The Effects of Adam's Sin on Man's Nature
We come now to a study on the effects of Adam's sin upon the souls of his descendants. The question we must first deal with is this: Did Adam's sin cause us to have sinful souls or mortal souls? This question sounds purely academic, but it has an enormous effect upon our lives. It is one of the most important questions in the Bible. We must of necessity become somewhat technical in our writing at this point; but I strongly urge you to read this section until you understand it thoroughly.
It is extremely important for us also to recognize that no man is born with a "sinful soul" or a "sin nature." In Romans 5:12 Paul explains this principle very clearly, though many church theologians have missed it:
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because [eph' ho, "on which"] all sinned-
Paul says here that sin first entered the world through Adam's sin. But what did "all men" inherit from Adam? Was it Adam's SIN that was passed down into all men? NO. It was death, the liability for Adam's sin.
In other words, man did not inherit a sin nature from Adam. He merely inherited the liability for Adam's sin. The reason we are mortal is because we are liable for a sin that Adam committed. And so we die, not as a result of our own sins, but as a result of Adam's original sin. Sinful souls are not passed down from generation to generation by procreation. The only thing passed down is MORTALITY, or Death.
We are not mortal because we sin. We sin because we are mortal. Which is the cause, and which is the result? Paul says at the end of Romans 5:12 that "DEATH spread to all men," ON WHICH we ourselves sin. Death is the cause; our personal sins are committed as the result of death in us.
And so, the sequence of events is this: (1) Adam's original sin gave us (2) death, and this mortality is our weakness and the cause of (3) our individual sins.
The New American Standard Version of Romans 5:12 (quoted above) is simply incorrect. It reads: "and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." The translators would have us believe that death (mortality) spread to all men BECAUSE we sin. As if no man is mortal until he sins! We can point to millions of abortions to prove that babies are mortal BEFORE they sin.
How did this error in translation occur? It was because the translators did not understand that Paul was dealing with two different types of death in his writings: (1) mortality, which is the first death, and (2) the lake of fire, which is the second death. Paul here is speaking of the FIRST death, mortality, which we inherited from Adam.
The Two Types of Death
Romans 5:12 says specifically that Adam's sin was imputed to all men, and as a direct result, "death spread to all men." Paul repeats this concept in 1 Cor. 15:22, "For as in Adam all DIE."
In chapter five we went into detail about how Adam's sin was imputed to all men, making us all liable for Adam's sin. This does not mean we are actually guilty of Adam's sin. We had nothing to do with it, for it was committed totally outside of ourselves. But God in His sovereignty imputed his sin to our accounts, calling what is not as though it were (Rom. 4:17). This would be a gross injustice; in fact, it would be a false accusation on God's part, except for the fact that Jesus came to impute His righteousness to our accounts as well. In so doing, He reversed entirely the effects of this "temporary injustice" (as I call it). And this is why it is so important that "all men" who died in Adam be saved in Christ. This is also Paul's conclusion in Romans 5:18.
18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
Our liability for Adam's sin simply makes us mortal in this age. And that mortality, death reigning over us in our souls and bodies, makes us morally sick or weak so that we are incapable of moral perfection. So long as we are mortal, we shall be corruptible. They go together (1 Cor. 15:53). Thus, our mortality itself is the cause of our individual sins, which God will deal with by means of the second death, the lake of fire.
The second death is distinct from the first death in two ways: (1) its purpose is to judge men for their own individual sins and to restore the lawful order; and (2) its timing is set for the age following the Tabernacles Age, when the unbelievers are thrown into the lake of fire.
There are two sins and two deaths spoken of in the Bible. The penalty for Adam's sin is the first death; God's judgment, lawful correction, and discipline for our own sins is the second death. No man will ever be cast into the lake of fire as judgment for Adam's sin. Adam's original (first) sin is judged by means of the first death; subsequently, our individual sins are judged by means of the second death.
This may seem self-evident and obvious to all, but unfortunately some theologians and Bible translators have run aground on this simple truth. In fact, this is why Romans 5:12 was mistranslated as early as 1600 years ago in Jerome's Latin Vulgate, and this error was brought over into the King James Version, the New American Standard, and many other English translations as well. To my knowledge, only The Concordant Version translates it correctly, "on which."
Jerome "Corrects" Paul's Theology
When Jerome translated the Latin Vulgate around 400 A.D., he rendered the last phrase of Rom. 5:12, "because all have sinned." He had looked at verses such as Romans 6:23 and 5:21, where sin is the cause of death, and concluded that Paul must have made a mistake by saying that death was the cause of sin. And so, not understanding that Paul was here talking about the first death, mortality, he simply tried to correct Paul's mistake.
Yet even The Jerome Biblical Commentary, page 307, admits that this translation has a serious problem by making Paul contradict himself within the same verse:
"A difficulty often found with it is that it seems to make Paul say in 5:12c-d something contradictory to what he says in 12:a-b. In the beginning of the verse sin and death are ascribed to Adam; now death seems to be due to man's deeds."
And so for 1200 years while the Latin Vulgate reigned supreme as virtually the only Bible in Europe, the truth lay hidden in the Greek manuscripts far away in Constantinople. When that city fell to the Turks in the mid-1400's thousands of Greek professors and theologians fled to the West, bringing their Greek Bibles with them. Soon an interest in Greek developed, which spawned the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation in the 1500's. Eventually, this led to the King James Version, which was based largely on Greek texts.
Unfortunately, however, when the King James translators came to Romans 5:12, they were just as puzzled as Jerome was. They thought the "death" in this verse was "spiritual death," rather that "physical death." (These are inaccurate terms; the Bible calls them "the second death" and "mortality.")
