A study of the effects of Adam's sin upon the entire human race.
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How did the choice that Adam made in the garden affect the entire human race? Adam rejected the option represented by the "tree of life," to allow for the out-working of the divinely in-breathed life of God in his behavior. Instead, he chose the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil," representing a choice to derive his spiritual condition and behavioral expression from a spiritual source other than God. Acting as the original man, he represented the entire human race in the choice that he made. The consequences of sin and death that were activated in Adam were not limited to him individually, but were collectively applied to all of mankind.
That our physical ancestry is to be traced back to the original man who was the genetic "father of the human race" and the "seminal head" of mankind, is not difficult to understand. But in what sense is the natural spiritual condition of humanity attributable to, and a consequence of, Adam's choice of sin? The spiritual solidarity of mankind with the fallen spiritual condition of the original man is a more difficult concept for many contemporary men to grasp.
The Hebrews often thought in terms of the actions of a previous ancestor affecting future generations of descendants. Making the argument for the supremacy of the Melchizedekian priesthood over the Levitical priesthood, the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews argues that Levi, while "still in the loins of his father (great-grandfather), Abraham, paid tithes to Melchizedek" (Heb. 7:9,10). Levi was regarded to be "in Abraham," and therefore the actions of Abraham were regarded as inclusive of all his descendancy. Where was Levi when Abraham paid tribute to the priesthood of Melchizedek? He was "in Abraham." When Abraham was blessed by Melchizedek, Levi was blessed by Melchizedek. So where were you and I when Adam sinned? We were "in Adam." When Adam sinned and incurred the consequences of death, we sinned "in Adam," and incurred the consequences of spiritual death.
Some varieties of Arminian theology assert that every individual man is born spiritually innocent with the potential of being either sinful or good. They allege that if man were to make the right choices from the time of his birth, he could live a perfect life. This is akin to the humanistic premise of man's self-potentiality, whereby every individual person is independent, autonomous and self-generative of his condition and behavior. They fail to recognize that man is dependent and contingent, always deriving his spiritual condition and behavioral expression from a spiritual source.
The Scriptures affirm that mankind is born physically in spiritual solidarity with the original man, Adam. The consequences of death, beginning with the "personal resource" of spiritual death, are imputed to all men because Adam was the "Representative Head" or "Federal Head" of the human race. The source of this spiritual death is "the one having the power of death, that is the devil" (Heb. 2:14), and as such "death reigns" (Rom. 5:17,21) throughout the life-function levels of mankind in their natural state.
Jude explains that those who are "natural" are "devoid of the Spirit" of God (Jude 19). But man cannot live in a spiritual void or vacuum; he is always spiritually derivative and contingent. In the absence of God's Spirit, the opposing spirit of Satan becomes operative in the spiritual life-function of the natural man. Thus it is that James refers to a "natural" wisdom that "does not come down from above," from God, but is "demonic" (James 3:15). The natural man functions on the basis of diabolic energizing. Paul explains that "the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised" (I Cor. 2:14). Only when the Spirit of Christ indwells and is operative in the Christian can he understand and accept God's wisdom, for then "Christ becomes to us wisdom from God" (I Cor. 1:24,30). Christians "have received, not the spirit of the world (of the "god of this world" - II Cor. 4:4), but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God" (I Cor. 2:12).
The original man, you will recall, was created to bear the image of God, in order to glorify God by allowing the character of God to be expressed through the behavior of the man. "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him" (Gen. 1:26,27). In order to visibly express the character of an invisible God in the behavior of man, the presence of the Spirit of God would have to dwell in the spirit of man in order to generate His character. God alone is the source of His own character! Godliness must be derived from God! After Adam sinned by eating of the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil," all of his descendants were natural men who were "devoid of the Spirit" (Jude 19), "excluded from the life of God" (Eph. 4:18). As such they could not bear the visible expression of the character of God. But in the absence of the Spirit of God, they are indwelt by the evil spirit whose image of character they express in their behavior.
