Category Archives: Humanity Questions

Questions about Humanity: Why Do People Die?

 

People die because of what is called the “original sin”—the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God had warned the first couple that transgressing His law would result in their death (Genesis 2:17), and that is what happened. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a).

Adam and Eve were meant to dwell with God forever, so they probably did not even know what it meant to “die.” Unfortunately, sin had at some time in eternity past invaded the heavenly realm of angels, and Satan tempted Eve, and she fell into sin. Eve gave the fruit to her husband, and he followed her into sin. That sin brought death into the world, as mankind separated themselves from the Source of Life.

Since that time, every human produced by a woman with the aid of a man has produced sinful offspring. This sin nature brings with it death. “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

Genesis 3 describes the curse that God pronounced upon the world. The curse included these words to Adam: “You [will] return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). Physical death of the body is what God spoke of here. Physical death did not occur immediately for Adam and Eve, but, because of their sin, innocent animals did die (Genesis 3:21).

The other type of death that Adam and Eve’s sin brought was spiritual death—their spirits were separated from God’s Spirit; their fellowship was broken. This spiritual death occurred immediately after they partook of the forbidden fruit and were fearful and ashamed (Genesis 3:10). Spiritual death, like physical death, was passed on to their descendants (Ephesians 2:1).

Ever since Adam, the human race has labored under “the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). God in His goodness sent His Son to abolish the law of sin and death and establish “the law of the Spirit who gives life” (Romans 8:2). First Corinthians 15:20–26 states, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.… The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Humanity: What Is the Purpose of Man, according to the Bible?

 

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that God created man and that He created him for His glory (see Isaiah 43:7). Therefore, the ultimate purpose of man, according to the Bible, is simply to glorify God.

A harder question to answer, perhaps, is what does it look like to glorify God? In Psalm 100:2–3, we’re told to worship God with gladness and “know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” Part of what it looks like to glorify God is to acknowledge who God is (our Creator, for starters) and to praise and worship Him as such.

We fulfill our purpose of glorifying God also by living our lives in relationship and faithful service to Him (see 1 Samuel 12:24 and John 17:4). Since God created man in His image (Genesis 1:27), man’s purpose cannot be fulfilled apart from Him. King Solomon tried living for his own pleasure, yet at the end of his life he concluded that the only worthwhile life is one of honor and obedience to God (see Ecclesiastes 12:13–14).

In our fallen state, sin separates us from God and makes it impossible to glorify Him on our own. But through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, our relationship with God is reconciled—our sin is forgiven and no longer creates a barrier between God and us (see Romans 3:23–24).

Interestingly, we are able to glorify God because He gave us glory first. David writes in Psalm 8:4–5, “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet.” (This is also repeated in Hebrews 2:6–8.) This verse reveals another purpose that God has given man: dominion over the earth (see Genesis 1:28–29). Again, though, this can only be properly fulfilled through a right relationship with God.

The more we get to know our Creator and the more we love Him (Matthew 22:37–38), the better we understand who we are and what our purpose is. We were created to bring Him glory. God has unique plans and purposes for each person (Jeremiah 29:11), but we can know that, whatever those plans look like, they will ultimately result in His glory (see Proverbs 3:6 and 1 Corinthians 10:31).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Humanity: Individualism vs. Collectivism—What Does the Bible Say?

 

Individualism can be defined as putting the interests of the individual above those of the group. The idea of collectivism is that the needs of the group take precedence over each individual in it. There are entire cultures that have a bent toward one of these two philosophies; for example, the United States has historically encouraged individualism, while the culture in South Korea leans more toward collectivism. Is one better or worse than the other, from a biblical standpoint? The answer is not a simple “Thus saith the Lord.” The truth is, the Bible gives examples of both individualism and collectivism.

Individualism puts the focus on doing whatever’s best for “me,” regardless of what effect that has on the “group.” Collectivism puts the focus on doing whatever’s best for “the group,” regardless of its effect on individuals within the group. From a biblical perspective, neither of these ideologies—when played out to their full extent—are what God intends. Ultimately, God created humans for His sake (Isaiah 43:7), not for their own or any other person’s sake. A godly focus would be to do what is best for God and His kingdom (Matthew 6:33a).

There are verses in the Bible that illustrate collectivism to a certain extent. Caiaphas’s inadvertent prophecy that “it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” (John 11:50) is one case of collectivist thought. In the early church in Jerusalem, people pooled their resources and gave to those in need so that no one lacked anything (Acts 2:44–45; 4:32–35). In 2 Corinthians 8:12–14, Paul encourages the church in Corinth to give financially to the church in Jerusalem “that there might be equality” (verse 13). The key to note in these examples, however, is that the people who gave had a choice in the matter. Their giving was strictly voluntary (Acts 5:4). No one was forced to give his resources for the benefit of the group, but they willingly did so out of love for the Lord and for the church. As an individual gave to benefit the group, that individual was blessed, as well (2 Corinthians 9:6–8). This principle of the Kingdom contains some elements of collectivism but goes beyond it. Our motivation for serving the church is not just to benefit the church as a collective; our motivation is that it pleases God (see Hebrews 13:16).

