Summary: Why should the sin of the first human being become the downfall of the entire race?
The question that has been often asked, “Why should the sin of the first human being become the downfall of the entire race? Why should all mankind stand under God’s judgment against a basic sinfulness for which none of us is responsible? Is God being just when He
places this sinfulness on the entire human race?
The key word in this passage is “sin.” What does Paul mean when he uses the word “sin?” What is his under-standing of the origin of the human situation that he describes with the word “sin?”
Paul’s understanding of human sinfulness is expressed in two verses of his letter to the Romans. The first is Romans 1:28, where he wrote, ”they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God.” There is often a tendency to apply this to other people and
times. Here Paul is referring to the parents of the human race, Adam and Eve.
The second is found in Romans 2:17, where he wrote, “you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God.” Here the reference is to the Jews of his day and can be applied to both Jews and Christians today. Sin is a refusal to accept our creatureliness, recognize our limitations and acknowledge our dependence on our Creator. Sin in the final and deepest sense is our separation from God and not a thing. It is not a genetic defeat. It is not passed on from one generation to another genetically.
We are sinners because we are unrelated to God. The questions are; Why do we find ourselves in such a dilemma? Why is that our condition? Biblical, we are under the Fall of the first man and that is why we are in the condition we are. Paul didn’t say we sin
because Adam sinned. He didn’t say we die because Adam sinned. He said sin entered the world through Adam and as a result death entered the world and all mankind was
separated from God.
There are two views in this statement made by Paul which must be seriously considered if we are to understand what Paul is saying about the human dilemma. One view is human solidarity. All mankind experience events in life that are common and unavoidable. The other view is individual responsibility. Experiencing the events of life that are common we are in bondage because we are responsible for our participation in the events.
Paul’s understanding of the human dilemma was rooted in Jewish beliefs. The Old Testament concept that the sins of the parents would have a strong effect upon the present and future generations. Adam disobeyed God and his descendants, the human race,
continually repeat the example Adam set. They yield to the temptation to determine their own lifestyles and destiny. This self-determination results in death. A separation from God, which is called spiritual death, although the spirit does not literally die. And physical death, a separation of the spirit from the physical body.
In the physical realm of God’s kingdom there exists a mysterious relationship between human self-determination and death and between Adam’s self-determination and our own death. Since all mankind is created equal there is an existing condition what one person does or doesn’t do has an effect upon himself and others.
We may not like it, but we are born into a world that is overshadowed by sin, oppression, prejudices and injustices. We are, all in some way affected by these shadows cast over our motives, attitudes and priorities.
In Romans 5:12-21 Paul addresses the Jewish belief that as individuals we are responsible and held accountable for the way we relate to God and others. In the days of Ezekiel a
protest was raised against the idea that the children will be held accountable for their parent’s trans-gressions. Ezekiel asked the question, “Why does the son not share the guilt of his father? Since the son has done what is just and right...he will surely live. The soul who sins is the one that will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father” (Ezekiel
Paul clearly states in Romans 5:12, each person who continues the rebellion and self-determination of Adam in his own or her own life will be responsible for their act of rebellion and self-determination, but will not be responsible for the rebellion and self- determination act of others.
We stand in mysterious solidarity with Adam in sin. We are individually responsible. There is only one way to overcome the dilemma we are in and that is through a new relationship with Christ. Through this relation-ship we are reconciled to god and in Christ we become
members of a new humanity.