The CLASSICAL View of Romans 5:12:
We call this view the Classical View1 because it is an interpretation of Romans 5:12 that is first, rooted in the Old Testament,2 secondly, has been the primary doctrine of the Church in ages past,3 and thirdly, continues to be the view of a great majority of scholars and theologians.4 In short, the Classical View understands Romans 5:12 as speaking about imputed sin.
According to the Classical View, what Paul means by “all sinned,” is that “all sinned in Adam as their head and representative.”5 As the covenant head of the human race, Adam represented all men in such a way, that because of his sin, all humanity has been plunged along with him into guilt and condemnation. Adam's sin was judicially reckoned to all men. So, when he fell, we fell with him; when he was condemned, we were condemned with him. His sin is reckoned to us; his transgression is legally charged to our account. He sinned, but we are guilty with him; he transgressed, but we are condemned with him.
We have a striking example of this in the passages of Scripture that deal with Achan's sin. We've referred back to them before, but there's one detail in particular that we haven't pointed out yet that can really help us understand how it is that “all sinned” (in verse 12) can mean that Adam's sin was imputed to all. Joshua 7:14-21 makes it clear beyond any doubt that it was Achan alone who sinned, for one man only was taken by lot, and when Achan confesses his sin he speaks in the first personal singular. And yet, if we turn to Joshua 22:20, we find that, as a result of Achan's sin, wrath fell on “all the congregation of Israel”. Why? If Achan alone sinned, then why did wrath fall on all Israel? We find our answer if we turn back again to Joshua 7:11-12, where we read: “Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things. Therefore the sons of Israel. . .have become accursed.” Was it not Achan alone who sinned? Why then does God say that all Israel had sinned? Because Achan's sin was being reckoned as belonging to all Israel. His sin, though not actually belonging to all—was imputed to all; and it was for this reason that wrath fell upon all of them. It is precisely this way that we understand what Paul is saying in Romans 5:12. Adam alone sinned—and yet wrath fell upon all humanity. Why? Because the guilt of his sin is imputed to us—reckoned as ours.
Now, according to this view, Adam's sin is both imputed and imparted. One truth: the guilt of Adam's sin is imputed to us. Another truth: the corruption of his nature is imparted to us. But in the Classical View, these two truths fit together in the exact opposite way that Placaeus had put them in the Corruption View (above). The Classical View reasons this way: 1) God had told Adam that his disobedience would result in death; 2) This was true not just for Adam, but for all those he represented; 3) And this death included spiritual death, which is exactly what inherent corruption is. For Adam, inherent corruption—spiritual death—came upon him as a judicial penalty for his sin, along with physical death. And it's exactly the same for all those he represented (all of us): just like Adam, so too, we are inflicted with spiritual death as the penalty for Adam's sin, because he represented us. Just as Adam died spiritually as a judicial consequence for his sin—so did all those he represented (all of us). In a word, our inherent corruption isn't the basis of our condemnation—it's the proof. Whereas Placaeus taught that we're guilty because of imparted corruption, the Classical View teaches us that we're actually corrupt because of imputed guilt.
MEDIATE Versus IMMEDIATE Imputation: How is Adam's Sin Imputed to his Posterity: (Directly or Indirectly?)
MEDIATE IMPUTATION (The Corruption View): The inherent corruption that has been imparted to us in Adam is the judicial grounds/basis of our condemnation: In other words, we are guilty because of Adam's imparted corruption. Adam's trespass resulted in the corruption of human nature, which corruption is the judicial basis of the condemnation and death of all: We die because of Adam's imparted corruption.
IMMEDIATE IMPUTATION (The Classical View): The inherent corruption that has been imparted to us in Adam is the penal result/consequence of our condemnation: In other words, we are actually corrupt because of Adam's imputed guilt. Adam's trespass resulted in the guilt of both Adam and the entire human race, which guilt is the judicial basis of the condemnation and death of all: We die because of Adam's imputed guilt.
