Why is biblical history important?  Biblical history gives us a frame of reference to understand the purpose and spiritual nature of reality.  The whole Bible presents itself as the unfolding process of God's dealings with man and of His self-disclosure to man.  Figures and types serve to condition our thinking and instill certain concepts so we will recognize the truth when it is revealed.  Thus the Old Testament builds a conceptual framework that provides the categories for understanding the ways of God and comprehending the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Why are theological terms important?  Theological terms carry the concepts.  They encapsulate the doctrines in a vocabulary so we may contemplate and communicate them.  [see TAXONOMY, bottom Key to the Bible, Student 1 http://pop.eradman.com/]

What is Federal Headship and how is it depicted in the following passages?  Federal Headship or covenantal representation is the teaching that the father or forefather represents his family, his descendants.

"Levi…paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him." (Heb.7:9-10)

Levi was a distant descendant of Abraham, yet it is said that Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek even though he wasn't born when Abraham did this.  Certainly Levi did not physically carry out the act of paying tithes, but Abraham did as the representative head of his descendants.

The first man, Adam, represented the human race in disobedience to God.  As the representative of all humans, Adam’s sin was considered by God to be the act of all people and his penalty of death was judicially made everyone's penalty.  When he fell, we all fell.

"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned - "For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.  Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come." (Rom.5:12-14)

Both Adam and Jesus are representative heads of groups.  The phrases "in Adam" and "in Christ" refer to one’s position in relationship to each of them.

"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive" (1 Cor.15:22).

“The first man, Adam, became a living soul.  The last Adam [Jesus] became a life-giving spirit" (1 Cor.15:45).

Why should we be held responsible for Adam's sin?  To answer this, we need to keep in mind that our ways and thoughts do not correspond to God's, Rom.11:33-34; Isa.55:8.  His ways and thoughts are superior (v.9).  Implication: He has to educate us to the way He thinks and teach us His ways.  Read again the opening paragraph.1

What 3 distinct acts of imputation are involved in Christian theology?  INHERITED SIN: Adam's sin is imputed to all of us, his descendants.  It was judicially set to our account so that we are held responsible for it and suffer the consequences of it.  FORGIVENESS: [Neg.] the transfer [imputation] of one’s moral guilt to Christ and the penalty exacted upon Him so He suffered the consequences of it.  This judicially concludes and forever settles the matter of that one’s accusation before God.  RIGHTEOUSNESS: [Pos.] The unconditional acceptance of justified believers made right with God and perfected through Christ's sacrifice establishes our permanent standing before God.2

How does the Adam's sin affect us?  We inherited true moral guilt from Adam as well as a sin nature - an alienation and contrariness toward God.

"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom.5:8).  "We were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind" (Eph.2:3).

What does our being sinners mean?  We are unable to please God by any action, attitude, or motive.

"I know that nothing good dwells within me" (Rom.7:18)  "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt" (Jer.17:9)  "those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom.8:8)  "you were dead in your trespasses and sins" (Eph.2:1-2) [see Approaching the Bible with Prejudice http://pop.eradman.com/]

Why is "just-as-if-I'd-never-sinned" an incomplete definition of justification?  Justification is a legal declaration of one's right standing with God.  There is a difference between being guilty and then pardoned, and being found not guilty [innocent].  Lack of guilt alone without justification or righteousness is an insufficient basis for approaching the holy God.

What makes justification possible?  The generosity (Rom.11:32, 35) of God's grace (Rom.4:16) through imputation - accounting or reckoning something to someone so that it may then be regarded as theirs - what is put to your account is treated as yours; attributing to you what you did not earn or considering what is yours as belonging to someone else.3

How is it that Christ could give his life in exchange for ours?  How can Jesus Christ act as our substitute?  This is the thread in Rom.5:6-11, which Rom.5:12-21 picks up and answers, and "therefore" (v.12) makes the connection: Christ died on our behalf, therefore, we must see that the workings of this exchange is of the same type – “just as in Adam...so also in Christ.”  In biblical theology, this substitution is the act of a federal representative, the "mediator" or "guarantor of the new covenant" (Heb.7:22; 8:6; 9:15; 12:24; cf. 1 Tim.2:5-6) whereby we, the redeemed, receive an eternal inheritance.

What then is the precise basis for this great exchange of Christ for us?  Paul answers by introducing Christ as the Last Adam (Rom.5:12-21; summarized in 2 Cor.5:14-15:

"One died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised").

How can one die for all?  "Since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive" (1 Cor.15:21-22).  Christ functions as group representative in a way analogous with Adam (Rom.5:15-17).4  The whole atoning work of Christ was a legal action where Jesus substituted himself for sinners and paid the legal requirement of the punishment of sin - death.

In what ways did God inculcate this concept to Israel?  through teaching representative agency of OT priests, headship of Adam, family heads, leaders, and Christ, and through teaching the concept of substitution by animal sacrifices.

