The Nature of Man
A Living Soul
"What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet" (Psalms 8:4-6).
The meaning of the word "nature" in regard to man is given as "the fundamental qualities of a person or thing; identity or essential character" (www.dictionary.com).
David is comparing God with man. He states "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained," how small is man by comparison (Psalm 8:3NASB).
"How little is man; how small a speck in the universe. When we look up into the heavens and realize that they represent so much more of divine power, we are still more surprised. When we consider the heavens and realize that all these stars, except the planets which belong to our own system, are really suns and that around each of these suns revolve planets as our earth revolves around our sun, and when we think of the number of those suns and their planets, we are amazed, and we feel our own littleness all the more" ("Across the Pacific," Pastor Russell’s Convention Discourses, page 189, 1912).
God’s purpose for mankind is set out in Genesis 1:26-28 (NASB): "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
The creation of man and his installation as ruler on the earth brought the creation of the world and all its creatures to a close. God saw all His work, and "behold, it was very good," i.e., everything was perfect in its kind (Genesis 1:31).
More details of mankind’s creation are recorded in Genesis 2:7. "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." The Hebrew word translated "soul," nephesh (neh’-fesh), Strong’s H5315, properly means a breathing creature and it is translated in most modern versions as either creature or being. Mankind was not created immortal. He could die as shown in Ezekiel 18:4 (NASB). "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul [H5315] who sins will die."
God’s requirement for man to have eternal life was simply total obedience. The test of obedience was by way of what he could not eat as shown in Genesis 2:16-17 (NASB): "The LORD God commanded the man, saying, From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."
While Adam and Eve obeyed God, all went well. It appears from Genesis 3:8 that the LORD God would be present in the garden each evening communing with them. They had a special relationship with Him and Genesis 2:25 (NASB) states, "And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed," i.e. having nothing about them that produced shame; nothing sinful, or blameworthy; no guilt on their consciences, or wickedness in their actions.
The Bible does not say how long they were in the garden before the serpent tempted Eve and ended the close relationship that Adam and Eve enjoyed with God.
"They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, Where are you? He said, I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself " (Genesis 3:8-10 NASB). What a change! Before, the sound of the LORD God brought Adam pleasure, but now it brought fear. Before, they did not have shame, but now their nakedness made then ashamed. Their disobedience made them aware of their now-sinful condition.
How had Satan, "the serpent of old," been able to deceive Eve into eating the forbidden fruit (Revelation 12:9)? Satan used mankind’s freewill — the fact that mankind has the ability to make independent decisions — against him. Satan deceived Eve through subtle words which brought into question what God’s instructions really meant and he tempted Eve with the desire for learning.
(1) "He said to the woman, Indeed, has God said, You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?" (Genesis 3:1NASB). Satan seems to suggest that something is strange, unjust or unkind, on the part of God. Why was any tree withheld?
(2) Eve gave Satan the correct words of God’s commandment that they could eat from all trees but the one in the middle of the garden. "You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die" (Genesis 3:3NASB).
(3) Satan then responded with the first and biggest lie: "You surely will not die!" He then claimed to tell Eve why God had put this restriction on them: "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:4-5NASB).
Satan put just enough doubt into Eve’s mind that she started to question why this fruit was banned. Eve observed "that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate" (Genesis 3:6NASB). Eve demonstrated one of the characteristics of man, that of judging solely by external appearance.
This characteristic was even a problem for Samuel when he went to anoint Eliab as King Saul’s successor. "But the LORD said to Samuel, Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7 NASB). We see an important principle conveyed in these events — external appearances can be deceiving. To be wise sounded desirable to Eve and so she ate of the fruit.
Adam Not Deceived
Eve offered the fruit to Adam who also ate of it. Genesis explains that Adam harkened to Eve and disobeyed God’s commandment. The Apostle Paul later explains, "it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression" (1 Timothy 2:14NASB). Adam was not deceived by Satan or Eve. He knew what he was doing.
Another side of man’s nature is shown when Adam tried to shift the blame for his disobedience. When asked by God why he had disobeyed, Adam said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate" (Genesis 3:12NASB). He blamed both God for providing him with Eve and also Eve for his sin. He accepted no responsibility for his own actions.
