted to them, constituting them sinners. Sin is in the
world, but the presence of death, its cause, often manifests itself earlier than, sin
does, as in the case of infants who die.
Yet sin is not being taken into account where there is no law. This principle of
divine government is axiomatic. Taken into account occurs in one other place, being
used in Philemon eighteen, "Be charging this to my account." It differs from the
word "reckoning" in "not reckoning their offenses to them" (2
Cor.5:19) by having the preposition en, in, prefixed to it, which adds the idea of
inscribing in a book. It is thus an accountant's term. The idea of reckoning, or imputing,
is quite prominent in Paul's writings. Unfortunately it has been read into our present
text. It is assumed that, inasmuch as the sins of men from Adam to Moses were not taken
into account, some sin must have been put to their account so as to ensure the death of
all. At the most this is an assumption which the words do not warrant. The argument is
that death reigns over those whose sins are not taken into account.
In the absence of law, God does not take sin into account. He does not charge to men
the sin that is properly theirs. Law formally puts sin to the account of the transgressor
so as to make him subject to its deserved penalty. Where there is no law the sinner cannot
know sin in the character of disobedience, or transgression, or offense. Though an act is
sinful, it is not always conscious rebellion against the authority of the lawgiver. In
Adam's case death was the prescribed penalty for his breach of a law. The infliction of
death supposes the violation of a positive law the penalty of which is death. Sin which is
not taken into account or reckoned to the sinner as a breach of law cannot account for the
reign of death. The simple prohibition of Eden had no authority over others than Adam, and
even he could not disobey it after his expulsion from Eden. Only one sin was accounted to
Adam. Nothing remains of that law save the record of its statement in Genesis 2:16,17, the
story of its violation, and the fact that its penalty is upon the whole race. Where there
is no law sinners cannot subject themselves to its Penalty. One reason for the prominence
of "one offence" is that Adam's sins subsequent to his expulsion from the garden
were not transgressions of law. His subsequent sins do not account for the reign of death
nor are the consequences of them transmitted to the whole race. We must, therefore, reject
the conclusion of the author above quoted that death passed through to the race
"because all the members, as a matter of fact, sinned."
The word but is emphatic. It stresses the fact, apparently contradictory to
the idea of non-imputation, that death reigns from Adam to Moses. Though the men of
that period could not sin with the same responsibility as Adam had, nevertheless they
share the penalty of his sin. Death sits as a tyrant upon the throne because his reign is
firmly established on the foundation of the divine sentence pronounced in Eden. The
enthronement of death is the most terrible catastrophe of history. So repulsive a
condition as a race universally doomed to the failure of mortality and death is unnatural.
It can be explained only as a divine infliction and a stupendous disaster. It more than
suggests that such a condition and destiny cannot be the consummation of a beneficent
Creator's plan. Yet, concerning any happier consummation philosophy and science are
silent; they must stand aside and wait for God to speak. And He says this dread state of
things is a type of a gracious and compensative state where deliverance also shall be
complete and universal.
Over those who do not sin after the likeness of Adam's transgression. Adam's sin
took the form of transgression of a known law, besides being a disobedience and an
offence. The law was like a fence which God had placed around the tree so that Adam could
not reach it. He broke down the fence and so transgressed. Law converts sin into
transgression and aggravates its offensiveness. Not all sin is transgression. Hence men
without law cannot sin after the likeness of Adam's transgression. Perhaps the majority of
the race now living have never heard of God's law, nevertheless they are under the sway of
the tyrant death. Their sin cannot be taken into account as transgression of law.
Doubtless some of them, with remnants of moral instinct and conscience, may take their
known sin into account and seek relief in some kind of religion, while others, such as
infants and the more abandoned, may not. Nevertheless all alike die. The reign of death
where there is no imputation and no transgression proves that something deeper than the
sins of individual men is the underlying cause.
After Sinai law again turns sin into transgression. Moses' law is so comprehensive in
its prohibitions that a sinner cannot act or even desire without becoming a transgressor.