Adam's first two descendants were Cain and Abel (Gen. 4:1,2). The visible expression of character exhibited by Cain was not derived from God in order to image God. Sin was operative in Cain, creating an anger and jealousy that prompted Cain to kill his brother, Abel (Gen. 4:5-8). Such was not the expression of the character of God, but the character of the spirit of evil. "Cain derived what he did out of the Evil One, and slew his brother" (I John 3:12). Cain was not visibly expressing and imaging the character of God, but instead was visibly expressing and imaging the character of Satan, who "was a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44). When Adam and Eve had another son "in place of Abel" (Gen. 4:25), Adam "became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth" (Gen. 5:3). Adam's sons did not come into being with the presence of the Spirit of God in their spirit in order to image the character of God, but like their spiritually fallen father they came into being with the presence of the evil spirit of Satan as the "personal resource of death" within them, and they consequently expressed and imaged the likeness of the character of the Evil One.
When Paul explains the spiritual condition and behavioral expression of the Ephesians prior to their becoming Christians, he writes, "And you were dead (spiritually) in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world (of which Satan is "god" - II Cor. 4:4), according to the prince of the power of the air (Satan), of the spirit (the "spirit of this world" - I Cor. 2:12) that is now working in the sons of disobedience (all mankind due to Adam's disobedience - Rom. 5:19). Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature (the spiritual nature of the Evil One) children of wrath, even as the rest" (Eph. 2:1-3). The natural, unregenerate man functions by spiritual derivation from the spirit of Satan.
The most comprehensive passage of Scripture that explains the condition of all mankind predicated on the choice of sin that Adam made, is to be found in Romans 5:12-21. Paul writes that "through one man (Adam) sin entered into the world (of mankind), and death (all of the death consequences) through (Adam's) sin, and so death (all of the death consequences) spread to all men, because all (men) sinned (in Adam)" (Rom. 5:12). This is in accord with Paul's statement that "in Adam all die" (I Cor. 15:22). To the Romans, Paul continues to reiterate that "by the transgression of the one (Adam) the many (all mankind) died (all of the death consequences)" (Rom. 5:15). "The one (Adam) sinned," and "the judgment (of God) arose from one (transgression of Adam) resulting in condemnation (to all men)" (Rom. 5:16). "By the transgression of the one (Adam), death (all of the death consequences) reigned (in all mankind) through the one (Adam)" (Rom. 5:17). "Through one transgression (Adam's) there resulted condemnation to all men" (Rom. 5:18). "Through the one man's (Adam's) disobedience (at the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil") the many (all mankind) were made sinners (spiritual identity)" (Rom. 5:19). "Sin (personified resource thereof) reigned in death (all of the death consequences)" (Rom. 5:21).
It is important to note that the spiritual condition of all the natural descendants of Adam who have not been regenerated spiritually in Jesus Christ, is that of spiritual death (Rom. 5:12,14,15,17,21). The spiritual authority that is personified as the energizing source of such death is represented as "death reigning" (Rom. 5:14,17) and "sin reigning" (Rom. 5:21). The spiritual identity of the natural man when such a spiritual authority is establishing his spiritual condition, is expressed by his being "made a sinner" (Rom. 5:19). This designation does not refer to behavioral expressions of sinfulness, even though all men will inevitably express such behavioral sins because of their spiritual identity as "sinners" wherein the personification of sin and death reigns. We do not become sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners!
The method by which these spiritual realities are transferred and transmitted to the entire human race from Adam has been a topic of much speculation. Perhaps the predominant explanation is based on the fact that when Jesus Christ became a man, He did not have human paternity from Joseph, and did not partake of the fallen spiritual condition of the rest of mankind. From the conjunction of these known phenomena in the life of Jesus, it is conjectured that the sinful spiritual condition of mankind is passed on by seminal transmission through the paternal seed. Can spiritual realities be conveyed genetically? Popular psychology today assumes that behavioral patterns and other psychological factors, such as homosexuality, alcoholism, etc., can be transmitted genetically. Is it not basically the same argument to indicate that spiritual realities are carried in paternal genes? God has not seen fit to inform us of the methodology of the transmission of the fallen spiritual condition of all mankind from Adam onward. Perhaps our finite understanding must rest content with the recognition of spiritual solidarity with Adam's sin and his subsequent spiritual condition, which when absent and devoid of the Spirit of God will be filled with the opposite spirit, for man is never an independent, autonomous and self-generative being.
