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.

Questions about Humanity: Why Did God Make Man out of the Dust of the Earth (Genesis 2:7)?

 

Genesis 2:7 teaches, “The Lord God formed a man from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” With the rest of creation, God had simply spoken things into existence (e.g., Genesis 1:3, 14, 20, 24), but God does things differently with man.

Three important observations can be made. First, the fact that man was created from dust makes him unique among all of God’s creation. To create the sun, mountains, animal life, etc., God simply spoke. We read, “Then God said” over and over in Genesis 1. Human life, however, included the “dust of the earth” and the very breath of God. Man is a unique combination of earthly, natural material and life-giving power from God Himself. Such a mode of creation highlights the importance and value of human life.

Second, the use of dust suggests a certain lowliness. God did not use gold or granite or gemstones to make man. He used dust, a humble substance. What gives man his glory? The dust, or the breath of God within the dust? Genesis 3:19 notes man’s dependence upon God and the fragile nature of human life: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

Third, the literary structure of the passage puts man’s creation from the dust of the earth in a place of significance. The structure of Genesis 2:5–9 can be broken down like this:

A No plant life (verse 5a) B No intervention by God (verse 5b) C No man to work the ground (verse 5c) D Mist from God (verse 6) E God creates man (verse 7a) X God gives life (verse 7a) E Man become a living creature (verse 7b) D Garden from God (verse 8a) C Man works the ground (verse 8b; cf. verse 15) B God intervenes (verse 9) A Plant life exists (verse 9)

God could have chosen to create humans in any way He desired. However, Scripture records the particular way He did create—using both natural material (dust) and supernatural power to give humans a unique place in the cosmos. The recipe of dust of the earth + God’s breath emphasizes the supernatural power of God and the fragile nature of humanity. Human life is completely dependent upon God, and, as a result, humans are called to worship the Lord and to serve Him only.[1]

 

 

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

Questions about Humanity: Does the Bible Support Eugenics?

 

Eugenics is a social movement that supports the supposed improvement of the human population via selective breeding and other means. It was originally developed by Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin, and based upon Darwin’s theory of evolution. Eugenics was practiced openly in the early decades of the 20th century in many countries, including the United States. After WWII, eugenics by that name fell into disfavor when the extent of Nazi atrocities became known. Eugenicists advocate genetic screening, birth control, segregation, transhumanism, euthanasia, compulsory sterilization, forced pregnancies, and abortion.

Margaret Sanger was the founder of Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider. Sanger was also a proponent of eugenics who railed against the “reckless breeding” of the “unfit.” In her bookWoman and the New Race, she wrote, “The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it” (Chapter V, “The Wickedness of Creating Large Families,” 1920). She desired “to breed a race of human thoroughbreds” and would rather a society “produce a thousand thoroughbreds than a million runts” (Radio WFAB Syracuse, February 29, 1924, transcripted in “The Meaning of Radio Birth Control,” April 1924, p. 111).

From its founding, Planned Parenthood has been involved with eugenics. In 1932 the organization received the endorsement of the American Eugenics Society. To this day, Planned Parenthood is targeting those whom Sanger and other eugenicists would call “unfit.” Their 1997 publicationPlan of Actionstated their “core clients” are “young women, low-income women, and women of color.”

The Bible does not specifically mention eugenics, but the idea behind eugenics—that man can better himself by ridding the world of “undesireable” people—is definitely not biblical. God told mankind to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28; 9:1, 7). No exception to that command is given in Scripture. In fact, King Solomon wrote in Psalm 127:3–5 that children are a heritage from the Lord and that the fruit of the womb is a reward from Him.

God gives us life and numbers our days (Job 33:4; 14:5). The sovereign Lord determines whether we live or die. For social engineers to usurp God’s authority in order to create a self-defined “master race” is evil. We are to obey God, not men (Acts 5:29).

