Are we punished for Adam's sin?

by Matt Slick

Are we punished for Adam’s sin? Will God hold us accountable for what Adam did in the Garden of Eden? It doesn’t make sense that we should be punished for something we didn’t do. After all, we weren’t there in the Garden. We didn’t do anything. So, are we punished for Adam’s sin?

The answer is yes and no.

On the one hand, we suffer the consequences of Adam's disobedience and have inherited a sinful nature from him (Rom. 5:12-23). The Bible states that ". . . through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned," (Rom. 5:12).  {All Bible quotes are from the NASB}  Adam sinned. We didn’t. He was in the Garden of Eden. We were not. When we face God on the day of judgment, the Lord won’t say to us, "Adam sinned, so you are going to pay for it." We are responsible for our own sins, not the sins of others.

On the other hand, we are affected by Adam’s sin. This is how. Before the fall, Adam was sinless, perfect, and good (Gen. 1:31). He had a ‘good’ nature. But, after the fall, he became a sinner. His nature was changed from ‘good’ to ‘bad.’ Since we are his children, we inherit his sinful nature (Rom. 5:12). In this sense, we suffer for what Adam did; that is, he caused his descendants to have sinful natures and all of us suffer because of it. This is called original sin. It means that we have inherited a sinful nature and that all of what we are as individuals (mind, body, soul, spirit, emotions, and thought) is touched by sin. But this does not mean that we are as sinful as we can be. After all, God has written His Law on our hearts (Rom. 1:19; 2:15).

In addition, creation was also affected by the fall. God had given dominion of the world to Adam. Adam sinned, and sin entered the "world" as it says in Romans 5:12. That means that death entered the world along with disease, pestilence, earthquakes, famine, etc. They all have their root in the fall. That is why the Bible states that creation is longing for its redemption (Rom. 8:18-22).

Different Views on Original Sin


Generally speaking, the Calvinists maintain that the sin of Adam was imputed (made to count for) to the whole human race.  This is maintained largely in regard to the concept of Federal Headship.  This is  a theological term for one person representing another person or group. Consider Hebrews 7:7-10,

But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. 8And in this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. 9And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, 10for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.

Levi was a descendant of Abraham, but because he was still in the loins (seed) of his Father Abraham when Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, Levi is said to have paid them also. The concept is that Abraham represented his descendants and the tithes were counted to Levi as well.

Therefore, if Adam's sin was imputed to his descendants, all of them are guilty of sin and justly deserve punishment.


Generally speaking, the Arminians maintain that we inherited a sin nature from Adam and sin due to that nature.  We are not guilty for Adam's sin and cannot be punished unless we actually sin.

Whichever view or combination of these views you hold, we suffer for Adam’s sin by effect as well as nature.  We are sinners and live in a sinful world.  We are suffering the consequences of Adam’s sin.  We have our own sin with which to contend because we are by nature, children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). We are sinners.


About The Author

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