Adam Was Our Covenant Representative
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
– Genesis 2:16-17
When Adam was given rules in the Garden of Eden he entered into a special relationship with God. Adam was more than an image bearer of God, he was father of all mankind. He represented the whole family of the world before God.
Another way to think about Adam is that he was our elder brother. The rules set for the oldest child tend to become the rules for the rest of the family. This was true in the garden. The rules for Adam are the rules for us. Some of these rules (like not eating from a specific tree) are no longer relevant because we don’t live in the garden. Other rules (like being fruitful and taking dominion) are still with us today.
Adam’s special relationship with God, his representative nature, is intrinsic to basic Christian beliefs about sin, death, and new life in Christ. The technical name of these truths is Federal Headship. Federal, however, doesn’t mean national – it used to have a meaning much more like covenant. And headship means something like representative.
Covenant is more than a simple promise – it is a vow with blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. Adam had a covenant with God in the garden to obey Him. If he had succeeded in obeying we would enjoy the blessing of life in the garden today.