Concerning Man and His Need
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
Tonight we are dealing with man and the fall of man. This is a combination of two very important scriptural truths. Usually, they represent two quite distinct areas of theological study; that is, the doctrine of who man is and how he functions, and then the effect of sin. We are combining those in Doctrinal Statement number three, which reads:
Concerning Man and His Need
“We believe that man was created in the image of God, but because of Adam’s sin that image was damaged, and that all human beings are now born with a sinful nature, are unable to function in moral responsibility before God, and need a spiritual regeneration before they can become what they were meant to be.”
All of that is subsumed under the title “What is Man?”, as we know him today. That, by the way, is the question that the psalmist, David, asks in Psalm 8. Addressing God, he says, “What is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him?” He answers the question in the psalm by saying, “You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings” (NIV). For at least a time, man is somewhere in between the level of the angelic beings of pure spirit without body, (though they can at times assume bodies) and the animal creation with which we are familiar. Man does not belong to either. He has roots in the animal creation, and he has relationship to the angelic realm, but he is somewhat in between, a unique creature according to the biblical point of view. We are going to try to answer, as briefly and as quickly as possible, that question: “What is Man?”
Our statement says that we believe man was created in the image of God. The great debate is over what constitutes that image in man. What makes us different from the animals? We obviously have life, as the animals have life. They can die, and we can lose that life. There is some resemblance between man’s reasoning powers and animals’ thinking processes. It differs widely in the animal kingdom, but there is at least some resemblance there. Anyone who has an intelligent dog knows it can sometimes respond in most unusual ways. It seems to even read your mind and know your thinking. But there are differences. There are three things man can do that animals cannot do. And this, I think, constitutes what the Bible calls “the image of God” in man. Remember in Genesis God said, “Let us make man in our image”, and he created them male and female.
As an aside I point out that this whole controversy over whether women ought to be addressed with female terms, women insisting they be called “chairwomen” or whatever else is a counterpart to “man”, is really unnecessary if you understand what the Bible is saying. Because in chapter one of Genesis it says God created them male and female, and he named them “man”. He named male and female “man”. We have lost the consciousness that the word “man” includes both male and female, so that now society contends it only refers to male. That’s why women understandably feel left out. If you interpret it as reference only to males, then of course it is justifiable that women should feel left out and ignored and not represented. But the Bible does not do that. From the beginning, the Bible represents that women have as much right to that term as men do.
In fact, women have every right, as the New Testament would make clear, to the term, “sons of God”. When it says in John 1:12 “…to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become sons (or children) of God”, that certainly applies to women, doesn’t it. They become sons of God, not daughters of God. In that sense, we are making a tempest in a teapot over what pronoun to use. There are even now proposals to re-write the Bible and insert feminine pronouns everywhere in order to try to ease women’s feelings about this. In my judgment, that is nonsense if we understand the Bible correctly, as it addresses both equally. That is not to say there are no distinctions between male and female. We need to remember, too, that there are obviously intended differences, and the Scriptures uphold those differences as fulfilling the ideal God has for us humans.
That’s a bit beside the point. What I want to get to is what is meant by the phrase, “Let us create man in our image.” What is meant by that? If you go through the first chapter of Genesis, which I will not take time to do tonight, in detail, you will find that over and over it asserts that God acts, God does things. If you look carefully at what it says he does, it falls into three categories. God’s nature is such that he does these three things. First, God creates. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”, which is fantastic statement, because it means all the enormous complexity of the universe around us, which physicists try to analyze and describe, is all included in that statement. The whole world, its beauty, the mountains, seas, forests, the complexity of the plant world and the animal kingdom and mankind. Added to that the stars, the quasars and black holes, and all the marvels and mysteries of space. All of that is included in that one phrase: “God created.”
That means he first thought about it. Everything comes from the mind of God. All that marvelous complexity, that marvel of unity, resemblance and integration that we find all through the universe as far as man is able to explore, is a reflection of the remarkable ability of God’s thinking, to imagine and bring into being all things. So God creates.
Then as you read on, you find that God communicates. God said let there be light. God said let the earth bring forth fruit, and let the waters separate from the earth, etc. Throughout you find God speaking; God communicates.
