Pt. 2 – Original Sin: The Essential Counterpart
In my last installment, I defined the doctrine of Original Sin as meaning that both the guilt and pollution of Adam’s sin is charged to us such that God justly punishes us for the sin and pollution of another.
Now to say that this is hard doctrine for the natural man to swallow would be an understatement. But I would venture to say that it’s a difficult concept for believers to grasp for the same reason that the natural man rejects it: it’s not fair that a person would be punished for a sin he didn’t consciously and deliberately commit. Though I believe that there are some solid responses one can give to the natural man, I would like rather to iron out the difficulty for the believer. I think this is best done by demonstrating that the principle that they have difficulty with shows up somewhere else in their belief structure; in an area which they will consider essential to their faith. So let’s examine a little closer what we mean by Original Sin and see if we’ve uncovered a principle which is in fact an essential to the Christian Gospel. With Original Sin,
(1) Adam is mankind’s God-ordained representative. Elsewhere Paul would say that “in Adam all die” (1 Cor 15:22). The phrase “in Adam” marks a union that is inherently personal; an intense solidarity of a human being with Adam. This union may be described metaphorically as the relationship of a head to a body.Now for those who are alert, these four propositions mirror a concept regarded as essential for understanding the gospel, namely, the doctrine of Justification by Faith. With the doctrine of Justification,
(2) the union between Adam and his offspring is one in which one man, Adam (the head of the body), decides the fate of the members of the body. If Adam fails, and we are in Adam, then we fail. If Adam dies by sinning, and since we are in Adam, we too die in sin. If Adam is condemned and cursed by God, and we are in Adam, then we are condemned and cursed by God.
(3) we have a union in which one man determines how God will relates to those this man represents. In this relationship of head to body, God will only treat, regard, or relate to the members of the body in the way that God treats, regards, or relates to the head of the body. So given that God treats or regards Adam like a disobedient son, then if we are apart of his body, God will treat or regard us as disobedient sons and daughters, even if we haven’t disobey.
(4) the union is of such intimacy, and the solidarity is so great, that the life of the head becomes the life of the body. Put differently, although God regards and treats us as disobedient sons because God treats us as he treats Adam (even though we were not consciously present when Adam sinned), yet due to the degree of unity we have with Adam, his actual life transforms ours so that in the end we become actual disobedient sons.
(1’) Christ is the God-ordained representative for those saved. Elsewhere Paul would say “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22). The small phrase “In Christ” is found frequently in the New Testament. In fact, it is so frequently used in Scripture that we pass it by with little thought, like curator of art museum who gives little notice to the priceless pieces due the enormity of the collection. Yet, this one little phrase contains a sea of significance, the depths of which we cannot plunge. The phrase “In Christ” marks a union that is inherently personal. It’s a prepositional phrase that marks the solidarity of a believer with Jesus. The intensity of this union, the breadth of what is meant by it, is of such a nature that many great godly men have labeled it a “mystical union.”
So the crux of Justification by Faith is that God presently counts or esteems a person who is presently unrighteous as righteous in virtue of their connection to the righteousness of another. A person enters by faith into Christ and God esteems and treats that sinful person as he would his sinless son. But the union has future implications - due to the nature of the union of sinner and Christ, the man or women will ultimately become righteous as Christ. This is the counterpart of Original sin. The crux of Original Sin is that God presently counts or esteems people who are in Adam as unrighteous in virtue of the unrighteousness of another. Even though we weren’t there, didn’t consent, didn’t rebel, because of the intimate relationship that we have with our original Father, we are counted guilty.Romans 12:4-5 4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.(2’) there’s a union in which one man, the head of the body, decides the fate of the members of the body. If Christ triumphs and we are in Christ, then we triumph. If Christ dies to sin, and we are in Christ, then we die to sin. If Christ is raised from the dead, and we are in Christ, then we shall also rise.
Ephesians 1:22-23 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Galatians 3:28-29 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise.
(3’) God establishes a union which determines how God relates to us. God will only treat, regard, or relate to the members of the body in the way that God treats, regards, or relates to the head of the body. So, given that God treats or regards Christ like an obedient son. If we are apart of his body, then God will treat or regard us as obedient sons and daughters, even if we really aren’t obedient.
(4’) God establishes a union that is of such intimacy and solidarity that the life of the head becomes the life of the body. Put differently, although God regards and treats us as obedient sons even though we aren’t obedient sons, yet due to the intimacy of union we have with Jesus, his actual life transforms ours so that in the end we become actual obedient sons. God, who regards us as he does Christ, is forming and fashioning us so that we really become like Jesus.