“What is man?” (Psalm 8:4). We’ve attempted to answer this question biblically: God created man for his glory, in his image, as both male and female; a unity of body and soul. Tragically, this picture of humanity was distorted by the fall. We became less than we were originally intended to be: we became sinners.
But the story does not end there. God promised a “seed” who would restore what sin had destroyed (Genesis 3:15). Throughout human history God entered into covenant with certain people so that through them He could send the promised Seed. That is why God promised Abraham: “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). That was God’s purpose when He promised David: “your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16).
God also sent prophets to prepare the people for the coming of this Seed. God gave Isaiah a prophecy: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14). God gave Daniel a vision: “with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (Daniel 7:13-14). These and other prophets prepared God’s people for this Redeemer’s coming.
And then He came: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14). In Jesus we see what humanity was meant to be: “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him [that is humanity]. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour” (Hebrews 2:8-9).
Jesus Christ became the perfect man, lived the perfect life and died the death we deserved to die. Sinners are redeemed – humanity is restored – in Christ. The New Testament explains this “recreation” like this: “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17). What sin has destroyed, Christ has restored. We can only fulfil our true purpose when we are united, by faith, to this perfect Man.
Because of Christ,
In Psalm 8:4 David asks God an interesting question: “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” We’ve attempted to answer that question by reviewing what the Bible teaches about man. What is it about man that makes us the objects of God’s special attention?
We’ve noted that God created man for his glory, in his image, as both male and female. We’ve also seen that man is a unity of body and soul, of the physical and the spiritual. Given the remarkable and unique nature of man, we can understand why David would later write: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Ps. 139:14).
Sadly, this perfect picture was marred. The story of humanity does not play out in the Garden of Eden, in unbroken fellowship with our Creator. Scripture reveals that humanity chose something else. Eccl. 7:29 explains it this way: “See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.” According to Genesis 3 Adam and Eve rebelled against God. They believed the devil’s lie: “With my help you can become your own gods and do better for yourselves than what God had done for you.” Foolishly, they chose to obey the creature and not their Creator.
The consequences were devastating. Physical and spiritual death entered the world (Romans 5:12). Suddenly our fellowship with God was severed and shame, guilt and fear took its place (Genesis 3:10). Because of our separation from God, toil and pain now characterized our human experience (Genesis 3:16-19). Sin not only affected us individually, but corporately as well: our relationships with one another suffered (Galatians 5:19-21). In short, sin redefined humanity: we became sinners.
But, before we despair, remember that Psalm 8 was written after the Fall. The image of God in man was marred and distorted, but not entirely destroyed (Genesis 9:6). God still loved humanity, in spite of our rebellion. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). God did not abandon his creatures, but became one of them so that they could be saved.
Because of Christ,
Genesis 2:7 tells us that “the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” This passage raises an interesting question: what is man made of?
There are three basic view of the nature of man. Some believe that man is a body, soul and spirit (trichotomy). Others believe that man has two parts: our visible bodies and invisible souls (dichotomy). Then there are those who believe that man is nothing more than a body (monism).
The last view (monism) is clearly non-Christian, but which of the other two should Christians accept? Before we continue, we need an important reminder: Scripture emphasises the unity of man. The whole man was created by God to exist in a unity. Our salvation touches the whole man and will only be complete with the restoration of our whole being (1 Cor. 7:34; 2 Cor. 7:1). That being said...
There are a number of Scriptures that use soul and spirit interchangeably (John 12:27; 13:21; Luke 1:46-47). The dead are either called spirits (Heb. 12:23) or souls (Rev. 6:9) and at death either the soul or the spirit departs (Luke 12:20; Ps. 31:5). There are also occasions where man is described as a body and soul (Matt. 10:28) or a body and spirit (1 Cor. 5:5; Jam. 2:26).
Arguments for trichotomy focus on 1 Thess. 5:23 and Heb. 4:12. In 1 Thess. 5:23 Paul is simply piling on synonyms for emphasis (much like Jesus does in Mark 12:30). The same holds true for Heb. 4:12. The weight of evidence is with dichotomy: man as unity of body and soul.
Why is this important? Because we need to guard against two common errors associated with trichotomy. The first is to assume that only spiritual things matter. Don’t be so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good. The second is to assume that the mind is an enemy. Anti-intellectualism robs our faith of its substance. Be a complete Christian, who understands that our visible bodies and our invisible inner man (spirit and soul) have to be submitted to serving Christ.
Because of Christ,