Chapter 2 - The Nature of Man

The Origin of Man

Turning to the Bible, we find the only satisfactory account of man’s beginning. “So God created man in his own image … male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:27). “Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?” (Mal. 2:10). From the original pair, Adam and Eve, the entire human race has sprung; for Eve is declared to be “the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20). The Bible writers uniformly acknowledge this common origin of man. Paul affirms that God “hath made of one blood all nations of men … for we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:26, 28).
From whatever standpoint we view man, he appears as the special workmanship of God, the highest type of earthly creatures, made “in the image of God,” to use the language of the writer of Genesis. This expression, “image of God,” is comprehensive. It implies that special characteristics of the Divine One are made a part of man’s being. Thus, man is a moral being. In his normal state his actions are not determined by mere instinct or expediency or self-interest, but they are regarded as possessing in their own nature a clearly defined rightness or wrongness. In this moral discrimination man is like God. In connection with this, he possesses freedom of will, so that he can of his own volition decide his course of conduct. He is also an intelligent being, possessing a mind capable of almost infinite development, one which easily grasps the mightiest problems within the range of finite environment. Man is also a spiritual being, who naturally looks up to God, “the Father of spirits,” as his author and who is capable of holding sweet converse with his Maker.
As a moral and spiritual being in God’s likeness, man originally was, of necessity, in a state of holiness and purity. According to the Word, he was placed under moral law. To this day men everywhere realize and admit that they are the subjects of moral government, directly responsible to God. This is also the uniform teaching of the Scriptures. But the same Scriptures also teach that the original state of holiness was forfeited by sin; hence in this respect and to this extent the image of God was lost. In the redemption of Christ, however, holiness is regained; therefore, we are restored to the image of God. “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col. 3:9-10). (See also Eph. 4:22-24.)

Man a Compound Being

The Scriptures represent man as a twofold, or dual, being, possessed of body and soul, or body and spirit. “Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit” (I Cor. 6:20). “That she may be holy both in body and in spirit” (7:34). (See also Job 14:22; II Cor. 4:16.)
The “outer man,” or body, is mortal: “your mortal body” (Rom. 6:12); “your mortal bodies” (8:11). The body was created in this mortal condition, as the following facts show: (1) It was made out of the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7); (2) it was to subsist upon natural food (1:29); (3) man was given natural work to perform (2:15); (4) matrimony was instituted (1:27-28). According to the words of Christ, marriage is an institution that does not pertain to angels or to beings wholly immortal, such as we shall be after the resurrection. (See Luke 20:35-36.) (5) There was use for the tree of life (Gen. 3:22). Had man been created with an immortal body, the tree of life would have been entirely useless.
The crowning proof that man was originally mortal is the fact that God “made him a little lower than the angels” (Ps. 8:5; Heb. 2:6-7). In what sense was man lower than the angels? Not morally or spiritually, for in these respects man was in God’s image, and surely the angels are not higher than God. What, then, does the expression mean? The writer of Hebrews says that God “maketh his angels spirits” (1:7); that they are “all ministering spirits” (vs. 14). Jesus plainly states that “a spirit hath not flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39). Therefore, we conclude that man’s inferiority to angels consists in the limitations necessitated by a physical body, while the angels are wholly spirit beings. That this inference is correct is shown by other Scripture texts. Paul asserts that in the resurrection day “this mortal body must put on immortality” (I Cor. 15:53). Jesus says concerning his people in this “resurrection from the dead,” “Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels” (Luke 20:36).
The question now arises, Why, then, do the Bible writers state that death came upon mankind as a result of sin? The answer: While man remained in the Garden of Eden with free access to the tree of life, his continued existence without death was assured. And when, after the Fall, the decree of death had been pronounced, this decree could be made effective only by depriving him of those privileges which had before sustained life; therefore he was driven from the garden, “lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” (Gen. 3:22). The real sentence of God against man as the result of the Fall is expressed in Genesis 3:19, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” In other words, the curse placed upon man was not mortality, but condemnation to the effects of mortality; hence “by man came death.”
Since the body of man is by nature mortal, it can be destroyed (Job 19:26); killed (Matt. 10:28); it perishes (II Cor. 4:16); it returns to the dust of the earth (Gen. 3:19).
But is this all there is of man? No! What do the Scriptures say? “Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (II Cor. 4:16). “There is a spirit in man” (Job 32:8). This soul, or spirit, is the creative work of God— “The souls which I have made” (Isa. 57:16). It is the Lord that “layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him” (Zech. 12:1). Our bodies partake of the nature of our earthly fathers, hence are subject to death and decay; while our spirits, made “in the image of God,” partake of his essential nature, and “God is a Spirit”— “immortal, invisible” (I Tim. 1:17). Therefore Jesus says plainly, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul” (Matt. 10:28). David affirms, “Your heart shall live forever” (Ps. 22:26).
In language still plainer the Apostle Paul shows that the soul is in its own nature eternal. “Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.… While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Cor. 4:16, 18). (See also 5:1, 6, 8.)
This soul, or spirit, is the knowing, volitional, and responsible part of man. “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (I Cor. 2:11). Just as the Spirit of God knows the things of God, so the spirit of man knows the things of man. “Shall I give my first born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (Mic. 6:7). This text fixes responsibility upon the soul; and since the soul is the knowing, volitional part of man, it is the real man. In James 2:26 we read that “the body without the spirit is dead.” The Scriptures represent the body as being only the instrument of the soul (Rom. 6:12-13). Every appeal that God makes to man is addressed to the real man—the soul.
This two-foldness of man was represented by Paul (II Cor. 5:1-9) under the figure of a house and its occupant, thus showing their interdependence or relationship in the present state, wherein the spirit is in union with the natural body. But he goes further and shows that the house is not indispensable to the existence of the occupant; that when it is “dissolved” the real man is “absent from the body” and “present with the Lord.” Peter also describes the present union with the natural body and the separation at death under the same figure (II Pet. 1:13-14). It is sometimes affirmed that a man is nothing without his body, but it is evident from II Corinthians 12:2-4 that Paul had no such belief; for here he describes one who was caught up to paradise, and there saw and heard and understood certain things, yet he did not know whether the person was in the body or out of the body at that time. Paul believed that man is a dual being—that man can be separated from his body and still be a seeing, knowing, thinking creature. It is evident from Philippians 1:21-24 that to die meant, to the Apostle, to leave the flesh, to “depart, and to be with Christ.”
In Jesus’ account of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31), we have this same doctrine of the survival of the spirit after death. It is useless to attempt to evade the force of this passage by asserting, as do some, that it is “only a parable.” It is not so stated. “There was a certain rich man … and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus.”
When Christ took Peter, James, and John up into a mountain and was transfigured before them, we are told that “there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him” (Matt. 17:1-3). The Bible records that Elias (Elijah) was translated; it also states that Moses “died in the land of Moab” and was buried “in a valley” (Deut. 34:5-6). Now, how did it happen that Moses appeared here on the mount? He had not been resurrected from the dead into this glorified state, for the Scriptures declare that Christ was the first one to receive this change. Some people who had recently died were restored to life before Christ’s resurrection, but that was only a restoration of the natural, corruptible body on the earth, and these persons were subject to death again. The true “resurrection from the dead,” which places men in an incorruptible state, is different from this. Therefore Christ was the “first begotten of the dead” (Rev. 1:5); “the first born from the dead” (Col. 1:18); “the first fruits of them that slept” (I Cor. 15:20). The transfiguration was before the death and resurrection of Christ, therefore the decomposed body of Moses had not been brought forth from the dead. The fact that Moses appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration hundreds of years after his death shows clearly that his soul was not involved in the ruin of his body.
Jesus taught that the ancient patriarchs were still living. (See Matt. 22:31-32.) John in apocalyptic vision saw disembodied souls (Rev. 6:9-10; 20:4).
Natural death is the separation of body and spirit. To the dying thief, Christ said, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise”; and in his last moment he cried out, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:43, 46). The dying Stephen said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). This doctrine of the survival of the spirit is found throughout the Bible. (See Gen. 35:18; Psa. 23:4; 90:10; Eccles. 12:7; Matt. 10:28; Phil. 1:21, 23; II Cor. 5:8.)
The dying testimonies of thousands of saints confirm the doctrine of the Scriptures on this point—that at death the soul takes its departure from the body to be in a more sacred nearness with the Lord. In the most solemn hour of life this truth is so firmly stamped upon the heart that it finds expression in language unmistakable.

