Is Adam our Federal Head?

by Matt Slick

Federal Headship, in a broad sense, is the position that the male represents his descendants. In the case of Adam, he was the federal head of mankind in that he represented mankind in the fall. We were "in him," in his seed. When he fell, we fell "in him." Likewise, Jesus is our federal head in salvation. He represented his people on the cross. 1 Cor. 15:22 says, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive."

The egalitarians deny that Adam was our federal head. They do this because if Adam was our representative, it would mean he, not Eve, had the authority to be in that position. If he was in such authority, then it would support the idea of male headship in the family and in the church which would not support their idea that women can be in authority in the church. So, the egalitarians deny federal headship.

In the paper, Genesis 3, The Fall, and Adam and Eve's sin, we saw that Eve had full knowledge of the requirement to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She was not ignorant of God's Word; therefore, her sin cannot be lessened as Adam's cannot be, either. So, if Eve had as much knowledge as Adam did regarding the command to not eat from the tree, then sin entering the world through Adam and not her is strong support of the teaching of a Federal headship. All the egalitarians can do is deny that Eve had sufficient knowledge of prohibition to not eat of the tree; but, this they cannot rationally do since Eve clearly tells the serpent about the prohibition given to Adam.

Does the Bible in any place say that sin entered the world through Eve? No it doesn't. Does the Bible say that because Eve was deceived that this somehow excused or lessened her culpability? No, there isn't. Again see the Genesis 3 paper that discusses this.

Alright, so we need to find out if Adam represented mankind in the Fall. Let's take a look at the scripture. First of all, is male representation of descendants found in scripture? Yes it is.

"Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. 9 Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him," (Heb. 7:8-10).

Levi was a distant descendant of Abraham, yet it is said that Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek even though he hadn't yet been born. How is this so? We know that Levi did not physically carry out the act of paying tithes, but we do know that Abraham did; and we also know that Abraham was the representative head of his descendants - because Levi paid tithes while in Abraham's loins! Abraham represented him. Quite simply, this is proof of the concept of male representation of descendants and is strong support of Federal Headship.

1 Cor. 15:45 says, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit." The "first Adam" is in reference to the man Adam. The "last Adam" is a reference to the man Jesus. This is why we see that Adam was a type of Christ.

"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned--13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come," (Rom. 5:12-14).

Adam was a type of Christ but how so? Jesus didn't sin, yet Adam did. Jesus didn't have an earthly wife, but Adam did. Jesus didn't name all the animals, but Adam did. Adam was the first human man made, Jesus wasn't. In fact, they are opposites in many ways. So how is Adam a type of Jesus? Let's look at more of Rom. 5:15-17 to find out.

"But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ."

The transgression was from the one man Adam. The free gift is salvation in the one man Jesus. As death reigned through Adam, righteousness will reign through Jesus. Both were sources, one of death, the other of life. Both were representatives, one of all mankind, the other of believers. See also 1 Cor. 15:22 that says, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive." This is teaching us that Adam and Christ are representative heads. There are those "in Adam" and there are those "in Christ." These are referencing the position of people in relationship to both Adam and Jesus.

Jesus represented us on the cross

Christians have no problem with Jesus representing us on the cross, but they often reject the idea of Adam representing us in the garden; but to reject one is to reject the other. Is it fair for Jesus, who committed no sin, to become sin for us and represent us on the cross? Think about it. That is exactly what happened; yet those who deny that Adam represented us in the Garden readily accept that Jesus represented us on the cross. They are inconsistent.

It is clearly the case that Jesus took our place on the cross. "Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed." (Isaiah 53:4-5). Jesus took our place. He bore the death that is due us because of our sin.

We've already seen that Jesus was the second Adam. Jesus represented us as the second Adam, so what did the first Adam do?

Romans 5:18

A very interesting verse is found in Rom. 5:18, "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men." Before we comment, we need to analyze this verse. The literal Greek of Rom. 5:18 is "so therefore as through one offense into all men into condemnation, so also through one righteous deed into all men into justification of life." Notice that there are no verbs in Rom. 5:18 in the original Greek.