Then, finally, God evaluates. God pronounces it good. Only once does he say something is not good. What is that? It is not good for man to be alone. And there he means the male without the female. That doesn’t mean you all have to be married. What it means is it is not good to try to live life without some sort of relationship with the opposite sex, because we need each other. God created us that way.
If this is what God does because that is what he is, then when it says that we are created in the image of God, it means that we too have those capacities. It is true that this is where we differ from the animal kingdom. We create. Animals lack that ability to invent things. They cannot in their minds imagine or conceive of things that do not already exist that could exist, as man can do. Now we cannot create out of nothing, as God does. Out of pure energy, he brings things into being. We lack that power, but we can combine things that are and combine them in various ways to create this enormous complexity of technology that we now celebrate, particularly in Silicon Valley, and in other places. And we can invent, and that inventive quality is something animals do not have.
G. K. Chesterton, that remarkable English essayist of the early part of this century, has some wonderful ways of expressing things. He says, “The difference between men and the animals can be put this way. It is a truism to say that the most primitive man drew a picture of a monkey.” That is true. The earliest things we find about cave men are these drawings of primitive man and the animals around him. He further says, “But it’s a joke to say that the most intelligent monkey drew a picture of a man.” It demonstrates the vast difference between the cognitive faculties of man and that of the animals.
And secondly, God communicates, and so does man. Right now, we are talking to one another. Animals signal one another. They have sounds and movement in which they communicate in some very primitive sense, warning of danger or even feelings of love, sexual feelings. They communicate, but they do not talk to each other. You can teach a parrot to talk, but this is just imitation and for the most part it doesn’t know what it is saying. And you wonder if some of the stories you hear about parrots, as though they were intelligent, are not that they are simply echoing what they hear.
So you see man has this unique power to put his thoughts into language, to clothe them in words in various languages. And around the world no group of humans, no tribe, no primitive savage group is known to exist that does not have an invented language. They may have their own individual language, but all have the ability to communicate with words.
Thirdly, man evaluates, just as God does. Man puts moral judgment on things. Even the most in their own eyes “freed up” individuals, who think they are free from all rules and limitations, will still have a sense of something right and something wrong. Listen to people talk, and you will hear this. They argue that there is no right or wrong, there are no absolute values, but they will not live that way. If you observe them, you will see there is always a moral sense in their pronouncements of good or bad. It may be in relationship to their own feelings; they think it’s good, therefore it’s good. Or they think it’s evil and therefore it’s evil.
That is what was meant when Satan told Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed and ate the forbidden fruit they would become like God, knowing good and evil. Knowing good and evil as God knows it in relationship to himself. This is what happened in the fall. When he was first created, man knew good and evil as it related to God, but when he fell he began to know good and evil only as it related to himself. He became God, in other words, and made the moral judgments on the basis of how it affected him. That’s why you read later on in Joshua, “every man does that which is right in his own eyes.” What we do might be terribly wrong in God’s judgment, or even in the judgment of other people, but to the individual it always looks right. That’s why people justify themselves about what they do, because it seems right to them. That’s knowing good and evil as God knows it, but in relationship to self. This is what represents the image of God in us.
Now as we go on to the fall of man, we will see that because of Adam’s sin, that image was damaged, and all humans are born with a sinful nature and unable to function in moral responsibility before God. (The class was given charts.) Now I have drawn this up as two concentric circles. I want you to understand that this is not the way man actually looks. If you could look inside you would not find your spirit as a triangle, and the soul is not a circle inside the body circle. This is just a diagrammatic attempt to depict the relationships that exist.
There is a lot of argument among theologians, I will have to state, as to whether man is a bi-partite being or tri-partite being. Does he have three divisions, or only two? You will find theologians on both sides of that fence. The reason is that we obviously have two divisions of our being. We know there is an outer and an inner man. We know there is the body, the flesh, of matter. And the world of thought and ideas, attitudes and feelings that you cannot touch or sense of feel, that are not part of the body but are nevertheless us. So the easiest way to describe us is in a bi-partite manner. But Scripture, in its marvelous accuracy, reveals there are actually three parts, and two parts make up the inner man: the soul and the spirit.
You will find statements many places in scripture that indicate a three-fold being. First, I Thessalonians 5:23, where the apostle is writing to these new Christians. He says to them at the close of his letter: “May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NIV) That is a clear indication of the tri-partite division.