But the penalties of Moses' law did not supersede, annul, or remove the death that passed
through to all as the condemnation and penalty of the one offence. Law gave a personal
consciousness of guilt that those without it could not have (3:20; 7:8), and it subjected
those guilty of certain offences to the death penalty, which was to be executed at the
hands of the people. Even though all know that sooner or later they must die with or
without law, these judicial inflictions of the capital sentence of death, both in Israel's
day and ours, are real punishments. They should give point to the fact that we all are
condemned from our birth and are subjected to a mortality that blights our whole
Even under law the transgressors are in some respects very unlike Adam. An original and
unique relation existed between him and God on the one hand, and between him and the race
on the other hand. As directly created he was a son of God, others becoming sons of God
only by creation in Christ Jesus. God appointed him the responsible head of his race and
lord of creation. While Adam came immediately from the hand of God, all other men are
derived from the first father of the race. Adam, with Eve who was created in him, was
mediately the source of "the many." The whole of human nature was in him; his
descendants were not in him as individuals. Before there can be any real evolution there
must be involution. Because the race was involved in Adam it is evolved from him. The
whole was weakened and corrupted in him as it could be in none but the head. Adam involved
humanity in sin and death, and that humanity was evolved, or propagated, in the corrupted
state to which he brought it.
When Paul sees men without law dying he asks, For the breach of what law is this
penalty inflicted? Death, the visible mark of God's indignation, was threatened in Eden
and at Sinai, but why do those not having law die? Why do infants die? Why do those
reclaimed from the curse of the law die? His answer is, "Death reigns through the
one." And this fact is central in his teaching about racial sin.
This proof rests on the principle laid down in Romans 4:15, "Now where no law is
neither is there transgression." Or, to put it positively, where law is, there is
transgression. And because law makes sin transgression "the law is producing
indignation." Put law and sin together and the result is transgression. Put law and
transgression together and the indignation of the authority behind law is provoked, and
law must be upheld by the infliction of a penalty. If death is natural and not penal, then
these words are pointless. Apply this principle to the facts. Sin is in the world, but
where there is no law there is no transgression, where there is no transgression there is
no legal penalty, where there is no legal penalty there is no reign of death, nevertheless
the penalty has fallen on all men, even on those who have transgressed no law. The
unavoidable conclusion is that behind the penalty there is indignation, and behind the
indignation a transgression, and behind the transgression a law-breaker, and that
law-breaker is the one man through whom sin entered into the world.
A very unfortunate rendering in the Authorized Version of First John 3:4 says,
"whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law, for sin is the transgresion of
the law." This is wrong and misleading. If sin was only the transgression of law,
Paul's words would be unintelligible and false, for sin could not be in the world till
Moses. Law would be chargeable for putting sin into the world. Sin could be abolished by
abrogating law. Law does not create sin, it manifests what already exists. "Sin is
lawlessness" and has fallen on mankind as a result of a transgression. Sin is
lawlessness because it is inherently unable to conform to law. The law is a transcription
of the inherent righteousness of God and states what that righteousness must demand.
Inability to meet that demand is lawlessness. Lawlessness, like sin, is failure. Sin in
the world is evidence that a fell disease has smitten every member of the race with
impotence in the presence of a spiritual law.
Scripture does not, however, teach that men without a legal code are wholly
unaccountable to God. Such a false conclusion is disproved by the history of the race from
Adam to Moses, which records some of the greatest visitations of divine indignation. The
whole argument of Romans 1:18--3:20 protests against such a conclusion. It shows the
outworking in history of the principle stated in 1:18 which has nothing whatever to do
with hereditary sin and death. It deals with those who refuse recognized truth. Confusion
must always arise where personal sins against light and the race destroying sin of Adam
are not kept in the separate places where God has put these two distinct things. There is
room outside the penalties of law for the punishment of those who do not receive the love
of the truth. Even without law, truth haters and rejectors of God may be worthy of death
(1:32). Such inflictions as fell on the antediluvians, on Sodom and Gomorrah, and on
Pharaoh were well deserved, and salutary for the race. These disciplinary measures reveal
the fact of God's governmental dealing with all men, they serve to instruct mankind in the
ways of God, and manifest the reactions of divine indignation against the choice of
darkness rather than light. But they are not judicial inflictions resting on the violation
of a law known to carry a death penalty with its breach.