English theologian G. K. Chesterton wrote in his 1922 bookEugenics and Other Evils, “There is no reason in Eugenics, but there is plenty of motive. Its supporters are highly vague about its theory, but they will be painfully practical about its practice” (from Chapter VIII, “A Summary of a False Theory”).

Eugenics is a meritless and immoral social engineering experiment with dubious chances for “success,” as defined by its supporters. It is a slippery slope in which Chesterton’s scientific madmen abrogate the authority of God and seek to create their own utopia on Earth. Through abortion and euthanasia, eugenics is simply murder. Job 24:14 says, “When daylight is gone, the murderer rises up, kills the poor and needy, and in the night steals forth like a thief.” This is the role of eugenicist: killing the poor and needy and those he deems “unworthy”; preventing a “poor quality of life” (in his estimation) by taking life; denying men’s liberty; and playing God.

“As he went along, [Jesus] saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him’ ” (John 9:1–3). Who are we to decide who does or does not display the works of God? The Bible tells us to defend the weak (Matthew 25:35–36; Acts 20:35), not to kill them.[1]

 

 

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

Questions about Humanity: Does God Need Us?

 

God is holy, eternal, almighty, and totally self-sufficient. He does not need any created being, but we do need Him. All of creation is dependent on the life that God alone sustains. “He makes grass grow for the cattle,” and “all creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time.… When you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust (Psalm 104:14, 27, 29).

God, on the other hand, is not dependent on anything or anyone. He suffers no lack, knows no limitation, and experiences no deficiency. He is “I AM THAT I AM,” with no qualification or exception (Exodus 3:14). If He needed anything to stay alive or to feel complete, then He would not be God.

So, God does not need us. But, amazingly, He loves us passionately, and in His goodness He wants us to live with Him forever. So 2,000 years ago, God Himself put on skin, came to Earth, and gave His very life to atone for our sin and prove His deep love for us. He paid the ultimate price to reconcile us to Himself, and nobody pays that high a price for something they don’t want or value.

Jesus certainly knew what was going to befall Him at the end of His earthly ministry (Mark 8:31; John 18:4). In His anguish in Gethsemane, as He prayed about the trials that would soon befall Him, blood-tinged sweat dripped from His brow (Luke 22:44). And Jesus surely knew very well the prophecy of Isaiah 52:14, “His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness.” The Son of Man was flayed to the bone to the extent that He no longer resembled a human being. And that torture was followed by something even worse, the crucifixion itself, the most painful and vile method of execution ever devised.

As Jesus hung on the cross, His Father in heaven “turned away” from Him. Habakkuk 1:13 confirms that God’s eyes “are too pure to look on evil.” And at that moment, Christ cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

This is the price God paid for us, and this is how we know that He loves us. Because of this incredible and unwarranted love for us disobedient sinners, we are offered eternal life. Salvation is a gift, given freely for the asking, because of the breathtaking, voluntary sacrifice by the one true God. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Once joined to Christ, nothing can separate us from Him. Romans 8:38–39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Believers in Christ are made new. We understand the depth of His love for us: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

You, too, can immerse yourself in God’s eternal love for you and know the certainty of eternal life. Continue reading here to learn what it means to accept Christ as your personal Savior.[1]

 

 

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

Questions about Humanity: What Does the Bible Say about Aging/Growing Old?

 

The Bible presents growing old as a normal, natural part of life in this world. There is honor involved in the aging process, because growing old is normally accompanied by increased wisdom and experience. “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life” (Proverbs 16:31; see also Proverbs 20:29). God wants us to remember that life is short (James 4:14) and that the beauty of youth is soon gone (Proverbs 31:30; 1 Peter 1:24).

Ultimately, the question of growing old cannot be separated from the question of the meaning of life and the concept of the legacy we leave. In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon provides a sagacious look at aging and the issues related to it.

