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Transmission of Sin

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
March 18, 2023 12:01 am

Transmission of Sin

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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March 18, 2023 12:01 am

The Bible teaches that there is a real connection between the sin of Adam and the sins of humanity. Today, R.C. Sproul contrasts the transfer of Adam's sin to the human race with the transfer of Christ's righteousness to His redeemed people.

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We cannot say to God that Adam misrepresented us. That's the basic assumption that we make when we try to escape the transfer of guilt. We're trying to think and flatter ourselves saying, well, if I would have been there in the garden and would have been confronted by the temptation of the serpent, I would have been smart enough or good enough to say no to the temptation. So why do I have to suffer the consequences of what Adam did? Well, because Adam represented you and he represented you flawlessly. And perfectly because he was God's selected representative. And that's why we're here today to talk about the definition of Renewing Your Mind.

Today R.C. Sproul continues his overview of theology, what Christians believe as Christians. And today he's not only going to consider our relationship to Adam in the garden, but also our new relationship as Christians with Jesus.

Here's Dr. Sproul. That's the fallen nature of human beings. It's inevitable that somebody asks the question, well, wait a minute. If we're born sinners, how can God hold us accountable for sinning when all we're doing is doing what comes naturally? That is, if sin is basic to our nature, how can God ever judge us for sinning since we cannot do anything but sin? Well, that's certainly a legitimate question and one that would obviously be raised in light of the doctrine of original sin. And so, therefore, we need to spend some time looking at how this sin nature is transmitted or transferred from Adam to his posterity. And the first thing we have to say with respect to this is that the Bible does make it abundantly clear that there is a connection there.

Now, we'll explore the different possible ways in which that connection is to be understood. But let's look first at the fifth chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans beginning in verse 12 where the apostle writes, Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because all sinned. For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of him who was to come. And then it goes on to say, For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who received abundance and grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one Jesus Christ. Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men resulting in condemnation, even so through one man's righteous act the free gift came to men resulting in justification by life. And what Paul is doing here is setting a contrast and comparison between the second Adam, Christ, and the first Adam. And he's showing the kind of parallel relationship that through one man's righteousness, namely Christ, we are redeemed just as through another man's unrighteousness we are plunged into ruin and death comes into the world and all the rest. Well, we don't complain too much about the vicarious transfer of righteousness from Christ to us, but it's that transfer of unrighteousness from Adam to us that gives us so many problems.

And so there have been different theories about how this transfer or transition takes place. In liberal theology, the popular view is this, that the story of Adam and Eve is a myth. There was no historical Adam, no historical fall, and in a sense the narrative of the third chapter of Genesis is a parable that tells us a scenario that we live out in our own lives. Namely that every human being is born good, is born righteous, but that we all go through our own temptation and our own fall. Every individual duplicates in his or her own life what the Scriptures say in parabolic form Adam and Eve did in their temptation. There are several problems with this. Of course, this is flatly denying what the Scriptures teach.

That's a problem enough right there. But in addition to that, what Paul was laboring here in the fifth chapter of Romans as I read it was that he's also in this passage trying to argue that the law has been in the world from the beginning, before Moses. And what is the proof of that? Well, the proof is that sin was in the world. It rained from Adam up until Moses. And the point that Paul makes is if there is no law, there can be no transgression, there can be no sin. And if there is no sin, there can be no just punishment for sin.

And so again, Paul reasons in that way. He said we know that death rained from Adam to Moses. People died before Mount Sinai. Not only people, but infants died. And if it's true, as the liberals suggest, that Adam and Eve are not historical persons and it's simply a myth, then they have to explain infant mortality.

Why would babies die? Well, the explanation they give is that there really is no link between sin and death. And the more you push this argument, the more pieces of Scripture you find you're colliding with head on. And so, of those who take the biblical revelation seriously and hold to historical Adam and a historical fall, there is still serious debate among them over the howl of the transmission of original sin takes place. The two most famous and common viewpoints, and they all have their little nuances among themselves, of this business of the transfer of guilt from Adam can be called the school of realism and the school of federalism. And the school of realism has a somewhat crass view of realism as well as a more sophisticated philosophical version.

So I'll mention both of them at least in passing. The realists argue this way, that the only way God can justly punish us for sin when we're born with a sin nature is if that sin nature is a just punishment upon us for something that we did. For example, when Adam sins and God gives him over to a sinful nature as part of the punishment for his actual sin, we understand that that's a just punishment for God to give a person over to what they want to do. It's one thing for God to give Adam over to a sin nature after Adam sins, it's another thing to give Adam's children over to a sin nature because of what their father did. Remember in Ezekiel the people were complaining that the fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge.