Strictly, judgment must accord with a legal standard. Those who sin in law will be
judged by law. Transgressions of particular articles of the legal code will be subjected
to detailed investigation. The nations who have no law will not be so judged, but they
will not escape punishment. Being without law, ignorant of law, they are simply lost
without law (2:12). They are destroyed as a consequence of their corruptions and by God's
inflictions visited upon their choice of falsehood. While our Lord insists that the people
of Sodom and Gomorrah were less guilty than the cities of Israel, and Paul says that God
condoned, or "winked at," the times of the ignorance of the nations, they were
always subject to inflictions, not for their ignorance but for knowledge of truth which
they refused (1:21,28). God inflicted on them the ignorance they chose (1:24,26,28). The
punishments were made to fit the crime, specially grave sins against truth receiving the
punishments they merited. It is also true that God is at all times acting through His law
that, whatever a man sows, whether with or without law, that shall he reap also. This law
deals with the individual sinner, and differs from the law of heredity by which death is
transmitted from the head of the race to its remotest members. The reign of death was not
limited to those who provoked God's indignation up to the time of Moses. Saints like Seth,
Noah, Abraham, and the patriarchs died also.
Which is a type of that which is about to be. A type denotes a person, event, or
condition of things which prefigures a corresponding person, event, or condition in the
future. The period from Adam to Moses is a type of a then future period. The antitypical
period is that which is about to be, or future, in relation to the time between Adam and
Moses. It was present when Paul wrote these words and still continues. These words do not
resume and complete the broken parallel of verse 12. That is done in verses 18 and 19,
where the scope is as wide as all human history. The type is a limited period of history,
as is also the antitype. Unless there are some antitypical facts that justify and
compensate for the terrible facts that have been considered, these are indeed hard
sayings. But the edge is taken off every objection when it is seen what God has done for
His destroyed humanity by the Last Adam. Just as we, without being parties to Adam's
transgression, are dying, so we, while surely not parties to the obedience of Christ,
shall receive life and righteousness. To argue that our personal sin must be the
meritorious cause of the death to which we are subject is as reasonable as to argue that
our personal righteousness merits justification and life. But, as the chief feature of the
type is that our relation to Adam apart from any choice or act of ours has involved us in
his doom, so the conspicuous feature of the antitype is that our relation to the Last Adam
shall involve us in His just award. Paul has begun his proof of the universality of
Christ's work by proving Adam's disobedience to have caused universal sin and death. Sin
and death being in His world, God goes there with His life-imparting grace.
The type includes the features of the period from Adam to Moses which are set forth in
the text and which are taken up and put in contrast with the present grace in verses 15 to
17. Other features of the typical era not referred to in the text but characteristic of
that era still obtain in the antitypical era. All human life is conditioned by certain
blessings which God has dispensed. The blessings of creation with its manifestation of the
imperceptible power and divinity of God and the good gifts that witness to the goodness of
God (Acts 14:17) are still fundamental necessities of human life. The light of conscience
and moral instinct is an abiding dispensation. Governments are still God's servants for
good, restraining anarchy and bestowing benefits, though now as always spoiled by the
imperfection of the rulers. These blessings are permanent dispensations to the whole race.
The promise dispensed to Abraham finds its fulfillment in the gospel, while those who are
in Christ Jesus are liberated from subjection to the law. These dispensations are the
background of the dispensation of the secret of the gospel.
THEORIES OF IMPUTATION
Various theories have been formulated by the great theologians who have endeavored to
deal with the subject we are considering. The theories are, in the main, attempts to
vindicate God's justice in imputing Adam's sin to all and punishing it in them. Some meet
the idea of imputation with denial. There are points here and there in these systems of
theology with which we agree. Each theory asserts that all the others are wrong, though
all agree that Adam sinned and that all men die. Beyond this there is the widest
diversity. We have taken the utmost pains to state the different theories fairly, using
the language of the various schools without actually quoting in every case. Strange as
some of the statements may appear, they are not in any case caricatures. We abhor the
practice of some controversialists who attempt to create prejudice against a view they
reject. We rather seek to approach these theories with the sympathy that is so necessary
to a fair understanding. Often they represent the convictions of really great saints.
It should be understood that many of the terms are not those that the present writer
would use. The language is that of the advocates of each theory. Again, terms are used in
varying senses by different schools. The word imputation, for instance, is usually used as
"not the arbitrary and mechanical charging to a man of that for which he is not
naturally responsible, but the reckoning to a man of a guilt which is properly his own
whether by virtue of his individual acts, or by virtue of his connection with the
race." Others who use the word imputation would deny every assumption of this
In order to get a comparative statement of the varying theories we shall try to
discover how each answers the following questions, and then give our answer.
|| What is man's state at birth?
|| What is the effect of Adam's sin on his posterity?
|| How did all sin?
|| What is depravity or corruption?
|| What is imputed?
|| What is the death incurred?
|| How are men saved?
