Adam was created perfectly upright by God, but in disobedience he fell from this position. We read in the Bible that because he fell we have inherited Adam’s sinful nature and accordingly we become guilty, absolutely corrupt and deserving of punishment. But what does it mean to inherit the sinful nature? All of us are sinful from birth. We did not acquire this after we were born, we are born with it. David makes that very clear in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
We can understand this if we see that Adam was what we might call ‘the parent of mankind’ or to use a more technical phrase, ‘the federal head of the human race’. This Biblical idea is the key link between us and Adam. He was our representative. When he fell from his original righteousness, he was not merely acting alone and for himself, but for us all who were to come through him. So the core issue here is representation. This representation means that when he sinned, all of mankind whom he was representing inevitably became a sinful people, even though they were not yet born.
Genesis 3 records for us the facts of Adam’s fall. Romans 5:12-14 makes clear to us the implication of those facts. It says that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men.” Sin came into the world through Adam and spread to all of us: both legally and actually. The Puritan Thomas Goodwin explains this passage like this: Adam was reckoned as a common public person, not standing singly or alone for himself, but as representing all mankind to come of him. …Now this man was [a prototype of] Christ…‘the second man’. …These two between them had all the rest of the sons of men hanging at their girdle [or belt]. Adam had all the sons of men [who are] called ‘earthly men’ [included in him]; and Christ the second man had all his elect, …the ‘heavenly men’ included in him.
Is Adam your federal head, or is Christ? If you are in Christ and depending upon Him, then His righteousness is imputed to you. If Adam is your head, then you remain in sin, under God’s wrath. Sin is very dangerous but it comes with subtlety. Sin is prideful but approaches endearingly. Sin looks sweet but is sour to taste. Sin looks beautiful and fluffy to touch but at its core is rottenness. Sin is like a heart warming Sunday Roast with all the trimmings but is full of poison. Sin is a liar! It promises good but delivers evil. It promises you what it can never achieve. Sin ravages, corrupts us and brings death! With sin, we can not please God. With sin, we are His enemy. With sin, we run against Him. With sin, we will lose. With sin we are completely condemned, along with Adam, in our sinful nature. It is better by far to be found trusting in Christ!