Objections Considered

Now, what can be brought against this solid array of Scripture texts teaching the dual nature of man? Nothing except a few obscure texts which usually refer to some other subject. The strongest text that can be used for that purpose is Ecclesiastes 9:5: “The dead know not anything.” True, that part of man which dies and goes into the grave knows nothing; but what about that part of his being that flies away at death, returns to “God who gave it,” rests “with Christ, which is far better,” and is “eternal” (II Cor. 4:18)? This statement that the dead know not anything, however, is qualified in the following verse by the words, “Neither have they any more a portion forever in anything that is done under the sun” (Eccles. 9:6). This agrees perfectly with certain other uses of this expression in the Bible. For example, II Samuel 15:11: “And with Absalom went two hundred men out of Jerusalem, that were called; and they went in their simplicity, and they knew not anything.” This text does not signify that they knew absolutely nothing, but simply indicates that they were altogether ignorant concerning the particular thing under consideration—Absalom’s conspiracy. (See also I Sam. 20:39; I Tim. 6:4.)
It is sometimes urged that Christ “only hath immortality” (I Tim. 6:16). The terms “mortal” and “immortal” are in the Scriptures applied to bodily conditions rather than to the soul, hence have no bearing whatever on the question of the soul’s inherent nature. It is the body that is mortal (the soul is never described by this term), and “this mortal must put on immortality.” Christ rose from the dead with a glorified, immortalized body, “the first fruits of them that sleep,” “death hath no more dominion over him”; therefore he “only hath immortality.”
The so-called death of the soul, often spoken of in the Bible, is not the end of its conscious existence, but is simply spiritual death—spiritual separation from God in this present world. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:20). “Dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked” (Eph. 2:1-2). The soul was dead—dead in a spiritual sense—and yet the individual was alive and walking around on the earth. “Dead while she liveth” (I Tim. 5:6). Many texts could be given on this point.
I have dwelt at some length on this point concerning the nature of man because of its importance in the plan of redemption. Those who deny the doctrine of the actual essential nature of soul, or spirit, as being by nature deathless, are led by logical necessity to deny also the doctrine of the new birth and the reception of eternal life in this world; for how can it be said that man now possesses eternal life if death ends all until the day of resurrection?

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