We are born with a natural tendency to “live for the moment,” but the ultimate futility of that approach is the subject of Ecclesiastes 1–7. As people grow older and begin to feel the increasing impact of their mortality, they typically try to invest their waning resources in projects that to them seem to hold more promise of lasting meaning in life, especially the hope of perpetuating their “name” in a lasting legacy (Ecclesiastes 2). Unfortunately, no one can predict what projects will have lasting value and significance (Ecclesiastes 3:1–15), and this normally leads to varying levels of disillusionment and even despair over life’s brevity and apparent injustice “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 3:16–7:29).

With the growing realization that satisfaction in such activities is invariably fleeting, Solomon’s hope is that people will grow wiser in the use of their God-given “portion” before they die (Ecclesiastes 8–12; see also Psalm 90:12). And this wisdom grows in relation to our awareness of “time and judgment”—this is God’s answer to life’s brevity and apparent injustice (Ecclesiastes 3:15c–17; 8:5b–8, 12b–15; 9:11–12; 11:9; 12:14). The Hebrew notion of “time” in these passages combines the concepts of “opportunity” (“just the right time” to act expediently when the occasion arises) and “limited lifespan” (“only so much time” before all opportunity is gone). The Hebrew notion of “judgment” in these same texts presupposes complete freedom in the use of our God-given “portion” in life as our desires lead us, yet with a concomitant accountability to the One who distributed our allotted portions. The New Testament counterpart to these concepts can be found portrayed vividly in Jesus’ parables of the ten virgins and the talents (Matthew 25), the two sons (Matthew 21:28–32), and the unjust steward (Luke 16:1–13).

Among the most disturbing aspects of growing old—especially in cultures that set a high value on rugged individualism—is the increasing frequency of senile dementia as human lifespan increases. It seems eminently unfair that people so afflicted should be robbed of their intellectual, emotional and social vitality while their physical bodies continue to survive. Alzheimer’s disease is a particularly difficult pill to swallow because the cause is unknown and it does not seem to be related to any particularly bad health habits. While progression of Alzheimer’s can be stalled, in part, by continued active involvement in mind-stimulating and physical activity, progression of the disease is nevertheless inexorable.

The author of Ecclesiastes acknowledges this vexing unfairness from a human perspective (Ecclesiastes 7:15–18; 8:14–9:3), yet he offers wisdom to help us deal with it from God’s perspective, entailing the notions of “time and judgment.” With our inevitable disillusionment over the human condition—our universal depravity, uncertainty, and mortality—it is wise to remember that “for all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:4–6, NKJV). Knowing that they are accountable for their God-given “portion,” people should take joyful advantage of all their gifts, talents, wisdom, and opportunities in life sooner rather than later—before all opportunity to do so has ceased, before inevitable debilitation forecloses all opportunity (9:7–10; 11:9–12:7).

The thrust of this reflection from Ecclesiastes on growing old is that meaning in life is fulfilled in our God-given purpose, and our purpose is only fulfilled when we take advantage of our God-given portion in Christ, God’s promised Savior. While this portion may seem less fair for some than for others, life’s meaning will be consummated only at the final judgment when we receive our inheritance (Ecclesiastes 7:11) for the way we invest our portion, be it good or bad (Ecclesiastes 12:14; cp. 2 Corinthians 5:10). On that day, we will see God as eminently fair in His rewards, regardless of how unfair or unevenly distributed our portion may seem in this present life.[1]

 

 

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

Questions about Humanity: What Is the Human Spirit?

 

The human spirit is the incorporeal part of man. The Bible says that the human spirit is the very breath of Almighty God and was breathed into man at the beginning of God’s creation: “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). It is the human spirit that gives us a consciousness of self and other remarkable, though limited, “God-like” qualities. The human spirit includes our intellect, emotions, fears, passions, and creativity. It is this spirit that provides us the unique ability to comprehend and understand (Job 32:8, 18).

