Chapter 23


Spiritual Death


“In Adam all die.” – 1 Corinthians 15:22


            Here are four words which reveal what happened when our father Adam sinned in the garden. These four words must be understood. They are necessary. They are vital. Until these four simple words are understood there is no understanding of anything else taught in the Bible. -- “In Adam all die.”


When God gave his law to Adam, the sanction of the law was death: physical death, spiritual (moral) death, and eternal death. “The wages of sin is death!” As soon as Adam sinned, he and all his posterity became mortals, stripped of that immortality of body which God had given him in creation, and became subject to and infested with all the corruptions of sickness, disease, and death; and a spiritual, moral death seized his being, a spiritual, moral corruption and death which is passed upon all men, generation after generation. - “In Adam all die.”


            Because of Adam’s sin, and our sinning in him, the understanding of man is darkened. His mind and conscience are defiled. We are filled with inordinate affections. Our wills, by nature, are biased toward everything that is evil. We have a natural taste and relish for sin. Yet, until regenerated and saved by the grace of God, all the sons and daughters of Adam are to every good work lifeless and reprobate. Everyone by nature is born in a state of spiritual death, being dead in trespasses and in sins. This is the language used by the Holy Spirit to describe man’s lost condition -- “In Adam all die” (Rom. 5:12; Eph. 2:1-3).


            As we were all born sinners, in a state and condition of spiritual death, we were all also born “children of wrath,” under the curse of God’s holy law and subject to eternal death. Eternal death is the just wage and retribution paid to sin by God. Eternal death is the wrath of God revealed against all unrighteousness. It is that which shall forever torment the children of disobedience, unless we are saved from it by the obedience and death of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, the last Adam.


            This eternal death is the curse which Zechariah saw in his vision, as a flying roll flying over the whole earth, by which all the wicked are cut off forever (Zech. 5:1-3). God’s elect are saved from this universal curse, because (and only because) Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law and delivered us from the wrath to come. He is made of God unto us both righteousness and redemption; and we are now made righteous in him.


The Result of Adam’s Sin


Spiritual death is the result of Adam’s sin as our representative and substitute in the Garden. It is the result of our sin in him.


            In Romans 5, the Holy Spirit uses four distinct words to describe what Adam did in the garden of Eden. In verse 12, it is called “sin. In fact, in the Greek text, it is twice referred to there as “the sin.” It is called “the sin” because it was the first sin and because it is the fountain of all sin. In verse 14, it is called a “transgression.” The Apostle John tells us that every sin is a transgression of the law (1 John 3:14). Adam’s sin, and our sin in him, was a transgression of that law which God made with Adam as our representative (Gen. 2:17). In Romans 5:19, it is called “disobedience.” It was an act of willful disobedience to the revealed will of God. Then, in Romans 5:15-20, the Apostle uses the word “offense” four times to describe Adam’s sin, because sin is abhorrently offensive to the holy Lord God. This word, “offense,” conveys the idea of a fall.


That is why we refer to Adam’s sin as “The Fall.” It was the offense, or the fall, by which Adam and the entire human race represented by him fell from a state of honor, integrity, righteousness, life, and happiness into a state of dishonor, sin, unrighteousness, death, and misery.


Though Adam’s sin is represented to us as the simple act of eating that fruit which he was forbidden by God to eat, his act of sin was much more complex than most imagine. He sinned against light and knowledge, when he was in full power to have resisted temptation. Adam’s sin was the height of ingratitude to God his Maker. It was an affront to God in the highest degree. It was an act of willful unbelief, making God a liar, rejecting the truthfulness of his word. It was an act of intolerable pride, an affectation, pretense, and assumption of deity, of equality with God. It was an act of unparalleled selfishness by which Adam displayed a total disregard, lack of concern for, or even thought of affection or care for God, his creation, or any of the human race, with whose souls he had been entrusted. We flinch from acknowledging it, but the fact is, all acts of sin have these three elements in them. Every act of sin is an act of willful unbelief, intolerable pride, and horrible selfishness.


Adam’s sin included all aspects of sin. His one transgression was a total, complete breach of God’s holy law. The laws of God, according to James 2:10, are so intertwined that he that “offends in one point is guilty of all.” One of the old writers said, “Adam, at one clap, broke both tables of the law, and all the commandments of God.”


