"Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned-- for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned 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."Today Awakening Theology looks at the second of three problems that makes this passage of Scripture so difficult to understand.
(Rom 5.12-14 ESV)
Problem #2 -- Why (or when) did (or do) all people sin?
"...and so death spread to all men because all sinned"The Cause and Effect is simple enough to understand:
(Rom 5.12b ESV)
Everybody sins → Everybody dies
However, when and where does this occur? Is Paul meaning,
A. Everybody sinned in Adam so everybody is born a sinner, and, thus, dies?
B. Everybody dies because he sins as an effect to Adam's sin?
In other words, have we already fallen into the hole of sin before we were born, or do we inevitably fall into the hole of sin after our birth? Or does he means something else?
Paul is vague here (at least to me). This has caused no little consternation to the theologians in the 2,000 years of Church history.
Position A is one historical Christian belief: that is, the seed of mankind was in Adam when he sinned, therefore, mankind sinned with Adam. Because of Adam, people were born depraved: having an Evil Nature from the beginning.
As far-fetched as this may seem, consider this passage from Hebrews:
One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him. (Heb 7.9-10 ESV)We have to think like a Hebrew and not like a 21st century person; Hebrew thought closely held to a concept of "corporate personality", a belief that a person was only a part of a greater whole. Today's Western civilization individualism clashes with the Eastern concept of the group, the collective whole.
So, we became sinners before we were born? To a Gentile this seems weird and illogical; to a Hebrew, the answer just might work.
Position B states that, because of Adam, people were born alienated from God; because of Adam, people were born deprived: not having an Evil Nature but, without the Holy Spirit, they quickly fall into sinful down-spiral.
This second position is preferable to me. Of course, this view has implications for the doctrine of an Adamic (sin) Nature that can't be discussed here.
[I'd recommend Dr. Kenneth E. Jones' books, Commitment to Holiness or Theology of Holiness and Love, to investigate this position.]
Not wanting to be a heretic, I'll simply say the third alternative -- he's meaning something else -- is a possibility. Paul doesn't explain everything to our satisfaction.
Two down and one to go!