The words spirit and breath are translations of the Hebrew word neshamah and the Greek word pneuma. The words mean “strong wind, blast or inspiration.” Neshamah is the source of life that vitalizes humanity (Job 33:4). It is the intangible, unseen human spirit that governs man’s mental and emotional existence. The apostle Paul said, “Who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him?” (1 Corinthians 2:11). Upon death the “spirit returns back to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7; see also Job 34:14–15; Psalm 104:29–30).

Every human being has a spirit, and it is distinct from the “spirit,” or life, of animals. God made man differently from the animals in that He created us “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26–27). Therefore, man is able to think, feel, love, design, create, and enjoy music, humor, and art. And it is because of the human spirit that we have a “free will” that no other creature on earth has.

The human spirit was damaged in the fall. When Adam sinned, his ability to fellowship with God was broken; he did not die physically that day, but he died spiritually. Ever since, the human spirit has borne the effects of the fall. Before salvation, a person is characterized as spiritually “dead” (Ephesians 2:1–5; Colossians 2:13). A relationship with Christ revitalizes our spirits and renews us day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Interestingly, just as the human spirit was divinely breathed into the first man, so the Holy Spirit was breathed into the first disciples in John 20:22: “And with that [Jesus] breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ ” (John 20:22; see also Acts 2:38). Adam was made alive by the breath of God, and we, as “new creations” in Christ, are made spiritually alive by the “Breath of God,” the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17; John 3:3; Romans 6:4). Upon our acceptance of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit of God joins with our own spirit in ways we cannot comprehend. The apostle John said, “This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit” (1 John 4:13).

When we allow the Spirit of God to lead our lives, the “Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16). As children of God, we are no longer led by our own spirit but by God’s Spirit, who leads us to eternal life.[1]

 

 

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

Questions about Humanity: What Is Anthropological Hylomorphism?

 

Most closely associated with the teachings of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, anthropological hylomorphism is one view of the relationship between body and soul.

Hylomorphism is the theory that “matter” (pure, abstract essence) combines with “form” (that which gives something its nature) to make “substance” (what we usually consider matter). For example, unformed clay can be shaped and hardened to make a brick—the clay is the “matter,” and the shape and hardness are the “form”; the brick is the resulting “substance.”

Anthropological hylomorphism applies this theory to the nature of man. How are the body, soul, and spirit related to each other? Most Christian discussions of this issue revolve around the trichotomy vs. dichotomy debate. Both views indicate some separation between soul and body. Aristotle, Aquinas and others held that the body is “matter” and the soul is the “form” which gives a person his nature. They also believed that form and matter are inextricably combined and dependent on one another. A brick cannot be a brick without the combination of clay and hardness and a particular shape. In the same way, a human cannot be a human without the combination of body and soul.

The term anthropological hylomorphism itself means “matter” (hylos,) and “form” (morphos) of “man” (anthropos). Aristotle borrowed these terms from Plato, whose views on the subject were illustrated in his parable of the cave in The Republic. Aristotle taught that no matter can exist without complying to a form, and no form can exist without having a presence in matter. Thus, Aristotle taught that the body cannot live without the soul, and the soul cannot live without the body (there can be no afterlife).

Aquinas was not so emphatic about form and matter’s inseparability. As a Dominican priest, Aquinas had high regard for Scripture, which indicates a separation is possible. Verses such as Matthew 10:28 teach that the body and soul are not mutually dependent: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” Perhaps the strongest argument against stringent Aristotelian hylomorphism is in 1 Corinthians 15:40, where Paul writes of the resurrection: “There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another.”

Nevertheless, Aquinas was able to combine hylomorphism with essential Christian tenets. He claimed that, even though the soul and body are linked, the soul can survive without the body. The soul is simply incomplete until re-embodied. The soul or “form” of a human exists in an unnatural state until God resurrects the body. In this way Aquinas explained the transition between the death of the earthly body and the resurrection of a heavenly body. Having a body, according to Aquinas, is essential to being human, and thus humanity cannot be perfected without one.[1]


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

Questions about Humanity: Who Is Really ‘Playing God’—The Doctor Who Euthanizes a Dying Patient, or the Doctor Who Extends the Life of a Terminally Ill Patient?