Because there is no verb in this verse (it is not unusual in Greek for there to be no verb in a sentence), a verb must be borrowed or implied when translating to the English. Since there isn't a verb close enough in the previous verses to borrow that would fit appropriately, one from the context must be derived. A smoothed-out version would be: "So, as through one offense, there resulted condemnation to all men so also, through one righteous deed, there resulted justification of life to all men." This is exactly how the New American Standard Bible translates it. The International Standard Version says, "Consequently, just as one offense resulted in condemnation for everyone, so one act of righteousness results in justification and life for everyone."

We know that inserting the words "there resulted" (found in the NASB, ISV) into the text is correct by simple logic. The offense of Adam resulted in condemnation to all men--no one disputes that since sin entered the world through Adam, "as through one man sin entered the world," (Rom. 5:12). Therefore, we see an actual result of Adam's sin: condemnation to all. This is why it follows that "there resulted" should be in the second part of the sentence as well because the second part has the same syntax as the first and says "also" showing the parallel between them:

So as         through one offense                   there resulted     condemnation           to all men,
so also       through one righteous deed        there resulted     justification of life      to all men.1

Paul is trying to make it clear that the deeds of the respective persons, Adam and Jesus, had definite results upon those whom they represented. That is why the verse is really two sentences of identical structure united by "so also."

________ Adam's sin             resulted in     condemnation      to all,     
so also,    Jesus' sacrifice       resulted in      justification          to all

Paul is implying a parallel between the actions of Adam and the actions of Jesus. Where the first Adam brought condemnation to all, the second Adam (Jesus is called the second Adam in 1 Cor. 15:45) brought justification to all--that is what the text says, despite the apparent problem of "all people being justified."1 Because of the apparent problem, this is why the NIV and the KJV add words in the English that are not found in the Greek.2

Alright, having laid out the case, we see that Rom. 5:18 teaches that just as the first Adam represented his people; so also, the second Adam represented his.  As the first Adam brought sin into the world, the second Adam brought salvation.

Just as Adam had the right and authority to represent people in the Fall, so also, Jesus had the right and authority to represent people in salvation.  This is exactly what Federal Headship is.


Federal Headship, the authority to represent descendants, is clearly taught in Scripture.  Adam was in authority when he fell.  That is, we fell "in Adam" when he fell.  The only way for this to be possible is for him to have represented us--just as Jesus represented us on the cross so that we live "in Christ," (1 Cor. 15:22). To deny one is to deny the other.

Whether or not the egalitarians want to admit the reality of Federal headship is irrelevant to the fact that it is taught in Scripture.  The egalitarians will continue to deny biblical theology in order to uphold the position that women can be pastors and elders, but their assertions are not found in Scripture and are contradictory to it.

Objections Answered

  1. Did Eve inherit Adam's sin if Adam is the Federal Head of all mankind?
    1. Eve was responsible for her own sin. Federal headship teaches representation of one person to his descendants. Eve was not a literal descendant of Adam since she was Adam's wife. Therefore, she didn't inherit Adam's sin; she was guilty of her own.
    2. There could be a case made for Eve being any type of descendants of Adam in that she didn't come from Adam since God made her from the side of Adam. But, whether or not this would uphold under examination does not invalidate the biblical teaching of Federal headship.
  2. If Adam represented all mankind and Jesus didn't inherit Adam's sin, then Federal Headship can't be true.
    1. There is a theory that sin is transmitted through the father. I do not know if this is correct or not, but it is a theory. If we were to look at this question in light of that idea, then Jesus would not have inherited Adam's sin.
    2. Jesus had the biological parenthood of Mary, but he was the son of God as well. Jesus has two natures: divine and human in the one person. Jesus was not represented, biologically, by the male line. Therefore, he did not inherit original sin.



  • 1. It is not within the scope of this paper to refute universalism as some might suspect Rom. 5:18 is implying.  It is not.  The "all" in Rom. 5:18 is only referring to the believers. To see a refutation of universalism, please visit Universalism.
  • 2. The NIV does not translate it as literally and renders it as, "Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men." The words "that bring" are not in the Greek of Rom. 5:18  

    The KJV translates it thus: "Therefore as by the offense 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." The words "free gift" are not in the Greek.

    The translators have drawn conclusions, though accurate ones, but I believe this too does injustice to the text by not letting it say what it says. Also, if the free gift simply came upon all people, then it does not mean that it resulted, and the apparent problem of all people being justified is taken care of. Unfortunately, that isn't what the Greek says.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.