Other verses in the Bible illustrate the value and significance of the individual. In one of His parables, Jesus emphasizes the importance of growing and stewarding well the things God gives us because individually we are held accountable (Luke 19:15). In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of a shepherd who left his flock to seek one lost lamb and the story of a woman who turns her house inside out to find an individual piece of an heirloom (see Luke 15:3–10). Both parables illustrate the value God places on the individual over the group. As we saw with collectivism, though, these examples demonstrate the idea of individualism only partially. God values the individual over the group at times because it pleases Him and gives Him glory. When God is glorified, everyone benefits, individuals and the group—notice that in the parables of Luke 15, every time what was lost is found,everyone rejoices (Luke 15:6, 9).

God values both the individual and the collective. The Bible doesn’t really argue for either individualism or collectivism as the correct ideology. Instead, it offers something else altogether, illustrated in the description of the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12. Paul tells us that individual believers are like parts of a body, each playing an incredibly important and vital role to the success of the body to function as it should (1 Corinthians 12:14, 27). The various parts of a body function only when they are a part of the body as a whole. A thumb can do things no other part of the body can do, but only when it’s connected to the hand! (see 1 Corinthians 12:18–20). Likewise, the body as a whole is an amazing organism, but only when all the parts are taken care of individually (see 1 Corinthians 12:25–26).

The debate over what the Bible says about individualism vs. collectivism will no doubt continue; nevertheless, we can all learn from C. S. Lewis on the topic, no matter what position we take: “I feel a strong desire to tell you—and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me—which of these two errors [individualism or collectivism] is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs—pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them” (from Mere Christianity, book 4, chapter 6).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Humanity: What Does Paul Mean When He Writes of the Natural Man?

 

In 1 Corinthians 2:6–16, the natural man is compared to the spiritual man and the carnal man. Verse 14 says, “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (NASB). This verse does not define the natural man, as such; rather, it uses the term to describe one who does not understand God’s words and thoughts. The one who can understand God’s words is a “spiritual” man (verse 15).

Dr. Henry Morris, in the New Defender’s Study Bible, gives this comment on verse 14: “The ‘natural’ man, still unsaved, cannot appreciate spiritual truths. He must first understand Christ’s atoning sacrifice for him, but even that is ‘foolishness’ to him (1:18) until the Holy Spirit Himself convicts him of its reality (John 16:7–11).” Basically, the “natural” man is one who does not have the Holy Spirit residing within him. As Jesus said, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:6).

Let’s look at some other uses in the Bible of the word natural. In Romans 11:21 we read, “For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you.” In 1 Corinthians 15:44–46, “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, then there is also a spiritual body.… However the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.” Ezekiel 44:31 speaks of a natural death. Daniel 10:8 speaks of a natural color. James 1:23 speaks of a natural face, and James 3:15 states, “This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.”

In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul uses the word natural to refer to someone still in his original (sinful) state. The Greek word psuchikos (“natural”) can be defined as “animal,” as opposed to “spiritual.” Natural men are those who are occupied with the things of this material world to the exclusion of the things of God. They are led by instinct rather than by the Spirit of God. They intuitively choose sin over righteousness. They are the “pagans” Jesus refers to in Matthew 6:32 who only seek after the things of this world.

The supernatural work of God is to change the natural man into a spiritual one. When a person trusts Christ, God exchanges what is natural (received from Adam) for what is spiritual (received from Christ). “As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). The Christian life is, therefore, a supernatural one. We do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Humanity: What Does It Mean that God Gave Humanity Dominion over the Animals?

 

The word dominion means “rule or power over.” God has sovereign power over His creation and has delegated the authority to mankind to have dominion over the animals (Genesis 1:26, 28). David reinforces this truth as he testifies that God has “made [mankind] ruler over the works of your hands” (Psalm 8:6). However, with the authority to rule comes the responsibility to rule well. Man has a duty to exercise his dominion under the authority of the One who delegated it. All authority is of God (Romans 13:1–5), and He delegates it to whomever He will (Daniel 4:17).

There is an inherent accountability in the command to “subdue” the earth (Genesis 1:28). The word subdue means “to gain an understanding of and a mastery over.” Man is to be the steward of the earth; he is to bring the material world and all of its varied elements into the service and good of mankind, and he is to do so with understanding. Only then will dominion be truly according to God’s command.

When God gave humanity dominion over the animals, it was in order to care for, tend to, and use those animals to their fullest potential in a just manner. At the time that God gave mankind dominion over the animals, humans did not eat meat (Genesis 1:29). Eating meat did not begin until after the Flood (Genesis 9:1–3), and it was at that time that animals started to fear humans. However, although God changed the way we interact with animals, in that they are now “meat,” we still bear a responsibility to care for or treat animals humanely. Human “rule” over animals does not mean we have the right to mistreat or misuse those animals.

Therefore, dominion over animals should entail a humane management of them as the resource that God has ordained them to be. We must fulfill our duty to manage the earth wisely until that time when the wolf shall lie down with the lamb in the kingdom of Christ (Isaiah 11:6).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.