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Paragraph 1: The Nature of the Fall

Although God created man upright and perfect, and gave him a righteous law, which had been unto life had he kept it, and threatened death upon the breach thereof, yet he did not long abide in this honor; Satan using the subtlety of the serpent to subdue Eve, then by her seducing Adam, who, without any compulsion, did willfully transgress the law of their creation, and the command given to them, in eating the forbidden fruit, which God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory.

  1. Original state of Adam and Eve
    God created man upright and perfect, and gave him a righteous law, which had been unto life had he kept it, and threatened death upon the breach thereof”
    1. Adam and Eve were created “upright and perfect”, i.e. “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
    2. God entered into a covenant relationship with Adam, establishing the Covenant of Works: 
      1. Although the word “covenant” is not found in Scripture’s account of Adam and Eve in the Garden, the concept is there. A covenant is “a divinely sanctioned commitment defining the relationship between God and another party.” It “provides blessings and benefits for man that would otherwise be unavailable by nature,” and it contains “sanctions or threats … to guarantee the fulfillments of the parties’ commitments.”
      2. Adam was given “a righteous law” that forbid him from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If he obeyed, he would be blessed. If he disobeyed, he would be punished. Hence, this is called the Covenant of Works.
      3. God promised a reward for Adam upon obedience (“a righteous law…unto life”). This reward was confirmed eternal life with God, where Adam and his posterity would be raised above the possibility of sinning and dying. 
      4. God threatened punishment for Adam upon disobedience. This punishment was death (“threatened death upon the breach thereof”).
      5. In addition, Adam was designated as the representative head (i.e. federal head) of the entire human race. The blessings and punishments of the covenant would apply to him and everyone he represented.
  2. The Fall
    yet he did not long abide in this honor…”
    1. Adam disobeyed and broke the covenant. The Confession summarizes the events of the Fall as recorded in Genesis 3:1-19 (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3).
    2. The Confession makes the assertion that the will of Adam was not violated in the Fall. He “willfully transgress[ed] the law” “without any compulsion.” This upholds the full responsibility and guilt of Adam for his sin.
    3. The Confession also makes the assertion that the Fall was within the “wise and holy counsel” of God, which He purposed “to His own glory.” As terrible as the Fall was, it did not catch God by surprise. In fact, it was all part of God’s plan, established from eternity past, to bring glory to Himself by redeeming those who have fallen in Adam.

Paragraph 2-3: The Results of the Fall and their Transmission

Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them whereby death came upon all: all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.

They being the root, and by God’s appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free.

