Written by: Elder Vernon Johnson
Adam ‑ Federal Head of All Mankind
There is a biblical doctrine referred to as the “doctrine of federal headship.” This doctrine teaches that when Adam was in the garden of Eden and was given the “covenant of the law of sin and death” that he represented not just himself in that covenant but stood as the covenant representative of all mankind. Thus, the effects of breaking that covenant applied not just to him, but also to all that he represented.
The covenant of the law of sin and death is stated in Genesis 2:16, 17 as follows: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
The “doctrine of federal headship” is alluded to in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” From this, of course, we gather that all that were in Adam, die. Just as we gather that all that are in Christ are made alive. The most comprehensive teaching on the “doctrine of federal headship” is found in Romans 5:12‑19.
Romans 5:12 reads, “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 wrote this nearly two thousand years ago, long before any of us existed except in the mind and purpose of God. Thus none of us alive today had ever personally sinned when Paul wrote this epistle. Yet Paul affirms that death passed upon all mankind for that all mankind had sinned. Since we had not personally sinned, then how had we sinned? The answer is “we sinned in Adam” as we were seminally in Adam and Adam was our representative before God. Thus, when the sentence of death passed upon Adam as a result of his sin, that same sentence of death passed upon us.
Romans 5:13, 14 reads, “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 them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.” Simply stated the above teaches us that God does not impute sin to us when there is no law. A law must be given in order to have sin imputed against us. From Adam to Moses no additional law, besides the “law of sin and death,” had been given to mankind. Furthermore, God had driven man from the garden and fixed it so that man couldn’t return to the garden. Thus, none of the subsequent offspring of Adam could return unto the garden and eat of the forbidden fruit. They could not sin after the similitude of Adam’s transgression. Notwithstanding, death reigned over all mankind from Adam to Moses even though they had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression and even though no other law had been given by which sin could be imputed to them. What caused this reign of death? Though they had not personally sinned, yet they sinned in Adam, as he represented them in the garden of Eden.
Next, Romans 5:15 teaches us that by the offence of Adam, the many in Adam are dead. Furthermore, in Romans 5:16, we are taught that God’s judgment was, as a result of Adam’s transgression, to condemn all mankind. Again, in Romans 5:17 we are taught that as a result of Adam’s offence death reigns over us. Romans 5:18 reads, “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation…”
Finally, verse 19 says in parts, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners…” The results of all this can be summarized as follows:
1. Adam represented all mankind in the garden.
2. When Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, because he represented us, it was as though all mankind had eaten of the forbidden fruit.
3. God’s sentence of death upon Adam because of sin was also a sentence of death upon all mankind because of the sin of Adam.
4. Death in all its aspects not only reigned over Adam, it reigned over all mankind which were seminally in Adam and sinned in Adam.
5. When Adam transgressed, his nature fell to a sin‑cursed state. We were made sinners because of Adam’s disobedience and our nature is the same as Adam’s sin‑cursed nature.
The bible teaches that “the wages of sin is death” and because “death reigns” over us as a result of Adam’s sin. We will consider the subject of death in our next bible forum essay.
In similar fashion as Adam was the federal head of all mankind, Christ is the federal head of all the chosen elect family of God. We will cover this aspect of federal headship at a later time.
The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death…” God told Adam “…in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” The marginal reading for “die” is “dying thou shalt die.” This indicates an immediate death followed by a later death. Thus we know the bible teaches more than one kind of death.
The scriptures teach at least five deaths. These deaths are:
1. Death of the body or corporeal death.
2. Death in trespasses and sins.
3. Death to fellowship.
4. The second death or eternal death.
5. Death to sin.
Beginning with Adam sin began to work in the lives of every man to bring forth the death of the body. These corruptible, mortal bodies are headed to the grave as God told Adam, “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
Second, to be dead in trespasses and sins speaks of the state or condition of our carnal nature. This death is characterized as rendering us incapable of fearing God (Romans 3:18), of seeking God (Romans 3:11), of understanding the things of the Spirit of God (Romans 3:11; I Corinthians 2:14), of knowing the way of peace (Romans 3:17). Under this death we only seek after the world (Ephesians 2:2), the spirit of Satan (Ephesians 2:2), and to satisfy fleshly lust (Ephesians 2:3). Furthermore, our carnal mind is enmity with God (Romans 8:7) and we cannot please God (Romans 8:8). All of our works are verily wickedness (Galatians 5:19‑21). David described this death as beginning at conception in Psalms 51:5, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Furthermore, he said we begin to portray this sin‑cursed death nature at birth as stated in Psalms 58:3, “The wicked are estranged from the womb, they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” Under the law of sin and death according to David we will not even think about God, Psalms 10:4, “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.” In addition, a person dead in trespasses and sins is incapable of delivering himself from that condition. The prophet Jeremiah illustrated this truth through question and answer in Jeremiah 13:23, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” Paul described us under the law of sin and death in Romans 5:6‑10 as being “without strength,” “ungodly,” “sinners,” and “enemies of God.”