MEDIATE: Adam sinned → Adam's nature corrupted → we inherit this corrupt nature → we are thus punished
IMMEDIATE: Adam sinned → Adam's sin reckoned to us → we are punished with Adam → we are thus corrupted
REALISM Versus FEDERALISM: Why is Adam's Sin Imputed to his Posterity? (The Basis of Imputed Sin)
Now, something we should note here is that there are actually two distinct lines of thinking regarding the basis of Adam's imputed sin. Both lines of thinking agree that we are all guilty because Adam's sin was imputed to us, but they disagree over why it is, exactly, that Adam's sin was imputed. What we've been describing is called the FEDERALIST (or representative) view: namely, the reason Adam's sin was imputed to us was that Adam was our covenant representative. When Paul says that we die because “we sinned” in Adam (5:12), he's not saying that we actually, physically, literally, sinned in the garden in and with Adam. No, he's saying that we are treated as sinners, we are regarded and reckoned as having sinned in and with Adam when he sinned, because he was our covenant representative. But there's another group of theologians who subscribe to what is called the REALIST view: they also affirm that Adam's sin is imputed to us, but according to them, the reason why Adam's sin is imputed is that we actually, literally, physically sinned in and with Adam. According to them, we're guilty of Adam's sin—not because he was acting on our behalf as our covenant head—but because we actually sinned in and with Adam in the strict and proper sense of the term. So, according to the realist view, “[Adam's] sin is ours not because it is imputed to us; but it is imputed to us, because it is truly and properly our own.”6
Why is it that Adam's Sin is Imputed to His Posterity? (The Basis of Imputed Sin)
REALISM: Adam's sin was imputed to all men because we were really there sinning with him when he sinned.
Example: Levi paid tithes in that he was “present” in Abraham's loins when he tithed (Heb.7:9-10)
FEDERALISM: Adam's sin was imputed to all men because when Adam sinned he acted for all those he represented. Example: Canaan's curse (Gen.9); Achan's sin (Josh.7); Haman's sons (Esth.9); Daniel's accusers (Dan.6)
So, which view is the right one? We believe that when Paul says, “all sinned in Adam” he's telling us that Adam was acting as our covenant representative in such a way that when he sinned, his act was reckoned as ours. Paul's NOT saying that all men actually sinned in Adam's sin in such a way that his act was literally and physically our act. That's impossible; we didn't even exist at that point.7 Further, Paul goes on to make it crystal clear, that it was on account of “the transgression of the one” that the many died (vv15); it was through “the transgression of the one” that death reigned over all (v17).8 It wasn't the transgression of the many, or the transgression of all, sinning in Adam, that brought condemnation upon the human race: It was the transgression of the one man, Adam.9 Adam's sin isn't imputed to us because it's truly and properly ours; rather, his sin is ours because it's federally and covenantally imputed to us.10
What Scripture teaches is that Adam stood as the covenant head of the human race in the same way that Christ stands as the covenant head of his people: “when it is said that the sin of Adam is imputed to his posterity, it is not meant that they committed his sin, or were the agents of his act. . .but simply that in virtue of the union between him and his descendants, his sin is the judicial ground of the condemnation of his race, precisely as the righteousness of Christ is the judicial ground of the justification of his people.”11 Adam's sin—though not ours—was imputed to us in the Covenant of Works. And in exactly the same way, Christ's righteousness—though not ours—is imputed to us in the Covenant of Grace. The first imputation brought death; the second has brought life. Here's the evidence for the Classical View:12
A) It fits GRAMMATICALLY: The Classical View best fits the simple meaning of Paul's words in Romans 5:12. Paul doesn't say that death spread to all men because “all do sin/have sinned” (IE, the Pelagian View), or because “all became sinful” (IE, the Corruption View),13 but simply because “all sinned.” This verb is in the simple historical (aorist) tense, indicating momentary action at a particular time. “And when was that? Doubtless at the fall. All men sinned in Adam's sin. All fell in his fall.”14
B) It fits CONTEXTUALLY: Verses 13-14 are inseparably bound to the last clause of verse 12, not just because they follow directly after, but because of the connecting “for” at the beginning of verse 13. This “for” tells us that in verses 13-14, Paul is seeking to prove what he just said in verse 12. But verses 13-14 don't prove the Pelagian View (they actually prove the exact opposite!),15 nor do they fit the Corruption View very well.16 The interpretation of verse 12 that fits the best with verses 13-14 is the Classical View.
C) It fits STRUCTURALLY: The whole passage of Romans 5:12-19 is a single unit. And what's absolutely clear in verses 15-19 is that all men are condemned and suffer death on account of the one sin of the one man, Adam. Paul says it clearly no less than five times: “by the transgression of the one the many died” (v15); “the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation” (v16); “by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one” (v17); “through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men” (v18); “through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners” (v19). So then, to say that all men are actually condemned and suffer death on account of their own sins (the Pelagian View) would totally contradict the rest of the passage. So too, to say that all men are condemned and suffer death on account of their inherent corruption (the Corruption View) is something very different than saying that all men are condemned and suffer death on account of the one sin of Adam. So, the Classical View of verse 12 is really the only interpretation that fits the rest of the passage.