And one of the messages of Ezekiel is that God will not punish one person for the sin that somebody else committed. And if that principle is true, again, how does that apply to the question of this inherited fallen nature that we have? Well, the realists say the only way it would be just for God to visit us with a fallen nature would be had we actually truly fallen there in the garden with Adam. Now you may have no recollection of having been there. You may have no entry in your diary that records your presence in the Garden of Eden. Yet the realist position in one sense teaches that you were there, that you were there really.

That's one of the reasons why it's called realism. And for that to have happened, that would mean that your souls, which became united with your body presumably at the conception in your mother's womb, that your souls pre-existed your incarnation and that your soul was alive and well and present in the Garden of Eden and that you participated in your pre-existent soul with Adam and Eve in their fall. Now, the biblical argument that is used to support such a claim is drawn from the book of Hebrews, from the somewhat mysterious record of this whole business of the encounter of Abraham with Melchizedek in the Old Testament. You recall in the book of Hebrews one of the tasks that the author of Hebrews is faced with performing is validating the New Testament claim that Jesus is our great high priest.

The New Testament heralds Jesus not only as our Savior, but also as our King and as our priest. And for to be King, He would have to be from the tribe of Judah because the Davidic kingdom is promised to the descendants of the tribe of Judah. David was of the tribe of Judah. Saul was of the tribe of Judah. And the New Testament establishes the lineage of Jesus and shows that He also comes from the tribe of Judah and so qualifies to be the king of Israel. But if He's from the tribe of Judah, that means He cannot at the same time be from the tribe of Levi. And it is the tribe of Levi that is given the priesthood in the Old Testament.

The so-called Levitical priesthood or Aaronic priesthood, named from Aaron, the first high priest, is restricted in the Old Covenant to members of the tribe of Levi. And so when the New Testament declares that Jesus is our high priest, writers are faced with this problem of His biological bloodline here. Well, the answer that the author of Hebrew gives is several citations from the Old Testament, particularly from the Messianic Psalms, Psalm 110, where God declares with respect to the Messiah that He was going to make Him a king and a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. And the argument of Hebrews is that there's another priesthood mentioned in the Old Testament besides the Levitical priesthood, and it is that cryptic reference to this ministry of the mysterious figure, Melchizedek, whose name means Moloch Tzedakai, king of righteousness, and he is defined as being the king of Salem or the king of peace who has no mother nor father.

Now that could simply mean that there was no genealogical record of his background, or as some commentators believe, that is again a somewhat cryptic reference to his not being of normal human descent and that possibly he was a prior incarnational appearance of Christ in the Old Testament. It's a very popular theory, but in any case, this Melchizedek meets Abraham, and in the encounter between Melchizedek and Abraham, two things happen. Abraham pays a tithe to Melchizedek, and Melchizedek gives a blessing to Abraham. And what the author of Hebrews in Jewish fashion says, that the lesser pays tithes to the greater, and the greater grants the blessing to the lesser. And since it's not Melchizedek who pays a tithe to Abraham, but Abraham pays a tithe to Melchizedek, and it's not Abraham who blesses Melchizedek, but it's Melchizedek who blesses Abraham, the Hebrew way of thinking here is that this clearly establishes the superiority of Melchizedek over Abraham. Now by extension, Abraham's authority in the Hebrew lineage makes him greater than his son Isaac, and Isaac is greater than his son Jacob, and Jacob is greater than his sons, which include Levi. So if Abraham is greater than Levi, and Melchizedek is greater than Abraham than QED, obviously Melchizedek in this way of thinking is greater than Levi.

So that if Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek, he has a priesthood now that's not a lesser or inferior priesthood than the Levitical priesthood, but it is a superior and greater order than that of the Levitical priesthood. That's the way the author of Hebrews is arguing here, but what does that have to do with the fall and the transmission of guilt? Well, in the context of this argument, we read, but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.

Now beyond all contradiction, the lesser is blessed by the better. Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.

Now what the author is doing in extending his argument is that in a certain sense or, quote, so to speak, Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek while he was still in the loins of his father Abraham. Now the crass realists are saying the only way that text can be understood is that Levi was really there when Abraham paid the tithe and that this text proves the pre-existence of the human soul. Well, I think this is a huge stretch because, again, it's even qualified, so to speak, in a manner of speaking, you know, just like we can say genetically my great grandchildren are already present in my body, whatever that issue may be in the future. But that doesn't mean that as individuated human beings my great grandchildren are now present in me, and we don't find that idea anywhere in Scripture. Now a more sophisticated version of realism that does not depend upon some literal kind of pre-incarnation of which there's precious little biblical evidence at all is a philosophical kind of realism such as you would find in Plato and Augustine and in Jonathan Edwards, where in God's mind you pre-exist your birth because God from all eternity has a perfect idea of you.

