By: Andrew M. Gilhooley
A biblical concept westerners fail to grasp as a consequence of Enlightenment thinking is that of ‘corporate solidarity’: the notion that one person represents many people. For example, in Scripture, priests, prophets, and kings represented the nation of Israel, and fathers represented families. The people were so closely identified with their representatives that God even looked upon the people as if they had done the righteous or the wicked deeds done by their representatives (Beale: 2011, 652). If the representative leader was righteous then the people under his headship were showered with blessing on account of their leader’s righteousness; if the leader was wicked then the people were cursed with judgment on account of their leader’s wickedness. Essentially, the divine fate of the biblical people depended on the deeds of their leaders who represented them.
A prime example of many people being showered with blessing on account of their one representative’s righteousness is Noah’s family. By the time of Genesis 6:5, all of humanity was corrupted and wicked, except one man: Noah.
“Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9).
God was preparing the judge the entire world with a flood because of their wickedness, but as a corollary of Noah’s righteousness God had grace on him and ordered him to build an ark which would deliver him from the cursed floodwaters. Interestingly, it is not only righteous Noah who is allowed to enter into the ark in order to be delivered from the waters of judgment, but also his entire household, who were under his authority and headship:
“Then the LORD said to Noah, ‘Enter the ark, you alone and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time’” (Gen. 7:1).
Noah’s household received the blessing of deliverance on account of Noah’s righteousness, for they were represented by his headship. Without Noah’s righteousness, his household would have perished in the flood. Noah’s family was identified with him by the concept of corporate solidarity.
Another example, this one being many people judged with cursing on account of their one representative’s wickedness, is Achan’s family. Upon conquering Jericho in the land of Canaan, the Lord through the mouth Joshua issued a ban on all the spoil of the city:
“Joshua said to the people, ‘Shout! For the LORD has given you [Jericho]. The city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in it belongs to the LORD. . .as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, so that you do not covet them and take some of the things under the ban, and make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it. But all the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD’” (Josh. 6:17-19).
In spite of this command, Achan of the tribe of Judah broke the ban and took for himself a mantle, two-hundred shekels of silver, and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight (Josh. 7:1, 20-21). His disobedience and unrighteousness brought upon himself the punishment of stoning, not only for him but also for his entire household:
“Then Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the mantle, the bar of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him; and they brought them up to the valley of Achor. Joshua said, ‘Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.’ And all Israel stoned them with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones” (Josh. 7:24-25).
Achan’s household suffered the cursing of judgment on account of Achan’s wickedness, for they were represented by his headship. If it were not for Achan’s disobedience, his household would not have suffered such judgment. Again, Achan’s family was identified with him by the concept of corporate solidarity.
Such identification does not seem fair to us, does it? And as a result of such false presuppositions our present age distances itself from such ‘primitive concepts’. We boast in individualism, proudly sever ties of identification, and look down on anyone who maintains them. This, however, was not the way anyone, either regenerate or reprobate, viewed society throughout antiquity. In fact, until the time of the eighteenth century Enlightenment, just about every culture throughout the history of humanity unashamedly held to the concept of corporate solidarity and scorned anyone who rejected it.
Such a neglect of the concept of corporate solidarity has infiltrated the western church in catastrophic measures. As a result, the notion of covenant children has all but faded and elders are no longer viewed as the congregation’s spiritual representatives before God (these are just two of many examples.) As Christians, we must strive to fight against such post-Enlightenment thinking and labor to revive the concept of corporate solidarity in our churches, not merely because we need to grind against the grain of modern society, but because our salvation depends on its truthfulness.
Adam, our federal representative, disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden by partaking of the forbidden fruit. Since he is our representative, such sin and the death that followed was imputed to all men, even to us living in the twenty-first century. Adam was our federal head, and in him all men under his representation fell from an estate of innocence into an estate of sin and misery and death. We are identified with Adam by the concept of corporate solidarity.
But thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ who did not leave us in such an estate of sin and misery and death! For Jesus the Anointed One was a second and greater Adam, who obeyed the Father actively in all things and never fell into transgression like the former, while also giving up His life passively as a vicarious sacrifice for His elect. As a second Adam, He is therefore a federal representative, and all who identify with him receive the imputation of His righteousness and the benefits of His sacrificial death. When God looks upon believers, he no longer identifies them with unrighteous Adam, but instead with the righteous second Adam, Jesus His Son. By faith we are identified with Jesus because of the concept of corporate solidarity (e.g. we are ‘in Christ’) and as a corollary receive salvation and eternal life. Such a concept once brought us into an estate of sin and misery and death, but now it places us presently in an estate of salvation, and ultimately one day will usher us into the eternal estate of glory. Amen.
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—for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus the Anointed One, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus the Anointed One.
So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men (that is ‘all men’ who identify with Christ, my emphasis). For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, questions 12-21
Q. 12. What special act of providence did God exercise towards man in the estate wherein he was created?
A. When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.
Q. 13. Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created?
A. Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God.
Q. 14. What is sin?
A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.
Q. 15. What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?
A. The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit.
Q. 16. Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?
A. The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.
Q. 17. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.
Q. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.
Q. 19. What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.
Q. 20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A. God, having out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.
Q. 21. Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?
A. The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever.
--Andrew M. Gilhooley is currently a sophomore at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida. Among his hobbies are fishing, archery, writing, playing piano, and reading classic literature. Upon graduation, he plans to attend graduate school and possibly enter into bible translation ministry.