The third death is “death to fellowship.” The story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11‑32 illustrates this death. When the prodigal had left his father’s house to go waste his substance with riotous living and then later returned, the father described this son thusly, “For this my son was dead, and is alive again…” Likewise he said to his other son, “For this thy brother was dead, and is alive again…” Please notice that the prodigal when wasting his substance with riotous living did not lose his relationship to his father or brother, but he lost his fellowship to them. He was dead to their fellowship. Paul, also describes this death to fellowship in I Timothy 5:6, “But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.” I guess we could safely call her a living “dead” person. I wonder how many of God’s people are dead to the fellowship of God and to the fellowship of the saints as a result of seeking worldly pleasures?
The fourth death we will consider is called in Revelation 20:14, the “second death.” This is God’s eternal punishment for sin. Those who suffer the “second death” are “cast into the lake of fire” to suffer the eternal vengeance of God. They are described in Revelation 20:12 as being “the dead, small and great” and they are “judged every man according to their works.” Verse 15 tells us, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” Paul describes these in II Thessalonians 1:7‑9 thusly, “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.”
Finally, there is a good death taught in God’s word. Romans 6:2 asks us, “How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” What does it mean to be “dead to sin?” It means to be dead to the condemning affects of sin and to be dead to the bondage of the law of sin and death. Hebrews 2:14 speaks of Christ thusly, “Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all of their lifetime subject to bondage.” When Jesus died on the cross for us, he delivered us from the wrathful judgment of God (second death) and when he arose the third day, he established our hope in the resurrection of our mortal bodies. Also, in Romans 8:2, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” This is in harmony with Ephesians 2:1 which states, “You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Likewise, the Lord said in John 5:25, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the son of God and they that hear shall live.” When Christ speaks to us in that still small voice giving us spiritual life we become “dead to” the condemning effects of sin and its bondage over us. We now, in spirit, fear God, seek after Him, understand spiritual things, believe that he is, bear good fruit, seek to please him, etc. Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.
Depravity ‑ Death Nature
The scriptures when describing our depraved natural state often use the word “dead” as evidenced by the following scriptures:
Ephesians 2:1, “And you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.”
Romans 8:2, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
John 5:25, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.”
Ephesians 2:4, 5, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved).”
Colossians 2:13, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgive you all trespasses.”
Romans 7:6, “But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”
II Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead.”
I John 3:14, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.”
The word, dead, can be defined as the absence of life and the opposite of life. The words, death and life, are diametrically opposed. In describing the total depravity of man in his natural state (before he is born again) the scriptures use the words, dead and death, to mean the absence of spiritual life. For instance in Ephesians 2:1‑3 man before he is born again (quickened) is described as following the course of this world, having the prince of the power of the air (Satan) working in him, having his conversation (lifestyle) in the lust of his flesh, and fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. According to the scriptures, being the friend of the world is to be the enemy of God, to be possessed and directed by the spirit of Satan is sin, and to fulfill the fleshly lusts is sin. Thus, our entire behavior before the new birth is sinful behavior. Paul said, “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh dwelleth no good thing.” He also said in Romans 8:7, 8, “Because the carnal (fleshly) mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Thus the absence of spiritual life renders one totally incapable of righteous behavior, of seeking after God, of knowing the things of the Spirit of God, or of pleasing God.
It is no wonder that the scriptures say, “By grace ye are saved.” It had to be by the grace of God due to our “dead” nature. To be dead is to be without strength. A dead person has no strength whatsoever. If he is dead, he cannot as much as lift his little finger in response to an offer nor can he help anyone. Such was our condition when we were spiritually dead. Romans 5:6 says, “For when we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Being dead in trespasses and sins makes us spiritually without strength. God’s grace and God’s power as well as his mercy and love were required to bring us out of this state: Ephesians 2:4, 5, “But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).”