The function of the Satanic spirit within the spiritual condition of the fallen, natural man is often questioned. First of all, we have noted that such an understanding is logically necessitated to avoid the humanistic premise of man's independency, autonomy and self-generation (as noted in the first chapter). Man was created by the Creator God to be spiritually and behaviorally dependent, contingent and derivative. When, by the sin of Adam, all men became spiritually dead, without the presence of the Spirit of God, mankind did not become independent and able to generate his own behavioral character. Man did not assume the function of God, or become a god. Neither did man become sub-human, or become an animal without any spiritual function, for he does not have the required instinctual pattern to thus behave as an animal. Those who describe man's spiritual condition apart from God as a spiritual vacuum or void, relegate fallen man to a non-human entity. Fallen man remains functional spiritually, psychologically and physiologically. Christian teaching has long been ambiguous about how mankind functions apart from God. Sometimes the theologians have admitted some manner of outside satanic influence upon the unregenerate, but have denied an indwelling satanic presence in the spirit of non-Christians. Another explanation is to turn the sin-problem into a self-problem. If man's problem is himself, then he must masochistically suppress or crucify this alleged "self" by some human performance "works" process, in order to be what God wants him to be. This is but an adapted form of "evangelical humanism" that posits that man is self-generative of his own sin. These are inadequate and unbiblical explanations.
There seems to be abundant Biblical documentation that points to the spiritual activity of Satan within the natural man. When we recognize this, we can understand that man remains a dependent, contingent and derivative creature even in his unregenerate state of spiritual function. The following Biblical documentation will be formatted in contrasts and comparisons between the spiritual condition of the regenerate and unregenerate, between Christians and non-Christians.
Spiritual union - The Christian is identified as being "in Christ," using the Greek preposition en. Jesus refers to our "abiding in (en) the vine" (John 15:4), and Paul explains that "if any man be in (en) Christ, he is a new creature (II Cor. 5:17). In contrast, John notes that "the whole world lies in (en) the Evil One" (I John 5:19).
Spiritual indwelling - Again using the Greek preposition en, Paul writes that the mystery of the gospel for the Christian is "Christ in (en) you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27), and asks, "Do you not recognize that Jesus Christ is in (en) you?" (II Cor. 13:5). The spiritual indwelling of Satan in the unregenerate seems to be evident from the contrasting statement of "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit now working in (en) the sons of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2).
Spiritual source - The Greek preposition ek refers to source, origin or derivation. Paul indicates that we are "not adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from (ek - out of) ourselves, but our adequacy is from (ek - out of) God" (II Cor. 3:5). On the other hand, John writes that "the one who practices sin is of (ek - out of) the devil" (I John 3:8), and "Cain was of (ek - out of) the evil one, and slew his brother" (I John 3:12).
Spiritual nature - Though we often hear references to "human nature," it is more Biblical to recognize that the spiritual nature of man is the nature of the spirit who indwells him. Using the Greek word phusis, Peter affirms that Christians are "partakers of the divine nature (phusis)" (II Peter 1:4). Prior to becoming Christians, Paul explained that we "were by nature (phusis) children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3).
Spiritual treasure - Most will be familiar with the word "thesaurus" which refers to a treasury of synonyms and antonyms. The Greek word thesaurus is used when Paul affirms that Christians "have this treasure (thesaurus) in earthen vessels" (II Cor. 4:7), referring to the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Christ. Jesus explained that "the good man out of his good treasure (thesaurus) brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure (thesaurus) brings forth what is evil" (Matt. 12:35).
Spiritual authority - The authority for the Christian is in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "All authority (exousia) has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28:18). It was the risen Lord Jesus who spoke to Saul on the road to Damascus, commissioning him to convert the Gentiles "that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion (exousia) of Satan to God" (Acts 26:18). Conversion is the turning from the spiritual authority of Satan to the spiritual authority of God in Christ.
