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Man and Sin

08 May 2018
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Welcome to our new topic for discussion this week, “Our Human Identity.” We will explore this important topic over the next few weeks. Let us begin by asking the great question asked by the Psalmist David, “What is man?” centuries ago. It is striking that this is the burning question of the 21st Century in the age of Science and technology. Is man merely a glorified animal? Or merely the sum total of all chemical and reactions? Or is man more than that?  From the outset, let me make it clear that the use of the word “Man” throughout this discussion is inclusive, both Male and female.

As the genetic code is deciphered and the electronic aspects of the brain’s functioning are understood, the problem becomes increasingly urgent. “Who am I?” The piercing question of identity must be answered by every person. Our answer, whether we realise it or not, has enormous influence upon our thinking and acting, our outlook, and our living. Never was it more important for a Christian to understand what the Bible says about human beings in order to have an anchor on the sea of human speculation.

The first question to answer is that of man’s origin. Where did man come from? ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (Gen. 1:1), says the Bible, and, ‘God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created’ (vv. 26, 27).

Scripture consistently teaches that neither the universe nor man himself is the product of blind chance. Man, especially, is the result of careful and purposeful deliberation on the part of the members of the triune Godhead.

Adam, the first man, was created in God’s image. Adam is a proper name, but the Hebrew term from which it comes also has the connotation of ‘Mankind’. It is frequently so used in the Old Testament. God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone,’ and to complement man He made a woman to be Adam’s helper (Genesis 2:18, 22).

‘Through faith we understand that the worlds (universe) were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear’ (Heb. 11:3). In other words, God created matter ex nihilo (out of nothing). He then formed matter into animate objects – plants, animals, and man.

The Bible does not claim to tell us how man and the universe were created. It does, however, assert emphatically and unambiguously that God brought them into being. Nowhere does the Bible attempt to prove God. It assumes Him. A Christian unashamedly begins with the assumption that God exists. He is convinced that the life, death and resurrection of Christ clearly bear out this assumption. Such assumption is not naïve or unintellectual, and we should keep in mind that unbelievers who reject the biblical view of Creation also begin with presuppositions and assumption on which they base their claims. Everyone begins somewhere with an assumption that is not provable in the scientific sense.

It is also important to realise that New Testament writers saw Adam as a person as historical as our Lord Himself. Paul clearly considered Adam to be a distinct individual as well as the prototype of fallen humanity (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:22). Our Lord spoke about the creation of man, confirming the Genesis account (Matt. 19:4). There is no reason for mythical or allegorical interpretation of the historicity of Adams creation and subsequent fall.

Man was distinct and unique from the rest of creation. He was to subdue it and have dominion over it. He is at the top of intelligent reasoning, and, above all, his moral and spiritual sense set him completely apart from all other creatures. No creature other than man has ever been observed building a chapel.

Genesis 2 gives further information on the creation of man: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul’ (v.7). It is clear that two elements were involved in man’s creation. One is ‘the dust of the ground’. The other a ‘breath of life’, which was given by God. The union of these two elements makes man a living being.

Man is clearly more than one substance. But are the components of his being three (body, soul, and spirit) or two (body and soul)? The Old Testament does not have a fixed term for the immaterial part of man’s nature. The term ‘soul’, ‘heart’, and ‘spirit’ are used as counterparts of the material side. Along with the term ‘body’ they included the whole man. The psalmist says, ‘My soul thirsts for thee, my flesh long for thee’ (63:1). But not all such biblical expressions indicate a twofold nature of man. Others just as plainly speak of three aspects of man’s being: “My soul longs …for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh cries out for the living God” (Psalm 84:2).

Should the God breathed part of man be viewed as two parts – i.e., “soul” and “spirit” separately – or as one? Hammond observes, “Soul” and “spirit” are certainly not to be regarded as synonymous in scriptural language. But, on the other hand, they are not kept invariably distinct. Compare Psalm 74:19 with Ecclesiastes 3:21; Matthew 10:28 with Luke 23:46; Acts 2:27 with 7:59. The references invoked in suggesting [threefold] division are those of 1 Thessalonian 5:23; Hebrews 4:12; cf. Luke 1:46, 47… But those who suggest [such a division] admit that soul and spirit, in the body, are separable only in thought. It would seem best to regard them as differing aspects of the same essence, and to remember that whatever distinctions are made for the spiritual purposes of scriptural teaching, there is a substratum which is common to both soul and spirit.

In any case, the Bible always views man as a unity, both material and immaterial. The Resurrection shows that man is as essentially body as he is essentially soul and spirit. The notion that man is a soul imprisoned in a body is a Greek concept, not a biblical one.

What does it mean that man was created in the image and likeness of God? It certainly does not mean that he has any physical likeness to God. Scripture clearly teaches that God is a Spirit and does not have physical parts like a man (John 4:24). The Bible uses anthropomorphic expressions, such as ‘the hand of God’, only to accommodate our human incapacity to think in any other terms. The strong prohibition against man’s representing God by graven images was given because no one had ever seen God and therefore could not know how He looked. Nothing on earth could represent Him (Deuteronomy 4:15-23; Exodus 20:4).

The image of God in man has to do, rather, with personality. Man has a ‘free, self-conscious, rational and moral personality like that of God – a nature capable of distinguishing right and wrong, of choosing the right and rejecting the wrong, and of ascending to the heights of spiritual attainment and communion with God.

The original man was intelligent. He could give names to all the animals when they were presented to him (Gen. 2:19, 20). He had the power of reasoning and thought. In speaking, he could connect words and ideas. He had moral and spiritual qualities. He could and did commune with God and had the power to resist moral evil or yield to it (Genesis 3). Because man has been created in the image of God, human life is inviolate. God instituted capital punishment (Genesis 9:6) for this reason.

By Rev. Eric D. Maefonea 

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