  1. Results of the Fall
    1. Physical death (and temporal miseries): Adam and Eve’s physical lives became subject to weakness and disease, resulting in discomfort and pain. This culminated in physical death, the separation of body and soul.
    2. Spiritual death (and spiritual/eternal miseries): consists of guilt and corruption/depravity.
      1. Adam was found guilty of breaking the covenant and disobeying God’s commands.
        1. Guilt is a legal status.
      2. Adam and Eve’s human nature became corrupted/depraved so that it was completely opposed to God. The mind, will, and affections all became bent towards sin and away from God.
        1. With the mind, man actively suppresses the knowledge of God, exchanging the truth about God for a lie (Romans 1:18-25). Though he may be extremely intelligent, his mind is darkened (Ephesians 4:18) and cannot discern spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14).
        2. With the will, man is unable to choose or do spiritual good. Though he may do things that are outwardly good or good for society, he cannot do anything that would recover him from a sinful state or please God or satisfy God’s law (Matthew 7:17-18; Romans 5:6; 8:7-8; Titus 3:3).
        3. With the affections, man loves evil and hates good. Man lives in the passions of the flesh and carries out the desires of the body and mind (Ephesians 2:3). Man’s affections are disordered.
        4. This doctrine is commonly called “total depravity.” It does not mean that man is as evil as he can be. Instead, it means that every part of man is corrupted by sin. The Fall affects our whole person, not just certain parts. Said another way, the extent of man’s corruption is total, while the degree of our corruption is not. As the Confession puts it, man is “wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.”
      3. The culmination and completion of guilt and corruption is eternal death on the day of final judgment. This is where, on the last day, there is a final separation, and the “full weight of the wrath of God descends on the condemned.”
    3. If guilt and a corrupt nature are the results of Adam’s fall, how are those effects transmitted to the whole human race?
  2. The guilt of Adam’s sin is imputed to us
    “the guilt of the sin was imputed”
    1. Adam served as the representative head (i.e. federal head) of all humanity in the Covenant of Works. As representative, Adam stood in our place. The results that he obtained from his obedience/disobedience would be counted as ours. Therefore, the guilt that he incurred due to his disobedience is counted as ours (i.e. imputed to us) as well. “In Adam’s fall, sinned we all.”
      1. An illustration of federal headship: a president represents the whole nation. If he decides to go to war, the entire nation (including every citizen) is now at war.
    2. How do we know this is true? Biblical proof: all humanity’s relationship to Adam is like the believer’s relationship to Christ. One man’s action affected many others.
      1. Romans 5:18-19 – “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 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.”
  3. The corrupt nature is conveyed to us
    …and corrupted nature conveyed”
    1. The Bible is not explicit about how the corrupt nature is conveyed from Adam to us.
    2. At the end of the day, what is clear is the fact that we do inherit a sinful, corrupt nature from Adam.
    3. Together, imputed guilt and conveyed corruption form a package that’s known as original sin. Original sin is what we inherit from Adam as a result of his fall.
    4. What is beautiful is that Christ’s work of salvation corresponds to our guilt and our corrupt nature. His righteousness is imputed to us, clearing us of our guilt (i.e. justification), and His Spirit then works in us, transforming our corrupt nature (i.e. sanctification). Justification is the solution to imputed guilt, and sanctification is the solution to conveyed corruption.
  4. Who does original sin apply to?
    to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation”
    1. This applies to those who are the natural offspring of Adam and Eve (i.e. descended through the normal means of reproduction). This qualification is important because it preserves the sinlessness of Christ, which is crucial for our salvation.
      1. Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit, not by ordinary generation. Thus, Adam did not represent him as federal head in the Covenant of Works. As a result, guilt and corruption are not transmitted to Christ – He is sinless (Hebrews 7:26; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
      2. Christ must be sinless because a sinful human can never pay for the sins of another (Hebrews 7:26-27; 1 Peter 3:18). He must be sinless in order to secure our justification and sanctification, solving the problem of our guilt and corruption and reconciling us to God.
      3. Christ is the last Adam. He succeeds where Adam failed. He perfectly obeys God’s commands and earns eternal life for those He represents.

Paragraph 4: The Nature of Original Sin and its Fruits

From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.

  1. What are the effects of guilt and corruption on our day-to-day lives?
    1. Are we sinners because we sin? Or do we sin because we are sinners?
  2. The Confession focuses on the corrupt nature that is conveyed to us, and reiterates the doctrine of total depravity.
  3. Then, the Confession draws a distinction between original sin and actual sins:
    1. Original sin is the state of guilt and corruption that all men are born into as a result of Adam’s sin; Adam standing as the representative of the entire human race.
    2. Actual sins are the individual sins that we commit (“act out”) as a result of our corrupt nature and total depravity. Actual sins spring forth from original sin.
    3. Matthew 7:17 – “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.”
  4. The proper relationship between original and actual sin is important to understand because it shows us our need for a comprehensive salvation and our utter helplessness before God.

Paragraph 5: Sin and the Believer

The corruption of nature, during this life, does remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself, and the first motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.

  1. As believers, our corrupt nature will remain with us.
    1. Christ forgives all of our sins, both original and actual, through His death on the cross.
    2. Christ also sanctifies our corrupt nature in this life by the power of His Spirit. However, the sanctification process will never be complete on this side of glory.
      1. This should cause us to reject any form of perfectionism that claims that Christians can be perfect and sinless in this life.
      2. 1 John 1:8 – “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
  2. Both the corrupt nature itself as well as its “first motions” are “truly and properly sin.”
    1. “First motions” are the first impulses/inclinations/desires of the heart towards sin, before they are acted upon by the will. These first impulses are truly sin and violate God’s law. 
    2. Romans 7:7-8 – “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.”
    3. Galatians 5:17 – “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
      1. Galatians 5:24 – “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
    4. Why does this matter?
      1. It has implications for how we think about sexual ethics in our current day and age.
        1. Is same-sex attraction/desire considered sin in and of itself? Or is it only sin when acted upon?
      2. It should give us a deeper understanding of our own corruption and sin.
      3. It should give us greater hope.
        1. Even our most deep-seated, hell-bent desires that we feel powerless to control and cause us to commit actual sins over and over again are not beyond the saving power of Christ.
      4. It should give us a greater love for Christ.

Luke 7:47 – “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”