Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Imputation of Sin

In a continuation of Our Fallenness in Adam, I wanted to look a little closer at the entrance of sin into the world.

When the topic of imputation arises, it is usually spoken of in terms of the imputation of man’s sin to Christ, and the imputation of His righteousness to man.  However, not much is said of Adam’s sin being imputed to the entirety of the human race.  As R.C. Sproul states in noting the objection of some: “We don’t mind having our guilt transferred to Jesus or having his righteousness transferred to us; it is having the guilt of Adam transferred to us that makes us howl.”  However, Sproul makes the distinction between the imputation of Adam’s sin and the imputation of Adam’s guilt.  This is an important departure from the position of say Charles Ryrie in that he (Ryrie) sees the sin of Adam as being imputed to all men but not his guilt.  Ryrie in support of his argument points to Rom 5:12 as the case for the imputation of sin from Adam to all man kind.  However, in the passage we find three clear teachings; sin entered through one man, as result of his sin death entered, and all sinned.  It should be noted that sin did not originate with Adam it ‘merely’ enter into the world through him. 

It is clear from this passage that the result of Adam’s sin was the inheritance of death to all men.  It would also seem that a rendering of Ezek 12:20 would make it equally clear that the sin(s) of the father (Adam) is not imputed to the son.  Nor is the sin of the son imputed to the father, but they both are accountable for their own sin.  This however, does not answer the question as to how man is born under condemnation; clearly, Adam’s sin was effectual in some way.  Some attempt to address this when by stating, “I was in Adam and justly condemned to die because I sinned when he sinned.”  Whether they intend to or not they use an active past tense in describing how his (Adam’s) condemnation is their own.  That is I sinned when Adam did and not that Adam’s sin was imputed upon him.

Yet the imputation of someone else’s sin to Christ is clear “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5:21).  This is the heart of imputation, in that the one who was without sin had sin imputed to him so that His righteousness would in turn be imputed to those who had no righteousness.  This process however, does not leave the believer without problems in regard to sin.  The two most common errors of believers related to sin 1) legalism, where a burdensome load of do’s and don’ts is placed upon their shoulders, 2) antinomianism, where a reliance on the grace of God is pressed to the extreme rendering a result not sanctioned by Scripture.  In legalism, most would acknowledge the saving work of grace in the life of the believer but then reliance upon the law to keep one saved or to demonstrate salvation is enjoined. 

However, Paul in his address to the Galatians 2 recounts this very thing in an encounter with Peter where he in hypocrisy, sought to return under the law, if only for a season.  Paul states that a man is “not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ” (v 16).  And later declares “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain" (v 21).  In addressing antinomianism we again look to Paul where he speaks to the often reached conclusion of the license to sin found outside the law.  In Romans he states, “What then?  Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?  Certainly not!  Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness” (Rom 6:15-17).  The very idea of the believer using God’s grace as a license to sin was repulsive to him and in the NASB “Certainly not” is rendered “May it never be.” 

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