When I was a still a child, my grandfather would always tell me “Ikaw talaga Eduardo, hindi ka na na-zero”. What he meant by that is every day, there was a never a time I was not scolded for being a very stubborn kid. Back then, I get very frustrated because I am trying to behave but I just can’t do it. So I can relate to the song lyrics which goes like this, “Gusto kong bumait pero di ko magawa”. Even if I don’t intentionally plan of doing something that would piss of my parents, I still piss them of.
Fast forward, when my son started to be a source of headache, he raised the same frustration to us. He said, “I want to be good but my brain does not want to cooperate. What can I do?” When we heard this from our son, me and wife looked at each other and said “Total Depravity”.
I thought this kind of reasoning comes only from kids who wants to escape punishment after violating some house rules. But, whenever I browse the internet and watch videos of Christians or Republicans arguing with members of the LGBT community, one of the arguments that I hear from the latter group is that “I was born this way, therefore God cannot punish me for acting just the way he created me.” This kind of reasoning is not only used by the members of the LGBT community but also by other individuals who wants to justify their sinful lifestyles. But do they really have a point?
God’s Fairness and Man’s Moral Inability
The Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 4 presents to us a similar question. Question number 9 asks “But doesn’t God do us an injustice by requiring in his law what we are unable to do?” and the catechism’s answer to that is this, “No, God created human beings with the ability to keep the law. They, however, provoked by the devil, in willful disobedience, robbed themselves and all their descendants of these gifts.”
According to Zacharius Ursinus, we can only accuse God of committing injustice for requiring his creatures to do things which they don’t have the ability to do if the inability occurred from the very beginning. But that is not the case in the creation of man. When God created our first parents, Adam and Eve, he created them with the ability to keep the law.
Genesis 1:31 says that when God saw everything that he had made, He said that it was very good. As was explained last vesper service by Pastor Reuel, when God created man, He created them in His own image. And Ephesian 4:24 tells us that to be created after the image of the likeness of God means to have true righteousness and holiness.
So, meaning to say, God did not create wicked creatures who are incapable of keeping His laws, but rather, He created man good, according to His image, and with true righteousness and holiness. However, because of the provocation of the devil, in their willful disobedience, they sinned before God and robbed themselves of the ability to keep the commandments.
But isn’t it unfair for God to punish Adam and Eve for sinning in the garden of Eden when if not for the provocation of the devil they wouldn’t have done it? And besides, we are talking about the devil here. The devil is not just like your normal bad influence friend who suggest you to do bad things for fun. The devil, Satan, is a master deceiver whose very nature is to lie and murder. He is full of malice and is 100% committed to destroy the people of God.
John 8:44 describes the devils this way, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” So clearly this is not an even match. What is the chance of the first humans against the cunning deceitfulness of the father of lies?
Well, it may be true that it is not an even match, but let us not forget that devil can only deceive or provoke Adam and Eve. No matter how powerful the devil is, he cannot force our first parents to sin. And also, prior to the fall, Adam and Eve were not like us. For us Christians, although we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit, the influence of sin is still within us that is why we have a daily serious struggle with sin. But with Adam and Eve, it is not.
Adam and Eve did not have a corrupted nature prior to the fall. They have the capacity to obey the law and the capacity to not obey the law, but their will is not embondage to a sinful nature. So, it is safe to say that prior to the fall, Adam and Eve have free will. However, in their free will, they committed a willful disobedience against God.
Genesis 3:6 says, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.” So Adam and Eve, by their own willful decision and through the exercise of their free judgement, ate the forbidden fruit and sinned against God, hence it is not unfair for God to punish them even if they were provoked by the devil.
And what is the effect of the sin of Adam and Eve? The catechism says that because of their willful disobedience, they robbed themselves and all their descendants of these gifts. These free gifts pertain to their ability to keep the law. Romans 5:12 says that through one man, sin came into the world and death came through sin. Verse 18 says that one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all and verse 19 says that through one man’s disobedience, the many were made sinners.
So here we can see that God is not unjust in requiring in his law what were not able to do because the ability was given to us at first but we lost it in the willful disobedience of Adam and Even. For illustration purposes, let’s say there is a school in a remote area where there is no place to buy school supplies. Then the students goes to the classroom every day without any paper or pen, but they are still willing to study. And then the teacher suddenly told the class that they will have an exam, and the exam is essay type. Now because the students have no paper and pen, there is no way for them to answer the exam much less obtain a passing grade. Here we can see that the teacher is being unjust because he is fully aware that his students are not capable of taking the exam due to lack of necessary school supply.
