Imputation of Adam's sin

The whole world was imputed with Adam's sin and condemned to die. Paul argues this in Romans 5 by demonstrating that people died 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" (v. 14, ESV). They died, even though they lived before the law was given, and even though "sin is not counted where there is no law" (v. 13, ESV). In other words, they were condemned and died on the basis of one sin committed by one human being, Adam. Understanding the imputation of Adam's sin is particularly helpful when one realizes that Paul compares it with the imputation of Christ's "one act of righteousness" (v. 18), in order to advance the argument that "as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men" (v. 18).

The imputation of Adam's sin is distinct from original sin, the doctrine that humans are born with a sinful nature as a result of Adam's sin.


Three views

Views Romans 5:12 Adam Humanity Pelagian View People incur death when they sin after Adam's example. Sin affected Adam alone. No one affected by Adam's sin. Federal View Sin is imputed to humanity because of Adam's sin. Adam alone sinned but human race affected. Depravity is total; sin and guilt are imputed. Augustinian View Humanity sinned in Adam. (Table by Charles R. Biggs)

Was Adam's sin imputed to Christ?

Adam's sin was not imputed to Christ (nor was Christ born with a sinful nature) because Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. The imputation of sin takes place through the federal head.

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