by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 2 Study # 2 Lincolnton, NC April 18, 2006
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
1901 ASV Translation:
12 Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned:
I. Death Passed Upon All Men.
A. The "sin" of the one was the "sin" of the many -- all sinned when he sinned.
1. Paul acknowledges that there were "many" who did not sin in the same way that Adam did (5:14). What he means is that for a person to do as Adam did, the same issues must be "in place". What issues? First, Adam's sin is called a "transgression" in 5:14. This means that he crossed a known boundary. In 5:13 Paul acknowledges that "sin" is not "reckoned to a person" if there is no "law" (i.e., a knownboundary). And, second, it is indisputable that Adam faced no "inherent" or "essential" corruption of his inner nature before he "sinned" and that "issue" has never been "in place" since. So, all who now sin do so out of both an inner corruption and ignorance that did not exist for Adam (the apostle declares in 5:19 that the "many" were "constituted sinners" by the disobedience of the one).
2. Yet, Paul's charge that "all sinned" so that death passed upon all seems to fall to the ground by his acknowledgement that not all sinned in the same way as Adam did. Did men "sin" when Adam sinned, or not? The answer is a mystery. The "many" who were "in Adam" (if we can use the author of Hebrews in our terminology [Hebrews 7:9-10] -- we were in the loins of Adam when he sinned) did what Adam did. But, it is a reality that we were not consciously, volitionally, or even understandingly "present" when Adam took the action he took. So, on the one hand, there is an integrated unity of the human race which ties us all together at the "essence" level; and, on the other hand there is an undeniable "individuality" to the human race that makes us, each one, a unique person in our own right. This, if the truth be known, probably has its roots in the trinitarian reality of God -- three distinct individual persons in one integrated unity..."God in three persons, blessed trinity." Thus, though the individuality was not "there" in the day of Adam's sin, the unity was, and the action of the one significantly and actually altered the "essence" of "humanity".
a. This raises the question as to whether the fruit of the forbidden tree had a "genetic poison" within it that effectively altered the physiological essence of the person who ate of it so that, though the poison was not (necessarily) transmitted, the damage was essential and irremediable and permanent. Man became a "genetic sinner".
1) This raises yet another question: what is "sin"?
a) If we take the greatest commandment as a guide, "sin" boils down to being more committed to one's own interests than to God's. "Loving" the Lord with all we are means being committed to His agenda and methods at any and every cost. But, being committed to one's own interests assumes one knows what is best for himself and how to achieve it. This requires omniscience and omnipotence -- neither of which does man have.
b) If we take the second commandment as a guide, "sin" continues to have the same identity -- a stronger commitment to one's own interests than to one's neighbor's interests.
2) And there is yet another question: how do "genes" determine behavior that is of the self-interested kind?
b. So, there is this also: in what way do the genes of people dominate the non-material aspects of their being? The material cause-and-effect issues are traceable [if one does "this" in the material realm, "that" occurs -- as in "if I hit a nail with a hammer, the nail penetrates the board as the inevitable result of the action taken"]. But, the non-material participation in the material cause-and-effect reality is not as easily traceable. What will the soul or spirit of a man do if his body takes a given action? Paul clearly believed that the body has to be carefully controlled in order to prevent spiritual disaster (1 Corinthians 9:27). There is no "divorce" between the body and the spirit. They are unified so that what the one does affects the other.
c. But, there is yet another issue involved. Paul claimed (Ephesians 2:1-2) that there is a "spirit" that "works in" the children of disobedience. The direct significance of this is that it is not the "body" that sponsors evil activities, but an inner spirit called "the prince of the power of the air". So, did the eating of the fruit of the forbidden tree do anything to man's body? Was the real result not "physical", but "spiritual"? Did the disobedience bring about the inevitable presence of this evil spirit as the real root of all of the evil that arises from men? It does not seem to be the case that it is only a "spiritual" issue for one cause: death and resurrection. If getting rid of the evil spirit was all it would take to block sin, the death of the body would be unnecessary. The fact is, however, that only the death of the body releases men from the compulsion to sin. So, there are two issues: the "genetic" issue, and the "inner working" of the "prince of the power of the air".
B. The consequence of "sin" (Death) fell upon the many because the many were essentially altered in their makeup so as to be rebellious against God.
1. Death is, at its most fundamental essence, alienation from the Power of Life. This seems to boil down to two things: first, there is a breakdown in the identification of "love" (i.e., the ability to determine what is truly valuable); and, second, there is a breakdown in the "impetus" or "power" to pursue the truly valuable.
2. However, since the Spirit of God is the Power of Life, there is this question: to what degree is the "spirit of man" or the "spirit which is an angel" an "autonomous" spirit? Whence has the spirit of man the power to do anything? If the "power to do" is a derivative of the Spirit of God, how "derivative" is it? Does God impart "power" to "others" that ceases to be His power? Apparently. God apparently grants to each "person" a "power" that comes under his own authority in distinction from the authority of God so that the "person" has the capacity to act apart from the dominion of God. To act apart from the love of God is evil, but possible.