However, if the day before the exam, the teacher distributed free paper and pencils but the students lost their things before taking the exam, the fault now here is not with the teacher but with the student. It is the same with humanity. It is not God’s fault if we don’t have now the ability to satisfy the demands of His laws because in the beginning, we had this ability but we lost it.
Sin Imputation and Representation
However, someone my question this illustration because in the garden of Eden, only Adam and Eve sinned and yet not only them but also all of their descendants lost the ability to keep the laws of God. So, in our illustration, if one student loses his pen and paper, is it not unjust for the others to have their pen and papers taken back from them?
If only one person sinned (Adam), why does everyone else have to suffer the consequence? There are several views that answers this question, but the 3 most popular views are as follows: 1. The Myth Theory of the Fall; 2. The Realist View of the Fall; and 3. The Federalist View of the Fall.
The Myth Theory tells us that the account of the fall of Adam and Eve is not a true event but a mere symbolism. It says that Adam symbolizes everyone of us. That we are all innocent when we were born and then somehow, we lost our way and we became sinners. However, the plain reading of the account of the fall shows us that it is a narrative, not a poetry, parable, prophecy or apocalyptic literature. And the basic rule of hermeneutics is that, if the text is a narrative, we interpret it literally and not symbolically.
The next one is called the Realist view. It tells us that the reason why we suffered the consequences of the sin of Adam is because when the fall happened, we were really there. This view presupposes that a person can participate in an act prior to his actual existence because our soul pre-existed before we are even born. And our pre-existent soul was present in the garden of Eden with Adam, and we participated in his sin by being there with him.
The proponents of the Realist View based their argument from Hebrews 7:9-10 which says, “Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him”
The context of this text is about the Royal Priesthood of Christ. As to the His kingship, Christ came from the line of Juda to whom the scepter or the symbol of kingship was given. Christ is also a descendant of David, the greatest king of Israel, who happens to be also from the line of Judah. However, it is the priesthood of Christ which became questionable because He did not come from the line of Levi. In the Old Testament, the priesthood was given to the sons of Levi, and a person cannot be a priest unless he came from that lineage.
To address the question about the priesthood of Christ, the author of Hebrew argued that there was another priesthood mentioned in the Old Testament, namely the priesthood of Melchizedek. Melchizedek is a mysterious figure in the Old Testament who was identified as the King of Salem and the priest of God Most High. The author of Hebrews said that Jesus derived His priesthood from the order of Melchizedek. He argues that the priesthood of Melchizedek, where Christ derived his priesthood, is higher than the priesthood of Levi by pointing out the fact that Abraham, the forefather of Levi, paid tithes to Melchizedek.
Now, Hebrews 7:7 says, “It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior.” When Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek, the latter blessed him. So, if Abraham paid tithes and was blessed by Melchizedek, it only follows that Melchizedek is superior than Abraham. And since Abraham is the grandfather of Levi, it also follows that Melchizedek is also greater than Levi. This the point of Hebrews 7.
However, the realists interpreted Hebrews 7:9-10 as Levi, literally doing the act of tithing through Abraham, prior to him being born. This is where they get the idea that we participated in the sin of Adam because our pre-existent souls are there with him in the garden and we committed the act with him.
But we know that this a stretch because Hebrews 7:9-10 was never meant to explain to us the implications of the fall. Furthermore, this interpretation will result to absurdity because if all people participate in the sins of their ancestors through their pre-existent souls, then we would all be punished not only for our individual sins, but also for the sins of our ancestors. For example, if I die and go to hell and it so happened that I have a great grand father who is a rapist and a serial killer, then even though I’m just an ordinary sinner I will be punished for those acts. This is just absurd and unjust.
The last one is the Federal View. This view tells us that Adam acted as a representative of the entire human race. So, when God tested Adam in the garden of Eden, He was not just testing Adam but the whole human race because Adam acted for all of his descendants. This is the conclusion that we can derived from the Romans 5:12, 18 and 19 that we have read awhile ago and this is the view that is being subscribed to by Reformed Christians.
From this, two other questions may arise. First, why should we suffer from the consequence of the sin of Adam when we did not agree with the representative set up; and second, isn’t it unfair that we should suffer for the sin of Adam when we were not given the opportunity to choose our representative?