Spiritual energizing - The English words "energy" and "energize" are derived from the Greek word energeo. Writing to the Philippian Christians, Paul says, "God is at work (energeo - energizing) in you, both to will and to work (energeo) for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). Reminding the Ephesians of their previous spiritual condition, Paul refers to "the spirit now working (energeo - energizing) in the sons of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2).
Spiritual relationship - The Christian can cry "Abba, Father (pater)" (Rom. 8:15), but Jesus told the unregenerate religionists, "You are of your father (pater), the devil" (John 8:44). "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we (Christians) are children (tekna) of God" (Rom. 8:16), whereas those who are not "children (tekna) of God" are "children (tekna) of the devil" (I John 3:10).
Spiritual personage - It is the personal experience of the Christian that "the Spirit (pneuma) bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom. 8:16). "We have not received the spirit (pneuma) of the world, but the Spirit (pneuma) who is from God" (I Cor. 2:12). Those who do not know Jesus Christ have "the spirit (pneuma) that works in the sons of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2).
Spiritual power - For Christians, "Christ is the power (dunamis) of God" (I Cor. 1:24), as contrasted with the "powers (dunamis)" that contradict our derived power. By Christ's indwelling we have "the surpassing greatness of His power (kratos)" (Eph. 1:19), but the one having "the power (kratos) of death is the devil" (Heb. 2:14).
Spiritual wisdom - Christ has become our spiritual wisdom (sophia) in the Christian life (I Cor. 1:30). There are others, though, whose wisdom (sophia) is "natural and demonic" (James 3:15).
Spiritual will - The spiritual personage within us has a particular spiritual objective or will that he seeks to activate within our behavior. For Christians, "God is at work in you, both to will (thelo) and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). In opposition to such are those for whom Paul prays that "God might grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will (thelema)" (II Tim. 2:25,26).
Spiritual works - Paul explains that Christians have been "created in Christ Jesus for good works (ergon), which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). Jesus exposed the Jewish religious leaders by exclaiming, "You are doing the deeds (ergon) of your father...the devil" (John 8:41,44).
In addition to these comparative references which utilize the same Greek word to draw the contrast between the spiritual condition of the regenerate and unregenerate, there are numerous other references which utilize opposite words to reveal the contrast of spiritual condition. A few examples will suffice.
Darkness/light - Satan is identified with the realm of darkness. This is evident in the text already cited where the risen Lord Jesus tells Saul that he will turn Gentiles "from darkness to light, from the dominion of Satan to God" (Acts 26:18). Christians have been "delivered from the domain of darkness, and transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son" (Col. 1:13). We were "formerly darkness, but are now children of light" (Eph. 5:8).
Death/life - It has previously been explained that "the one having the power of death is the devil" (Heb. 2:14), so the condition of spiritual death is not cessation of function, but the activity of Satan. On the other hand, Jesus declares, "I am...the life" (John 14:6). When the Spirit of Christ indwells the Christian, "Christ is our life" (Col. 3:4). "We have passed out of death into life" (I John 3:14).
Sin/righteousness - The spiritual identity of the natural man has been noted in his being "made a sinner" (Rom. 5:19). The personified presence of sin is operative spiritually in the unregenerate, for "sin reigns" (Rom. 5:21) in those who are "slaves of sin" (Rom. 6:17), and who "commit sin, deriving what they do from the devil" (I John 3:8). Christians, on the other hand, have been "freed from sin" (Rom. 6:18) and "made righteous" (II Cor. 5:21) by the indwelling presence of the "Righteous One" (I John 2:1).
Lie/truth - Satan is "a liar, and the father of lies" (John 8:44). Unregenerate men have "exchanged the truth of God for the lie" (Rom. 1:25). The "spirit of error" (I John 4:6) is at work in the natural man. A Christian has been regenerated by the reception of the "spirit of truth" (John 14:17; I John 4:6), the indwelling presence of Jesus Christ who said, "I am...the truth" (John 14:6), who continues to "guide us into all the truth" (John 16:13).
The foregoing comparisons and contrasts are not an exhaustive listing of the Biblical evidence that supports the satanic activity within the unregenerate in like manner as the Spirit of God functions within the Christian. The reader may wish to search the Scriptures for additional documentation of these spiritual realities.
