Chapter 6: Of the Fall of Man, Of Sin, And of the Punishment Thereof
What is Total Depravity? Are men as bad as they can be? What is Original Sin? Are we born sinners? What is Federal Headship?
This chapter contains brief comments on the doctrines of Original Sin, Federal Headship and Total Depravity.
§1 Man Was Created Upright And Perfect, But They Fell
- Although God created man upright and perfect, and gave him a righteous law, which had been unto life had he kept it, and threatened death upon the breach thereof, yet he did not long abide in this honour; 1 Satan using the subtlety of the serpent to subdue Eve, then by her seducing Adam, who, without any compulsion, did willfully transgress the law of their creation, and the command given unto them, in eating the forbidden fruit, 2 which God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory. 3
- Eccl. 7:29; Rom. 5:12a, 14-15; Gen. 2:17; 4:25-5:3
- Gen. 3:1-7; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:14
- Rom. 11:32-34; 2 Sam. 24:1; 1 Chron. 21:1; 1 Kings 22:22-23; 2 Sam. 16:10; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28
Our Confession is in agreement with Ecclesiastes 7:29 where it is said that man was created upright, but "they” (man) sought out many (evil) schemes. Adam and Eve received a direct command from God not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17), which (perhaps) caused the knowledge and experience of a new kind of morality, namely evil morality. There was nothing in the fruit that did that, but it was God's way of testing them. The Confession is clear that Adam out of his own will took of the tree and transgressed, he was not coerced against his will, neither was Eve. Of this command we read in Genesis 2:15-17
Gen. 2:16-17 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Here, this command is directly given to Adam before the creation of Eve, whether Eve knew directly from God or not, I am unsure, but here Adam had one requirement, if he obeyed he would earn eternal life for himself and his posterity, if not he and his descendants after him will be born sinful and be condemned – they will die. Adam, in the Garden, stood in the stead of all people that would come from him. See paragraph 3 for federal headship. Most importantly, the Fall is recognized to not be outside of God's sovereign decree, but in it. It pleased God to “permit” it, why? Because He had “purposed to order it to his own glory.” In what way? By displaying a wider range of His attributes, by putting His wrath on display, by putting His grace on display. By conquering evil and getting glory over it. By saving His elect from the world. By becoming man in the process of saving the world. All these glorious things could not have happened if God had not decreed the Fall. The first sin may be the most difficult question to answer as how could it have been that a perfectly good being like Adam or Satan could rebel and fall. What would cause them to do that? Free will has no explanatory power, we do not believe that it sufficiently answers the question. That's why the Fall and every sin needs to be recognized as ordained by God of old and is purposed to display His glory. Sin is never outside of God's control. It is indeed mysterious why would or how would a “very good” (Gen. 1:31) being rebel against God. I reject the notion that there is no freedom without the opposite, that is, man must have the ability to obey and disobey to be truly free. The Persons of the Blessed Trinity have always obeyed each other and never done anything contrary, yet God is most free and sovereign. The Lord Jesus has only done what the Father pleases, but that does not mean that He is not free because He cannot but love and obey His Father. When God created, He consciously created Adam as a type of Christ. Adam did not become a type after the Fall, or when Paul wrote Romans, but he was in fact created as a type, he did not become one.
Rom. 5:14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
Furthermore, the fact that God predestines us to be holy and blameless presupposes that we are not holy and blameless, and that God had purposed to permit the Fall. Therefore, God, before creation of the world, predestined people to be sinless:
Eph. 1:3-6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
For more on these things, see chapter 3 (God's Decree), chapter 5 (Divine Providence) and chapter 9 (Free Will).
§2 Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness
- Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them whereby death came upon all: 1 all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. 2
- Gen. 3:22-24; Rom. 5:12ff; 1 Cor. 15:22-22; Ps. 51:4-5; 58:3; Eph. 2:1-3; Gen. 8:21; Prov. 22:15
- Gen. 2:17; Eph. 2:1; Titus 1:15; Gen. 6:5; Ps. 17:9; Rom. 3:10-18; 1:21; Eph. 4:17-19; John 5:40; Rom. 8:7
The Confession here begins to define the classic doctrine of Original Sin. We, in some mysterious way, were present with and in Adam. Adam was chosen by God to represent us all in the Garden. If he had passed the probation, all his posterity would have been counted as righteous, but because he failed, all his natural posterity fell in him and with him. Thereby even the cutest baby is born with a sinful nature and dead in sin. This is best seen in Paul's treatment of Federal Headship in Romans 5:
Rom. 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—
Rom. 5:18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.
When sin entered into the world, separation came between man and God. Separation from all good, physical and spiritual death also, the second death, the death of all eternity and torment in Hell. Sin creates separation between the Creator and creature. The sin that is in us causes Him to grief and be angry with us and make His wrath abide on us (Gen. 6:5-6; John 3:36).
Isa. 59:2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
§3 Original Sin and Federal Headship
- They being the root, and by God's appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free. 1
- Rom. 5:12-19; 1 Cor. 15:21, 22, 45, 49; Ps 51:5; 58:3; Job 14:4; 15:14; Gen. 8:21; Prov. 22:15; Eph. 2:1-3; Rom. 6:20; Heb. 2:14, 15; 1 Thess. 1:10
Here is the Confession's full statement on the classic doctrine of Original Sin, or as Dr Wayne Grudem suggests, Inherited Sin. We see that Adam and Eve, or more specifically, Adam, stood in our place in the Garden. They were the tree of the human family, so to speak, and if the tree is corrupt, its fruits will also be corrupt (Matt. 7:18). It was God who appointed Adam as the Federal Head of the human race, the legal representative. It was His doing, there is no questioning God's decision. He is righteous in all His ways and is never “unfair” (Deut. 32:4; Gen. 18:25; Job 34:10). None of us would have done otherwise, if we were in their shoes, being tempted by the deceiver. Because of Adam and Eve's transgression of God's Law, the guilt of sin is imputed (attributed) to all their posterity and also the punishment therefore, hence why children die (that's the punishment of disobedience). This is not to imply that all children go to Hell, anymore than to say that the reason that Christians die is because of God's punishing them (See chapter 31 for more on this subject). The corrupted nature was carried over, transmitted, transported and imparted to all his descendants coming by “ordinary generation” (excluding the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the seed of the woman, not man and conceived by...