Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A #16

Q:Did all mankind fall in Adam's first transgression?
A:The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity, all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.
Romans 5:12: Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned...

There's a few theological ideas being taught in this week's question. Big ideas. The first is the idea of "Federal Headship". Simply stated, Adam represented all of mankind in the garden. He was the human race's representative in the Covenant of Works, and when he fell, all of humanity fell with him. It's hard to get our minds around it, and even see the "fairness" in it. How can we be held responsible for a sin that we didn't commit? How can Adam's sin damn us?

And that leads to the second theological idea that is being expressed here, the doctrine of "Original Sin". God did not create us with a "sin nature". Rather, our nature became perverted by sin when Adam fell. Us, being the "ordinary generations" that descended from Adam, that is, all mankind, now shares in Adam's perverted nature. Our nature has now been perverted and twisted by sin. And these two theological concepts are woven together. We are fallen because Adam fell, and when he fell I was with him because Adam was my representative in the Garden. And while I may claim that its not fair, that I wasn't the one who sinned, I didn't ask for Adam to be my representative, I have certainly not done anything to help my case before God, as I sin a million times in a million ways day after day. I really have nothing to back any kind of claim that in the Garden, I might have done differently than Adam. 

I wish I could go on to talk about the good news that is coming! For as you know, God has provided a second Adam, Jesus Christ, who would keep the covenant of works for us. Any notion of fairness falls away when we think about how we are now declared righteous because of Christ's perfect obedience to the law, as he acted as our "Federal Head". But if I write about that glorious truth right now, it will leave me with nothing to write about when I come to that section in the catechism!

For now, let me leave you with a song by Reformed Hip Hop artist, Shai Linne. The song is entitled, "In Adam All Die". He does a wonderful job at summarizing federal headship, original sin, and the hope that we have in, as he put it, "Adam number two":

Posted on April 21, 2015 and filed under Teaching.