A Biblical View of Sin
When God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, it meant that their children did not begin life the way they did. Cain, Able, Seth, et al. were born outside the Garden, outside of a relationship with God. When God judged Adam, He placed the whole human race on trial with him and condemned it. Thus Paul declares, “In Adam all died.” (He did not say, “In Eve all died,” even though she was the first to eat of the forbidden fruit. The reason, says Paul: “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”) The theologian calls this imputation: the sin of Adam was imputed to the world.
Three Relationships of Imputation
The Bible gives us three relationships based on imputation. They are:
1 – Adam’s sin to the human race. In Romans 5:12-21 Paul argues that we gain more in Christ than what we lost in Adam. To illustrate, let’s say that God did not impute Adam’s sin to you. This would mean at least two things. First, you must live in perpetual probation. Say you resist the fruit of the tree for ten thousand years; you can still die tomorrow if you succumb to the temptation.
Second, once a sinner, you would have no possibility of redemption. In such a scenario, the world would be divided between the saints and sinners, between those dead in sin and those alive in righteousness. From our understanding of the ways of God, it would be impossible for God to send His Son to die for our sins. God condemned all that He might choose those to whom He will show mercy.
2 – Man’s sin to Jesus Christ. Writing to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul says, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” God made Christ sin for you and me, Christ, who never sinned, that through Him God might make us righteous. In this verse you see double imputation: God imputed man’s sin to a sinless Jesus Christ and Christ’s righteousness to sinful man. This leads us to the third relationship of imputation found in the Bible.
3 – Christ’s righteousness to the believer. God transferred our sin to His Son at the same time He transferred the righteousness of Christ to the sinner. It is a legal, not a moral transfer. When God made Christ sin for us, it does not mean that Christ became morally sinful. In the same way, when God makes us righteous in Christ, it does not mean that we are sinless. In both transactions, God made a judicial decision.
The following is a chart graphing the differences between Christ, the believer, and the non-believer. Following the chart, Christ was born legally righteous, becoming unrighteous at the cross. He was born morally righteous and never became unrighteous. The believer is born legally unrighteous and becomes legally righteous at the cross. He is born morally righteous and becomes unrighteous at the age of accountability. Note that Christ becomes legally unrighteous at the point the believer becomes legally righteous. This is the double imputation of II Corinthians 5:21. The non-believer is like the believer, except he never becomes legally righteous.
The Sin of Adam
Note that the nature of imputation is the same in all three of the above illustrations; the one case illustrates the others. The transfer in imputation does not affect a person’s moral character.
In what sense, then, did man become a sinner because of Adam? When Adam’s sin was imputed to his progeny, it does not mean that they committed his sin. Nor are they morally criminal because of Adam’s sin. Rather, by virtue of their union with Adam, his sin became the judicial ground for their condemnation – in exactly the same way their union with Christ becomes the judicial ground for their justification.
Satan did not, with a hypodermic needle, inject (as it were) sin into the blood stream of the human race. When God created man, as we have already noted, He created him with a desire to be autonomous. Because of the imputed sin of Adam, God withdrew Himself leaving man free to express his autonomy in an intrinsically sinful environment. In such an environment man naturally sinned.
As believers, we acknowledge our personal unrighteousness. We sense our depravity and worthiness of God’s wrath. We acknowledge that we are made righteous in Christ. The believer does not profess to be a morally righteous person; he is a forgiven sinner. Another has paid his debt to justice.
The only place in the Bible you find a discussion of the doctrine of imputation is in the writings of Paul. He only talks about the imputed sin of Adam in Romans 5 and I Corinthians 15. Paul quotes King David, who says, “Blessed is the man to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity.” But the writings of David do not deal with why this is so or the imputation of Adam’s sin. By and large, biblical writers, including our Lord Jesus, discuss sin in moral terms, of doing wrong, rather than legal imputation.
Today people seek to define sin as a genetic defect. By manipulating DNA it is possible to eliminate manic depression, anger, appetite excesses, etc. Unbelievers argue that man is not sinful because he is innately evil; he can be made good by altering the defects in God’s creation.
Scripture views sin differently. When God imputed the sin of Adam to the human race, He withdrew His presence, leaving man in a position in which he could not help but sin. Thus, God condemns mankind for four reasons:
1 – The imputed sin of Adam. God charged the human race with the sin of Adam.
2 – Man’s willful acts of disobedience. Most of Scripture addresses sin as the violation of God’s law.
3 – Those acts that do not involve the will, but non-the-less are condemned by Scripture and/or conscience.
4 – Sins that are neither willful nor are condemned by the conscience. An example would be covetousness, where Paul says, “I did not know what it is to covet except that the law said, ‘You shall not covet.’”
Grateful for His grace,
 I Corinthians 15:22
 I Timothy 2:14
 II Corinthians 5:21
 Psalm 32:2 and Romans 4:8
 Romans 7:7