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Born This Way

08 June 2011 by David

Q. 21. Did man continue in that estate wherein God at first created him?
A. Our first parents being left to the freedom of their own will, through the temptation of Satan, transgressed the commandment of God in eating the forbidden fruit; and thereby fell from the estate of innocency wherein they were created.

Q. 22. Did all mankind fall in that first transgression?
A. The covenant being made with Adam as a public person, not for himself only, but for his posterity, all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him in that first transgression.

Q. 23. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. —Romans 5:12–14

Lest any doubt the catechism’s answer, take note: everyone dies. The universal mortality we witness all around us tells us that something has gone horribly wrong, and none are untouched. Death is in the news daily. We watch our friends and family get old, get sick, and die. Indeed, we look in the mirror and witness the steady decay of our own bodies. We are going to die.

How did this dreadful state of affairs come to be? The Apostle explains:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, … It might seem odd that Paul says, “through one man.” After all, Eve was there too, and actually started it, right? Yet God held Adam fully responsible, and a little more than five thousand years later, inspired the words, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). The headship of the man is shown to be a creation ordinance. It is not a result of the Fall, and certainly not an invention of a chauvinist apostle.

Notice that Paul does not speak of plural sins, but of sin. It does not refer to specific unrighteous acts, but to an innate condition. Cattle “moo”; that is something they do. But cattle are ruminants. It is a characteristic of cattle to ruminate because that is what they are. Just so, sin is a part of the human condition. We do not become sinners when we sin. Rather, we are born that way.

and death through sin, … God warned Adam that if he disobeyed, he would “surely die” (Genesis 2:17), and so he did.

and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— … As emphasized in the first paragraph above, the human race has a 100% mortality rate. With the exception of two men whom God miraculously caught away, every single person who has ever lived has died or is dying. Death awaits everyone, because everyone is a sinner. If “in Adam all die,” and all die “because all sinned,” it is just simple math to conclude that all mankind did indeed fall in that first transgression.

Only one man has ever been without sin. He is the lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit. And even he died, when he took our sin upon himself — which brings us to the good news. Our text begins with a “therefore,” connecting the following verses to the previous promise of reconciliation to God, and ends with a hopeful finger pointed toward “him who was to come,” “through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (v. 11). However, the Westminster Divines require us to wait for that. We’ll pick this up again around Question 30.