Further, it's almost universally agreed that verse 12 is the first part of a comparison that is resumed and completed later in verse 18 (“just as. . .even so”). In other words, what Paul begins to say in verse 12, he later comes back to and repeats in verse 18. So, we could say that verse 18 “is Paul's own interpretation of what he meant when he said 'all sinned'” in verse 12.17 And in verse 18, Paul is clearly speaking about imputed sin in Adam, when he says: “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.”
D) It fits THEOLOGICALLY: Paul's whole aim in this passage is to demonstrate that we are justified in Christ the exact same way that we were condemned in Adam. This is clear in verse 18. Paul's saying: just as it was with your condemnation, so it is with your justification. There's a very real parallel. Now, if we take this comparison seriously, and if the Pelagian View of verse 12 teaches that we are condemned by our own personal sins (as it does), then the corollary truth is that we are justified by our own personal deeds of righteousness. That's not good; actually it's heresy. And we've got the same problem with the Corruption View, because if we are condemned in Adam because we become inherently corrupt (as this view teaches), then the corollary truth is that we are justified in Christ because we become inherently righteous. That's also a denial of the gospel. The essence of the doctrine of justification is that in Christ, sinners are declared to be right with God totally apart from any good works or inward righteousness of their own. And Paul's telling us we were condemned the same way we're justified: through imputation. It was Adam's imputed sin that condemned us; and it's Christ's imputed righteousness that justifies us.18
Mapping out the Theological Implications of the three major views:
The PELAGIAN View:
Why we're condemned: Because of our own actual sinful deeds
Which means, why we're justified: Because of our own actual deeds of righteousness
The CORRUPTION View:
Why we're condemned: Because of our inward corruption
Which means, why we're justified: Because of our inward righteousness
The CLASSICAL View:
Why we're condemned: Because of Adam's sin imputed to us
Which means, why we're justified: Because of Christ's righteousness imputed to us
A Final Synopsis of the Different Views of Romans 5:12: “for all sinned”:
The PELAGIAN View:
Not true grammatically: the text doesn't say “all sin” or “all have sinned” but “all sinned”
Not true contextually: this interpretation contradicts what Paul goes on to say in vv13-14
Not true structurally: this understanding is inconsistent with the heart of the passage in vv15-19
Not true experientially: infants die who have never sinned according to Pelagius' definition
Not true theologically: the corollary truth is that we are justified by our own good deeds
The CORRUPTION View:
Not true grammatically: to say that “all sinned” does not mean that “all were made corrupt”
Not true structurally: this understanding is inconsistent with the heart of the passage in vv15-19
Not true biblically: the Bible teaches we are punished with corruption because of Adam's sin
Not true theologically: the corollary truth is we are justified by becoming inherently righteous
The CLASSICAL View:
TRUE grammatically: “all sinned” at a particular time—in and with Adam when he sinned
TRUE contextually: what Paul goes on to say in vv13-14 fits perfectly with this interpretation
TRUE structurally: this interpretation fits perfectly with the heart of the passage in vv15-19
TRUE theologically: the corollary truth is we are justified by Christ's imputed righteousness
CONCLUSION: So, when Paul says in Romans 5:12 that “death spread to all men, because all sinned,” he's not saying that all of us suffer death because of our own personal sins (the Pelagian View), nor is he saying that all of us suffer death because of our inherent corrupt nature (the Corruption View). He's saying that all of us suffer the penal consequent of death because as our covenant representative, we were reckoned guilty and condemned with Adam in and through his sin: “when he sinned, we sinned; when he fell, we fell; and we die because we have been accounted as having sinned in and with him” in his sin.19