            Adam’s one act of rebellion, sin, and disobedience was a transgression of each of the commandments (Ex. 20:1-17). He chose another God when he followed the devil. He idolized and deified his own belly. He made his belly (his lusts) his God. He took the name of God in vain when he believed him not. He kept not the rest and estate wherein God had set him, thus violating, breaking, and disregarding the sabbath day. He dishonored his Father which was in heaven. Therefore his days were not long in that land which the Lord his God had given him. He murdered, in the most horrible massacre of all history, himself and all his posterity. He committed spiritual fornication and adultery. He went whoring after other gods. Like Achan, he stole that which God forbade; and his robbery is that which troubles all Israel and the whole world. He bore witness against God when he believed not his word. He coveted and his covetousness cost him his life, and brought death upon all his family.


            It is this death, this spiritual death, which is the result of Adam’s sin, which Paul speaks of when he says, “In Adam all die.”


Total Depravity


Spiritual death is the total spiritual, moral corruption, and defilement of human nature. The Word of God gives us only a very brief account of what happened to Adam after the fall. Perhaps that is because he was very quickly recovered from it by the grace of God, who brought him to life, repentance, and faith by his irresistible power, and gave him a higher, nobler standing in Christ than he had before he fell.


            Immediately after the fall, God sought Adam out, called him by his grace, and promised a Savior, the Seed of the woman, by whom he and all elect sinners would be recovered from all sin. Because these things happened so quickly after the fall, we are not informed about all the mischief, misery, and madness Adam experienced as a result of his sin in spiritual death. However, some of the sad effects of the fall are clearly revealed in the Word of God. Here are seven things involved in the spiritual death of the human race, seven sad consequences of Adam’s sin.


1.     Corruption


            The first sad consequence of Adam’s fall upon himself and us is the utter corruption and depravity of the entire human race. As soon as he sinned, man who was made upright became unrighteous, filled with unrighteousness, and wickedness, and every abomination. Therefore, the Apostle tells us, “There is none righteous, no not one.” This corruption of nature was signified by nakedness (Gen. 3:7).


            This was more than a physical nakedness. Adam and Eve were physically naked before the fall. This is a nakedness of their souls before God, a nakedness which came upon them by their sin. This nakedness of soul is our lack of righteousness, our lack of clothing before God. The nakedness of their bodies became now an emblem of corruption and guilt before God.


As Adam immediately tried, by the works of his hands, to cover his nakedness, so every man and woman, since we became sinners, is utterly self-righteous by nature. Every sinner goes about to establish his own righteousness, and refuses to submit to the righteousness of God in Christ, until God strips him of his imaginary righteousness and exposes his naked corruption. “It is as natural to man,” wrote John Gill, “to be self-righteous as to be sinful.” Yet, all that men do to attain righteousness by their own works is of no more significance than Adam’s fig leaves. Nothing can cover us from the sight of Divine justice, nothing can shelter us from the stormy winds of Divine wrath, nothing can justify us in the sight of God, nothing can entitle us to eternal life, except the blood and righteousness of the Son of God. The first consequence of sin, the first thing involved in spiritual death is corruption.


2.     Guilt


            The second aspect of spiritual death is guilt. It was a guilt of conscience that made Adam and Eve perceive their nakedness. Guilt is the universal consequence of sin. Guilt is not something imposed by society. Guilt is the imposition of God upon the consciences of sinners. The consciousness of guilt causes shame. It causes men and women, like Adam and Eve, to hide themselves from God. Sometimes, guilt becomes altogether intolerable. It will drive impenitent sinners to utter insanity. Yet, even that is better than having a conscience so seared that it no longer accuses and condemns for sin. That sinner whose conscience is utterly seared is reprobate and damned, even while he lives.


3.     Fear


            A third thing involved in spiritual death, a third consequence of sin, is fear, the slavish fear and dread of God. There is in every man by nature a fearful looking for of judgment and righteous indignation, even in the most brazen of sinners. Adam said to God, “I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”


He hid himself, but to no purpose. There is no fleeing from the presence of God. Darkness and light are the same to him. How silly it was for Adam to try to hide behind the shade of a tree from the all-seeing eye of the omniscient God! Yet this is exactly what all men try to do (Amos 9:2-3). Even when judgment comes, men and women will still try to hide from God. When their fig leaves of self-righteousness are torn away, they will try to hide in the rocks and mountains. So utterly void of life and light is fallen man that even the great white throne judgment will do nothing to change his nature (Matt. 7:22-23; Rev. 6:15-17).