Despite the Biblical evidence many Christian teachers continue to deny the satanic function within the natural man. They refer instead to an ambiguous "principle" of death, sin or evil that is supposedly operative in the person apart from Jesus Christ. Often they propose that the origin of sinfulness is in the "straw-man" which they call "self." The logical response to these unbiblical suggestions is to ask, "If man can generate or originate his own sin or evil-character, then why is he not equally able to generate or originate righteous character? The one, like the other, is independently and autonomously self-generated character. If man can self-generate sin and evil, he is the devil. If he can self-generate righteousness, he is God, and has no need for Jesus Christ, the Righteous. Man is not devil and man is not God; he is a dependent and derivative creature who is always contingent on spiritual presence to function by receptivity, and to thereby manifest the character of the spiritual personage on whom he is reliant.
If there is sin apart from the personal sin-source of Satan ...if there is evil apart from the Evil One ...if there is death apart from the one having the power of death, that is the devil ...if there is lying apart from the one who is the father of lies; then there must be life apart from the One who is Life ...there must be truth apart from the One who is Truth ...there must be righteousness apart from the Righteous One ...and there must be salvation apart from the One who is Savior. We would have to draw the same outlandish conclusion that Paul proposed, based on his opponent's arguments, that "Christ died needlessly" (Gal. 2:21). This evidences how important the understanding of the theodicy of the satanic function in the natural man really is, in order to maintain an accurate grasp of the gospel.
Most of those who react to and reject the satanic function within unbelievers mistakenly think that such diminishes the responsibility of man. Such is not the case. Differentiation must be made between the spiritual-generation of a man's spiritual condition and behavioral expression, and the volitional determination whereby man is responsible to choose and decide his course of action, i.e. from whence he will derive his condition and activity by receptivity, with freedom of choice. To accept the Biblical statements of spiritual condition and behavioral activity as derived from either God or Satan is not to deny the responsibility of man to exercise freedom of choice. Theologians distinguish between the prima causa of Satan's energizing of sin and the causa secunda of human responsibility for sin.
Having briefly reiterated the logical necessity of the satanic function within the natural man, and set forth some of the Biblical documentation for such, it will now be instructive to note some of the theological affirmations of this same reality. By the following quotations it can be documented that this has been taught in Christian theology throughout the history of the church:
Blaise Pascal - Provincial Letters.
John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis.
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion.
John Calvin, The Gospel According to John.
Emanuel V. Gerhart - Institutes of the Christian Religion.
Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics,.
William Cooke, Christian Theology.
E.H. Bancroft, Elemental Theology.
Augustus H. Strong - Systematic Theology.
A.W. Pink - Gleanings in Genesis.
A.W. Pink - Gleanings From the Scriptures.
Louis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology.
Louis Sperry Chafer, Satan: His Motives and Methods.
Daniel P. Fuller, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.
L. Nelson Bell, "Christianity Today" magazine, March 31, 1972.
Dave Hunt, The Seduction of Christianity.
Russell Kelfer, "Decisions, Decisions, Decisions," tape #907.
Ian Thomas - Mystery of Godliness.
Theological quotations do not of themselves establish the veracity of any point, for they are indeed the opinions of men. But when these statements so consistently affirm that which is demanded by logical necessity, and confirm the Biblical documentation which is the strongest criteria, being the revelation of God, then the cumulative evidence is hard to deny.
Once again, the importance of understanding the condition of the natural man is essential to a clear understanding of the gospel. It is not that the natural man needs to "change his ways" by moralistic behavior modification, nor does he need to "change his thinking" by becoming better educated in a more accurate epistemological belief-system. The need of the natural man is a "spiritual exchange" whereby the "spirit of error" is exchanged for the "spirit of truth" (I John 4:6), the "spirit of the world" is exchanged for the "Spirit of God" (I Cor. 2:12), and the natural man is converted from "darkness to light, from the dominion of Satan to God" (Acts 26:18). Anything less than this is a religious perversion of the Christian gospel!
Blaise, Provincial Letters. Great Books of the Western World.
Vol. 33. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1952. pg. 116.