 

This question brings to the surface some of the hidden considerations involved in end-of-life decision-making. The primary consideration for many people is whether life can have “meaning” beyond certain thresholds of suffering or the loss of vital functions. One problem in evaluating such “meaning” is the often subjective nature of the decision-making process.

A deeper consideration is the will of God, the Giver of life and the Giver of wisdom—wisdom that is sorely needed amid life’s suffering (Psalm 27:11; 90:12). It is God who gives life purpose and meaning up to the point of death. As a gift from God, life should be preserved. God Himself is sovereign over the time and manner of our death. A doctor who administers a life-saving treatment is not “playing God”; he is honoring the gift of God.

The conflicting values in end-of-life decision-making lie at two extremes. At one end of the spectrum are those who promote euthanasia, or mercy killing: suffering is evil and must therefore be eliminated—by killing the sufferer, if necessary. At the other end are those who view life as sacred, to be extended at all costs, using any technology available.

The problem with the first view, besides the fact that euthanasia is murder, is that Scripture nowhere urges us to avoid suffering at all costs; in fact, believers are called to suffer like Christ in order to fulfill His righteous and redemptive purposes in us (1 Peter 2:20–25; 3:8–18; 4:12–19). Often, it is only after someone has been disillusioned by significant suffering and loss that he takes stock of what is truly meaningful and can then make progress in advancing God’s purposes.

The complication inherent in the other view is the definition of “life.” When does life actually end? The classic illustration is the so-called persistent vegetative state in which a person can live for many years by simply being fed and hydrated. Many assume that such patients have no cognitive awareness and therefore have no “life” at all. Neurologists measure patient response to certain neurological stimuli in an attempt to inform the decision-makers. However, others believe that, if a person in this condition has a heartbeat, then there is hope and life must be preserved, even if only by machines.

The best answer probably lies somewhere between the two views. The Christian will attempt to preserve life, but there is a difference between preserving life and prolonging death. Artificially maintaining a semblance of life functions, simply because someone has a hard time “letting go” would indeed be “playing God.” Death comes at the “appointed” time (Hebrews 9:27). When a patient’s body begins shutting down, when medical intervention will not heal but only prolong the natural process of dying, then removing the machines and allowing that person to die is not immoral. This calls for wisdom. Actively speeding up death is wrong. That would be “playing God.” Passively withholding life-saving treatment might also be wrong. But allowing life to run its course, providing palliative care, and permitting a person to die in God’s time is not wrong.

Given these considerations, a clear and present danger of “playing God” exists at both extremes: eliminating suffering at all costs, and utilizing every possible therapy at all costs. Rather than play God, we should let God be God. Scripture tells us to depend on God for wisdom (James 1:5) and to weigh what is meaningful while life remains (Ecclesiastes 12).[1]


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

Questions about Humanity: What Does It Mean to Be Spiritually Dead?

 

To be spiritually dead is to be separated from God. When Adam sinned in Genesis 3:6, he ushered in death for all humanity. God’s command to Adam and Eve was that they could not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It came with the warning that disobedience would result in death: “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’ ” The phrase “you shall surely die” could be literally translated “dying you shall die.” This signifies a continuous state of death that began with spiritual death, continues throughout life as a gradual degradation of the body, and culminates in physical death. The immediate spiritual death resulted in Adam’s separation from God. His act of hiding from God (Genesis 3:8) demonstrates this separation, as does his attempt to shift blame for the sin to the woman (Genesis 3:12).

