The Representative View of Imputation of Sin

Continuing our series by looking at the different views on the imputation of sin, this post will focus on the final view that will be examined, the representative view (also called the federal view). The mediate and realistic views have already been examined and evaluated. 


 

The Representative View of Imputation of Sin

Adam was constituted by God the representative and federal head of his posterity, so that the transgression of Adam became all of humanities sin, in a legal and judicial sense, and without any injustice to them, so that they were fairly involved in its proper consequences.[1] God constituted our first parent the federal head and representative of his race, and placed him on probation not only for himself, but also for all his posterity. Had he retained his integrity, he and all his descendants would have been placed in a state of holiness and happiness forever. As he fell from the estate in which he was created, they fell with him in his first transgression, so that the penalty of that sin came upon them as well as upon him.[2] “As he sinned, his posterity comes into the world in a state of sin and condemnation. They are by nature the children of wrath.”[3] The reason why the penalty of Adam’s sin, or his imputation, has come upon humanity is the union between Adam and humanity. The Scriptures never speak of the imputation of the sins of angels either to men or to Christ, or of his righteousness to them; because there is no such relation between men and angels, or between angels and Christ, as to involve the one in the judicial consequences of the sin or righteousness of the other.[4] The union between Adam and his descendants is both natural and representative. Many who favor this view see the main reason Adam is the head of the whole race, beyond the constitution of our nature, is that there was a special divine constitution and that is what the Scriptures present Adam as.[5] Genesis points to everything that is said to Adam was said to him in a representative capacity.[6] This is further illustrated in the parallel drawn by Paul between Adam and Christ. Adam was the representative of his race, his sin is the judicial ground of their condemnation, while Christ is the representative of His people, His righteousness is the judicial ground of the justification of believers.[7]

Since Adam sinned, God accounts all his descendants as sinners, and condemns them because of Adam’s transgression. Consequently, God executes the condemnation by creating each soul of Adam’s posterity with a corrupt and depraved nature, which infallibly leads to sin, and which is itself sin.[8] The corrupt nature is thus not the cause of the imputation, but the effect of it. Romans 5:12 is then signified as saying, “physical, spiritual, and eternal death came to all, because all were regarded and treated as sinners.”[9]


 

[1] William Cunningham, Historical Theology, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1864), 337-38.

[2] Hodge, Systematic Theology, 196.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, 197.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid, 198.

[8] Strong, Systematic Theology, 612-13.

[9] Ibid.

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One thought on “The Representative View of Imputation of Sin

  1. Pingback: Evaluation of Representative Imputation | Seeking Our God

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