1. The PELAGIAN theory is that propounded at Rome, 409, A. D., by Pelagius, a British
monk. At the council of Carthage, 418, it was condemned as heresy, and has been repudiated
by every great branch of the church. Among its advocates are most of the Unitarians. It
has had a great revival among modern religionists who never heard of Pelagius. He taught:
I. That children are immediately created by God as innocent and free from depravity as
Adam was at his creation and as able to obey God.
II. The effect of Adam's sin was only upon himself. Adam was created mortal, death being
an original law of nature. He would have died whether he had sinned or not.
III. All sinned by following Adam's evil example. Infants attain eternal life. The law is
as good a means of salvation as the gospel, and some men have lived who did not sin.
IV. Corruption or depravity is the result to each individual of his own evil habits.
V. Every man's own sins are imputed to him. The human race neither dies on account of
Adam's sin, nor rises on account of Christ's resurrection.
VI. The death incurred by sin is spiritual and eternal. "All sinned," that is,
all who did sin, means "all incurred eternal death by sinning after Adam's
VII. Men are saved by obedience to law or gospel.
It will be evident to all that Pelagius and Paul differ at every point. Had Pelagius
ever read Paul? Yet many, who are more or less familiar with the Scriptures, start, as
Pelagianism does, with man, and make Christ a noble example, following Whom man becomes
his own saviour.
2. The ARMINIAN theory is that of voluntarily appropriated depravity. It was propounded
by Arminius, a professor of the Universary of Leyden, South Holland (1560-1609). He
accepted the fact of the unity of the race in Adam, but his interpretation was
semi-Pelagian. Indeed, many so-called Arminians are rather Pelagians. Whedon and Raymond
in America represent original Arminianism. John Wesley greatly modified and improved this
theory, and the Methodist bodies have been its chief representatives.
Wesleyanism answers our questions thus:
I. Man at birth is depraved by inheritance, but he is able to cooperate with the
influence of the Spirit, which God bestows on each individual from the first dawn of
consciousness. This gift is sometimes called universal grace. It is sufficient to
counteract the effect of inherited depravity and to make obedience possible, if a man so
II. The effect of Adam's sin is to corrupt his posterity physically and intellectually.
This state does not involve guilt or punishment.
III. All sinned by consciously ratifying Adam's sin in spite of the Spirit's aid. At the
beginning of life men consciously appropriate their inborn tendencies to evil.
IV. Corruption is the result of evil tendencies kept in spite of universal grace which
restores natural ability.
V. Only man's own sins are imputed. No guilt of Adam's sin is imputed, because the guilt
of all through Adam was removed by the justification of all through Christ.
VI. Physical and spiritual death is incurred not by transmission but as a matter of
arbitrary decree. "Death passed through to all" means that by divine decree all
suffer the consequences of Adam's sin.
VII. Men are saved because God sent His Son to be the satisfaction for the sin of the
world, and on that ground He remits all original sin and gives such grace as enables all
to attain eternal life. Those who improve that grace and persevere to the end are ordained
to be saved. "Grace" is a word much used by Arminians, but in their usage it
means the restoration of man's natural ability to act for himself; it does not actually
save, but it enables him to save himself, if he will.
3. The NEW SCHOOL theory is the theory of uncondemnable corruption, which was built up
by Hopkins, Dwight, Finney, and others. It teaches:
I. That each soul is immediately created by God, yet that all men are born with a
physical and moral constitution that predisposes them to sin, this predisposition being
part of man's nature as it proceeds from the creative hand of God. This vitiated state is
not sin; it is innocent depravity. The later trend of this school was to put no emphasis
on depraved tendencies prior to actual sin.
II. The moral connection between Adam and his posterity communicates a vitiated state, but
mankind is not condemned on the ground of actually being in Adam. Consistently with this
doctrine of continuous creation, men are not constituted sinners by Adam through
propagation, but by direct creation of each in a vicious state.
III. All have sinned "by voluntary transgression of known law," though they do
not appear to say what law.
