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Dead in Adam and Alive in Christ
(This article was originally presented by Mr. Zins at the Ex-Catholics for Christ Conference in November, 1997.)

Any view of salvation must have as its origin a view of condemnation. One cannot conceive of salvation unless one is convinced of a need of salvation. That man has a need of salvation is readily admitted by Roman Catholic and Christian theologians alike. The problem comes when we attempt to define "how" mankind is saved. Rome has a "way" of salvation that is radically different from the Christian "way" of salvation. Countless words have been typed and filed carefully pointing out the Roman "way" and the Christian "way" is mutually exclusive. Both cannot be true. However, we cannot fully refute Rome's "way" of salvation until we first discredit Rome's "way" of condemnation, for they are inseparable.

It is at this point that modern Christian theology has let down its guard. Focusing entirely too much attention on the Roman system of salvation, Christian apologists have left proper teaching on the theology of condemnation unattended.

More and more we are seeing an erosion of Christian doctrine as it pertains to condemnation. This has altered the way salvation is viewed. When we neglect to fortify the Christian doctrine of condemnation, we soon lose the gospel of justification through faith alone. The true heart of the Romish system does not commence with her doctrine of salvation. It begins with her doctrine of condemnation. Her "ground of condemnation" leads to her "ground of justification."

Where do we Begin?

Roman Catholic exegesis of Romans 5:12-21 is critical for us to understand, for in it is the secret of all of Rome. If Rome is right on Romans 5, then Rome has full title to present her "way" of salvation and we, as professing Christians, are hopelessly lost. If Rome is wrong, Rome is lost and does not know the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Roman Catholic theologians at the Council of Trent affirmed that Adam's sin had an immediate effect on Adam and a mediate, or transfused effect on all of Adam's posterity. The penalty of Adam's sin for himself, according to Rome, was two-fold: 1) Adam experienced physical death, and 2) Adam lost his holiness and justice.

Adam's descendants are said to be born into the same spiritual state that Adam's sin had placed him. Hence, all are said to be born "deprived" of holiness and justice. For Rome, the first ground of condemnation is an inherited pollution from Adam. We shall see that Rome has another ground of condemnation as well. But first Rome must deal with what she calls Adamic Privation. This privation is called original sin, or the death of the soul. Rome believes that original sin, consisting in the privation of righteousness, is passed along by Adam in natural generation. It is important to note that this state of original sin is viewed by Rome as worthy of condemnation and must be taken away before heaven can be attained. Rome insists that this privation of righteousness is worthy of condemnation and thus rushes her babies to the baptismal font. This "baptism for the forgiveness of sin" is said to remove the polluted state of the soul and bring life to the dead soul. This is the Romish sacrament of baptismal regeneration. When once this is administered, the baby is said to be safe until the age of reason. This "salvation" from Adam's transmitted pollution is step one in Rome's system of sacramental salvation. However, according to Roman Catholic theology, the baptized soul carries within it a post-baptismal concupiscence, or desire to sin. But concupiscence is not in and of itself condemnatory. Thus, a child can only condemn himself by giving way to the urge to sin. Thus in Rome the second ground of condemnation is found in the individual acts of the sinner. From this point on, a child in Romanism is expected to go through a sacramental routine for forgiveness of sins and for grace to regain the holiness lost to personal sins after baptism.

Christianity's Response

Christian theology sharply disagrees with Roman theology at this juncture. Rome is correct in seeking a link between Adam's sin and Adam's posterity. But Rome misses the precise nature of the relationship. Rome softens the effect of, and bungles the remedy for, removal of Adam's sin. Rome understands the "because all sinned" of Romans 5:12 to be an individual state of sinfulness inherited from Adam. This is Rome's pre-baptismal ground of condemnation. After baptism, Rome's second condemnation is grounded upon imitating Adam. Listen to Trent:

"…even infants who could not as yet commit any sin of themselves, are for this reason truly baptized for the remission of sins, in order that in them what they contracted by generation may be washed by regeneration" (Council of Trent, 5th Session, Decree Concerning Original Sin, Paragraph 4).
Thus from the start Rome errs by asserting that the ground of condemnation consists of inherent individual sinfulness. Rome errs again by asserting a second condemnation grounded upon personal sinning in imitation of Adam.

But a correct explication of Romans 5 yields quite a different stream of interpretation. Romans 5:12-21 teaches that the one sin of the one man, Adam, is the sole cause of death and condemnation. Thus condemnation is not based upon a state of transfused unrighteousness or by imitation of Adam in post-baptismal real life sinning. It is rather by imputation. The text of Romans 5:12-21 forces us to conclude that our condemnation is attributed to nothing other than Adam's sin immediately imputed to mankind at the time of the offense. Though Adam's corrupt nature is transmitted to his posterity, as like begets like, it is not our Adamic nature that condemns us, but rather Adam's sin. Neither is it our sinning from an inherited corrupted nature that Paul wishes to demonstrate as the cause of our condemnation. It is not Adam's transmitted corruptness that is the unrighteousness contemplated by God in the verdict of our condemnation. It is rather, Adam's single and solitary sin that is repeatedly asserted by the apostle as the sole basis for the condemnation of all mankind. Or as the apostle says in another portion of Scripture: "Ás in Adam all die…" (I Corinthians 15:22). This notification at once eliminates all mediate views of our sinning in Adam:

-It eliminates Pelagianism which seeks to separate the sin of Adam entirely from his posterity.
-It eliminates Romanism which seeks to find the ground of condemnation only in the hereditary state of mankind coming from Adam.
-It eliminates Arminianism which seeks to find the ground of condemnation as the imitation of Adam.
The Remedy Follows the Diagnosis

Because Rome views the ground of our condemnation as a deprivation of sanctifying grace – which deprivation is inherited from Adam – they seek a remedy which prescribes an infilling of grace to undo what Adam has done. It is not surprising that Rome conceives of salvation as a series of grace "in-fillings" starting with Infant Baptism. Because Rome's original sin is undone by an in-filling of grace through a sacrament, it is consistent for Rome to eliminate post-baptismal sins in a similar fashion.

