“For such an High Priest became us,
who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate
from sinners, and made higher than the
Throughout the ages the Church has confessed that Christ took upon Himself real human nature from the virgin Mary, not as it was before the fall, but such as it had become, by and after the fall.
This is clearly stated in
With equal assurance, however, bowing to the authority of the Scripture, we confess that this intimate union of the Son of God with the fallen human nature does not imply the least participation
Therefore the mystery of the Incarnation lies in the apparent contradiction of Christ’s union with our fallen nature, which on the one hand is so intimate as to make Him susceptible to its temptations, while on the other hand He is completely cut off from all fellowship with its sin. The confession which weakens or eliminates either of these factors must, when logically developed, degenerate into serious heresy. By saying, “The Mediator is conceived and born in our nature, as it was before the fall,” we sever the fellowship between Him and us; and by allowing that He had the least personal part of our guilt and sin, we sever His fellowship with the divine nature.
Does the Scripture not teach then that the Mediator was made sin and bore the curse for us, and “as a worm and no man” suffered deepest distress?
We answer: Yea, verily, without this we could have no redemption. But in all this He acted as our Substitute. His own personality was not in the least affected by it. His burdening Himself with our sins was a High-Priestly act, performed vicariously. He was made sin, but never a sinner. Sinner means one who is personally affected by sin; Christ’s person never was. He never had any fellowship with sin other than that of love and compassion, to bear it as our High Priest and Substitute. Yet, tho He was exceedingly sorrowful even unto death, tho He was sorely tempted so that He
cried out, “Let this cup pass from Me,”
A close examination of the way by which we become partakers of sin will shed more light on this subject.
Every individual sin is not of our own begetting only, but a participation in the common sin, the one mighty sin of the whole
For this reason the Church has always laid such stress upon the doctrine of inherited guilt, as declared by St. Paul in
God is our Creator, and from His hands we came forth pure and undefiled. To teach otherwise is to make Him the Author of individual sin, and to destroy the sense of guilt in the soul. Hence sin, especially original sin, does not originate in our creation by the hand of God, but by our vital relation with the sinful race. Our person does not proceed from our parents. This is in direct conflict with the indivisibility of spirit, with the Word of God, and its confession that God is our Creator, “who has also made me.”
However, all creation is not the same. There is mediate and immediate creation. God created light by immediate creation, but grass and herbs mediately, for they spring from the ground. The same difference exists between the creation of Adam and that of his posterity. The creation of Adam was immediate: not of his body, which was taken from the dust, but of his person, the human being called Adam. His posterity, however, is a mediate creation, for every conception is made to depend upon the will of man. Hence while we come from the hand of God pure and undefiled, we become at the same time partakers of the inherited and imputed guilt of Adam; and by virtue of this inherited guilt, through our conception and birth, God brings us into fellowship with the sin of the race. How this is brought about is an unfathomable mystery but this is a fact, that we become partakers of the sin of the race by generation, which begins with conception and ends with birth.
And now, with reference to the Person of Christ, everything depends upon the question whether the original guilt of Adam was imputed also to the man Jesus Christ.
If so, then, like all other men, Christ was conceived and born in sin by virtue of this original guilt. Where imputed original guilt is, there must be sinful defilement. But, on the other hand, where it is not, sinful defilement can not be; hence He that is called holy and harmless must be undefiled. Adam’s guilt was not imputed to the man Jesus Christ. If it were, then He was also conceived and born in sin; then He did not suffer vicariously, but for Himself personally; then there can be no blood of reconciliation. If the original guilt of Adam was imputed to the man Jesus Christ, then by virtue of His sinful conception and birth He was also subject to death and condemnation, and He could not have received life but by regeneration. Then it also follows that either this Man is Himself in need of a Mediator, or that we, like Him, can enter into life without a Go-between.
But this whole representation is without foundation, and is to be rejected without qualification. The whole Scripture opposes it. Adam’s guilt is imputed to his posterity. But Christ is not a descendant of Adam. He existed before Adam. He was not born passively as we, but Himself took upon Him the human flesh. He does not stand under Adam as His head, but is Himself a new
Head, having others under Him, of whom He saith: “Behold Me and the children whom Thou hast given Me”
Calvin College. Last modified on 08/11/06. Contact the CCEL.