The first mention of man in the Bible is also tri-partite. In Genesis 2:7 you will find man described as a three-fold being in a most helpful way, “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground”. What part of man would that be? Yes, the body. Who knows how he did it? Did he mix a little mud, sculpt a little statue with eyes, ears and nose, all out of clay, and it lay there immobile until he breathed into it? Nobody knows, but some way he formed man from the dust of the ground.
Then he “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” The word for breath here is the Hebrew wordruach, which means “spirit”. In the Hebrew and the Greek the words for spirit are the same, and this is the word for spirit, and sometimes the word for wind. Remember Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus about that. Jesus said, the wind blows wherever it wills, and so also is one who is born of the Spirit. So this is what God breathed into that body which he had formed. He breathed some of his Spirit into him.
That is what is called the “divine spark” in man. Animals do not have spirits. They do have souls, but they do not have spirits from the biblical point of view. Therefore, they do not have that “divine spark”. They do not have a relationship to God. They don’t think of God, or worship God. They don’t long for God.
If you’ll look at your diagram you’ll notice that the triangle (although who knows what it looks like) has three little letters in the corners,
C, which are explained in the margin. They relate to God. What the spirit in us can do, because it comes from God, is in some sense a part of God – in some way God breathed a part of himself into man – is that we recognize God. The writer of Ecclesiastes says God has set eternity in man’s heart. This is what makes man restless. Animals can be quite content with having their physical needs met, and their soul-ish needs as well. A dog will lie by the fireside in the midst of his family and be totally content. He doesn’t worry about the national debt or the threat of Communism or his mother-in-law, or anything, because he doesn’t have a spirit. He has no sense of afterlife or previous life. He has no consciousness of a divine being to whom he is responsible. But man does. And this is universally true. All men, everywhere, worship. That is a recognition "R" of the presence of God.
The "D" is a desire for God. This again creates some of the agony of humanity. We long for God. Everyone does. But we fear him, because of the fall. We want him, and at the same time we don’t want him. And that creates a tremendous tension. You will find this is universal. Around the world this conforms to experience.
Then "C" is for commitment. It is possible to give yourself to God, to commit yourself to him. This encompasses all the Bible’s appeals to do this. We are invited to give ourselves to God. We are encouraged to seek after the Lord and you will find him. This is possible because we have a spirit. When God breathed into the lifeless form of man a spirit, something unique happened. The union of those two created a third entity called in Hebrew anefesh which is the word for soul. So now you have body, soul and spirit in this unique act of creation.
It is difficult to explain to you the strange relationship between the soul and the spirit. We only know it from what Scripture tells us. You can’t feel that difference. We can feel the difference between our souls and our bodies. You can say, “I feel weak, or weary”, or “I feel great today”. What part of your being are you referring to? Yes, your body. Your glands, your blood pressure, your heart are in good shape, and you feel great. You will notice we refer to this part of our being with the first person pronoun. You may say “I feel wonderful”, then later you may say, “I feel sad.” Is your body sad? No, it’s your soul. You may feel happy, or emotionally drained. You’re no longer talking about your body; you’ve made a quick shift to a third part of your being, your soul. And every now and then the most primitive, or least religious person, will say something like “I want something, but I don’t know what it is.” “I feel a desire to do something or be someone.” We have difficulty putting this into words. But what are we talking about? The spirit, longing for something beyond what we already have. This is unique to man, and we can switch between these three with no effort. We understand this about one another; we all have these sensations.
When the spirit enters the body it creates the soul, and the soul exists only existentially – only as long as the spirit is in the body, until it has a history. The history can go on, but the reality stops. The best illustration I know for that is shining down upon you from overhead: a light bulb, whether it is a fluorescent or incandescent light. You know that a light bulb is made up of two major parts. Metal and glass combine to make the material aspect of a light bulb. Then there is a second essential, and that is a stream of electrons, called electricity, that has to flow through that mass of metal and glass. When it does, a third entity is created, called light. The light is there only as long as the energy is flowing through the metal and the glass. As soon as the stream of electrons is interrupted, the light goes out but the metal and the glass remain, and the electricity remains available but not in contact. That seems to be about as close as we can come to understanding how humans function.