He knows you from all eternity, and God's ideas of persons are real ideas that they incorporate in His mind the full reality of who you are and what you are so that in God's mind if you were there in His mind at that occasion you are really there because nothing is more real than God's conceptions of things. Now that has a whole lot of philosophical assumptions within it, as I say, that involves a platonic view of ideas, and I'll just mention that in passing, but that is an option and an option that many people have embraced in church history and one that I find fascinating. The opposite, however, to the standard garden variety form of realism is what is called federalism, which puts an emphasis on the representative character of Adam, that Adam operates as a substitute for us, as a representative for us, as the federal head of the human race. Just as the officials in a federal republic are elected representatives and they are represented by those who are in the head roles of government in the federal structure, so in the Bible we have Jesus, for example, entering into a corporate solidarity with Israel. He becomes Israel. He represents the nation of Israel, and in terms of His work on the cross, He is our vicarious substitute who stands in our place, and God counts us righteous because God transfers to us the righteousness of Jesus, and He transfers from us our guilt to Christ. We have that double transfer that is involved in our salvation, and so that our whole salvation rests upon the validity of some kind of representation. If we object in principle to representation before God, we lose our salvation because the only way we can be saved is through the representative work of another, but that's one problem. The other problem is Adam, whose name Adam means mankind, is a single individual, but he is there not acting alone, but he is acting as the federal head of the human race, representing himself and all people who will be born subsequently. And so that the probation he undergoes is the probation of the human race, not just of Adam.

And so when he falls, not only does he fall, but all whom he represents fall with him. Again, the complaint that people raise is, well still, why am I held accountable for what another person did? I said, because another person represented you.

You say, well I didn't elect him. No damnation without elected representation is the cry of the person at this point. And I say, that's right, but why do you want to elect your officials in a free election? Why do you want the right to choose your own representatives? When we had the Revolutionary War with England, when the rules changed with Parliament and with King George, the colonists demanded representatives to go to Parliament. And they said, no taxation without representation. Well, suppose the king would have said, okay, you want representatives in Parliament?

Fine, I'll make sure that you're represented and my brother-in-law is going to represent you. The people would have started shooting immediately because they said, no, no, no, no, we want the right to choose our own representative. And that's a sacred right for us in this kind of a nation. But why do we want that right? We want it to make sure that we're accurately represented. We don't trust somebody else to appoint our representatives. We want to ensure, to the best of our ability, that the one that we select to represent us will actually represent us correctly. Now, has anybody had the experience of voting for a candidate who after he was in office did not represent you according to your desires?

It happens all the time. But we have to grant that in federalism, it is God who selects our representative. But this is the only time, apart from the cross, in all of human history where you were ever perfectly represented. Because the representative that God chose was, first of all, a righteous choice by a perfectly holy being. And it was done on the basis of his perfect knowledge of his omniscience, knowing you in advance and knowing your representative. So we cannot say to God that Adam misrepresented us. That's the basic assumption that we make when we try to escape the transfer of guilt.

We try to think and flatter ourselves saying, well, if I would have been there in the garden and would have been confronted by the temptation of the serpent, I would have been smart enough or good enough to say no to the temptation. So why do I have to suffer the consequences of what Adam did? Well, because Adam represented you and he represented you flawlessly and perfectly because he was God's selected representative. Now, and that means that we still could be held accountable for works done by somebody else if they perfectly represent us.

We understand that in our own justice system, if I hire somebody to kill somebody else and I make sure they do it while I'm out of town and have an established alibi, even though I don't pull the trigger, if this person is acting in my behalf, representing me with my consent and direction, I can be held accountable and responsible for first-degree murder. Now, I realize that analogy breaks down because, again, I didn't select Adam. I didn't pay Adam. I didn't put the idea in Adam's head. But the only point of the principle is this, that we do understand the justness of being held accountable for something that somebody else did if they are carrying out our will. Well, again, even though I didn't hire Adam, I didn't pay Adam, he was chosen perfectly by an omniscient, righteous God, then Adam was doing my work for me according to God's judgment. So in any case, because of the sin of one man, here we are facing this ruin and our only hope to escape from it is the righteousness of another representative. And aren't we thankful for the Lord Jesus Christ who is that representative?

That was Dr. R.C. Sproul as he continues his really expansive series looking at what Christians believe and why they believe it, and one that I would recommend that you return to again and again. And it can be yours and part of your library for a donation of any amount. This series, Foundations, is 60 messages in total across eight DVDs. So I encourage you to give your gift today at Not only will we send you this DVD set, but you'll also have access to the audio and video messages and the digital study guide. So request your copy today at

Today R.C. Sproul explained how the sin of Adam impacted each one of us. Well, next week he'll point us to the faithfulness of God and his promise to redeem the people for himself. So join us next Saturday here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-18 03:31:22 / 2023-03-18 03:39:48 / 8

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