1 The Classical View is also called Immediate Imputation.
2 For examples of imputed sin in the Old Testament, see Lesson 2, Section V, Number 2, sub-section B.
3 Imputed guilt from Adam is a teaching that began to appear, it seems, with Ambrosiaster and Augustine in the 4th century A.D. (Moo, p326). Augustine held that “Such was the union between Adam and his descendants, that the same consequences of his transgression came on them that fell upon him. . .involving both guilt and corruption. . .[and] that the loss of original righteousness and the corruption of nature consequent on the fall of Adam are penal inflictions, being the punishment of his first sin.” (Hodge, Systematics, p136). Thus, “from the beginning, the universal Church has agreed in holding that the guilt of Adam's first sin was directly charged to the account of the human race in mass, just as it was charged to himself. Likewise, Adam's first sin was punished in the race by desertion and consequent depravity, just as it was punished in him.” (Hodge, The Imputation of Adam's First Sin To His Posterity, #13). Again, in his Systematic Theology, Hodge writes: “The imputation of Adam’s sin has been the doctrine of the Church universal in all ages. It was the doctrine of the Jews, derived from the plain teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures. It was and is the doctrine of the Greek, Latin, Lutheran, and Reformed churches. Its denial is a novelty. . .The points of diversity in reference to this subject do not relate to the fact that Adam’s sin is imputed to his posterity, but either to the grounds of that imputation or to its consequences. . .The Lutherans and Reformed held the same doctrine with more consistency and earnestness. But in all this diversity it was universally admitted, first, that certain evils are inflicted upon all mankind on account of Adam’s sin; and, secondly, that those evils are penal.” (p160).
4 See the last quote in the previous footnote (Hodge, Systematic Theology, p160).
5 Hodge, Romans.
6 Hodge, Systematic Theology, p175.
7 Hodge says: “the act of Adam was not the act of all men. . .it is impossible that they acted his act. To say that a man acted thousands of years before his personality began, does not rise even to the dignity of a contradiction; it has no meaning at all.”
8 Dr. Lewis Johnson Jr: the condemnation “is traced to the act of one man, not the act of all men.” (Sermon on Romans 5).
9 Haldane says: “The assertion...that Adam's sin is as truly ours as it was his, does not imply that it is his and ours in the same sense. It was his personally; it is ours because we were in him. Adam's sin, then, is as truly ours as it was his sin, though not in the same way.” Hodge: “Adam's sin may be said to be imputed to us because it is ours, inasmuch as it is the sin of the divinely constituted head and representative of our race. But it is not ours in the same sense in which it was his.” (Systematic,s p169).
10 One final objection against the Realist View: Just as Mediate Imputation cannot explain why it is that Adam's corruption is transmitted to his posterity, so here, the Realist View leaves unexplained why it is that Adam's sin is considered to be our own, but the sins of our other ancestors are not. As Vos again notes: “The theory of the realistic mode of being in Adam leaves entirely unexplained how Adam's sin can be imputed to us and the sins of all our other ancestors cannot.” (See Vos, V2, p39).
11 Hodge, Systematic Theology, p154.
12 Much of the following is compiled again from Hodge.
13 As Bavinck notes, the Greek verb used in Romans 5:12 for 'sinned', “refers not to a sinful state but to an act.” (V3, p84).
14 Hodge, Romans.
15 As John Murray points out: “In verses 13 and 14 Paul says the opposite [of what Pelagians teach about verse 12]. . .If all die because they are guilty of actual transgression [IE, the Pelagian View], then they die because they sin just as Adam did. But [in vv13-14] Paul says the reverse; some died even though they did not sin after the pattern of Adam.” (Romans, p183).
16 In short, this is because Paul is arguing in verses 13-14 that the fact that all men die testifies to the fact that all men have broken a law, since death is the enforcement of a penalty, and penalties only exist in the context of law. So, all men must have transgressed a law. What Paul then goes on to show in verses 13-14 is that this law that all men have transgressed cannot be the actual, personal sins that men commit, either against the Law of Moses on the one hand, or the law written on their hearts on the other. This latter fact rules out the Pelagian View of verse 12. But the former, that all men must have transgressed a law, seems to also rule out the Corruption View, for being inherently corrupt is not the same as being guilty of breaking a law.
