Man’s fall into Sin and how to be made Righteous in Christ              by Jack Kettler

“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: (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. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 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. For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) 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. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover, the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:12-21)

In this study we will look at man’s fall into sin and God’s plan of reconciliation. In theological terms, we will be looking at original sin, Christ’s atoning work, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and the grounds of the believer’s justification.

In the first section, two commentary entries that deal with the fall of man and original sin will be consulted. This study will be concluded by a theological multiple-choice test. Without apology, this study is coming from a historic Protestant understanding. Like the Bereans of old, take out your Bible and see if these things are so.

Section One - Exegetical commentary evidence

Exegetical Commentary Evidence on Original Sin

From Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers:

(12-21) Contrast between the reign of death introduced by the sin of Adam, and the reign of life introduced by the atonement of Christ.

The sequence is, first sin, then death. Now, the death which passed over mankind had its origin in Adam’s sin. Strictly speaking, there could be no individual sin till there was a law to be broken. But in the interval between Adam and Moses, i.e., before the institution of law, death prevailed, over the world. which was a proof that there was sin somewhere. The solution is, that the sin in question was not the individual guilt of individual transgressors, but the single transgression of Adam. Here, then, is the contrast. The single sin of the one man, Adam, brought death upon all mankind; the single act of the one Redeemer cleared away many offences—also for all men. Under the old dispensation law entered in to intensify the evil; but, in like manner, under the new, grace has come in to enhance and multiply the benefit. Thus, the remedial system and the condemnatory system are co-extensive, the one over against the other, and the first entirely cancels the second.

(12) Wherefore. —The train of thought which follows is suggested by the mention which had just been made of atonement, reconciliation. We see here another instance of the Apostle’s fondness for transcendental theology, and for the development of the deeper mysteries of God’s dealings with man. The rapidity with which ideas of this kind throng into his brain is such as to break the even flow and structure of his sentence.

As by one man. —This clause, “As by one-man sin and death entered,” ought to have been answered by “So by one Man grace and life entered.” But a difficulty occurs at the very outset. How can it really be said that sin and death entered by Adam? For sin does not exist without law, and the law did not come in till Moses. And yet we have proof that sin must have been there; for death, its consequence, prevailed all through this period in which law was still wanting. The fact was, the sin which then prevailed, and had such wide and disastrous effects, was Adam’s. So that it is strictly legitimate to compare his fall with the act of redemption. It is strictly true to say that by one-man sin and death entered into the world, as life and grace entered by another. In either case the consequence was that of one man’s act.

For that all have sinned.—. Rather, for that, or because, all sinned—i.e., not by their own individual act, but implicitly in Adam’s transgression. They were summed up, and included in him as the head and representative of the race. (1)

From the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary:

Ro 5:12-21. Comparison and Contrast between Adam and Christ in Their Relation to the Human Family.

(This profound and most weighty section has occasioned an immense deal of critical and theological discussion, in which every point, and almost every clause, has been contested. We can here but set down what appears to us to be the only tenable view of it as a whole and of its successive clauses, with some slight indication of the grounds of our judgment).

12. Wherefore—that is, Things being so; referring back to the whole preceding argument.

as by one man—Adam.

sin—considered here in its guilt, criminality, penal desert.

entered into the world, and death by sin—as the penalty of sin.

and so, death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned—rather, “all sinned,” that is, in that one man's first sin. Thus, death reaches every individual of the human family, as the penalty due to himself. (So, in substance, Bengel, Hodge, Philippi). Here we should have expected the apostle to finish his sentence, in some such way as this: “Even so, by one-man righteousness has entered into the world, and life by righteousness.” But, instead of this, we have a digression, extending to five verses, to illustrate the important statement of Ro 5:12; and it is only at Ro 5:18 that the comparison is resumed and finished. (2)

A Summary of Original Sin

*Original sin is the sinfulness of Adam's descendants, by natural generation. The designation original sin signifies the following:

1. This sinfulness is derived from Adam, the original root of the entire race.

2. It is inherent in Adam's posterity from the womb; it is not the result of environment or imitation.

3. It is the root of all the actual transgressions each sinner commits. Rome's idea that though the root has been removed by baptism, the fruit still remains, is both illogical and unscriptural.

