The Westminster Shorter Catechism.

VI. The Shorter Catechism-Consequences Of Man’s sin: Q & A 16-19.

Q16 Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?

A. 16 The covenant made with Adam, not only for himself, but for all his posterity; all mankind,-descending from him by ordinary generation,-sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.

By the phrase “by ordinary generation” the catechism seeks to differentiate Christ from the rest of humanity, since His was no ordinary generation. However, this does not mean that the sinful condition of all humankind is as a result of “ordinary generation”. It is clear God chose to have all humanity represented in Adam by way of a covenant. All humanity fell at the very moment that Adam fell. His decision was our decision. Even though Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, He was still born of her flesh, and she most certainly was a sinner in need of the Savior the same as the rest of us. Furthermore, Paul’s argument for federal headship also finds its counterpart in Christ, and it is certainly the case that one is not born a Christian, but one is a Christian if he or she is in covenantal union with Christ. “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:18-18). Condemnation and justification are declarative acts via covenantal representation. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22).

Q. 17 Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?

A. 17 The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.

All humanity begins life in a sinful state. We die, and experience all the miseries associated with this dying, because in Adam we all sinned. “Just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12).

Q. 18 Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?

A. 18 The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.

The catechism makes four key points here. The first was made in the previous two questions. We fell because in Adam we actually sinned. Secondly, whereas in Adam humanity had an original righteousness, this is no longer the case. “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10; Ps. 51:5). In Adam, original righteousness was lost. Thirdly, this sinful state has affected every area (Cf. Eph. 2:1). There is no part of a person that has not been affected, including the human will. Finally, from this sinful nature or estate, we all commit our own individual “actual” sins (Cf. Mt. 15:19-20). “Original sin springs directly from our connexion (sic) with Adam. Actual sin springs directly from our own evil hearts; but then these hearts were made evil first through our connexion (sic) with Adam, so that all sin is really to be traced to the first one” (Lawson, p. 16).

Q. 19 What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?

A. 19 All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under His wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever.

The catechism also makes four key points here. Firstly, humanity has lost communion with God (Cf. Gen. 3:8, 24; Is. 59:2). Secondly, we are under His wrath and curse. Wrath speaks to God’s judgment on our sinful condition, and curse to the reality that it is as a result on our covenantal connection to Adam (Cf. Gal. 3:10). Thirdly, through our federal relationship with Adam, we all are “made liable to all the miseries in this life, to death itself.” “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:10a Cf. Ezek. 18:4). Finally, apart from the covenant of grace which is to follow, in this state all men are rightly destined for hell for ever (Cf. Ps. 9:17; Mt. 25:41).

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