In the book of James it says “as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” James uses the analogy of the body and the spirit. So what happens when we die? According to Ecclesiastes, the body goes into the grave, but the spirit returns to God who gave it, and the soul goes out. It no longer continues in that sense, unless as I’ve said, it has a history. Now what we are doing here in this earthly pilgrimage is creating a history for our souls. It’s that we take with us to glory (before the judgment seat of Christ, if you like) and we have it analyzed as to what was right and what was wrong. That is what the judgment seat of Christ consists of.
(Class question) Animals have souls, as the Scripture indicates, and uses that term regarding animals. But it seems to stem from a different relationship than man’s soul. It is not caused by a spirit uniting to a body. That is what makes the difference between a man and an animal. But it is a form of life granted by the Creator to the animal for the duration of his earthly existence. When the animal’s life ends, apparently (we don’t know for sure; there is no revelation on this) his soul ceases as well. Rationalists and others try to describe humans as like a candle that just goes out and all that is left is a candle. An animal is more like that, but that is not said of man, so there is a difference.
Do you understand now that the soul has the effect of feeling. Mind, emotion and will are the major functions of the soul. There is also memory, imagination, and other minor functions which in some sense fall into these major categories. We have great difficulty trying to analyze ourselves, because we are both the analyst and the subject. This is what psychology tries to do, and why it has such difficulty in doing it. There is a law in physics called Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty, which says if you examine something you distort it, and by the very examination you render yourself unable to see it as it actually is because the examination distorts it. In some sense we do this when we try to analyze ourselves.
Psychology works with the Greek word for soul, which ispsyche.This Greek word ispneuma.Psychologists work with the soul, but they do not work with the spirit. The weakness of psychology is that they do not understand that there is a spirit. The closest I have seen secular psychologists understanding the spirit is in the work of Victor Frankel, the Jewish psychologist who survived the holocaust in Germany, and was in a prisoner of war camp there for a long time. He went through terrible tortures before he was freed. He developed a system of thought he called “logo therapy”. He so named it because he saw there was a function in man beyond the soul. He didn’t know what to call it, so he called it “logos”, the word, or the spirit. He couldn’t define it, describe it, or work with it. He had no access to it, other than to know that it existed. This is the limit of the secular mind.
That’s why Hebrews 4:12, a wonderful verse you ought to memorize, tells us: “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit…” So only the Word of God can tell us the difference between the soul and the spirit. That is why it takes revelation to understand man as he really is. Hebrews continues, “of joints and marrow (these are symbolic divisions of these major areas of life) and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
By the way, I should tell you that when the Bible uses the term “heart”, it is sometimes a reference to the heart and sometimes to the spirit. Usually, it is a reference to the spirit. When we say, “I did it with my whole heart”, we’re talking about our spirit, which is the deepest part of our humanity, the most important part of our being. We usually refer to man as tri-part, body, soul and spirit. Scripture on the other hand, refers to man as spirit, soul and body, because the spirit is the most important. It is the part you cannot destroy, which survives death, along with the soul and its history. It’s the major part of man, which reflects the image of God.
Now let’s consider fallen humanity, what happened when man sinned. The Apostle Paul tells us in his greatest treatise on the nature of sin in Romans chapter five, that it is by sin that death entered into the race. By the way, Romans chapters five and six is a marvelous theological treatise on the fundamentals of man’s relationship to God and to himself, and something to which you ought to give a lot of time to understanding.
When I was a student at Dallas Seminary, Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, founder and President of the school, was still there. He said that when he visited the graduates of the Seminary in their pastorates he always surreptitiously took note of their Greek New Testaments to see if they were well-worn in Romans five. That would tell him whether they really understood what they were talking about. As long as he was alive, I kept a Greek New Testament open at Romans five in case he should come to visit – which he did from time to time.
In Romans 5:12 we learn, “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 – for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.” Now I won’t take time to expound the chapter to you, but the major statement I want to emphasize is that sin entered the world through one man.
By the way, the Bible never blames Eve for the entrance of sin into the race. We males do that. That is male chauvinism. We say Eve tempted Adam and made him sin. Even Adam said that. When God asked him what he had done, he said, the woman you gave me…she did it. He took it like a man and blamed his wife. God doesn’t blame Eve. She was deceived. She did it thinking she was doing right. But Adam sinned deliberately.