At any rate, this persistent misunderstanding made them follow Jerome's error in reversing the cause and effect in this verse. The Greek phrase used is eph' ho. Eph', or epi, means "on, upon, or over." Even English dictionaries give this meaning, because so many of our words beginning with "epi" are of Greek origin. The Greek word, Ho, means "which." The phrase "on which" or "over which" denotes a consequence or result to follow.
To illustrate this, let us say, "I walked into a stumblingblock, ON WHICH I fell." Did my fall cause the stumblingblock to exist? Of course not. Yet the New American Standard Version would have us render this: "I walked into a stumblinglock, BECAUSE I fell." That is sheer nonsense. No translator should take it upon himself to turn the sentence around in order to suit his own understanding.
So we can easily see that the first death is the cause, and our sins are the result. We are mortal; therefore we sin. And because we sin as individuals, there is a lake of fire, a second death, to restore the lawful order to God's universe. It is a place where men must pay the last farthing of debt to sin until the final Jubilee sets the creation free. Only those who appropriate Jesus' payment for sin will avoid that second death entirely.
Paul's Example Proves the Point
Paul gives us his own illustration to prove what he means in Romans 5:12. This should clarify all confusion, as we read in verses 13 and 14,
12 . . . death spread to all men, ON WHICH all sinned- 13 for until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 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.
Many people had sinned (personally) between the time of Adam and Moses. However, because the Law as such had not been given and actually ratified by the people until the time of Moses, their personal sins were not imputed to them. Nonetheless, men died during that whole time, proving that they were mortal not on account of their own sins, but on account of Adam's sin. This may seem like a strange way for Paul to prove his point, but it clearly shows us what Paul had in mind. It is Adam's sin that brings death to all men-not our own individual sins. In the day Adam sinned, he died (became mortal), and so we inherit that mortality.
And so this death is clearly shown to be the first death, not the second death. The theologians and translators who attempt to correct Paul's theology simply think of themselves more highly than they ought to think. Their lack of understanding brought them to conclude that man has a sinful soul, rather than a mortal soul that sins. This has given Christians a disproportionate sense of guilt that was often accompanied by a sense of hopelessness.
The Consequences of Each Viewpoint
If we look at the larger picture; if we see how this simple misunderstanding of the doctrine of imputation has negatively affected the whole view of God's plan of salvation, it might serve to shock us. Those Church leaders, like Augustine and Jerome, who did not understand Paul's statement in Romans 5:12, concluded that man received a sinful soul from Adam, rather than mortality. The theological term used by the Roman Church is that Adam's sin was "infused" or "transfused" into all mankind, giving us sinful souls. In the process of salvation, then, Jesus' righteousness is also "infused" or "transfused" into us, giving us righteous souls.
The logical conclusion drawn from this was that only those who have perfect natures (like Christ) are truly saved. The average Christian believer who still sinned was not yet saved. In fact, it is yet common thinking in the Roman Church, and in some Protestant Churches as well, that one must be perfect to be saved. True Christians, they say, are perfected, because the righteousness of Christ has been infused into them, even as Adam's sin had been infused into us prior to our conversion to Christ.
And so those honest Christians who know that they are still imperfect make the logical assumption that Christ's righteousness has not been infused into their natures. Therefore, they must not truly be "saved" yet. As a consequence, they are driven to asceticism and self-condemnation by guilt, never really knowing that they are truly righteous before God here and now, and continually trying to be good enough to know that God has given them an infusion of righteousness.
The bottom line is that in theory they believe salvation is by faith, but in practice they base their salvation on works, because they are driven by guilt to do enough good works to know that they have truly been perfected. Most of them simply give up after a time, believing that it is impossible for them to achieve salvation in this life. The Roman Church has given these people a secondary hope of purgatory, where the average Christian may be perfected in an afterlife, prior to going to heaven.
Having talked with many Roman Catholics about this very issue, I have seen how many of them are racked by guilt, condemnation, and feelings of spiritual inferiority. My heart goes out to them, for most of them truly desire the righteousness of God, but Church theology has created a climate of guilt, defeat, and discouragement. Many give up altogether and decide to enjoy life while they can. So long as they remain members of the Church, they have been told that they will ultimately be saved, even if their present sins sentence them to a longer stay in purgatory.
The truth is this: When Adam fell, his sin was imputed to us, NOT infused. To impute means, according to Romans 4:17, calling what is NOT as though it were. When Adam's sin was imputed to us, God called us ALL sinners, as though we had all sinned. As a consequence, we all became liable for Adam's sin. The penalty was death, or mortality. Hence, we were all made mortal because of Adam's sin, as Paul makes clear in Romans 5:12.
Therefore, also, in dealing with our salvation, Christ's righteousness was likewise imputed to us, as Paul says in Romans 4:22-24,
22 Therefore also it [i.e., his faith] was reckoned [logizomai, "imputed"] to him [Abraham] as righteousness. 23 Now not for his sake only was it written, that it was reckoned ["imputed"] to him, 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be reckoned ["imputed"], as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead,
In other words, by faith the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us. God is calling what is NOT as though it were. We are not actually righteous at present, because we are still weak, due to our mortality. Yet legally in the eyes of God we are perfect. We have been forgiven of our sins, because we have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb of God. Now when we sin, John instructs us to acknowledge and confess our sins (1 John 1:7-10). In fact, he says,
8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Our understanding of the effects of Adam's sin on our own nature will have a tremendous impact upon our lives. It will determine whether we have the peace of mind to know we are truly the children of God, or if we labor every day under a load of guilt.