4. Ignorance


            Corruption, guilt, and fear are common traits of spiritual death. Another characteristic of spiritual death is ignorance, spiritual ignorance. The natural man does not understand anything spiritual (John 3:3; Rom. 3:11; 12 Cor. 2:14). No man by nature knows or can know God the Father, his Son Christ Jesus, or the Spirit of grace. No man knows, or can know by any natural power, the way of life, salvation, and peace. The natural man, no matter how religious and well trained, can never even see, much less enter into, the kingdom of God (John 3:3-7).


            Spiritually speaking, all men and women are more ignorant than brute beasts. Man is like a wild ass’s colt by nature in his rebellion, but far more ignorant. Even the ass knows his master’s crib. Man by nature is like the ox, strongly plowing the fields of iniquity, but again more ignorant. Even the ox knows his owner. Even wild birds know the time of their coming and going; but no man knows the Lord God, or his ways, either of grace or of judgment. Therefore, as the horse rushes to battle, so man rushes on in sin to judgment and to hell (Job 11:12; Isa. 1:3; Jer. 8:6-7).


5. Banishment


            The fifth thing involved in spiritual death is banishment, banishment from God, banishment from good, banishment from life (Gen. 3:24). This banishment was, as John Gill put it, “an emblem of that alienation from God, from the life of God, and communion with him, which sin has produced, and which has set man at a distance from God. Hence Christ suffered to bring his people near unto him; and by his blood they that were afar off were made nigh unto God.”


6. Condemnation


            Spiritual death involves condemnation. As soon as Adam and Eve became sinners they were brought under the curse and condemnation of God’s holy law. Not only shall fallen man be cursed and condemned forever in hell, he is cursed and condemned even now, universally cursed. So that every thing he is and everything he does is cursed. Even the plowing of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord (Gen. 3:16-19; Deut. 25:15-18).


7. Inability


            In addition to all these things, corruption, guilt, fear, ignorance, banishment, and condemnation must be added inability. Man’s spiritual death and total depravity has brought him into a state and condition of utter and total helplessness and inability. There is nothing a man can do to change his condition. He has neither the will nor the ability to alter his condition.


            There is in fallen humanity a general corruption and depravity of all the powers and faculties of the soul, which are all immersed in sin, and full of it. All the members of the body are willingly yielded as instruments of unrighteousness. There is in us all a propensity and proneness to all that is sinful, an inordinate desire after the lusts of the flesh and of fulfilling them. We all by nature serve our lusts and pleasures. We serve our lusts as our highest pleasures by nature, because we are all by nature lovers of sinful pleasures more than lovers of God.


There is, also, a terrible disinclination to all that is good, and an utter aversion to it. We all hate good and love evil. Indeed, the carnal mind is enmity against God and all that is good.


Moreover, there is an impotency, an inability to do that which is good; hence man is represented as being without strength, having lost it, and become unable to do anything that is spiritually good. He can sin with a high hand and a willing heart; but no man can, of his own accord and by his own power, cease from sin, repent of sin, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.


Sin has brought the entire human race into a state of slavery to sin, Satan, and the world. This is what we commonly call the corruption and depravity of nature. This is the effect of the first sin of Adam. This is the proverbial "Pandora box" from whence have sprung all spiritual maladies and bodily diseases. All the disasters, distresses, mischief, and calamities, that are, or have been in the world, are the result of sin.


Man’s Only Hope


The only hope of salvation and deliverance from this state and condition of spiritual death is the free grace of God in Christ, the last Adam. -- "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Cor. 15:22). As sin and death came by the doing and dying of the first representative man, Adam, so righteousness and life come to God’s elect by the doing and dying of the second and last representative man, the Lord Jesus Christ, the second Adam (Ps. 69:1-4). Salvation comes to sinners by grace alone, by the free, sovereign, unconditional grace of God in Christ (1 Cor. 1:30-31; Col. 2:9-10. Here is the wisdom, grace, and goodness of God. – He permitted the sin and fall of our father Adam, that we might be saved by the work of Christ, the last Adam, to the praise of the glory of his grace!