IV. The vicious state is not in itself sin. Sin consists solely in acts, and in
dispositions resulting from individual men's acts. Infants before moral consciousness are
innocent and need no salvation.
V. Man's own transgressions are imputed to him. God imputes sin to all not as Adam's but
as their own, because they consent to his apostasy, and so make it truly and properly
VI. Physical death is not penal infliction. It is simply a consequence which God has
ordained to mark his displeasure at Adam's transgression. "Spiritual death passed
upon all men because all men have actually and personally sinned."
VII. Men are saved by accepting Christ under the influence of truth presented by the
4. The Federal theory, or theory of condemnation by covenant (Lat. foedus,
covenant, compact, treaty), was originated with Cocceius (1623-1687), professor at Leyden,
and fully elaborated by Turretin (1671-1737), a Swiss theologian. It is the view of the
Reformed as distinguished from the Lutheran church, and is held by the Princeton school,
of whom Hodge was the representative. Most of the Calvinistic theologians of the
seventeenth century were Augustinians as well as Federalists. According to this theory God
appointed Adam the representative of the whole human race. With Adam as its representative
God entered into covenant with the race, agreeing to bestow on each member of it eternal
life on condition of Adam's obedience, but making the penalty of disobedience to be the
corruption and death of all his posterity.
I. In execution of His sentence God immediately creates each soul of Adam's posterity
with a corrupt and depraved nature, which is itself sin, and infallibly leads to sinning.
This depraved nature is condemnable.
II. Adam's sin ensured condemnation of his fellows in the covenant, and their creation as
depraved. Adam was not a private but a public person and representative. The oneness of
the race with Adam results from a contract; natural union is seldom mentioned.
III. All sinned by being accounted sinners by Adam's sin.
IV. Corruption is an evil disposition and state which is condemnable.
V. Adam's sin is immediately imputed to his posterity, their corruption not being the
cause of that imputation but its effect. Turretin says: "The foundation of imputation
is not merely the natural connection that exists between us and Adam--for were this the
case all his sins would be imputed to us--but principally the moral and federal, on the
ground of which God entered into covenant with him as our head."
VI. Physical, spiritual, and eternal death passed through to all men because all were
regarded and treated as sinners.
VII. Men are saved by being accounted righteous through the act of Christ.
5. The AUGUSTINIAN theory is the one most widely held among Calvinists. It is the
theory of Adam's natural headship and was first elaborated by Augustine (345-430), though
its central features appear in the writings of Tertullian (died about 220) and others
earlier than Augustine. It is the view held by all the reformers except Zwingle. Calvin
was essentially Augustinian. It teaches that:
I. Man is born depraved, unable, and responsible for his state which is sinful, hateful
to God, and punishable. From this Zwingle dissented. He held that man's vitiated state,
although it was the uniform occasion of sin, is not itself sin. "It is not a crime,
but a condition and a disease."
II. Adam's sin is the immediate cause of inborn depravity, guilt, and death.
III. All sinned by having part in the transgression of Adam as seminal head of the race.
The total life of humanity was in Adam. His will was the will of the species. In his free
act the will of the race revolted from God and the nature of the race corrupted itself.
IV. Corruption is a condemnable evil state, being destitute of love to God. We could not
be justly responsible and guilty unless our corruption were self-corruption.
V. God imputes the sin of Adam immediately to his posterity in virtue of that organic
unity of mankind by which the whole race at the time of Adam's transgression existed, not
individually but seminally, in him as its head. Adam's sin is imputed to us not as
something foreign to us but because it is actually ours.
VI. Death physical, spiritual, and eternal passed unto all men because all sinned in Adam
their natural head. Death is mainly physical. The infliction of death is not a matter of
sovereign decree but of legal penalty.
VII. Men are saved by Christ's work, with Whom the believer is identified. A unity with
the first Adam in his transgression is just because, a like oneness with Christ secures
Some Augustinians admit that "no theory can fully solve the mystery of
imputation." Augustine emphasized the sinfulness of our state. In some passages he
refers all wickedness to original sin. Augustinians fail to see that the whole question of
personal sin is taken up, disposed of, and dismissed before Paul takes up the question of
our sinful state. There are many modifications of every theory by the different teachers
that may be classed as adherents of each school.
6. Less known is the PLACEAN theory of condemnation for depravity. I. Man's inborn
sinfulness is the consequence, not the penalty, of Adam's transgression. This sinfulness
is condemnable. II. Adam depraved all men by means of his natural connection with them.