You can picture God dwelling in man’s spirit, as the spirit given to man originated from God’s Spirit, and is the part of us that can correspond to God. We have the ability to relate to God. No animal can do that. It is designed to be the dwelling place of God. And in the beginning, it was. God dwelt in Adam’s spirit. We know that because the second Adam was made according to the pattern of the first Adam. Who was the second Adam? Yes, Jesus, and the Spirit of God dwelt in Jesus from his very birth. Therefore, this was also true of Adam. It was also true, therefore, that Adam did everything by the power of God. This is God’s provision and intention for man. When Adam needed to do something he would rely upon the power he found within himself, which was God. When Adam named the animals, the wisdom he employed was God’s wisdom. That is how he knew what each animal was like, and named it according to its attributes, which was a tremendous task. When man chose to disobey God, the Spirit of God left the spirit of man. He was left empty, still alive but on a different basis.
You will notice on the diagram that in the triangle of the spirit I have printed the words “the flesh”. When you read your Bibles, you must distinguish between two meanings of the word “flesh”. One is the meat and bones of our physical bodies. We are in the flesh now because we are living in bodies. For instance the Bible refers to Jesus, “in the days of his flesh…”, which means while he was in the body in his days on earth. But there is a moral meaning as well. Paul uses it frequently, particularly in Romans, and other writers as well. It means the evil tendencies, the fallen nature, sin in the life of man. It is also called “the old man”; all are synonyms of the flesh.
Let’s try to describe what happened as best we can understand it from the Scriptures. When Adam sinned, and the Spirit of God left him, he would have died immediately had it not been that there was an invasion of some sort, of the triangle of his spirit by the life of God coming through the power of Satan. Satan invaded the spirit of man. Because the flesh definitely relates to Satan and his work. It’s Satan’s inner access to us and that is what causes so much of our struggle. Satanic philosophy is inherent in the flesh. Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV) says:
“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious which are: sexual immorality, impurity
and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage,
selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
I warn you as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom
An alternate reading is:
“The marks of the flesh are evident which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness,
lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath,
selfish ambition, dissensions, heresies, envy, murder, drunkenness, revelries, and
That is what Jesus means when he says in Mark 7:20, 21:
“What comes out of a man is what makes him unclean. For from within, out of
men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,
greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these
evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” (NIV)
Those are the words of Jesus. They are exactly in accord with the words of Paul. They are describing the same thing, and what they are describing is the inner uncleanness that came upon man when Adam disobeyed God. He was instantly re-inhabited by the life of God, because God is the only author of life. If man was to go on living, he had to go by the life of God. All creatures, animals, angels, demons, man—all live by God’s life. He is the Author of life. Satan does not give life; he cannot. But it is a twisted life. In some sense Satan interposed himself, because of man’s disobedience, between God and man. He thus became a mediator, a usurper, to which he had no right. Thus the life that now comes to fallen man – that is, the way we were born – is the life of God twisted and distorted.
In what direction was it twisted? Well, originally God’s life, like God himself, is outward directed. God lives for others. Jesus was the man for others, wasn’t he. But Satan twisted this into living for self. Selfishness, then, is the ultimate sin. Fallen man was characterized by self-centeredness, and that is the essential element of the flesh within us. That is why the diagram shows “flesh” in the triangle. You can put “sin” there, if you like. Or you can choose to put “the old nature”, because they all mean the same thing. It’s still the life of God, but it is twisted and self-directed instead of other-directed. And that is characteristic of man as he is.
Everyone is born like that. It is what theologians call “original sin”. That’s why you don’t have to teach a baby how to lie or get angry or upset, or lose his temper, or to be self-centered and thoughtless of others. Have you noticed that babies don’t care what you think. They burp in your face, they soil themselves while sitting on your lap. Someone has well said, “a baby is a digestive apparatus with a loud noise at one end and no responsibility at the other.” Though they are delightful in many ways, and we love and cuddle them and see great possibilities and potential in them, they are also very difficult to live with. If they didn’t change as they grew up, it would be tragic. You see how accurately the Bible describes what life itself presents to us, if we only will believe it. So that’s man’s fallen nature.
