What We Inherit from Adam - The Warrior's Journey®

What We Inherit from Adam

Author: Chaplain, COL Scott McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

. Photo by is licensed under CC By 2.0

“Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam…” (Romans 5:14) 

What did our forefather Adam pass on to the whole human race? The answer is sin. Romans 5:12 tells us that through one man, Adam, sin entered the world, i.e. the whole human race. But what do we mean by sin? Are we talking about guilt or a sinful nature?   

Directly, we inherit from Adam a sinful, corrupted nature. When Adam sinned he immediately died spiritually. And physically, he began to die a slow death. Adam was created to live forever, but cut his life short. Instead of living forever, he only lived 930 years (Genesis 5:1-5).  After they sinned, Adam and Eve could only bear offspring like themselves, corrupted by sin – with an evil inclination from their youth (Genesis 8:21). In fact, Paul will go on to say that humanity, in its unregenerate state, cannot keep itself from sinning (Romans 7:5, 7-13).  We are powerless to obey God’s commands. Therefore, it was inevitable that we would sin and bring condemnation on ourselves.   

But do we inherit Adam’s condemnation? In other words, are we blamed for Adam’s original transgression? Many Bible scholars like to draw a comparison between Adam and Christ, that just as the sin of Adam is imputed to us, so Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. They will explain that we all sinned “in Adam” (Romans 5:12). 

It’s a clever parallel, but God does not transfer guilt from one person to another. He does not hold children guilty for the sins of their fathers (e.g. Deuteronomy 24:26; 2 Chronicles 25:4; Ezekiel 18:20). Verse 14 clearly indicates that Paul has in mind the “actual sins” of all of Adam’s descendants in verse 12, when he writes, “for all sinned.” As a matter of fact, the aorist (simple past tense) of hamartano (“to sin”) in Romans 5:12 is identical in construction to Romans 3:23, where it is typically translated as the English perfect tense (“all have sinned”). And when Paul writes in Verse 18, “just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people,” he is merely stating the ultimate outcome of Adam’s one sin – condemnation, since our sinful nature makes it impossible for us to keep from sinning. We do not inherit Adam’s guilt, only his sinful nature. 

Yet it is true, that all who embrace Jesus by faith are credited with His righteousness. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). We receive His righteousness as a gift. 


  • What does it matter if we inherit guilt from Adam or merely a sinful nature? 
  • Won’t it affect our view of the status infants and small children before God? 

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