In contrast to death, actions are the evidence of life. John wrote, “We know we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” Love is an evidence of spiritual life, of being born again. Galatians 5:22, 23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.” Fruit is borne on the tree. The tree must first be present before fruit can be borne. Fruit is the evidence and identifier of the tree. Anytime any one of the 9 above fruit are borne is evidence of the presence of the Spirit. We can bear this fruit because we have been born of the Spirit of God. For instance, we have faith because we have been born again. Since faith is a fruit of the Spirit, we must have the spirit before we can exhibit faith.
The Lord told us in John 5:25 how we were given spiritual life from the dead state we were in, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” We know this has reference to the spiritually dead and not the dead bodies in the grave because the Lord said “the hour is coming and now is…” The resurrection of our dead bodies is coming, but it’s not now taking place. The resurrection to spiritual life of those spiritually dead in trespasses and sins is both taking place now and will continue to take place in the future till all that God calls are born again. Please note that it is the powerful “voice” of the Son of God that brings life from the dead. No man has this power in his voice or otherwise to raise the dead. If a man wants to convince me he has power to raise the dead, he needs to go create a universe by speaking it into existence and then maybe I will believe him.
As we said before, only God has the power to raise the dead and such was our condition under the law of sin and death. He quickened us when we were dead. Praise be to His holy name.
One way to describe the effects of bondage is to declare what things those in bondage cannot do. For instance a typical prisoner in a Texas jail cannot go wherever he pleases, or see whom ever he pleases whenever he pleases. Furthermore, he cannot choose to do what ever he pleases. His bondage places severe restrictions on his actions.
We were in bondage to our sin‑corrupt fleshly nature prior to being born again. Romans 8:2, “For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” The “law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus” is the “new birth” and this “new birth” freed us from the “bondage” of “the law of sin and death.”
Nature places restrictions on all living creatures and binds them to the limitations of their nature. For instance, birds can fly and snakes crawl on their underside. Just don’t expect a snake to fly and a bird to crawl on its underside. Likewise, man before he is born from above (born again) is limited to the abilities of his sin‑cursed nature. Paul said, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing…” (Romans 7:18)
Let us now look at several things the scriptures tell us that man cannot do before he is born again:
Matthew 19:25, 26, “When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” With these 5 words (With men this is impossible) the Lord put to silence all the advocates who say that man can save himself from sin and cause himself to obtain eternal life. It simply is impossible for man to save himself.
I Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Those that are born‑again are two‑fold men. They are natural men and they are spiritual men. Those who haven’t been born again are one‑fold, i.e., they are natural men only. In this natural state they cannot discern spiritual things nor can they receive the things of the spirit of God. This is why Paul said in I Corinthians 1:18, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness…” Since the preaching of the cross is of the Spirit of God and the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, it is no wonder he considers preaching of the cross to be
Matthew 7:18, “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” Based on this statement it is no wonder Paul said of those under the law of sin and death in Romans 3:12, “there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” A person that is not born again possesses only the “corrupt tree” flesh nature and according to Galatians 5:19‑21 all of his works are evil.
John 3:3, “Jesus answered and said unto him, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Due to the spiritual nature of God’s church kingdom, and because he cannot discern spiritual things, the unborn again man cannot see (perceive) this church kingdom.
John 3:5, “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Without a spiritual nature man is unable not only to see the kingdom of God, but also to enter the kingdom of God.
John 6:44, “No man can come to me except the Father which sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” The word, draw, comes from a Greek word meaning “to drag.” The meaning is illustrated by a horse drawn carriage. The carriage is inanimate and does nothing to move itself. All the effort to move the carriage is performed by the horse. Before we are born again, we cannot come to Jesus. We must be drawn (dragged) of the Father in order to come to Jesus. It is not our effort that brings us to Jesus, but God’s drawing that brings us to Jesus.
John 8:43, 47, “Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word. He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” Before we are born‑again, we were not of God, thus we could not hear (perceive) God’s words. After we were born again, we had the ability to perceive spiritual things and therefore could perceive God’s words.
John 12:39, 40, “Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” The Lord told some unbelievers in John 10:26, “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.” Before we are born again, we cannot believe. Faith is one of the nine‑fold fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and comes as a result of the new birth.