III. All sin by possessing a depraved nature. IV. Corruption is a condemnable evil
disposition and state. V. Not Adam's sin, but our own depravity, is imputed to us. VI.
"Death physical, spiritual, and eternal passed upon all because all sinned by
possessing a depraved nature." VII. Saved by identification with Christ.
7. In his theological course the present writer was taught the general Augustinian
system with the following important modifications:
I. All Adam's descendants inherit a corrupt nature not as transmitted penalty, but as a
consequence of a law of race unity.
II. The depravity consequent upon Adam's sin is not laid to our charge except as we
appropriate it. There is no race guilt other than the sum total of the personal guilt of
the individuals of the race.
III. All men sin when they act out and so accept the promptings of an evil nature.
IV. Corruption is inherited, but there is no consciousness of guilt for corruption until
we appropriate it by an act. We are not responsible for a corrupt nature as far as we
resist its evil impulses. This corruption is not penalty, nor is it condemnable.
V. Adam's sin is not imputed: his depravity is transmitted. We are in no way responsible
for his act.
VI. Death physical and spiritual passed upon all.
VII. Saved by faith that identifies us with Christ.
It does not come within the scope of our present text and its context to deal with all
the points raised by the presentation of the various theories, some of which needed to be
stated to show the self-consistency, or otherwise, of these systems. Many of these points
are met by referring them to their proper places in the Pauline system. So long as
Scripture is regarded as a collection of unrelated and unordered, or disordered texts the
divine system and order that obtains is not recognized. Failing to see the system of
Scripture, able men have sought to systematize their thinking into theologies, none of
which, of course, conform to the system of inspiration. They have sought to harmonize that
which is diverse and to compress Paul's universal gospel within the narrow limits of the
Circumcision and kingdom gospel. Even the themes discussed in an orderly and systematic
and separate way in this epistle are thrown together in almost hopeless confusion. These
methods must result in error. In dealing with the questions we shall endeavor to indicate
the answer of Scripture and sometimes to point out where we believe these theories have
erred. The numbers refer to the seven theories outlined above. The Roman numerals indicate
MAN'S STATE AT BIRTH
I. Depravity is ours by birth because "that which is born of the
flesh is flesh." Whatever evil characterizes the flesh, as opposed to spirit, we
receive at birth by transmission. Good does not dwell in the flesh. The disposition of the
flesh is death. It is allied to a body of death. Because the law is spiritual the flesh is
not nor can be subject to it. Sin in the flesh defeats man's best effort to obey the law
(John 3:6; Rom.7:18,23-25; 8:6,7). The text shows how this condition has befallen mankind
and how it has been transmitted. In reply to theory 1, Adam was not created subject to a
law of sin and of death. He admitted sin and merited death. Because death passed upon all,
all are involved in sin and are dying, which makes them unable to obey God's law. 2. It is
an assumption without support from Scripture that a universal influence of the Spirit
counteracts inherited depravity. The Spirit is not mentioned in the contrasted grace of
verses 15-17, nor in the indictment of 1:18-3:20. The man in chapter seven finds no aid of
the Spirit in his determined effort to obey the law. The Spirit comes only to those in
Christ, as in the type the oil is placed where the blood is first applied. 3. There is no
innocent depravity unless sin and death are innocent. 4. God did not create Adam corrupt,
unable, and depraved, nor does He directly create each of Adam's children depraved or
otherwise. Because Adam transgressed he became corrupt, unable, and depraved. The basic
truth of the oneness of the race with its head is ignored. 5. Adam alone is responsible
for the depraved condition of the race. Christ liberates us from our depravity by
resurrecting us. 6. The judgment has fallen already and issues in death. Depravity
deserves nothing beyond this. 7. Depravity is more than a consequence of race unity. The
evil consequence is at the same time part of the penalty. All just consequence is penalty.
