Why Do We Get Punished for What Adam Did?

Isn’t it harsh for God to punish all of Adam’s descendants for something Adam did?

When Adam sinned his punishment was death (Genesis 2:17). Because of Adam’s sin, death came upon all men. Some have said that it is harsh for God to punish all of Adam’s descendants for something Adam did. But is it?

The answer is simple—we are without excuse since we sin too (Romans 3:23; 5:12), and we all deserve death before a perfect Holy God. To assume Adam’s descendants are innocent is a false assumption. Due to the sin nature received from Adam, death is coming for all since all have sinned (Romans 3:23).

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned. (Romans 5:12)

It is illogical to think that two imperfect people could produce perfect offspring.  Since Adam and Eve had both sinned and been cursed then it would be impossible for their children to be perfectly free from sin. So the real question is: why would God permit sin nature to pass along to Adam’s descendants?1 Doesn’t that seem harsh? Recall, the Bible says:

Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him. (Hebrews 7:9–10)

Consider that the book of Hebrews points out that Levi was in the loins (body) of his ancestor Abraham when he paid tithes to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20).

If this applies to each person being “in” their ancestors, then we could say Abraham was in the body of Noah before the Flood. And Noah was in the body of his ancestor Adam when he sinned! In a sense, we were all in Adam when he sinned! This explains why we inherit a sin nature. When Adam sinned, a sin nature came over them and since we were in them and our life came from them, we inherit this nature as well.

So far, this all sounds like bad news—and it is—but there is good news.

For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21–22)

Through Adam, death came into the world. Jesus came and demonstrated He has power over death. Thus, those who are in Christ, will be saved and death will have no sting.

“O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55–57)

Although death seems to be inevitable for all, one day God will put an end to this enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). The life that we have came through Adam and ultimately from God (Genesis 2:7). God owns us and gives us our very being (Hebrews 1:3; Acts 17:28; Colossians 1:16–18), and it is He whom we should follow instead of sin. Because of the sin of our first parents, the human race needs a Savior. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, stepped into history to take this punishment for sin. Such a loving feat shows that God loves mankind and wants to see us return to Him. God, the Author, Sustainer, and Redeemer of life, is truly the One to be praised.


  1. Christian scholars have wrestled with the exact process by which Adam’s sin is passed on (this will be in an upcoming article). The two major views are the federal headship and seminal headship views. This raises issues that should be discussed in the future article and is beyond the scope of this article.


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