We died in Adam
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned
— Romans 5:12
Our inheritance from Adam is both our fallen nature and the curse of sin: death. Obviously, we all die. But the reason for our death is something we work very hard to hide. We consider our death to be the result of our own actions or those of the world around us: cancer, drugs, a car crash, a tsunami, or the flu. We would never say that our death was caused by our inheritance. But God teaches us something very different. We die because of Adam. We all died in him. He was our covenant representative, our federal head, and gave us our inheritance of death. This doesn’t mean that our own sins don’t condemn us. They do. We are guilty of sinning and of being a sinner.
Think of something like Jim Crow Laws. We tend to acknowledge two kinds of guilt with those laws: guilt for making them and guilt for implementing them. Very few people were involved with making those laws. Many more were responsible for implementing them. But everyone in the country was guilty of the laws by nature of being a U.S. citizen. It didn’t matter if you helped write them or if you put them into practice. You participated by being a citizen of this country.
Our sentence of death from Adam’s sin is of the same sort as this last kind of guilt. We weren’t in the garden. We didn’t eat the forbidden fruit. But we are children – citizens – of Adam. We are, therefore, guilty and need to remedy the problem.