17 A quote from Hodge, Romans. IE: Q) Why doesn't Paul tell us clearly what he means? A) He does, later in verses 18-19.
18 As Hodge says: “That doctrine on which the hope of God's people, either implicitly or explicitly, has ever been founded is, that the righteousness of Christ as something out of themselves, something distinguished from any act or subjective state of theirs, is the ground of their justification. They know that there is nothing in them on which they dare for a moment rely, as the reason why God should accept and pardon them. It is therefore the essential part of the analogy between Christ and Adam, the very truth which the apostle designs to set forth, that the sin of Adam, as distinguished from any act of ours, and from inherent corruption as derived from him, is the ground of our condemnation. If this be denied, then the other great truth must be denied, and our own subjective righteousness be made the ground of our justification; which is to subvert the gospel. . .The scope of the passage. . .is to illustrate the doctrine of justification on the ground of the righteousness of Christ, by a reference to the condemnation of men for the sin of Adam. The analogy is destroyed, the very point of the comparison fails, if anything in us be assumed as the ground of the infliction of the penal evils of which the apostle is here speaking.” (Romans). And again, in his commentary on Romans: “That we have corrupt natures, and are personally sinners, and therefore liable to other and further inflictions, is indeed true, but nothing to the point. In like manner it is true that we are sanctified by our union with Christ, and thus fitted for heaven; but these ideas are out of place when speaking of justification. It is to illustrate that doctrine, or the idea of imputed righteousness, that this whole passage is devoted; and, therefore, the idea of imputed sin must be contained in the other part of the comparison, unless the whole be a failure.” (Hodge, Romans). Consider the following especially in comparing the implications of the Corruption View versus the Classical View: 1a) If inherent corruption IS the basis of our condemnation in Adam, then inherent righteousness is the basis of our justification in Christ. 1b) But, if inherent corruption is NOT the basis of our condemnation in Adam, then inherent righteousness is NOT the basis of our justification in Christ. 2a) If imputed sin IS the basis of our condemnation in Adam, then imputed righteousness is the basis of our justification in Christ. 2b) But, if imputed sin is NOT the basis of our condemnation in Adam, then imputed righteousness is NOT the basis of our justification in Christ. 3a) But if inherent corruption IS rather the proof/result/outworking/fruit (rather than the basis/grounds) of our condemnation in Adam, then inherent righteousness is the proof/result/outworking/fruit (rather than the basis/grounds) of our justification in Christ. 3b) But if inherent corruption is NOT the proof/result/outworking/fruit (but rather the basis/grounds) of our condemnation in Adam, then inherent righteousness is NOT the proof/result/outworking/fruit (but rather the basis/grounds) of our justification in Christ.
19 Quote from Douglas Moo, Romans, p328. As the Catechism puts it: “The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.” (The Westminster Shorter Catechism, question #16). OBJECTIONS TO THE CLASSICAL VIEW: What are the major objections to the Classical View? OBJECTION #1: How does this teaching of condemnation based on imputed sin fit with Scriptures such as Luke 10:28, or Romans 10:5 and Galatians 3:12? If we are already condemned because of Adam's imputed sin, how do we understand these Scriptures that seem to promise life to any who might keep God's commands perfectly? RESPONSE: Many of these Scriptures may be taken in a hypothetical way. As Hodge puts it: “while the Pelagian doctrine is to be rejected, which teaches that each man comes into the world free from sin and free from condemnation, and stands his probation in his own person, it is nevertheless true that where there is no sin there is no condemnation. Hence our Lord said to the young man, 'This do and thou shalt live.' And hence the Apostle in the second chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, says that God will reward every man according to his works. To those who are good, He will give eternal life; to those who are evil, indignation and wrath. This is only saying that the eternal principles of justice are still in force. If any man can present himself before the bar of God and prove that he is free from sin, either imputed or personal, either original or actual, he will not be condemned. But the fact is that the whole world lies in wickedness. Man is an apostate race. Men are all involved in the penal and natural consequences of Adam's transgression. They stood their probation in him, and do not stand each man for himself.” (Systematic Theology, V2, p122). OBJECTION #2: How does this teaching of condemnation based on imputed sin fit with Scriptures such as Romans 2:5-6 that evidently declare the truth that all men will be judged according to their own deeds (as opposed to the single deed of Adam)? First, we would reaffirm here that we believe Scripture is declaring in Romans 5:12-21 that men are condemned solely on account of the sin of Adam imputed to them. What we can't say is that men are doubly condemned: condemned for Adam's sin but also condemned for their own sins. Because to say that would stand against the foundation of justification, as we have shown. We're condemned in Adam the same way we're justified in Christ. So, if we're condemned both on account of Adam's sin and our own sin, then the corollary truth is that we're justified both on account of Christ's righteousness as well as our own righteousness. Or, if we say that our own sins add