And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Genesis 2:16-17, KJV)

“After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after his own image; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it: and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.”

– Wesmintster Confession of Faith, 4.2

Yesterday, we looked at what the Refomers taught about the age of the earth and the manner of creation.

Today, we will examine Adam, the covenant God made with him, and why belief in an historical Adam is necessary to understand our salvation in Christ. If we do not understand our original state, we will not understand how greatly we fell. If we do not believe that this man was an historical person, then we do not believe Christ’s work on the cross was an historical necessity. Yes, it is that simple.

First we we know that God made man – male and female – after his own image. What does that mean? In church history, the image of God has been a subject of great discussion.  In brief, the Westminster Confession gives us a definition that I think best explains the whole biblical witness and accords with good judgement about the nature of God and of man:

Man was made with knowledge (he had reason), righteousness and holiness (he had affections and will that were good and true).

Calvin comments on the image of God in the following way. Reading his whole commentary on Genesis 1:27 is well worth your time, since he gives a summary of various views in church history on the image of God. His conclusions roughly match what Westminster tells us:

Therefore by this word the perfection of our whole nature is designated, as it appeared when Adam was endued with a right judgment, had affections in harmony with reason, had all his senses sound and well-regulated, and truly excelled in everything good. Thus the chief seat of the Divine image was in his mind and heart, where it was eminent: yet was there no part of him in which some scintillations of it did not shine forth.

– Commentary on Genesis 1:27

This was man’s original state. This is what it means when God created him good. All men, in Adam, were orginally created good. Sound judgement, senses, and will were proper to man before the fall.

We must understand this if we are to understand what we fell from.

Also, when God made this man, He made him so that he had proper faculties of reason, affections, and will, in order to covenant with him. If God is good and just, then He may only make a covenant requiring perfect obedience with a man who can make sound judgements and offer perfect obedience to God. Man did not have an inclination to sin, or imperfect judgement or will. Man did not need to “mature” in the garden, as some theologians have argued. He was made perfect, the law written on his heart (the natural law which in its substance is the same as the moral law given at Sinai), and was also given a command not to eat of a tree in the garden.

When he was given this command, he was given a covenant. A covenant is an agreement which consists of a stipulation, a blessing, and a curse.

Stipulation = do not eat of the tree.

Blessing = eternal life

Curse = death

Some today deny the covenant of works made with Adam. They must adequately deal with this verse of Scripture:

But they like men [Heb. Adam] have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me. (Hosea 6:7, KJV)

To our final point, Adam as an historical figure. If Adam was not an historical person, we have no reason to believe that he is our federal (covenantal) head. That his sin is transferred to us by way of covenant. All who are without Christ, are in Adam and in the covenant of works. This is about what we must be saved from. If we don’t have an historical Adam, we have no need for Christ. This is a gospel issue.

Tomorrow, we will discuss the fall, and how God, even then, we establishing another covenant – one of grace – to save us from our sins. In Adam, we have a covenant curse placed upon us. In Christ, he has taken that curse from us.

My good friend Tony Arsenal recently wrote a good piece on typology and covenant headship at this blog, I recommend it to you.

Also, if you are interested in learning more about the case for Historical Adam, I recommend this lecture as well as this book.



I am a Reformed Presbyterian. I offer all content as my own personal reflections. I am not a licensed minister.