What Is Man, Part 3

In our study of man, we’ve discussed one of the most profound and significant verses in all the Bible:

what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? (Psalms 8:4 | NIV84)

To me, that is just a remarkable verse; far more remarkable than so many of the things theologians and so-called Bible scholars like argue about. The very fact that God – the Creator of all – takes time to give us, sinful human beings, a thought is staggering enough, but that He is actually “mindful,” watching us carefully and paying attention to us and our circumstances, is, as they say, mind-blowing. But there it is: God is mindful of human beings. He does indeed pay attention to us, and sometimes, in startling ways and in ways so subtle we don’t even notice, the Lord steps into our stream of history and intervenes to change things; to move us along in the direction He wants us to go in.

We’ve also looked at the fact that God created human beings in His “image” and “likeness.” That is, men and women have a rationality, morality, spirituality, and personality missing in lower forms of life. We are able to relate to God and people all the while being the masters of all of creation.

Human beings are the highest forms of God’s creation. All other parts of creation are for the purpose of serving man, just as man’s ultimate, best purpose is to serve God. Man, unlike animals, is theocentric. Whether he knows it or not, or whether he acknowledges it or not, man was created to have his Creator at the center of his life. Man has a built-in desire to worship God, but because of sin, unredeemed man wanders around his whole life, finding other, sinful ways to satiate that desire. Therefore, he ends up worshipping gods of his own making: his job, his family, his hobbies, power, money, sex, and so on.

As far as the two (there are only two, by the way) sexes go, God created them to be equal. While men and women are different and are capable of doing things unique to their particular sex, they are equal since they were both created in ONE image and likeness: God’s. Sin has seriously damaged that equality, so that without God, it seems as though the sexes are not equal. That’s a result of sin; human beings brought that inequality on themselves. Of note, though, is that “in Christ,” there is neither male nor female. In Christ, that equality is completely restored.

And we considered the immaterial, spiritual side of man: his soul and spirit. All living beings have a soul, but the soul of animals is an “earthly soul,” while man’s soul is animated by his spirit, which was breathed into him from Creator. The human soul and spirit are different; they are separate yet inseparable.

The soul and the body

How is your soul related to you body? There are three ways:

First, the soul may be called “the holder of life.” That’s why, for example, the word “life” is interchanged with “soul” in the Bible. The soul seems to infuse the body with life, so that when the soul is gone, the body dies – it no longer exists. When the soul leaves the body, all that remains is a lifeless husk – a bunch of material pieces and particles in a state of even more rapid decay.

Second, the soul inhabits every part of the body and influences all off its parts. That’s why we read odd things like this:

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered…. (Psalms 73:21 | NIV84)

Without pity, he pierces my kidneys and spills my gall on the ground. (Job 16:13 | NIV84)

My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad;16 my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right. (Proverbs 23:15c-16 | NIV84)

Finally, it is through the body that the soul interacts with the physical world. The senses inform the soul. All the thinking, feeling, willing, and other acts are things the soul does, with the help of the body. It’s your soul that does the sinning with the help of the body.

Sin and the fall of man

When Adam and Eve sinned and man fell from grace, everything changed. The whole of God’s creation was changed, in both subtle and obvious ways. Especially changed was man, created in God’s image. God’s image in man wasn’t completely lost when sin entered the world:

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. (James 3:9 | NIV84)

That image, though, was severely damaged. For example, consider this verse in light of the world as we know it today:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:28 | NIV84)

Clearly, the earth isn’t subdued and it’s a bad idea for any man to attempt to exercise dominion over a charging elephant or a roaring lion! Man’s relationship to nature has been completely changed because of sin and the resultant curses upon both man and and nature.

