Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Beauty of Federal Theology

In answering an email this evening and discussing the question with another friend, I was reminded of the wonderful symmetry afforded to those of us who are reformed in our understanding of imputation. Have you ever wondered how sin is passed from generation to generation? The orthodox generally agree that we are all sinners without exception. But the question is how does that come to be? Why are we all sinners? We begin with the fact that Adam sinned. This much is clear in Genesis 3. To be sure, Eve sinned first, but notice that you don't hear much about her action throughout the rest of Scripture. Instead, the focus is on Adam's sin. Paul teaches us in Romans 5 that "sin came into the world through one man," and "one trespass led to condemnation for all men," and "by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners." Do you see the relationship here? Adam was our representative. He was our federal head. When Adam sinned, he did so on our behalf, bringing guilt (and therefore condemnation) to all. "Where is the beauty?" you may be asking. It lies in the other half of Paul's equation in Romans 5. You see, "just as" Adam was our representative or federal head, so Christ is the new federal head of all those who are in Him. Christ's "one act of righteousness leads to justification for all men," and "by [Christ's] obedience the many will be made righteous." You see, the virgin birth of Christ means that his federal head was not Adam (because he was not the son of any man), but in a sense it was God the Father. Sinless, then, Christ in his perfect obedience became a Second Adam. Another "first" in humanity from which "all" will not receive the guilt of sin, but the righteousness of Christ. And so Paul can assert in Romans 8:29 that Christ is the firstborn among many brothers. Do you see the beautiful symmetry here? While the sin of Adam was imputed to me because I was a son of Adam, the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to me because I am a son of God.

Next: The implications of this doctrine on the question of Calvinism vs. Arminianism
And then: The emptiness of the contrasting view to Federalism: Traducianism


GUNNY said...

I preached on this Sunday, on Romans 5:12-21, one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture.

What a glorious truth that of federal imputation!

Solus Christus,

M. Jay Bennett said...

Excellent post Matt! I am looking forward to parts two and three.

Matthew Bradley said...

Thanks Jay!

This is a pretty passage, isn't it Gunny?

GUNNY said...

Amen, brother.

At that seminary Jay graduated from I had to do a couple of "exegeticals" in the Romans Greek class. The first was on Romans 5:12-21. The second was Romans 9:6-13.

I was already a big fan of 5:12-21, but that pushed me over the top.

There may be favorite verses I have, but as far as a passage goes, that's definitely in the top 3 as far as impact on my thinking and living.