All infants baptized by Rome are said to be safe from the dangers of hell because baptism is said to wash away the inherited corruption of Adam. Likewise, all post-baptismal sins are treated the same. They are washed away through the cleansing of the sacramental system.

An interesting feature of Roman theology is that original sin does not damage the free-will of man. Hence, post-baptismal sinning can be resisted with the use of free will left intact. It is possible, in Rome, to resist sin to such an extent as to merit heaven without the need of the sacraments, or to be so full of grace as to not need an in-filling of it. Compare Mary!

Suffice it to say that Rome's understanding of the nature of original sin is far less than Christian theology teaches. Rome leaves the will intact despite the inherited corruptness of Adam. Rome also does not see the nature of man damaged so much so that he cannot find God with his own intellect.

The Difference

Christian theology is radically opposed to such Romish notions. We believe Scripture teaches that the guilt and stain of Adam have far-reaching effects on man's ability to comprehend God. Man is a slave of sin and bound in darkness due to the pollution of his nature (Eph. 2:2). He can know that there is a God, but cannot know God (Romans 1:19). He cannot come to God on his own, but must be given eyes to see and ears to hear (John 8:43). He is by his nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3). Being spiritually dead, he is unable to understand the things of the spirit of God (I Cor. 2:14).

Rome's remedy fits with Rome's diagnosis. Because Rome sees man, in Adam, in need of grace (since a lack of grace defines the sinful state) Rome sets about to give grace. It is the assertion of Rome that Christ came to purchase grace and die for the sins of all men. This grace is then stored up by the Church and dispensed through the Sacraments in order to make men righteous just as Adam made men unrighteous. As the sinful nature of Adam was infused into man leading to condemnation, according to Rome, so must the grace of Christ be infused into man in order to justify. Hence, Rome's understanding of justification is the infusion of grace to clean away sin to make one righteous enough to enter Heaven. All of this stems from Rome's view of condemnation.

Christian theology sees it altogether differently. The two religions battle endlessly on the point of "the ground of condemnation", and clash eternally on the point of "the ground of justification." Stemming from a biblically accurate appraisal of Romans 5, Christian theology rightly embraces Paul's analogy. Paul labors in Romans 5 to contrast our condemnation, through the imputation of the sin of one man, Adam, with justification through the imputation of the righteousness of the one man, Jesus Christ. Just as condemnation is not mediated but stems from union with Adam, so justification is not mediated but stems from our union with Christ.

Romans 5:12 reads, "Through one man sin entered into the world." How? It was imputed to all men on the basis of Adam being the Federal Head of his race. "And death through sin." How? The penalty of Adam's sin was death to all. "And so death spread to all men" How? It was exacted by God on the heads of all born after Adam due to Adam's sin along. "Because all sinned" How? All sinned in Adam.

As the Federal Head of the human race, Adam's sin was imputed to his posterity. This preserves the analogy of what is given (imputed) to us by Christ. Adam's sin is the sin of the race. All in Adam will die. Christ's righteousness is the righteousness of the race as well. All in Christ will live.

We feel that all Christian pastors and teachers and saints in Christ our Lord must revisit the ground of our condemnation before truly understanding the ground of our justification.

Also, we would caution the reader to be aware that there are many Pelagians and Arminians who seek to separate mankind from Adam's sin. They either never see our condemnation in Adam in the first place (Pelagian), or they teach any tie-in with Adam as having been cut by the sheer fact of the death of Christ on the cross (Arminianism).

It is popular in some circles to say that man exists free from the guilt of Adam and therefore free from any condemnation in Adam. It is alleged that the death of Christ took care of any guilt, depravity, inability, or residue of Adam's disobedience in all of humanity. This kind of theology is Romanist without the bother of infant baptism. More and more we hear of such things as "age of accountability", "total freedom of the will," "heaven for those who follow the dictates of their own conscience," "good works done in faith as the ground of justification," "bad works done in anger as the ground of condemnation," etc., etc. All of this stems from the infiltration of Romanist theology.

The formula is not: "One man's act equals infusion of sin so as to foster an imitation of Adam unto condemnation." Nor is it, "One man's act equals infusion of grace so as to foster an imitation of Christ for justification." Rather, it is "One man's sinful act condemns by virtue of solidaric imputation in union with the act." It is also "One man's righteous act justifies by virtue of solidaric imputation in union with the act." All in Adam are dead. All in Christ are alive.

It is evident to this writer that all attempts by professing evangelicals to extricate man from the existing condemned state in Adam will lead to a distinctly anti-biblical explanation of salvation. Any compromise of the analogy of Adam and Christ constructed in Romans 5 will spell disaster for Christianity. Ultimately it will fashion its way into a different gospel. It did so long ago in Rome.

See table below:

The Analogy: Romans 5:15 -19


Through one man death entered the world,
And through the transgression of the one the
Many died.

Judgment from one offense resulting in

By the one man's offense, death reigned
Through the one.

One transgression resulted in condemnation.
To all men.

Through one man's disobedience the many
were made sinners.