4. It consists of original guilt and original pollution. Guilt signifies a liability to punishment. Pollution signifies the absence of original righteousness and the presence of evil. Pollution involves guilt; there is no such thing as guiltless pollution. The Arminian view that pollution alone, not guilt, is transmitted from Adam to his posterity is based on an unscriptural view of man's sinfulness, and obviously views pollution as a moral disease which is guiltless per se.

*At the link below, see a comparison of views on original sin. The above points, 1-4 come from this research study web site.

The next passage from Corinthians introduces us to the atoning work of Christ. Having a correct view of the atoning work of Christ is of critical importance to guard against semi-pelagianism or outright pelagianism. I’ve heard Mormon talk show host Glen Beck in tears say how he believes in the atonement of Christ. Yet, what he said was so far removed from the teaching of the Bible on the subject, was heartbreakingly in error.  

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

These commentary entries will expound on Christ’s atoning work of salvation.

Exegetical Commentary Evidence regarding the atonement:

From the Pulpit Commentary

Verse 21. - He hath made him to be sin for us; rather, he made; he speaks with definite reference to the cross. The expression is closely analogous to that in Galatians 3:13, where it is said that Christ has been “made a curse for us.” He was, as St. Augustine says, “delictorum susceptor, non commissor.” He knew no sin; nay, he was the very righteousness, holiness itself (Jeremiah 23:6), and yet, for our benefit, God made him to be “sin” for us, in that he “sent him in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin” (Romans 8:3). Many have understood the word “sin” in the sense of sin offering (Leviticus 5:9, LXX.); but that is a precarious application of the word, which is not justified by any other passage in the New Testament. We cannot, as Dean Plumptre says, get beyond the simple statement, which St. Paul is content to leave in its unexplicable mystery, “Christ identified with man's sin; man identified with Christ's righteousness.” And thus, in Christ, God becomes Jehovah-Tsidkenu, “the Lord our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6). That we might be made the righteousness of God in him; rather, that we might become. The best comment on the pregnant significance of this verse is Romans 1:16, 17, which is developed and explained in so large a section of that great Epistle (see 3:22-25; 4:5-8; 5:19, etc.). In him in his blood is a means of propitiation by which the righteousness of God becomes the righteousness of man (1 Corinthians 1:30), so that man is justified. The truth which St. Paul thus develops and expresses is stated by St. Peter and St. John in a simpler and less theological form (1 Peter 2:22-24; 1 John 3:5). (3)

From Matthew Poole's Commentary

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin: Christ knew no sin, as he was guilty of no sin; Which of you (saith he, John 8:46) convinceth me of sin? 1 Peter 2:22, He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: but God made him to be sin for us. He was numbered with the transgressors, Isaiah 53:12. Our sins were reckoned to him; so as though personally he was no sinner, yet by imputation he was, and God dealt with him as such; for he was made a sacrifice for our sins, a sin offering; so, answering the type in the law, Leviticus 4:3,25,29 5:6 7:2.

That we might be made the righteousness of God in him; that so his righteousness might be imputed to us, and we might be made righteous with such a righteousness as those souls must have whom God will accept. As Christ was not made sin by any sin inherent in him, so neither are we made righteous by any righteousness inherent in us, but by the righteousness of Christ imputed to us; as he was a sinner by the sins of his people reckoned and imputed unto him. (4)

In section two, we will look at some important definitions. Precise definitions are important. Erroneous and even heretical ideas can be introduced by imprecise theological statements. These following definitions are rooted in historic Protestant theological understanding.

Section Two – Theological Definitions


original sin

The sinful state and condition in which all human beings are born, which includes both imputed guilt (the guilt of Adam’s sin counted as their own) and inherited corruption (a disposition toward sin).


A reckoning or crediting of something to a person. Used salvifically, it refers the crediting of the personal guilt or personal righteousness of another, as in the imputation of the sin of Adam to all his descendants, the imputation of the sins of human beings to Christ, or the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to believers.

Christ’s righteousness—his “perfect obedience and full satisfaction” counted (or imputed) to the believer. This includes both his bearing the curse of the law for us in his death on the cross and his obedience to all of God’s precepts in our place. It’s the full package deal, everything needed for God to justly declare a sinner to be righteous.