Now then, what happens when the Spirit of God comes in? Look at the chart called “Redeemed humanity”. Here we find the other side of the story. What happens when an individual is “born again”? That’s Jesus’ term. He starts life over. Just as at the beginning we began as a baby in Adam, now we start life over in a new birth, and our spirit is “in Christ” when we believe in Jesus, receive him into our hearts as Lord. There are various words used to describe this in the Scriptures. The clearest, I think, is John 1:12: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children (or sons) of God.” And in John’s first letter, 5:11: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
What happens is, the Holy Spirit re-possesses the human spirit. The flesh, the distorted, sinful capacity that is satanically slanted, is driven out from our spirit, and God himself, the Holy Spirit, inhabits the human spirit. Paul says in Romans 8:16: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (NIV) Also, in I Corinthians 6: “..but he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” So there is the melding, the union of the two. Spirit with spirit meet, and it is at that level that regeneration takes place. That is what it is called, this new impartation of life, God re-inhabiting the human spirit to be born again and have new life in Jesus Christ.
Now that is true in the spirit, but in the diagram, notice in “redeemed humanity” the soul is darkened around you. You see, it’s been living a number of years, perhaps twenty or thirty, sometimes sixty or seventy years, governed by the flesh; therefore, all its habits are flesh-centered, habits of selfishness that run our lives. Therefore, the soul, the will, emotions and mind, are still under the domination of the flesh, though the spirit is now born again. This is the condition of new Christians, babes in Christ. They have new life. They know it, feel the joy and peace of it, but they are still governed by the flesh. That’s why they still act like babies – self-centered and uncouth at times, can still get involved in some of the old sins, but actually born again. That is what is called in I Corinthians 3 “carnal”, fleshly Christians. It’s true of the soul, but not of the spirit. As John tells us, the spirit cannot sin. I John 3:9: “No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God.” (RSV) He is born of God, and therefore the Spirit in us cannot sin. But the soul can sin, and that is where much of our struggle comes from as Christians.
It is the business of the Holy Spirit coming into the human spirit to re-possess the soul. On your chart “maturing humanity”, you will find that diagrammed. There are clean areas where the Spirit of God has begun to assert the Lordship of Jesus over the soul. Now that is not done without a struggle. We fight the Lord at that point. We drag our heels, delay, play mind games, tell him we are yielding but we are not. We’re all familiar with these things, aren’t we. But the Spirit keeps insisting that we submit this area of our lives to Jesus’ Lordship.
We all live our lives in segments, like an orange. There’s our family life, our sex life, our personal life, and we keep switching back and forth among these throughout the day. Usually the Spirit of God will pick one of those areas and begin to talk with you about it. He’ll say, “Look, this isn’t right. You can’t go on like this. You’re a believer; you have to change at this point.” And he will bring all sorts of pressures and influences upon it, and probably precipitate a crisis where we find ourselves at last knocked off our feet, or flat on our backs, and he gets our attention. Then he brings it up again and says, “See, this is the area I’m talking about. Now I want you to yield that to the Lord. Give it back to him and let him be Lord in that area.
That is what is beautifully described for us in II Corinthians 3:17-18: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” We begin to get freed up in these areas. “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect (contemplate is probably a better term) the Lord’s glory (you’re thinking of Jesus and seeing him as Lord of your life), “are being transformed into his likeness (this is what we call Christian growth. Gradually the soul begins to correspond to what is true with the spirit, and you begin to take on the likeness of Christ) “with ever increasing glory, (normally, in the course of the Christian life, the older we grow the more like Christ we ought to be becoming. Not because your spirit is more like Christ. It is made instantly like Christ, from the beginning, the moment you are born again. The soul, the conscious life, begins to reflect him), which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
(Class question) He drives the flesh out of your spirit, but it remains in your soul. And it may be you will work at this the rest of your life, until you receive increasing degrees of likeness to Christ. You can backslide, you can give over an area to the Lordship of Christ and then take it back, and have to give it over again. There is, however, a strange phenomenon that you should know about. You are not likely to see all of this yourself. Your own view of yourself will be that you become increasingly aware of your sin, and you think you’re getting worse. Others will see that you are becoming more Christ-like. So that is maturing humanity.
