Q: Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate into which man fell?
A: The sinfulness of that estate into which man fell consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.
Romans 3:10-12: As it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.
Genesis 6:5: The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Okay. This is a lot to digest. Let's take it piece by piece because this is an important doctrine to understand. So important, I believe, that if we don't have a firm grasp on this truth, we will never have a firm grasp on just how gracious, merciful, and miraculous salvation actually is!
The catechism is setting out now to show how deep mankind's fall goes. Just how sinful are we? It works on two levels. First, we are counted as sinful because Adam was sinful. We already talked about the idea of "Federal Headship". In the garden, Adam did not act on his own behalf, but rather, acted on the behalf of the entire human race. His obedience would have been our obedience, and his fall became our fall. Because he sinned, the entire human race was now considered sinful. Not only was it considered sinful, it was sinful because sin entered into humanity through Adam. But not only that, the sin that entered into the human race through Adam is so complete in its damage that it has left NO part of the human being (including our will) untouched. Look at the Romans verse and see how ruined we actually are. We do not do what is right, we do not seek for God, we have all turned away, rebelled against God. All of who we are is touched, tainted, ruined by sin. That is the first level of our sinfulness and guilt The second level is our own actual sins, as the confession says it, "the actual transgressions that proceed". So now, we are not only sinful because of Adam's sin, we are also sinful because of our own sin! What other actions can flow out of a being who's entire core is tainted and ruined by sin!?
The very definition of what it means to be human in light of the fall is to be sinful and wicked. We are no different from the people in the days of Noah. We must truly grasp and understand this reality. As I said earlier, we will never understand salvation properly if we do not understand our own depravity first.