Unfortunately, this spiritual—and eventual physical—death was not confined to Adam and Eve. As the representative of the human race, Adam carried all of humanity into his sin. Paul makes this clear in Romans 5:12, telling us that sin and death entered the world and spread to all men through Adam’s sin. Additionally, Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death; sinners must die, because sin separates us from God. Any separation from the Source of Life is, naturally, death for us.

But it is not just inherited sin that causes spiritual death; our own sinfulness contributes. Ephesians 2 teaches that, before salvation, we are “dead” in trespasses and sins (verse 1). This must speak of spiritual death, because we were still “alive” physically before salvation. While we were in that spiritually “dead” condition, God saved us (verse 5; see also Romans 5:8). Colossians 2:13 reiterates this truth: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses … God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.”

Since we are dead in sin, we are completely unable to trust God or His Word. Jesus repeatedly claims that we are powerless without Him (John 15:5) and that we cannot come to Him without God’s enabling (John 6:44). Paul teaches in Romans 8 that our natural minds cannot submit to God, nor please Him (verses 7–8). In our fallen state, we are incapable of even understanding the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14).

The act of God whereby He makes us alive from spiritual death is called regeneration. Regeneration is accomplished only by the Holy Spirit, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we are regenerated, we are made alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5) and renewed by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). It is like being born a second time, as Jesus taught Nicodemus in John 3:3, 7. Having been made alive by God, we will never truly die—we have eternal life. Jesus said often that to believe in Him is to have eternal life (John 3:16, 36; 17:3).

Sin leads to death. The only way to escape that death is to come to Jesus through faith, drawn by the Holy Spirit. Faith in Christ leads to spiritual life, and ultimately to eternal life.[1]


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

Questions about Humanity: What Is Human Nature? What Does the Bible Say about Human Nature?

 

Human nature is that which makes us distinctly human. Our nature is distinct from that of the animals and the rest of creation in that we can think and feel. One of the chief distinctions between human beings and the rest of creation is our ability to reason. No other creature has this ability, and there’s no question that this is a unique gift bestowed by God. Our reason enables us to reflect on our own nature and the nature of God and to derive knowledge of God’s will for His creation. No other part of God’s creation has a nature capable of reason.

The Bible teaches that God created human beings in His image. This means that He enables us to have some understanding of Him and of His vast and complex design. Our human nature reflects some of God’s attributes, although in a limited way. We love because we are made in the image of the God who is love (1 John 4:16). Because we are created in His image, we can be compassionate, faithful, truthful, kind, patient, and just. In us, these attributes are distorted by sin, which also resides in our nature.

Originally, human nature was perfect by virtue of having been created so by God. The Bible teaches that human beings were created “very good” by a loving God (Genesis 1:31), but that goodness was marred by the sin of Adam and Eve. Subsequently, the entire human race fell victim to the sin nature. The good news is that at the moment a person trusts in Christ, he receives a new nature. Second Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Sanctification is the process by which God develops our new nature, enabling us to grow into more holiness through time. This is a continuous process with many victories and defeats as the new nature battles with the “tent” (2 Corinthians 5:4) in which it resides—the old man, the old nature, the flesh. Not until we are glorified in heaven will our new nature be set free to live for eternity in the presence of the God in whose image we are created.[1]


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

Questions about Humanity: What Is the Conscience?

 

The conscience is defined as that part of the human psyche that induces mental anguish and feelings of guilt when we violate it and feelings of pleasure and well-being when our actions, thoughts and words are in conformity to our value systems. The Greek word translated “conscience” in all New Testament references is suneidēsis, meaning “moral awareness” or “moral consciousness.” The conscience reacts when one’s actions, thoughts, and words conform to, or are contrary to, a standard of right and wrong.

There is no Hebrew term in the Old Testament equivalent to suneidēsis in the New Testament. The lack of a Hebrew word for “conscience” may be due to the Jewish worldview, which was communal rather than individual. The Hebrew considered himself as a member of a covenant community which related corporately to God and His laws, rather than as an individual. In other words, the Hebrew was confident in his own position before God if the Hebrew nation as a whole was in good fellowship with Him.

