Studies in The Baptist Catechism: Section Four – Our First Parents, Sin, and the Fall (Q.19)

Earlier Studies –

Listen to the audio for this lesson here.



Q.19: Did all mankind fall in Adam’s transgression?

A. The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself but for his prosperity, all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation sinned in him, and fell with him in his first transgression.1

1Genesis 2:16-17; Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22



When we considered Question 15, we made special note of the covenant that God first made with Adam. We noted the character and nature of that covenant and, especially, the conditions of it. Today, we will take particular note of the federal nature of Adam’s Covenant. From the outset, we must note that there are some disagreements with even the suggestion that Adam’s sin could be accredited to us. Some will point for instance to Ezekiel 18:1-4.

1Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2‘What do you mean by using this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying,

‘The fathers eat the sour grapes,

But the children’s teeth are set on edge’?

3As I live,’ declares the Lord God, ‘you are surely not going to use this proverb in Israel anymore. 4Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die,’’” (Ezek. 18:1-4; NASB).

This passage does not refer to the covenant God made with Adam. It does not even refer to the Mosaic Covenant. The error we see represented here is the idea of household covenants in which the children of unbelieving Jews were thought to be condemned by their fathers’ unbelief and sin. There are some who still hold to a form of this view today, teaching that God establishes His covenants with men on the basis of individual households (Gk. οἶκος). You may have heard some Presbyterians refer to themselves as paedobaptists (baptizing their infants). There are some who prefer to be called oikobaptists (baptizing their infants). God’s covenants are not made on the basis of each individual household in the Bible, though. Rather, each covenant is made with respect to one federal head who represents all of his descendants by ordinary generation. Such was the case with Adam and just a handful of others in the Bible.

Some might argue that it is not “fair” that they be lumped in with all of Adam’s progeny and, as a result of his one sin, be cast into an estate of sin and misery. They use this line of argumentation, perhaps, not realizing that they thereby undermine the very foundation and purpose of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Apart from the federal headship of Adam, the federal headship of Christ is rendered impotent.

Adam was tasked with being fruitful, filling the earth, and subduing it. How was he to accomplish this feat? Through his offspring. Had he remained upright and partaken of the Tree of Life, he and his progeny would have lived securely on this earth. Likewise, when he partook of the fruit of the forbidden tree, he plunged all of his progeny into an estate of sin and misery. The remedy for our predicament must then be provided by a new Federal Head, and it has been provided. The Great Physician has come and provided the cure. The curse that was brought by the first Adam has now been broken by the last Adam: Christ (1Cor. 15:45). Take away the result of the sin of the first Adam for all those born of Adam, and you render void the result of the perfect obedience of the last Adam for all those born of Christ.

Federal Headship Asserted

In Adam, we do find that God has established a federal headship. As a result of this headship, every child of Adam is now conceived in sin. As we stated before, we are not sinners because we sin, but rather quite the opposite. We sin because we are sinners. We are sinners, because our first father was a sinner. This is the situation in which each son or daughter of Adam finds him- or herself since the fall, and it all began with one simple precept:

16The Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die,’” (Genesis 2:16-17; NASB).

Adam ate the forbidden fruit and, by so doing, he consigned all of his offspring, each one of us, to the dismal conditions of a crooked, perverse, and sin-soaked world. In his partaking of the fruit, he secured for himself a sure death, and so he likewise secured the deaths of us all. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned,” (Romans 5:12; NASB). This was the wage of Adam’s sin. It was the price that had to be paid, and we have been paying it ever since.

However, the wage is not merely a death of temporal life on this earth. The promise of sure death was not merely levied against Adam as a threat on his temporal life and ours. Rather, it was an eternal punishment that was in view. At the moment of Adam’s sin, he secured both his physical death and ours to be sure. He also secured for all mankind that they would be born into a state of spiritual death (Eph. 2:1), a state that would persist apart from divine intervention.

“If the just demerits and wages of sin was contained in the threatening (as no doubt it was) it could be no less than an eternal punishment that was threatened. For if that is not the desert of every sin, it cannot be due to any sin. The reason why the punishment of any sin is eternal is so that the penalty inflicted of the sinner may be adequate to the offence. The punishment has an infinity in its eternity, because the fault is infinitely aggravated, and that can only be in regard to its object. There is nothing that can be an infinite aggravation of sin but its being committed against a God of infinite greatness, glory, and goodness. And this aggravation attends every sin, as it is a sin against God,” (Nehemiah Coxe, Covenant Theology: From Adam to Christ, pg. 52).

Actual Sinfulness Asserted

We are not only condemned for the sins of Adam, though. We also stand condemned as a result of the actual sins that we each commit. Yes, we are sinners because of Adam. Nevertheless, we each sin and deserve the punishment that comes upon us. Some will again object and state the unfairness of the fact. They will argue that infants who die in their infancy or are miscarried in their mothers’ wombs never actually sinned and, thus, should not be treated as sinners by God. Though this is more of an emotional argument than a plea for consistency, such objections must be met with the utmost pastoral care and consideration. Our confession addresses this matter as such:

“Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit; who worketh when, and where, and how he pleases; so also are all elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word,” (The Baptist Confession, 10.3).

Some, like Spurgeon, have gone further than the confession and asserted that all infants so dying are elect infants. Convinced as I am of the goodness of God, and knowing no greater good that this, I am of a mind to agree. Though some have pointed out that such reasoning makes abortion the greatest heaven-filling machine ever known to man, I persist in this belief. Simply because God uses an evil act for a good result does not mean that the evil act is then justified. Abortion is murder, but so was the crucifixion, and God used it to fill heaven with former sinners of all stripes.

When we talk about actual sinfulness, then, we are obviously referring to those of us who have survived infancy, who thus willfully disobey the light of nature with which we have been endowed by their Creator. Each of us are sinners, and none of us can distance ourselves from the vast sea of sinful men in which we are. We are fallen in Adam’s first sin, and we sin.

“What? Can you exempt yourself from the number of those whose feet are swift to shed blood; whose hands are foul with rapine and murder; whose throats are like open sepulchers; whose tongues are deceitful; whose lips are venomous; whose actions are useless, unjust, rotten, deadly; whose soul is without God; whose inward parts are full of wickedness; whose eyes are on the watch for deception; whose minds are prepared for insult; whose every part, in short, is framed for endless deeds of wickedness? If every soul is capable of such abominations (and the apostle declares this boldly), it is surely easy to see what the result would be, if the Lord were to permit human passion to follow its bent. No ravenous beast would rush so furiously, no stream, however rapid and violent, so impetuously burst its banks,” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, pg. 179).

So we find that, in Adam, we are all sinners, dead in our sins, and worthy of eternal punishment. Furthermore, each of us have committed actual sin against our Creator in heaven, further solidifying our condemnation. What is the solution, then? None but this: “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive,” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22; NASB). Let us then turn to the Federal Head in Whom we are made alive!

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