A judicial act of God in which he pardons sinners and accepts them as righteous on the basis of Christ’s work on their behalf, which includes both his representative obedience to the law and his representative endurance of the penalty for their disobedience.

Confessional Sources

Original Sin from The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 18:

Q. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?

A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.

Imputation from The London Baptist Confession, Chapter 6:

2. Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them whereby death came upon all: all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.

3. They being the root, and by God’s appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free.

Justification from The Westminster Confession Chapter 11.1:

“I. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not or anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness, by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.”

What does Counted Righteousness or Reckoned Righteousness mean?

Theologian J. I. Packer introduces the biblical grounds for this teaching:

The rendering which declares Abraham’s faith to have been ‘reckoned’ or ‘counted as righteousness’ (vv. 3, 5, 9, 22), though found in RSV, NIV, NEB and most modern versions, is no good…. ‘As’ represents the Greek preposition eis, meaning ‘towards’ or ‘with a view to’ in a wide range of contexts, and ‘for righteousness’ (KJV, RV) was a much better way to translate it, although ‘reckon’ and ‘count’ are no doubt improvements on the older word ‘impute’. Paul is not saying here that faith is our righteousness, but that we are justified through believing. Certainly, faith is the occasion and means of our justification, but Christ’s obedience (5:19), His righteousness… (v. 18), His propitiation for our sins (3:25…), is its ground. (5)

Consider Pastor John Piper’s comments on imputational or declared righteousness:

Piper concurs with Packer that eis should be translated “for” or “unto” rather than “as” in Romans 4:3, 5, 9, 22. He also explains that in Paul’s mind, “faith being credited for righteousness” is shorthand for faith being the way an external righteousness is received as credited to us by God - namely, not by working but by trusting him who justifies the ungodly. Paul’s conceptual framework for imputation in verses 4 and 5 would, therefore, not be God’s crediting something we have to be righteousness, but God’s crediting a righteousness we don’t have to be ours by grace through faith. (6)

What is Forensic Declaration of Righteousness?

Thomas R. Schreiner, explains this when commenting on justification, along with the Old Testament background basis for being declared righteous by God:

It is … instructive to note that righteousness in the Old Testament is often forensic in nature. For instance, Deuteronomy 25:1 presupposes that judges will “acquit the innocent and condemn the guilty” (my translation). Clearly, the judges do not make a person righteous or guilty but declare whether the person under trial is innocent or guilty. God himself says that he “will not acquit the wicked” (Exod. 23:7), which means that he will not declare the wicked to be in the right. Similarly, Proverbs 17:13 declares, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.” …. What is evident here is that judges do not make someone righteous or wicked. They render a forensic declaration based on the reality that is before them. Unrighteous judges “acquit the guilty for a bribe” (Isa. 5:23; cf. 2 Sam. 15:4). God’s righteousness as a judge is explained in Solomon’s prayer as “condemning the guilty by bringing his conduct on his own head and vindicating the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness” (1 Kings 8:32). (7)

This survey of important and precise theological statements brings us now to a theological test. This test highlights the separation between historic Protestantism and Roman Catholicism of imputation. Some may say, “what difference does it make today?” Would those who may raise this hypothetical question say the same thing regarding the Islamic view of Christ and His crucifixion and atoning work? I think not.

Highlighting important differences in theological formulations does not necessitate incivility. I still recall spending one evening with an Orthodox priest until midnight discussing theological distinctives. This discussion ended with mutual respect in spite of differences.

Lutheran and Roman theologians have met on and off in Rome for twenty years trying to resolve differences on justification. There is even a document prepared for upcoming release on this topic that in some people’s minds may resolve the differences. With this said, theological debate does not have to involve personal animosity. There can be mutual deference without engaging in mere academic pleasantries.    

