One of the more neglected doctrinal teachings in today’s evangelicalism is the doctrine of Union with Christ. Contrary to popular belief, doctrine is not a word to be avoided, nor is it exclusive for academics and theologians. Doctrine is simply the teaching of Scripture as it relates to a particular subject, in the case of this post – Union with Christ and its related Union with Adam. Before we can properly understand our union with Christ as the Apostle Paul alludes to in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 (and further exposited in Romans 5:12-21; See also Ephesians 1-2), we must understand another union, that with Adam and his fallen posterity.
As mentioned earlier, a summary statement may be found in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, “21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” and is expanded upon in Romans 5:21.
The doctrine of union with Adam, or we may say Adam as our federal head or representative, is this: when Adam sinned in the Garden, all those who have been born “in him” share in the guilt and condemnation of that first sin and experience the pollution from that first sin in their nature (edit). Said another way, the effects (both the guilt and pollution) of Adam’s sin is not limited to him alone, but the pollution is passed down to subsequent generations and the guilt is “imputed” (credited) to all mankind. This is an all inclusive imputation of that original sin, to every individual member of the human race, without exception.
Each individual born from Adam on inherits this original sin, meaning that all persons regardless of doing anything either good or evil are born under the guilt and condemnation of sin and subsequently are under the wrath of God simply because they are born. This shouldn’t surprise us. We need only to look at Ephesians 2:1-3 for support of this statement, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind“.
Returning to our verse from 1 Corinthians 15 cited above, we find the parallel statements of “by a man came death” and “for as in Adam all die” each of which is contrasted with a positive action by Christ, which we will look at in a subsequent post.
For now, we may conclude with the Apostle that through Adam, death spread to all men and that all those “in Adam” die. Adding Romans 5 to our understanding we read that “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“ and “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men” Romans 5:12, 18.
Due to our union with Adam, the doctrine of original sin dispels any notion that we are born either morally neutral or morally good. We are born sinners and act only in accordance with our nature. Apart from the super-natural work of the Holy Spirit to give us new life and a new heart, we are dead in our trespasses and sins. Guilty because of our own iniquity and guilty from simply being born downstream of Adam.
Because the doctrine of original sin is opposed to man’s natural inclination that he/she is either morally neutral or morally good, we will look to address some more common objections in a future post.
For Further Study see: Romans 1-3