For God's sake who am I?
by Richlon Merrill
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“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27. Having heard this verse all my life, I grew up never considering mankind as anything other than what it declares. But in today’s culture where even this simple truth is questioned, it becomes necessary to defend it. Voices in science and academia want us to believe that we are nothing more than a higher form of animal. In Genesis 2:7 we read that, “the Lord formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” The implication is that God breathed His life into Adam. We are not told that God breathed life into the animals he created. Solomon pondered this issue when he wrote, “Or Who knows the spirit of man, which rises upward, or the spirit of the animal, which goes down into the earth.” Eccl. 3:21. When animals die their life goes with them into the ground. When man dies, while his body goes back to the “dust of the ground”, his spirit is returned to God from whence it came. As living souls created in the “image” and “likeness” of God who are to rule over all other created beings, God elevates us to a higher status than merely a more evolved animal on the evolutionary chain. Included within that status is an astonishing responsibility. As such, our value is immeasurable… but here is where we must insert a comma. Despite the value God placed upon us, Adam and Eve relinquished their God given standing, charge, and relationship with God and with one another. Their decision to sin has affected man’s self image and standing before God ever since. In the 5th chapter of Romans Paul points out that death entered mankind through Adam’s sin and, likewise, to all of us because we all sin. That sin has likewise affected our own view of ourselves. Man tries to define himself apart from God’s divine design.
The Bible indicates that mankind is endowed with a body, soul, spirit, and a heart (not the blood pumping organ). Let’s face it. Most of us focus more attention on our bodies in contrast to our inward being. As Christ followers we know that our body is the “temple” of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19) and therefore should be taken care of. It is through our earthly bodies that our Lord’s work will be accomplished on earth. Even bodies which are paralyzed or crippled through disease will accomplish God’s task as long as we are controlled by God’s Holy Spirit. We are told in Romans to present our bodies as a “living sacrifice”, meaning we are to offer ourselves continually as dying to self and living for Christ who died on our behalf.
The Bible speaks often of our souls. The Bible does not provide us with a well defined definition of the soul. However, the Bible describes our soul as the very essence of who we are inwardly. Perhaps even without our bodies, we would be recognized by our soul in the spirit realm. David often wrote about the condition of his own soul. In the Psalms 42 and 43 David lamented, “Why are you so downcast, O my soul?” David then in Psalm 35:9 says, “Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation.” This suggests that our souls can find both sadness and joy depending upon the control we give it. This is where it appears the spirit of a man enters the picture. Encompassed within our soul is what the Bible calls the “spirit” of man. There is debate over whether the reference to both soul and spirit are one in the same or separate. The prophet Isaiah quoted God when he wrote, “I will not accuse forever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me— the breath of man that I have created.” Isaiah 57:16. Job’s friend, Elihu, who had come to provide Job with comfort and support, spoke these words, “But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding. Job 32:8. The spirit of man is the life substance given to us by God. The spirit of man appears to be our spiritual conduit with God contained within our soul. The Bible also speaks about the “heart” of man. It is the heart of man which truly defines who he is. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Sam. 16:7b. Our hearts can be hardened or softened towards God. For instance, Scripture says that Pharaoh hardened his heart towards God. But it also says that David had a heart for God. When scripture talks about the “heart and soul” of man, this encompasses the entirety of our inward being. Without Christ reining within our heart, we are under the compulsion of our sin nature. Our intellect and thoughts, the choices we make, our affections, conscience, and our emotional responses are under the control of that nature. Consequently our spirit is not “alive with Christ” (Eph 2:5 or Col. 2:13). When Christ reigns upon the throne of our soul, His Spirit gives life to our spirit making us alive with Christ. Consequently, our heart begins to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, making us more like Christ.
David reflects upon the majesty of God and condition of man when he writes, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” Psalm 8:3-5. We too should take pause to consider that the great God of creation places such value on us. As such, the question becomes how do we reclaim and fully realize our God given honor. “For just as the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:19. Christ’s life becomes our life. We once again regain our God given standing. We also regain an accurate view of ourselves. We are sons and daughters of God. We are brothers and sisters of Christ and with one another. We become fully aware of our inestimable worth having the distinguished honor of bringing glory to our heavenly Father. For such is our ultimate purpose.
Biblical reference: NIV translation.
“A Theology of Christian Counseling” by Jay E. Adams, chapter 6.
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