As it is with nature, so it is his fellow human beings. Because of sin, the ability to live at peace and harmony with other people no longer comes easy, if at all. If healthy relationships with other people is all but impossible due to sin, it’s totally impossible to have a relationship with God apart from Jesus Christ and His work on the Cross. Why? Because sinful man is dead to God and forever alienated from Him.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3 | NIV84)

And, maybe worst of all, even if an unredeemed person gets it into his head to “clean up his act” and “do good deeds,” because of his unredeemed, sinful state, those good things do him no good at all.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6 | NIV84)

What was the big deal about Adam and Eve’s sin? Why did it cause all of God’s creation to become corrupt? It’s because of the nature of sin; particularly that of the first human couple. Theirs was no “moral lapse” or “an error in judgment.” Their sin was an outright rebellion against God. It was a conscious turning away from God and a rejection of Him. So serious was their sin that the moment they committed it, they began to die spiritually, which would very soon lead to the corruption of the body and to physical death.

In addition to spiritual and physical death, many were the consequences of that first sin. Paul touches on the subject in some of his writing:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness…. (Romans 1:18 | NIV84)

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (Romans 3:20 | NIV84)

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…. (Romans 5:12 | NIV84)

Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. (Romans 5:18 | NIV84)

The wrath of God, futility of good works, death, condemnation, all those things resulted from one rebellious act. But perhaps the greatest – or the saddest – result of the first sin was what it did to the human will.

Sin and human nature

When sin entered the world, the will of man – that of all human beings – became corrupt and his nature sinful. People act in accordance to their nature; nobody acts contrary to his nature. Another way to look at it is this: Righteous acts flow from a righteous nature; acts of corruption from a corrupt nature. It can never be otherwise. That’s not to say that  an unsaved person can’t perform a good deed; he can. Maybe his life is full of good deeds.  But he will always, without fail, return to his bent of corruption.

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. (John 8:33-34 | NIV84)

Jesus said it better than anyone ever could. If you sin, then you are a slave to sin.

This corruption of our will or the fact that our once godly nature turned sinful, has had a devastating effect upon our relationship to God. Once, we had the nature that God wanted us to have, but when Adam sinned, we inherited HIS now-corrupted and sinful nature, not the one God gave to him originally.

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…. (Romans 5:12 | NIV84)

What that means is this: Even the nicest citizen you can think of, if they haven’t been redeemed, then their nature is necessarily hostile toward God, even as Adam’s act of rebellion was hostile toward God. This hostile nature has made that nice citizen estranged from God.

The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. (Romans 8:6-8 | NIV84)

Man’s new nature, what we call “the human nature,” is totally corrupt, and that makes all unsaved people dead to God. Being totally corrupt doesn’t mean that human beings only do evil things all the time. It means that without being rescued from our sins by Jesus Christ, we will never be as good as we can be, and we are unable to do anything that God recognizes as righteous. Our day-to-day lives, decisions, and actions will always be affected by sin. We can, and sometimes do, make free and rational decisions that are good and decent, but those choices will always be influenced by our sinful nature.

The nature of sin

We know how and why sin entered the world, but a question that has nagged at philosophers and theologians and those who love Trivial Pursuit, is: How did evil enter the world in the first place? I’m going to skip the various teachings of Greek philosophers and the writings of Neibuhr and Marx.

What needs to be understood is that sin not a “thing.” Sin does not have “substance.” If sin were a “substance,” or a “thing,” it would have had to have been created by God, since He created everything. Even though sin is not a thing, it is real. It is more than just a defect. Sin is an active force that is destructive and corrupts all it touches.

Sin originated in the abuse of one of the greatest gifts God gave man: freedom. Man was created free, and he used that freedom to disregard the glory, will, and Word of God. So, evil is a matter of relationship; it leads one to disobey God and break away from a relationship with Him.  As a matter of fact, thanks to sin, man finds it hard to have a relationship with his fellow man.  Thoughts of jealousy, bitterness, hurt feelings, and so on, always complicate every single relationship we have with other people.  What’s worse, is that thanks to sin, man can’t even have a healthy relationship with himself!  Just think of all the self-destructive things a man does every day of his life.  He eats the wrong foods, he drives too fast, he takes pills to make himself fall asleep and pills to stay awake.  He abuses alcohol and drugs and even other people just to make himself feel better and to dull the mind-numbing pain of loneliness, of a broken heart, and of a futile existence.  This person is in the worst kind of rut, and he needs Jesus to lift him up and out.  Jesus, and only Jesus, can cure the curse of sin.

 

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