The Significance of Original Sin for People Today, Part 4

The following is the conclusion of a four-part series on Original Sin. In part-three of our series, we talked about the imputation of sin and how the guilt of Adam’s sin could be transferred to his descendants, all of humanity.  In this article we will discuss the role Adam plays in the theology of the Apostle Paul and offer some concluding thoughts as we close out our study. 

Adam’s Role in Pauline Theology

The Correlation Between the First Adam and the Last Adam

Although we have already discussed much of the correlation between Adam and Christ and imputation of sin as presented by the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:12-19, we find it necessary to briefly look at some of the further implications of the apostle’s statements in verses 18 and 19 of Romans chapter 5. Many have noted that Paul’s statement is incomplete in Romans 5:12 in that, “…just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— “Paul accounts for the introduction of sin to the human race through the one-man Adam; however, the impact of the statement is diminished by him stating, “…because all sinned” (v. 12). Although as we read further and come to verses 18-19, the picture becomes clearer as Paul presents Adam as the cause through his singular sinful act in while in the garden as verse 18 states, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” Upon initial observation, the intent of the apostle’s strong parallelism is obvious as he presents the dynamic comparison between the fatal Adamic event and the victorious life-giving Christ event. More to the point, as Moo suggests, “Paul attributes the condemnation and sin of all people to the single sin of Adam.”1 As such, any argument that suggests that human beings simply sin in the imitation of Adam, fails to recognize the significance of Adam’s sin in Paul. 


Realist and Representative Views Revisited

What have we learned regarding the respective views presented earlier in our study? Is the ground posited by each view compatible with the analogy set forth by Paul in Romans 5:12-19? In light of our study, we have learned that Pelagius’ views failed to recognize Paul in verses 18-19 when he writes:

So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

Romans 5:18-19

The guilt and condemnation of Adam’s single sin was in fact, according to Paul, imputed to all men prior to them being able to make a choice of whether to sin or not. Further, Pelagius, and Tertullian for that matter, failed to explain why every human being sins and why sin is universal across the entire human race. In fact, Paul argues in Romans, based on Judaic traditions,4 that all of humanity bears the guilt of Adam’s sin, and has received from Adam a corrupted sin nature. St. Augustine’s view of original sin acknowledges and corresponds well with Paul and Romans chapter 5, thereby affirming that sin is imputed from Adam who was the federal head of humanity. While St. Augustine never truly decided whether he held to a Federal headship or Natural headship of Adam, he nevertheless landed on a theology that accords well with the Scriptures. Therefore, Augustine, and Calvin, who interpreted Romans chapter 5 literally, are found to be most biblically correct as they affirm the biblical writer’s intent and meaning as it is expressed through the apostle’s Adam-Christ analogy.  

What is important to walk away with from this Study? 

What is important to understand, and hold dear and defend against all future neglect, is the theological concept of imputed sin. As mentioned in this study, Adam serves as a corporate (Federal) head for humanity.  In a sense, he is man’s representative in God’s redemptive story. As a representative of man, it is important to follow what he represents. Since man has no righteousness of his own because of his trespasses and sins, then there must be a way that he can be declared by God to be righteous in order to be saved. The Apostle Paul writes, 

For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”

Romans 5:17

According to Paul, there is a gift of righteousness that believers in Christ receive; this is imputed righteousness. In the same way, Paul implies that sins may also be imputed to man when he writes, “for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law” (Ro 5:13). Paul suggests that the guilt of sin was imputed to mankind once man received the knowledge of the Law.  Sin came into the world through Adam, then once man received knowledge of the law of God, sin was imputed to man and man became guilty of sin. Therefore, Paul teaches that just as Adam’s sin is imputed to mankind, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to all who believe (Ro 5:17).



  1. Douglas J. Moo, Encountering the Book of Romans, 105.
  2. Blocher, Original Sin, 47. See also C. A. Evans, “Typology,” ed. Joel B. Green and Scot McKnight, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 864.
  3. John Murray, The Imputation of Adam’s Sin (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1959), 33.
  4. Jewish tradition teaches that one was present in germinal or seminal form in their ancestors; therefore, in a very real sense, we were present with Adam when he sinned. See Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 579. Also, part 1 of this series.