Man’s disobedience showed a measure of truth in Satan’s claim. Their eyes had been opened as God stated in Genesis 3:22 (NASB): "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil." Man’s disobedience revealed another characteristic of his nature, that of his mortality. He could die. Man needed the tree of life to be able to live for ever and access to the tree of life was stopped when Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:22-24).
Banishment from the garden and death may have seemed to be an extreme punishment for their disobedience. However, the wisdom of God soon became apparent when one generation later the extremity of mankind’s sinful nature was demonstrated by the first murder and Cain’s callous reaction to killing his brother.
It may have appeared that God’s creation of mankind had been a dismal failure, with no forethought as to what would happen by giving mankind freewill and allowing Satan to deceive them. Yet, this was all part of God’s plan to have a family that would someday truly and freely love and obey Him.
God knew that mankind could only learn obedience by suffering and experiencing the effects of sin. He also knew that man could not redeem himself. "Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice" (Psalm 49:7-8ESV). God’s justice required the giving of a perfect, human life to pay the ransom for Adam. None of the fallen human race could provide this price "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23 NASB).
God’s great love for His human creation is shown through His provision of the ransom. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16NASB).
The problem was that His Son was a spirit being. As such the Logos, God’s only begotten son, was not able to pay the price. God had to provide a way in which His son could be born with the nature of man, but without the sins of Adam. The promise of the redeemer was recorded in Isaiah 7:14 (NASB): "Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel." It was not until the time was right that the method by which this would be accomplished was revealed.
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:18NASB). This passage demonstrates that the perfect human seed implanted in Mary by God, could produce both a perfect man as well as a descendent of Adam who could provide a corresponding price.
The time span between the creation of Adam and the birth of Christ four thousand years later may appear to be a long time. However, this was all in God’s time-table as the brethren in Galatia were told: "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons" (Galatians 4:4-5NASB).
Christ volunteered to be the ransom price for mankind showing the difference between himself and Adam and Eve. "Although he [Christ] existed in the form of God, [he] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:6-8NASB). Christ accepted this position of a servant to serve the needs of mankind and did not strive for a higher one.
Jesus was "tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" and because of his experience, he can now sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15NASB). Just like Eve, he also was enticed by Satan to disobey his Heavenly Father as recorded in Matthew chapter 4. His temptations included:
(1) Performing miracles to both benefit himself and prove he was the Son of God.
(2) Casting himself down from the pinnacle of the temple so the angels would save him, thus proving he was the Son of God.
(3) Bowing down to Satan to receive all the kingdoms of the world and therefore, bypass all of the sufferings that lay ahead.
Each temptation suggested that Jesus could avoid the suffering that lay ahead for him. In each case, Christ answered Satan’s deception by quoting Scripture and then following God’s will as contained in them. Thus, he demonstrated how his followers should respond to Satan’s temptations.
It is critical to understand that Christ had to come in the flesh. Hebrew 2:14-18 gives us this assurance. Jesus shared the same "flesh and blood." He was of Abraham’s seed and was "made like his brethren in all things, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people" (Hebrews 2:14,17NASB). "He was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Retain the TruthYet, with all this evidence of man’s fallen human nature, the apostle John gave the following warning: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already" (1 John 4:1-3 ESV).
Even with all this evidence and John’s warning, at the Council of Nicea in 325AD, the doctrine of God and Christ being co-equal and con-substantial was officially formulated. Then "the Athanasian Creed" in the 5th century introduced the doctrine of the Trinity with the addition of the third person, the holy Spirit, without any scriptural evidence present.
This was contrary to what the scriptures say about the nature of Jesus. He became a perfect man so that he could die as a ransom for Adam. Then he was raised from the grave a spirit being and was seen by many to confirm that he had paid the ransom price. In God’s due time, this confirmation will be made plain when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and be raised to life and given an opportunity to walk up the highway of holiness, learning of God and of their redeemer. They will have had the experience of evil that Satan brought to the world. Then, they will have the opportunity to learn righteousness, prove their obedience to it and thus, gain access to the tree of life, allowing them everlasting life.