to our condemnation, then the corollary truth is that our own righteousness adds to our justification. That's heresy. So, it's Adam's sin, and his sin alone imputed to us that condemns us. But then what do we do with the Scriptures that seem to speak of condemnation for actual sin, such as Romans 2:5-6? RESPONSE: There's a difference between condemnation and punishment. All men are condemned solely on account of Adam's sin—but the specific degree of punishment that men experience varies based on actual sins they commit (their deeds). As Robert Haldane says of Romans 2:5-6, “there will be a diversity of punishment, according to the number or greatness of the sins of each individual, not only as to the nature, but also the degree, of their works, good or bad; for the punishment of all will not be equal” (Romans, p83). This understanding lines up perfectly with the corollary truth in justification. Are there rewards in glory? Yes, rewards of grace. Are there degrees of glory? We would say yes—everyone's cup will be full but the size of the cup will differ—whether a shot-glass, a big-gulp, a barrel, a swimming pool, an ocean—the size will differ. Just as it's Adam's sin alone that condemns us, but there are degrees of punishment hereafter (cf. Jesus' words in Matt.11:22; Lk.10:14), which are based on the way we live our life; so too it's Christ's righteousness alone that justifies us, but there are degrees of glory and rewards of grace hereafter, which are based on the way we live our life. After all, Romans 2:5-6 doesn't say we're judged “on account of” our deeds but “according to” our deeds. The unbelieving will be punished, not on account of—but according to their sinful deeds, just as the believing will be rewarded not on account of—but according to their righteous deeds. So then, our deeds are not presented as the basis of our punishment or reward—but rather as that which determines the extent. Our actual, personal sins don't add to our condemnation—we're already condemned—but they add to the degree of punishment we'll experience in the next life. So it is with rewards of grace. Our actual, personal deeds wrought in love for the glory of God in no way add to our justification! But they do add, I believe Scripture teaches, to the degree and weight of glory we'll experience hereafter. So, dear brothers and sisters, don't think that imputation means it doesn't matter anymore how we live. It certainly does. OBJECTION #3: What about Scriptures such as Deuteronomy 24:16 and Ezekiel 18:1-23 that say that sons will not be punished for the sins of their fathers, but rather that all will be punished for their own sins? RESPONSE: Deuteronomy 24:16 says, “Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.” This verse seems to strike against the doctrine of imputation. If what we've been saying is true, how are we to explain this verse? We mentioned earlier that one basic principle in Bible interpretation is that we interpret Scriptures that are less clear in light of the Scriptures that are more clear. Well, another principle in Bible interpretation is that to really understand any particular verse in Scripture, it must be interpreted in light of the context its given. So, to really understand what Deuteronomy 24:16 is saying, we have to look at the context. And when we look at the context, what we see right away is that this verse isn't referring to imputed sin or anything of that nature at all. Deuteronomy 24 is talking about how things should operate in civil society. It's not talking about God's dealings with man; it's talking about capital punishment in the context of civil society. And in the context of society, sons ought not be put to death for the sins of their fathers. Here is a man who is a terrorist and has killed dozens of people. Well, what God is telling us in Deuteronomy 24:16 is that we are not permitted to execute this man's children along with him. The right way to preserve justice in civil society is to punish those alone who have committed crimes worthy of punishment. Okay. So, this passage isn't dealing with imputation at all, it's dealing with capital punishment as it relates to civil society. And we can use this same interpretative principle—understanding the context of a given verse—for the passage in Ezekiel. The context of Ezekiel is that God's people were being carted away into exile. And one of the reasons they were going into exile was because of the accumulated sins of their fathers. So a certain proverb became a popular saying, that the fathers have eaten the sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge (verse 2). In other words, our fathers sinned but we're the ones paying for it. They were the ones who disobeyed, but we are the ones going into exile. This is the context of Ezekiel 18. And what God is telling the Jews of Ezekiel's day is that it wasn't just because of the sins of their fathers that they were going into exile—it was because of their own sins. They thought themselves wholly innocent in the matter. They were full of self-righteousness. And God is confronting them with the fact that they're just as sinful and disobedient as their fathers, and that they weren't being led into exile for the sins of anyone except themselves. So, this passage in Ezekiel isn't about imputation either. It's teaching us about God's dealings with His covenant people in the course of redemptive history, and explaining why it is that the Lord at times subjects them to seasons of discipline. OBJECTION #4: Is imputed sin fair? It's an important objection. As one put it: “if you've never felt that, if you've never felt the force of that objection, I think it's probably because you've never thought about imputation.” We ought to feel this if we really understand imputation. We covered this last objection earlier in Lesson 2; please feel free to turn back there for review.