Section Three – Theological Precision          

Are You Romanist or Protestant? By John Robbins

The meaning of justification by faith alone has been largely forgotten in the professing Christian Church. The meaning of justification has been forgotten, and so has the meaning of faith. But mere forgetting is not the whole issue. In addition to our sinful tendency to forget God’s truth (a tendency that the writers of the New Testament were well aware of, for they repeatedly said that they were writing to remind believers), false teachers, wolves in sheep’s clothing, have worked diligently to twist the Scriptural doctrine of justification. The teaching of the Roman State-Church is a prime example of this. The following ten questions are designed to test your knowledge of justification by faith. After you have taken the quiz, perhaps you could ask a teacher in your church to take it as well. You might be surprised to find that many more than you expected are confused on this cardinal doctrine of Christianity. In each of the following 10 choices, mark either (a) or (b), whichever is correct.

1. (a) God gives a sinner right standing with himself by mercifully accounting him innocent or virtuous.

(b) God gives a sinner right standing with himself by actually making him into an innocent and virtuous person.

2. (a) God gives a sinner right standing with himself by placing Christ’s goodness and virtue to his credit.

(b) God gives a sinner right standing with himself by putting Christ’s goodness and virtue into his heart.

3. (a) God accepts the believer because of the righteousness found in Jesus Christ.

(b) God makes the believer acceptable by infusing Christ’s righteousness into his life.

4. (a) If a person is “born again” (regenerate), he will receive right standing with God on the basis of his new birth.

(b) If a person is “born again” he receives right standing with God on the basis of Christ’s work alone.

5. (a) We receive right standing with God by faith alone.

(b) We receive right standing with God by faith which has become active by love.

6. (a) We achieve right standing with God by having Christ live out his life of obedience in us.

(b) We receive right standing with God by accepting the fact that Christ obeyed the law perfectly for us.

7. (a) We achieve right standing with God by following Christ’s example by the help of his enabling grace.

(b) We follow Christ’s example because his death has given us right standing with God.

8. (a) In justification, God pronounces that we are good in his sight.

(b) In justification, God sends his Spirit to make us good.

9. (a) Christ’s intercession at God’s right hand gives us favor in the sight of God.

(b) It is the indwelling Christ that gives us favor in God’s sight.

10. (a) Only by faith in the doing and dying of Christ can we satisfy the claims of the Ten commandments.

(b) By the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, we can satisfy the claims of the Ten Commandments.

***Answers can be found at a web page link listed below.

In conclusion:

We live in an age of inexcusable evangelical ignorance of theology. This is tragic, since theology proper leads to the magnification of God’s glory. Understanding the depths of man’s sin, Christ’s atoning work in the area of imputation and justification leads the believer to praise God for our undeserved salvation. When we talk about the Bible, we are engaging in theology. We should strive for good precise theology that magnifies the glorious grace of God.

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18)

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5)

“To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)


1.       Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Romans, Vol.2, (London, England, Cassell and Company), pp.224-225.

2.      Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p.1150.

3.      H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, 2 Corinthians, Vol.19., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 123.

4.      Matthew Poole, Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), p.616.

5.      J. I. Packer, 18 Words: The Most Important Words you will Ever Know, (Scotland, UK, Christian Focus), pp. 2176-2183. Kindle Edition

6.      John Piper, Counted Righteous in Christ: Should We Abandon the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness? (Wheaton, IL, Crossway), p. 62.

7.      Thomas R. Schreiner, 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law, (Grand Rapids, MI, Kregel Academic & Professional), p.111.

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks. Available at:

For more Study:

B. B. Warfield in Imputation:

In the proper understanding of the conception, it is important to bear in mind that the divine act called “imputation” is in itself precisely the same in each of the three great transactions into which it enters as a constituent part. The grounds on which it proceeds may differ; the things imputed may be different; and the consequent treatment of the person or persons to which the imputation is made may and will differ as the things imputed to them differ. But in each and every case alike imputation itself is simply the act of setting to one’s account; and the act of setting to one’s account is in itself the same act whether the thing set to his account stands on the credit or debit side of the account, and whatever may be the ground in equity on which it is set to his account. That the sin of Adam was so set to the account of his descendants that they have actually shared in the penalty which was threatened to it; and that the sins of His people were so set to the account of our Lord that He bore them in His own body on the tree, and His merits are so set to their account that by His stripes they are healed, the entirety of historical orthodox Christianity unites in affirming.

See the Commentary on Romans Chapter 5:12-21 by Charles Hodge

*Original Sin

**Definitions from Rebecca Writes at:

***Answers to test at: