Adamic Condemnation

What is "Adamic condemnation" and what does it mean? Why is Adamic condemnation distinctively associated with the Unamended Community and why is it important? "Adamic condemnation" is a defining concept as well as a first principle of faith addressing the origin, nature and implications of "the law of sin and death". Though clearly established in scripture and proclaimed by the pioneers, this belief came into contention within the Christadelphian body in the late 1800's, and remains a topic of contention today.

Paul in Romans chapter 5:12-18 addresses the origin of sin and death, attributing it to events in Eden with subsequent condemnation and sentencing passed upon Adam and his posterity. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. Paul continues, ...for the judgment was by one to condemnation...Therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, and in chapter 8:1-2, There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus...for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. The word condemnation in these verses is from the Greek word "katakrima", with the singular meaning of "condemnation", occurring only 3 times in scripture, twice in specific conjunction with Adam and the third time referenced in conjunction with the law of sin and death.

In this review, we will examine the meaning of "Adamic condemnation" and the implications of its relationship to sin as well as to justification. We will review objections and misconceptions regarding "Adamic Condemnation", with the goal of clarifying what this first principle of faith entails, and why it matters!

The disobedience of Adam altered his status before God. The Unamended position, since the revival of the truth by Dr. Thomas, has always stressed that both a legal and a physical change resulted from the pronouncements in Eden. Proposition V of the Christadelphian Statement of Faith reads,

"That Adam broke this law, and was sentenced to return to the ground from whence he was taken - a sentence which in effect defiled AND became a physical law of his being, and was transmitted to all his posterity."

The defilement is to be distinguished from the implementation of the sentence - the "physical law of his being" (mortality and sin nature), in that God made provision for the defilement to be removed as described in Proposition VIII,

"That these promises had reference to Jesus Christ, who was to be raised up of the condemned race of Adam...and who, though wearing the condemned nature, was to obtain a title to resurrection, by perfect obedience, and by dying, abrogate the law of condemnation..."

Romans 8:1 tells us that baptism frees us from the condemnation, there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus...the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. If one does not distinguish the "condemnation" (legal defilement) from the "physical law" (mortality and sin nature), how does baptism remove the condemnation? After baptism we become adopted sons and daughters of God, no longer aliens and strangers, but standing in newness of life, having been purchased with a price. Yet we are still mortal, sinful creatures...that aspect of the sentence has not been removed and will not be removed until the granting of immortality at the judgment seat of Christ. As Bro Roberts so clearly expressed,

"Legally, a man is freed from the Adamic condemnation at the time he obeys the truth and receives the remission of sins; but actually, its physical effects remain till 'this mortal' (that is, this Adamic condemned nature) is swallowed up in the life that Christ will bestow upon his brethren at his coming." (The Christadelphian, May 1, 1878, p.225)

We note in Proposition VIII, the word "abrogate" was chosen to express what happens to the condemnation we are born under, (i.e., "abrogate the law of condemnation for himself, and all who should believe and obey him"). Webster's dictionary defines abrogate as "to repeal, to cancel, abolish". Were the authors of this proposition proposing that entry into Christ would repeal or abolish our mortality or our proneness to sin? Absolutely not! The condemnation described here as abrogated is the condemnation that separates / alienates the sons of Adam from God and sentences them to perish without hope. It is this "legal defilement", which if left unresolved, ensures men's fate under the law of sin and death, though as sinners we are also defiled by our personal sins and require justification from them as well.

Adamic condemnation and sin: The condemnation pronounced in Eden not only "defiled and became a physical law of his being" (Proposition V), but left the race in a state of alienation from Divine favor. Paul reminded the Ephesians that they were formerly Gentiles in the flesh...aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. (2:11-12) Job speaks of the race's inherited uncleanness when he asks, How can he be clean that is born of a woman? (25:4) Scripturally speaking, "flesh" is synonymous with "sin" (i.e. sinful flesh...sin in the flesh Romans 8:3). Thus we understand that men are born into a constitution of sin, referenced by Paul as sin that dwelleth within me, and the law of sin which is in my members. (Romans 7:20, 23) Dr. Thomas observed,

"When, therefore, nations and individuals are said to be in Abraham and in Christ, it is manifest that it must be in a figurative sense. Hence, in thee, in him, and in Christ are figurative expressions, or terms of constitution. They are things of stubborn import. They do not express a feeling, but a relationship..." (Elpis Israel, 14th ed. p. 241)

Scripture divides men into two classes (two constitutions), in Adam - in whom all die; and in Christ - in whom shall all be made alive. (1 Cor. 15:22) To escape Adamic condemnation men must come out of Adam constitutionally, and enter into Christ. Paul refers to this process as having put off the old man and put on the new man. (Col. 3:9-10) This is a legal change in constitution / relationship, a means of atonement provided and approved by God in His plan to redeem from the race a people for His name. Sin nature, as well as personal sin, alienate men from God and must be atoned for in the manner prescribed. Covenant relationship (through baptism in this dispensation), provides the only scripturally based method of release from condemnation and the permanent hold of the grave.

Adamic Condemnation, not a scriptural term? The Unamended community has historically been criticized for its use of the phrase "Adamic Condemnation" as being descriptive of the effects of the sentence pronounced in Eden. Critics have complained that the phrase is inappropriate as it is not a scriptural phrase. Although these two words do not occur together in scripture, the phrase describes a scriptural principle that is conclusively presented by the Apostle Paul, And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift; for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification (Romans 5:16) and Therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation (5:18). The source of this condemnation, the "one" to whom the offense is attributed, is clearly Adam! Although in these verses the scripturally literal phrase is "one to condemnation", for clarity could that not be presented as "condemnation resulting from Adam", or "Adamic condemnation"? Indeed, Adamic condemnation is scripturally appropriate as it portrays a scriptural truth. The truth is that every man is born under the sentence of condemnation to death that came upon us as a direct result of Adam's sin. The prominence of Adam's sin as the cause and basis of condemnation is clearly stated in Romans 5:15, "through the offence of one many be dead", and repeated again for emphasis in verse 16, "for the judgment was by one to condemnation", and verse 17, "as by one man's offence death reigned by one", and summarized in verse 18, "Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation." That condemnation to death alienates and separates men from their Creator and binds them to return unto the dust, unless they take hold of the means of justification - passing out of Adam and entering into Christ.

An objection considered: It would appear that Adamic condemnation is clearly established in scripture as well as in pioneer writings. That being said, on what basis is this principle controversial, and to what aspects of Adamic condemnation do some object? Challenges to this principle arose as early as the 1870's with the Renunciationist's ("Free Life") movement, and since that time some have found fault with the concept that Adam's race is alienated from God by birth, and that they require justification from Adam's sin in addition to justification from personal sins. Supporters of this viewpoint reject the concept of 'inherited alienation' (legal defilement), and object that the traditional belief is equivalent to teaching that God holds men guilty for Adam's sin. Is such a conclusion fair or correct? Scripture gives no indication of moral guilt on the part of Adam's descendants, and the traditional belief does not teach that men require forgiveness for it. As Dr. Thomas wrote in Discourse on Eternal Life,

"All men are born of corruptible parents into a state of sin. By this natural birth, they become members of this sinful and evil state, and heirs of all its disabilities. By virtue of this birth, they are constituted sinners,' though they could not help, and had no hand in the matter." (Referenced and quoted in The Sanctuary Keeper, Vol. 1, p. 105)

The remedy for inherited alienation is justification, for justification is the word scripture uses in this regard, Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. (Romans 5:18) As opposed to and in contrast to forgiveness, justification is the reverse of condemnation. These two conditions cannot co-exist in the same sense and for the same thing. The Greek word for justify means 'to absolve, to vindicate, to set right', just as our modern usage means to 'free from blame, to declare guiltless, to acquit.' In scripture, justification is equivalent to reconciliation. Justification is applicable to the cleansing of material things, (i.e., sanctuary, altar) as well as sin nature and personal sins. With mankind in a state of condemnation and the earth cursed, all which was to be committed to and acceptable to God had to be cleansed. In this regard, we see the need for mothers to offer a "sin offering" as an atonement after conceiving a child. (Leviticus 12:2-7) The bearing of a child was not a sin, and yet, in the context of "can he be clean that is born of a woman", a cleansing was required by God. We are instructed that Christ, though sinless in character, died unto sin and was freed (justified) from sin. (Romans 6:1-11) No, we do not require forgiveness for inherited alienation, but we do need to come out of Adam and into Christ, that we might attain "unto justification of life".

While some object that the concept of "legal" condemnation is tantamount to inherited quilt, others may question how God can be "just" in bringing all men under condemnation to death for an ancestor's sin, in which matter "they could not help, and had no hand." To respond to this question it is necessary to keep in mind two principles. First, God was under no obligation to grant Adam and Eve the right to live or bear children after their sin. The threatened penalty was death and God could have implemented that penalty immediately. Why did He not? Through His mercy, God conceived and implemented a plan whereby they could be restored to favor through a "seed of the woman". For this seed's sake, they were allowed a prolongation of their days and, a chance to bear children and redeem their relationship to God by faith and obedience.

The second principle is that upon which redemption has been offered, for it is equivalent to that by which death has come. Through the righteousness of one man, not because of our righteousness, we have an opportunity to attain grace unto life. If we question the righteousness of God in bringing death on all men for Adam's sin, then to be consistent, would we not question God's grace in bringing life to all men who enter covenant relationship, for Christ's righteousness?

Why it matters: Does it really matter whether or not one understands Adamic condemnation; is this truly a first principle? In considering this question we should ask, If Adamic condemnation (and its equivalent terms: racial alienation, inherited sin) is not the correct understanding, what is? Consider, what are the implications and consequences of viewpoints that do not recognize that the condemnation pronounced in Eden defiled Adam's descendents, legally constituting them "aliens and strangers" by birth? If one believes that Adam's descendents inherit only mortality and a proneness to sin, does this not logically lead to the conclusion that in the absence of personal sin, a man would be clean before God and in no need of a sacrificial covering?

Is this not the conclusion reached by some alternative theorists regarding Jesus Christ, that he was not born estranged from his Father; that he, being sinless, was not in need of justification for himself, and that his sacrificial death was an act of obedience to his Father for the sins of others only? Such a view declares that Christ's flesh was not sinful flesh, but only had the potential to become so. Such a view redefines sin as the consequence of personal transgression only, and teaches that only personal transgression is what separates men from Divine favor. Such a view does not recognize baptism as atonement for our unclean state - abrogating the condemnation we are born under, but rather, as atonement for personal sin only.

These implications are contrary to the gospel message, for can it be said that Christ overcame sin in the flesh, indeed, condemned sin in the flesh, if there was never any sin in his flesh, but only the unfulfilled potential for sin? Dr. Thomas wrote,

"But if the human nature of Christ were immaculate...then God did not 'send Jesus in the likeness of sinful flesh'; he did not 'take hold of the seed of Abraham', he did not 'become sin for us', 'sin was' not 'condemned in the flesh', and 'our sins were' not 'borne in his body upon the tree'. These things could not have been accomplished in a nature destitute of the physical principle styled 'Sin in the flesh'." (The Christadelphian Vol. 10, 1873, page 361)

The scriptural truths encompassed in "Adamic condemnation" have been acknowledged and defended by the Unamended Community from the beginning, and sound brethren have refused to condone or compromise with alternative views devised by the interpretations of men. To do so would be to risk the loss of the Truth regarding the nature of man as well as the nature and sacrifice of Christ.

Let us conclude with a summary from Dr Thomas on the matter. We refer to his as well as other pioneer writers not to establish Truth by the writings of fallible men, but rather to take advantage of the understanding and clarity found in their writings, and to confirm the teachings of early Christadelphia. In Elpis Israel, published in 1850, he wrote,

"Hence, the apostle says, "By Adam's disobedience the many were made sinners", that is, they were endowed with a nature like his, which had become unclean, as the result of disobedience; and...they were constituted transgressors before they were able to discern between right and wrong. Upon this principle, he that is born of sinful flesh is a sinner...But men are not only made, or constituted sinners by the disobedience of Adam, but they become sinners even as he, by actual transgression... Sinful flesh confers no good thing upon its offspring; for holiness, righteousness, incorruptibility, and life forever are not hereditary...Sinners can only acquire them by conformity to the law of God; who offers them freely to all who thirst after the water of life eternal."

(Elpis Israel, 14th edition, pages 130-131)