Is it biblical to say that Christ took our place and suffered our punishment?  Yes, vicarious means substitute.  Christ's atonement was both vicarious and legal.5  There is no punishment without law and there is no law without punishment.  The sentence upon the one who breaks the law of God is death.

"We had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead." (2 Cor.1:9)  "Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son." (Gen.22:13)

The Old Testament points like a massive arrow to the consummation of all sacrifices, an event of immeasurable importance and worth.

"Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; He was pierced through for our transgressions.  He was crushed for our iniquities.  The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him and by His scourging we are healed.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa.53:4-5).  "For the transgression of my people he was stricken...he will bear their iniquities...he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (53:8, 11-12).  Rom.4:5, "He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification."  1 Pet.2:24, Jesus "bore our sins in His body on the cross."

Why did Christ die?  The Old Testament and its sacrificial offerings show that the blood of animals was never efficacious to cleanse from sin (Heb.10:4).  Rather, the blood symbolized the element of life offered for the life of the sinner.  God always intended that the entire system of sacrificial offerings be of expiatory significance [removal of guilt] (Job 1:5; 42:3, 9; Lev.17:2-11).  The alienation of man from God through human sin made reconciliation necessary, and the form of that reconciliation was ordained to be a cross on which the ultimate sacrifice would be made.  In the New Testament, John the Baptist declares, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn.1:29).  And our Savior Himself declares His flesh and blood to be the sin offering for the whole world (Jn.6:51).  The church of God was "bought with his own blood" (Acts 20:28).

What does "atonement" mean?  The Hebrew word for atonement means "covering."  The Jewish sacrificial system with its "covering" offerings made possible man's approach to the presence of a holy God.  The sprinkling of blood upon the mercy seat in the tabernacle (Lev.16:15-16) and the sprinkling of the blood of the Passover lamb (Ex.12:7) underscored the importance of substitutionary sacrifice under the Old Covenant between Jehovah and Israel.  Christ's Atonement is the work He did in His death to secure our salvation.  The significance of such sacrifices is revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is pictured as both officiating Priest and atoning Sacrifice who fully satisfied [not merely covered] the debt of sin (Heb.9:11-15; 10:10-12).

"Propitiation" signifies the removal of wrath by the offering of a gift.  The sinner is someone who has broken the law of God; hence, the legality of punishment.  Jesus is our propitiation because turned away the lawful wrath of God against the guilty.

Rom.3:25, "whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed."  1 Jn.2:2, "He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."  1 Jn.4:10, "In this is love…that He…sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

When Jesus was on the cross he said "It is finished," [not I am finished] (Jn.19:30, Greek, "tetelistai," a term used in statements in ancient Israel when a legal debt had been fully paid).6  His redemptive work was completed.  He had been made sin for people (2 Cor.5:21) and had suffered the penalty of God’s justice which sin deserved, thus satisfying the law's requirement.

1 Cor.15:56, "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law."  Rom.6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."


1.      If it was not for the biblical principle that one acts as representative for others (Federal Headship), then Jesus could not have represented us on the cross and it could not be said of us that "...you [we] have died and your [our] life is hidden with Christ in God," (Col.3:3); "since we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him," (Rom.6:8).  As Adam's offense resulted in condemnation to all people, so also, Jesus' sacrifice results in justification for those who believe in Him (Rom.5:18).  It is because of this legal representation taught in the framework of biblical history that we are able to be saved at all.

2.      Of course we are no more personally guilty of Adam's sin than Christ is personally guilty of ours, or than we are personally meritorious because of His righteousness.  It is a judicial transaction.  We receive salvation from Christ in precisely the same way that we receive condemnation and ruin from Adam.  In each case the result follows because of the close and official union which exists between the persons involved.  The “with Christ” of Col.3:3 and Rom.6:8 is possible because we are “in Christ” by mystical union through faith – hence, when He died, we died; when He rose, we rose.  It is by virtue of our union with Him that His death as our representative does not pervert justice.  The imputation of our guilt to Christ does not violate justice because He willingly and knowingly consents to a real spiritual identification with His people.

The "covenant of peace" extended to Phinehas whereby his descendants benefited with a perpetual priesthood (Num.25:12-13), is later interpreted as being tantamount to receiving imputed righteousness: "This was credited to him as righteousness for endless generations to come" (Ps.106:31).  The same terms are used of Abraham whose faith was counted as righteousness (Gen.15:6; Rom.4:3) and shows the organic connection of thought between imputation and covenant that Paul is developing in Rom.5:12-21.  Under the new covenant we receive "the free gift of righteousness" (Rom.5:17b) because God reckons faith in Christ as righteousness: [see Examining the Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ http://pop.eradman.com/]

"to the one who does not work but trusts Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works…The purpose was to make him [Abraham] the father of all who believe [headship]…That is why it [the promise to Abraham and his offspring] may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring…It will be counted to us…" (Rom.4:6, 11b, 16a, 24)

"and be found in Him [Christ] not having a righteous of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith" (Phil.3:9)

3.      Rom.5:12-21 is an exposition of forensic justification going back to the beginnings of God's revelation.  The passage opens referring to what precedes it: "Therefore [for this reason] just as sin entered the world" identifies the preceding thoughts as forming the rationale for something that follows.  Paul is connecting Rom.5:12-21 to a fundamental point of the Gospel that he had been stressing: that Christ died on our behalf while we were weak and helpless (5:6), guilty sinners (5:8), rebellious and enemies of God (5:10).