As to the first question, we should suffer from the consequences of the sin of Adam even if we did not agree with the set-up because God is sovereign and He has the absolutely right to put human race to the test and to dictate the terms or the rules of the test. God does not need our permission to put us to the test or to subject us to this representative set up. God can do whatever he wills according to His perfect wisdom and good pleasure. The answer to this question can be accurately summarized in Romans 9:20 which says, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” In the same way, can the one being test say to God, “Why did you make this rule?”
As to the second question, it is not unfair for God make us suffer the consequences of the sin of Adam even if we did not choose our representative. Just because we did not choose our representative, it does not mean that we are not properly represented. Actually, it is the question of God’s fairness which federalism seeks to answer. But to answer the question, we must begin with the character of God. The Bible tells us that God is just and fair. And since God is just and fair, it only follows that when He chose a representative for mankind, He chose the most suitable representative. In other words, mankind has never been more justly and accurately represented since Adam.
So, meaning to say, if Adam is the best representative of mankind, then even if we redo the tests and substitute ourselves or others to him, the same result will occur. If the best human failed, then it means all of us will fail if we take the same test in the garden of Eden.
And besides, if God will give us the prerogative to chose our representative, then what will be our basis of choosing the best representative? Unless we have the omniscient mind of God, all we can do is make an arbitrary wild guess of who is best to represent us. If that will happen then we will have another excuse and accusation against God that its is unfair for us to be punished for the sin of our chosen representative because we don’t have enough basis to make the decision. So, either way, we will raise accusations against God not because there is something wrong about God’s character or His rules, but because we are sinners and we would like to make excuses and justify our sins even to the point of accusing God of injustice.
So, as we can all see, God is just and fair. He is just and fair when He decided to put the human race to the test through Adam, and He is also just and fair when he punished Adam and all of his posterity when he failed the test. But God is not only the God of justice and fairness, but He is also the God of grace and mercy. It is because even though one man’s trespass led to the condemnation of all men, so the one act of righteousness of one man leads to justification and life for all men. All men, not without exception but without distinction. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
The Second Adam
Although the first representative of mankind failed the test and plunged mankind to sin and ruin, God sent His own Son to be the second representative, but this time, not of all mankind but that only of the elect. Jesus Christ, the second Adam, although fully God, became fully human taking on human weaknesses, limitations and frailties, except sin. He was tested and tempted by Satan even more severely than the testing of Adam, and yet He remained without sin. And since Jesus is the Federal head of the elect, his success in passing the test of the law did not redound to his benefit, because he does not need it in the first place, but it redounded to the people that he represents.
But Jesus did not only pass the test that Adam failed by perfectly obeying the laws of God despite the provocations of the devil, but He also went to the cross to undo or to reverse the effect of the failure of Adam by taking unto himself the sin of His people and by paying for them through his death and suffering on the cross.
In light of these truths that we have heard this afternoon, I would like to appeal to those who have not put their faith and trust in Christ. Stop trying to save yourself. Stop trying to work for your salvation as if you can undo the failure of Adam and start perfectly obeying the law. First of all, the standard of God’s righteousness is not just about you being good or better than the others. It’s not just about trying not to become a criminal or scum of the society on the future. The demand of the law and of the holiness of God is much higher than that. If you want to save yourself, you have to be sinless from birth up to the last moment of your dying breath. And you know that no one can do that, especially because the sin of Adam robbed us of our ability to keep the law of God. So, give up all hopes that you can save yourself by your own morality. Just give and throw yourself upon the feet of Christ because he is your only hope, because there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved but the name of Christ alone.
And for the believers for whom Christ died, there are times that even though we are convinced that we have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, we still feel the seriousness of the effects of our fallenness. Sometimes we fall in to despair because we feel as if we are not capable of obeying God at all. That because of our understanding of the holiness of God, we think that all our efforts to do good and serve Him are nothing but sin. But that is not the case for God’s people. When we were redeemed by Christ, our ability to keep God’s laws has also been restored. And though our good works are far from perfect, they are now acceptable to God because of the sacrifice of Christ.
So ZCRC Imus, let’s be encouraged to do good works and to serve God because we know that our labors are not in vain. Let us also remember that although the best of humanity failed, God’s grace through Christ still prevailed. This ought to humble us all and prevent us from ever putting our hope in mere men, but only in Christ alone.