Study 4. Mankind: Nature and SinIntroduction
In our studies so far, we have examined the very substance of the gospel, namely the Kingdom of God - the reign of God over the people of God. In the last two studies we have looked at the King of the Kingdom and in this study we will look at its potential members - humanity. In particular we will see how, for humanity, the Kingdom is a kingdom lost.
The Nature of humanity
The Bible states that mankind is the result of a creative act by God; we are not an accident of nature, but the product of a free and purposeful creation by God.
i] The apex of the system of living things; the supreme result of the work of creation. In fact, everything was created for us. This doesn't mean we are unrelated to nature, or can treat it with contempt. There is a deep and mysterious bond between humanity and nature. We have an instinctive sympathy with it and should respect it. In fact, it is probably best to see nature as an extension of humanity - designed for us.
ii] One .... from a single origin. The Genesis account of creation tells us that the human race descended from a single human pair. It is difficult to know whether we should take this literally or not, but it is clear that we are a common species, one people.
iii] Created in the likeness of God. (note 3)
2. Body and Soul
There are two parts to our nature; one material, the other immaterial. Only humans have this two-sided nature, and it's the immaterial side that distinguishes us from other animals.
i] Body - The physical body, including emotions, behavior-patterns etc. Unlike Eastern religions, the Bible sees the body as an integral part of our true self. If we are a believer, our bodies will not be discarded at death, but will be absorbed into our resurrection body (although perfected and of another dimension). Also, our body is not an impediment to our spiritual dimension, rather it is an aid to the development of our true self. For these reasons we are commanded to care for our bodies.
ii] Soul and Spirit. As well as being creatures of flesh and bones, the Bible describes us as a living soul; we have been inbreathed by God, 2Sam.19:12f. This is our life-force, our inner-being. The word "soul" refers to our psychic, or mental life, while "spirit" refers to our spiritual life i.e., our ability to reach out to God and to know him. Quite often, though, the Bible doesn't make these distinctions and so the terms "soul" or "spirit" can refer to either mental or spiritual aspects of our being.
It is important not to see the "soul/spirit" as a separate part of our being - something that can be separated from the body after death. We are a whole being, both body and soul, and in Jesus we will be so for eternity. Also, don't confuse a person's spirit with the Holy Spirit/The Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the trinity, the very person of God. Our spirit is that part of our make-up which enables us to relate to God.
3. "Image of God"
The Bible says we have been made in the image / likeness of God, Gen.1:27. What does the Bible mean when it uses such a term to describe humanity?
i] Dominion. We have been given the universe and the power to control it.
ii] Morality. We have a conscience, an inbuilt sense of right and wrong.
iii] Personality. We are able to develop intimate interpersonal relationships centered on others, Gen.1:2, 2 Cor.3:4.
Mankind was originally free to obey God or disobey Him; we were not created robots. Because of our disobedience we have lost that freedom and so are now "slaves to sin".
Death (in the sense of extermination) is not natural to us. Presumably if Adam had not sinned he would have received the "spiritual body" intended for him without physical death - ie., a kind of translation similar to that experienced by Elijah. Through Christ, immortality is again ours, although now we have to face an actual moment of physical death as we move instantly into eternity. Death has therefore lost its "sting".
We were created with massive potential, but due to sin we only use a fraction of our mental capacity.
The human problem of sin
1. The origin of evil
The Bible doesn't really tell us where evil comes from. We do know that Satan, an archangel, rebelled against God and then sought to pollute God's creation with his sin. The human race followed Satan's lead and similarly turned against God. Yet, is this the origin of sin? .... It is possible that it doesn't have an origin as such. As a negative force its potential always exists over against the positive force of God's love.
The Bible paints a simple picture in Genesis 3 to explain where it all started for the human race. Adam and Eve, a perfect creation of God with the freedom to serve God or serve self, chose to serve self. They just wanted to be like gods, so they turned against their creator and disobeyed him. In rebelling against God they set off a chain-reaction which, not only cursed the whole human race, but all of nature as well.
2. What is sin?
Sin is failure, error, iniquity, transgression, trespass, lawlessness, unrighteousness. The most characteristic feature of sin is that it is directed against God.
3. The results of human sin.
There are three prime results that flow from the fall:
i] Physical loss - mind, emotions, will, and body have been warped and reduced in effectiveness.
ii] Spiritual loss - our relationship with God has been destroyed and can only be restored through Christ.
iii] Moral collapse - a tendency toward self-gratification at the expense of others.
The extent of sin upon the human race is complete. From the moment of conception we become subject to a persistent tendency to sin and rebel against God. This hereditary tendency has affected every part of our nature, Gen.6:5, 8:21, Jer.17:5, Psalm 51, Psalm 5:12-21.
To control the human race, now in rebellion against him, God has set restraints about us:
i] Hard work - the fruits of the earth are no longer be easily won.
ii] the pain in childbirth and child-rearing.
iii] Shortened life-span.
iv] Conscience, a sense of shame and a fear of punishment.
Sin has also affected the natural order:
i] Directly - Mankind seems hell-bent on destroying God's creation by the misuse of the world's precious resources.
ii] Indirectly - Sin in itself has devastated nature. Imbalance, cruelty, calamities etc. are all ultimately linked to human rebellion against God. The effect of sin spreads far and wide, Rom.8:22.
The human race is guilty of going against God. Our guilt takes two forms:
i] Corporate - Because we are part of the human race we are involved in the responsibility of each others' sin. Each one of us stands before God equally guilty of the sin of Adam and of every other human being who has ever existed.
ii] Individual - We stand before God guilty of personally rebelling against him and it is for this that we stand condemned.
God punishes us when we go against him, and since we have all gone against him we all stand equally condemned. Yet what form does this punishment take?
Many people like to see accidents or sickness etc. as examples of God punishing us for a certain sin, but this is not the case. God created the universe as a perfectly balanced closed system. We have stepped in and destroyed the harmony of that system and so now we reap the consequences.
God's punishment for those who go against him is spiritual death. He simply separates himself from sinful humanity. He is not trying to be nasty, or get his own back, he is just acting in a holy way. He is true to his person and so he hates sin.
We will leave the details of our salvation to a later study, but at this point we must at least mention the good news - the lost Kingdom is no longer lost in Christ. Given the bad news, it's obvious we need a savior. We need someone who will rescue us from the bind we've gotten ourselves into. "Miserable creature that I am, who is there to rescue me out of this body doomed to death? God alone, through Jesus Christ our Lord .. Thanks be to God." Romans 7:24-25.
1. Why did God create the human race when he knew full-well we would go against him?
2. Why didn't God design us so we wouldn't turn against him?
3. Why doesn't God just squash out rebellion?