Federalists rightly recognize depravity as resulting from the execution of the death
ADAM'S SIN AND POSTERITY
II. The effect of Adam's sin on all has been repeatedly stated
(5:12,15,16,17,18,19). 1. Pelagius alone denies any effect on others. 2. Arminians are
correct in denying personal guilt and future punishment for inherited depravity 3. Our
vicious state is not that in which the race was created, but results from the transmission
of Adam's fallen state. 4. Scripture is ignorant of any compact or covenant by which
condemnation is assured to mankind. A condemned state reaches us through natural laws of
propagation. 5. Arminians deny, while Augustinians assert, that depravity is guilty and
condemnable. The ideas of guilt, responsibility, or indignation are alien to the text or
context. Guilt is indebtedness to satisfy the claims of justice for one's own misdeeds. It
is not merely liability to punishment but it implies that one has personally merited it.
But only one transgressed, and he alone was guilty, and responsible. "The judgment is
out of one offence," "death reigns by the one." We are responsible neither
for originating our vicious state nor for possessing it. Guilt or no guilt, we are dying
without judgment. Ordinary generation does transmit personal traits from father to son,
but it does not transmit guilt so that a son is liable to punishment for a theft his
father committed. Penalty without guilt corresponds to salvation without merit. 6.
Depravity is part of the penalty incurred by Adam. The doctrine of Adam's natural headship
of the race carries with it the fact of hereditary transmission of character from the
father to his descendants. 7. We can neither appropriate nor divest ourselves of our evil
HOW ALL SINNED
III. All without distinction sinned as in 3:23. They do so because
through the disobedience of one the many were constituted sinners. 1. The majority of
those who sin know nothing of Adam's example. 2. Those who have never heard of Adam's sin
cannot consciously ratify it. Saul, under the exercise of law, did not consciously ratify
Adam's sin, nor consciously appropriate his inborn tendencies. He cried for deliverance
from them, yet he sinned. How ineffectual is an aid of the Spirit that keeps none from
sinning! 3. If all sin by voluntary transgression of known law, then those without law do
not sin, and therefore need no Saviour. 4. If all sinned by being accounted sinners in
Adam's sin, death reigns because all are accounted as sinners after the likeness of his
transgression. In which case Paul's argument about sin not being taken into account where
there is no law is altogether irrelevant, for all are accounted as being transgressors of
the Eden law. 5. Augustinians assert that all actually had part in Adam's transgression,
so that we should alter "as through one man" to "as through all men sin
entered the world" and read "by the offence of the race" instead of
"by the offence of the one." If all sinned by actually having part in the
transgression, all are saved by actually having part in Christ's obedience unto death. 6.
Possession of depravity and subjection to mortality and death are not sins. "All
sinned" means that all have committed deeds which are wrong. 7. Men sin when they
gratify the lusts of the flesh (James 1:15).
DEPRAVITY OR CORRUPTION
IV. Corruption is the evil bias or disposition received through
transmission from our condemned head, and which vitiated state is already condemned to
death, there being no escape from it except by death. 1 and 2. Corruption is inherited and
is not the result of evil habits. 3. Corruption makes innocence impossible. 4,5, and 6. We
are not to be held personally responsible for our vitiated state. It is not condemnable
but condemned already. 7. There is neither guilt nor consciousness of guilt for our state.
There is consciousness of guilt only for obedience to the sinful impulses of the flesh.
WHAT IS IMPUTED
V. Sin and death, which have passed through into all mankind, are not
put to the personal account of anyone but Adam. His one offence, and not all the
transgressions or sins of others, was taken into account and punished with death. 1. Not
every man's sins are imputed to him for the reason that some are without law. 2. If the
guilt of Adam's sin, which otherwise would have been imputed, is removed by a universal
justification, such justification acquits and declares not guilty. Guilt then has no
connection with the death penalty, which remains in spite of justification. Did this
justification remove Adam's guilt also? And does it save him and us from condemnation?
Logically, this leads to the denial of the penal character of death. Death is by judgment
and not by decree. 3. Imputation to men of what is properly their own directly denies
verses 13,14. 4 and 5. Federalists and Augustinians agree that Adam's sin is imputed to
all as their own. The first asserts that each individual is accounted to have sinned in
Adam, while the other asserts that all actually sinned in Adam in some collective way.
Thus all men are responsible, guilty, and condemnable for the first sin, this
condemnability involving "eternal" death. If this is so, the emphasis on
"one" is meaningless. "One" becomes "all." The contrast
between the one and the many disappears. The argument in verses 13 and 14 is impertinent,
and irrelevant. 6. Paul in chapter seven, when struggling with inherited sin, cries for
deliverance but does not admit guilt or responsibility. He says: "It is no longer I
who am effecting it, but sin which is making its home in me." 7. Depravity is
transmitted not imputed.