4.      Paul's main topic in Rom.5:12-21 is the Adam-Christ comparison.  He introduces the comparison in verse 12, "just as through one man," but then breaks off in mid-comparison to make some important qualifying statements about the workings of law and imputation in redemptive history (v.13-14).  Paul does not say "just as Adam...so also everyone..." which would indicate the second half of a comparison.  Instead, the words rendered "and in this way" introduce the result of Adam's sin for "all men" [not part of a comparison].  Paul is not comparing the "one man" with "all men," but asserting that Adam's sin was itself the sin of all people.

Paul repeatedly shows in verses 15-21 that he is not comparing us with Adam, but Christ with Adam and that the cause of our death was not our trespass, but Adam's.

"Sin entered the world through one man...in this way death came to all men...the many died by the trespass of the one man...judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation...by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man...the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men...through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners." (v.12, 15-19)

Paul explicitly denies the comparison of Adam's sin with our sin: "death reigned...even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam did, by breaking a negative [prohibitory] commandment" (v.14).  All sin is law-breaking (1 Jn.3:4), but our sin is not comparable with Adam's because he was the federal representative of the whole race in whom all fell and we are not.

Paul distinguishes between "sin" and "transgression" in Rom.5:14.  Those who died from Adam until Moses did sin, but it was not like the transgression of Adam, because Adam was under a behavioral mandate sanctioned by a curse for disobedience: "In the day you eat of that tree you will die."  Adam was already the natural head of the race by the creation order.  By issuing the commandment sanctioned by a curse for disobedience, God was displaying him as the federal representative of the whole race.

Paul profoundly shows the interrelationship of Christ with Adam saying that Adam "was a pattern [typos] of the one to come" (Rom.5:14).  Christ, who was destined to serve as the head over all things in the future, was already in view when Adam was set up as federal representative of his race.  This is the link that validates Paul's comparing Adam's transgression with Christ's act of obedience and their respective outcomes.

Paul's overriding purpose here is the overwhelming glory of grace [the point of 5:15-17].  The comparison between Adam and Christ underscores the fact that if Adam's disobedience (v.19) had real consequences leading to condemnation (v.18) because all were judicially constituted sinners by the transgression of Adam (v.19).  Then in an analogous fashion, Christ's obedience (v.19) also had real consequences.  In Christ, the newly created people (Eph.2:14-18) are judicially constituted righteous (v.19) even though they are not righteous in themselves (1 Pet.3:18) and, therefore, they are justified by the obedience of their Surety and Mediator.  All who reject Christ must themselves bear the full obligation to keep the whole law personally (Gal.5:2-3), yet in Adam they are already condemned.

5.      "Anti" is a Greek word pertinent to understanding the concept of substitutionary atonement - the idea that Christ died in our place.  In speaking of His substitutionary sacrifice, Christ declared, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for [anti] many" (Mt.20:28).  At the Last Supper, during which Christ emphasized the vicarious nature of Calvary, He said, "This is my body given for [anti] you" (Lk.22:19).

"Huper" is another Greek word meaning in place of in contexts dealing with the substitutionary atonement.  "Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for [huperemon] us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor.5:21).  "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for [huper] the unrighteous, to bring us to God" (1 Pt.3:18).

The concepts of representation, substitution, and ransom are illustrated in the Passover event (Ex.11f) which finally released the Israelites from slavery/captivity in Egypt (Num.3:11-13).  A flawless male lamb was substituted for the firstborn males (people and animals) of each household as God's universal judgment swept the land.  God took the Levites instead of those ransomed by blood as His own and set them apart to minister in the tabernacle with respect to the shadows (see Hebrews) of spiritual realities.  They were the representatives of the whole nation and a picture of God's intent for all the redeemed (1 Pt.2:5, 9-10).

"You shall be My treasured possession among all peoples … and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex.19:5-6).

6.      Imputed righteousness is often described as a legal fiction implying a false construction.  However, fictions of law are properly used to deal with realities that cannot be dealt with otherwise.  Retribution is a penal requirement of justice governed by what the offender deserves as determined by guilt, proportionality, and equity.  Penal substitution is forgiveness of sin because it is God himself in the person of the Son who pays the debt.  The Bible illustrates that sin creates a legal obligation by using forgiveness of "debt" as a metaphor to refer to remission of sin ("Forgive us our debts," Mt.6:12) as an act of mercy (see parable of the unforgiving servant, Mt.18:21-35).  As fallen creatures, a debtor's righteousness is the only kind available to us.