Romans 8:7, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” The “law of God” is the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2). Before we are born‑again we have only a carnal mind and that mind is the very enemy of God. With that carnal mind we do not seek after God, we do not fear God, and we do not desire God.
Romans 8:8, “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Thus, before we are born again we are completely unable to please God and furthermore have no desire to please God.
II. Peter 2:14 speaks of the unborn‑again in this manner, “Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin…” An unborn‑again person possesses only a fleshly nature and will only walk after the course of this world and the prince of the power of the air, seeking to fulfill the desires of the flesh and mind (Ephesians 2:2, 3) all of which is sin in the eyes of a just and Holy God.
As we see the bondage of our sin cursed depraved nature, we can thank God for that “law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus” that has made us free from “the law of sin and death.”
Depravity ‑ Incapability of Understanding
One aspect of the total depravity of our human nature before we are born again that is strongly emphasized in the scriptures is that we were totally incapable of spiritual understanding. In describing the nature of men under the law of sin and death, Paul wrote in Romans 3:11, “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” Paul uses the universal “none” to show us this is true of all mankind prior to the new “spiritual” birth.
The Lord told some unbelieving Pharisees in John 8:43, “Why do you not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my words.” He further expounded in verse 47, “He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” The Lord obviously had reference to more than just natural hearing or natural discernment. Those to whom the Lord was speaking had natural ears and natural discernment. They, however, had no spiritual discernment. They could not “hear” the spiritual lessons being taught in God’s words. To discern spiritual things, an individual must be born of God. Except we are of God, we cannot hear God’s words.
Eight times in the gospels and eight times in the book of Revelation we have this or a very similar statement recorded, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear…” This must have reference to the spiritual ear, not the natural ear. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 2:9, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” All men, unless deformed, have natural eyes, natural ears, and a natural heart. These three sensory organs (sight, sound, feel) are incapable of sensing what God has prepared for them that love him. If we relied on our natural sensory organs to know then we could never know the things God has prepared… Some, indeed, have thought these things just simply can’t be known of men. Verse 10, however, tells us that we who are of God know, “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God.” We know the things God has prepared for them that love him, because the Spirit has revealed them unto us! Now did the Spirit reveal them unto us through our natural sensory organs (eye, ear, heart)? No because they are incapable of receiving them. Verse 11 reads, “For what man knoweth the things of man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” Man naturally has a nature (spirit) that enables him to understand the things of man.
However, this nature cannot transcend the human nature and understand spiritual things. How then can fallen depraved man ever understand the things of the Spirit of God? The answer lies in verse 12, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit, which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” We received this “spirit which is of God” when we were “born again.” God imparted to us in the new birth a spiritual receiver that “we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” When we were born again God gave us spiritual eyes, spiritual ears, and a spiritual heart. Now these spiritual sensory organs are attuned to receive spiritual things. Furthermore, they also act as spiritual transmitters as we read in verse 13, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” Also we gather from this verse that the new birth not only gives us a spiritual receiver and a spiritual transmitter, but it also gives us spiritual “reasoning ability” to be able to compare spiritual things with spiritual things.
Next, Paul summarizes the total incapability of natural man for spiritual discernment in verse 14, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Things we cannot know or discern are foolishness unto us. We haven’t time for such things. Is it any wonder then that Paul wrote in I Corinthians 1:18, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness…” Why is the preaching of the cross to the unregenerate (those not born again) foolishness? Because the preaching of the cross is of the Spirit of God and these unregenerate have no spiritual receivers. In actuality it works like this: The unregenerate have “no fear of God” thus cannot be convicted in their hearts of sin. Because they do not feel the curse or burden of sin in their heart, they reason that they have no need of a savior, then they reason that this preaching of salvation from sin by Jesus at the cross is just foolish prattle by superstitious men.
In contrast, we who have been born again, now having the fear of God in our hearts do feel the curse or burden of our sins in our heart. When we hear (with the spiritual ear of the new birth) the preaching of the cross, this message brings to our (spiritual) hearts how that Jesus died to deliver us from our sins and as Paul wrote in the last half of I Corinthians 1:18, “but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” This with our spiritual eyes we see (discern) that God through Christ saved us from our sins at the cross. Thanks be to God for this marvelous gift of the new birth.