WHAT DEATH IS INCURRED
VI. The death incurred is the total penalty inflicted upon Adam and
transmitted to us, including all our mental, moral, spiritual, and physical disabilities.
Immoral tendencies, lawless flesh, a body of death which is the instrument of an
unspiritual condition, are properly part of death, which is the inclusive penalty. All,
without exception, are dying. Death reaches its terminus in the tomb. "Eternal
death," which is a theological fiction, or the second death, are not incurred by
Adam. "For since in fact death is through a man, resurrection of the dead is through
a man also. "The death transmitted from Adam is limited to that which both sinner and
saint suffer. The penalty is exhausted when each expire. No penitence or faith can escape
it. From this death the Second Man saves all by resurrection and brings them into a life
untouched by any penalty or consequence of Adam's sin. It comes to all as surely and as
freely as death comes. With the judgments and penalties for personal sins that lie beyond
the resurrection the transmitted results of Adam's sin have no connection.
1. Personal sins of unbelievers are imputed and go on to judgment (John 5:28,29), but
these are not related to Adam's example. 2 and 3. Death is not a matter of sovereign
decree but of judicial penalty. No mention of such decree is found anywhere in Scripture.
The legal phraseology of the passage includes such terms as "law,"
"transgression," "judgment," "condemnation,"
"justifying," which demands the idea of penalty. 4 and 5. If physical,
spiritual, and "eternal" death are thrust upon all, how can unrepentant infants
escape? What kind of "eternal" death is it if any can escape it? If believers
escape "eternal" death, do they escape physical and spiritual death? Does the
flesh become spiritual? Can we read "eternal" death into Genesis 2:17? 7.
Transmission of sin and death is the truth.
HOW WE ARE SAVED
VII. How men are saved from the penalties that have fallen on the race
was not treated in the earlier part of the epistle. That salvation is presented in
5:15-8:14. In this unfolding there is found no escape from the transmitted death either by
following Christ's example or by cooperation with the Spirit. Depravity and sin, though
counteracted by the Spirit's law, remains till resurrection or change delivers us.
Many so-called Christian evolutionists believe that sin is inherent in humanity because
of its bestial descent. Death is a natural law. Sin is imperfect development or atavistic
revolt. Such conclusions show the incompatibility of evolution with revelation.
Inasmuch as the idea of imputation is not mentioned, except to say that death reigns
where sin is not taken into account, and as the greatest theologians are not in agreement,
and even those who teach imputation do not seek to prove it from Scripture, we repudiate
it. Few question that natural law accounts for transmission of sin and death. We must
steadily look at the fact that as one slays all so Another saves all. Only two acts, one
of disobedience and the other of obedience are under consideration. All other men are the
passive recipients of the results of these respective acts.
What assertions do verses 13-14 prove? What should we miss if we left them out? What is
the double purpose they serve. What is imputation? What is said about it in verse 13? Can
there be sin without law breaking? How many sins of Adam were taken into account? How
often did he transgress? For how many sins was he sentenced?
How wide is the reign of death? What effect has law on sin? How much sin does law
permit? Could any other man, Jesus Christ excepted, stand in the same relation to the race
as Adam sustained? Why does the law work out wrath? (Rom.4:15) What is the true definition
of sin (1 John 3:4)? Are those without law not to be punished for personal sins? Upon what
principles will Jew and gentile be dealt with on the day of judgment (Rom.2:12- 16)?
What is the type (verse 14)? Where is the antitype? What statements are as wide in
scope as all history? Must some statements be limited to an antitypical season or seasons?
What dispensations of God form a background for the dispensation of the mystery of the
Is there any truth in Pelagianism? What can you accept and what must you reject in the
part of Arminian teaching here presented? What is Arminian grace? What is "innocent
depravity?" What are the seven points of the Federal theory, and how many are true?
What do you consider the weakest point in the Augustinian theory? Can you name some causes
of the confusion that characterizes these theories? What Scripture term would cover the
idea of depravity? How do we become depraved? Why is there no mention of the Spirit in
1:18-3:20? What occasioned all to sin? Should we expect to be condemned for the state we
inherited by our birth? Is death only physical (1 Tim.5:6)? Can the disaster of death be
removed? By whom? In what manner? When?