SDA Sabbath School Lessons
Tuesday September 17, 1996

How did death come into our world?
(Rom. 5:12)

What event introduced sin and death into our world? Rom. 5:12.

The result of Adam's sin was death. Romans 5:12 has been interpreted in various ways:

  1. Augustine (A.D. 354-430) interpreted the verse to mean that, because all humanity sinned in Adam, all share in Adam's guilt and are, therefore, subject to death.
  2. All die because, like Adam, they choose to sin. All become sinners at the point at which they choose to sin.
  3. Sinfulness and mortality are the results of Adam's sin, shared by every human being.

The first view, the doctrine of original sin, runs counter to the justice of God spelled out in Scripture. "The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself' (Ezek. 18:20, RSV). We were not in Adam when he sinned; we do not share in his guilt. Mortality for the entire race is a result of Adam's fall, not a punishment for his guilt.

The second view fails to recognize that all human beings are born with fallen natures having tendencies to sin. The psalmist wrote, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5, RSV). He was a sinful human being at the moment of conception.

"The result of the eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is manifest in every man's experience. There is in his nature a bent to evil, a force which, unaided, he cannot resist. To withstand this force, to attain that ideal which in his inmost soul he accepts as alone worthy, he can find help in but one power. That power is Christ. Cooperation with that power is man's greatest need."--Education, p. 29.

The third view is the scriptural position. The result of Adam's sin is that every human being is born sinful, in the sense that all are born with fallen natures and propensities to sin. Moreover, all are born mortal. "The living know that they will die" (Eccl. 9:5, RSV). In the light of the above, how can we explain Romans 5:18? Condemnation to death for all was the result of Adam's sin, not the punishment for it. Because the fallen Adam was mortal, he could only transmit mortality to his children. Thus, "death spread to all men (Rom. 5:12, RSV)." "All men sinned" when Adam sinned, but only in the sense that the results of his sin are suffered by all.