Now let’s consider “redeemed humanity”, what we are finally like when God finishes his work with us, which is at the resurrection of the body. The last part of our being to be redeemed is the body. It remains under the control of the flesh, and inheriting the weakness of sin all our lives. That’s why we age and get weak, and why our minds falter, why we stumble, lose our way and our eyesight dims. All of this is part of a body not yet redeemed. Spirit is instantly redeemed when we are born again. It never changes. The soul is being redeemed as we grow in our relationship to our Lord and submit to his Lordship over areas of our lives. The body is redeemed at the resurrection.
This is the three tenses of salvation, such as you find in Scripture. Some passages speak of “we have been saved”. That is referring to the spirit. Other verses describe us as “being saved”. That’s the soul. And we shall be saved: “now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed”, Paul says. That is a reference to the resurrection.
(Questions from class) The soul accompanies the spirit at all times, and goes to God. And of course so does our body, when we die. That’s another problem which we get into later on. That gets us into time and eternity, and a lot of other mysteries. I believe that the moment we die we are instantly, body, soul and spirit, with the Lord, in a redeemed body. Our eternal security comes from the assurance that “he that is born of God cannot sin.” That is the spirit part of our being. Nor can it lose its life. That’s how Paul gets to that wonderful passage in Romans 8. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Nothing! Neither in heaven, earth, hell or anywhere else; no power, no force, no being can separate us from the love of Christ.
I Corinthians 3:12-15: “If any man builds on this foundation (that is, faith in Christ) using gold, silver, costly stones, (these are symbols of the work of the Spirit in our lives) wood, hay or straw (symbols of the flesh at work), his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, (that is the gold, silver and costly stones, and not wood, hay or straw) he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, (if it is the flesh) he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”
We have difficulty seeing our humanity. We think of ourselves as just a being assigned a certain space of time to live in this twentieth century, and those who have gone before as rather remote from us. God doesn’t see it that way. He sees a mixture of all the forces and people who have been in our family tree back to Adam, and the impact upon us of all the things they have done. Our genetic structure is passed along to us, the results of what our ancestors have been like, etc. God sees all of that, and therefore we are not just an isolated fragment of humanity living now, but we are a part of a great bundle of humanity that was all originally wrapped up in one man: Adam. That’s why what Adam did affected everyone that would follow him, just as what Christ did affects everyone who is in Christ. We share that life together as well.
The question is how does this affect those referred to in Hebrews 6 who have shared in the Holy Spirit, tasted of the powers of the coming age, etc., and yet are lost and cannot return to repentance? I think that is describing someone who is living by another person’s faith. Children often do this when they are in a Christian home. They borrow their parents’ faith, and it gives them a form of life from God. They do the right things, and they think of themselves as Christians, but they haven’t yet made a personal commitment to God, so that they have apparently demonstrated Christian attributes and a Christian life without a real personal commitment. Jesus describes it in the parable of the sower, as seed which fell into the ground and sprang up and had life, but then when the cares of the world came about, it died back down again.
The question is what about nice people who are atheists, etc.? We are very complex persons. We are very skilled, even at deceiving ourselves in this regard, at doing what is acceptable to others, and if we are living in a moral situation or climate, man tends to reproduce what is expected of him. We can put on that kind of outward morality. The Pharisees were like this in Jesus’ day. They had a reputation for being the most respectable of people, but it was outward, external morality. When we see that we can think it looks as real as anything, but God always warns us that he is reading the heart. Man cannot do that.
People don’t deliberately try to be hypocrites; they are not aware of that. They themselves think they are measuring up, and see themselves quite honestly as being acceptable in God’s eyes. They are totally surprised when they learn from Scripture that they are not. But Scripture speaks very clearly to that issue and says, “There is none that does good. No, not one.” That doesn’t mean they can’t be saved, or that they can’t learn this about themselves. Many have come that route and seen themselves as God sees them. There was a young man at the men’s retreat who gave a testimony to that effect. Somehow he had been reared in a Christian home and thought he was all right, but he later learned that he was not.
The comment is that we live in a world where the manifestation of God is very visible in many ways around us. The Apostle Paul, in a great message delivered in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, recorded in Acts 14, says in verse 17, God “has not left himself without testimony (or witness)”. There is no part of the world in which he does not leave a witness of himself.
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