The New Testament concept of conscience is more individual in nature and involves three major truths. First, conscience is a God-given capacity for human beings to exercise self-evaluation. Paul refers several times to his own conscience being “good” or “clear” (Acts 23:1; 24:16; 1 Corinthians 4:4). Paul examined his own words and deeds and found them to be in accordance with his morals and value system, which were, of course, based on God’s standards. His conscience verified the integrity of his heart.

Second, the New Testament portrays the conscience as a witness to something. Paul says the Gentiles have consciences that bear witness to the presence of the law of God written on their hearts, even though they did not have the Mosaic Law (Romans 2:14–15). He also appeals to his own conscience as a witness that he speaks the truth (Romans 9:1) and that he has conducted himself in holiness and sincerity in his dealings with men (2 Corinthians 1:12). He also says that his conscience tells him his actions are apparent to both God and the witness of other men’s consciences (2 Corinthians 5:11).

Third, the conscience is a servant of the individual’s value system. An immature or weak value system produces a weak conscience, while a fully informed value system produces a strong sense of right and wrong. In the Christian life, one’s conscience can be driven by an inadequate understanding of scriptural truths and can produce feelings of guilt and shame disproportionate to the issues at hand. Maturing in the faith strengthens the conscience.

This last function of the conscience is what Paul addresses in his instructions regarding eating food sacrificed to idols. He makes the case that, since idols are not real gods, it makes no difference if food has been sacrificed to them or not. But some in the Corinthian church were weak in their understanding and believed that such gods really existed. These immature believers were horrified at the thought of eating food sacrificed to the gods, because their consciences were informed by erroneous prejudices and superstitious views. Therefore, Paul encourages those more mature in their understanding not to exercise their freedom to eat if it would cause the consciences of their weaker brothers to condemn their actions. The lesson here is that, if our consciences are clear because of mature faith and understanding, we are not to cause those with weaker consciences to stumble by exercising the freedom that comes with a stronger conscience.

Another reference to conscience in the New Testament is to a conscience that is “seared” or rendered insensitive as though it had been cauterized with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:1–2). Such a conscience is hardened and calloused, no longer feeling anything. A person with a seared conscience no longer listen to its promptings, and he can sin with abandon, delude himself into thinking all is well with his soul, and treat others insensitively and without compassion.

As Christians, we are to keep our consciences clear by obeying God and keeping our relationship with Him in good standing. We do this by the application of His Word, renewing and softening our hearts continually. We consider those whose consciences are weak, treating them with Christian love and compassion.[1]


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

Questions about Humanity: What Is the Flesh?

John Knox (c. 1510–1572) was a Scottish clergyman, a leader of the Protestant Reformation, and a man who is considered to be the founder of the Presbyterian denomination in Scotland. Knox has been admired by contemporary theologians as someone who personified a zeal for God and a commitment to the truth of Scripture and holy living. Yet, as he grew close to death, this saint of God admitted his own personal battle with the sin nature he inherited from Adam (Romans 5:12). Knox said, “I know how hard the battle is between the flesh and the spirit under the heavy cross of affliction, when no worldly defense but present death doth appear. I know the grudging and murmuring complaints of the flesh …”

Knox’s statement sounds remarkably like that of the apostle Paul who openly acknowledged a personal struggle with his sin nature: “For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:14–24).

Paul states in his letter to the Romans that there was something “in the members” of his body that he calls “my flesh,” which produced difficulty in his Christian life and made him a prisoner of sin. Martin Luther, in his preface to the book of Romans, commented on Paul’s use of “flesh” by saying, “Thou must not understand ‘flesh,’ therefore, as though that only were ‘flesh’ which is connected with unchastity, but St. Paul uses ‘flesh’ of the whole man, body, and soul, reason, and all his faculties included, because all that is in him longs and strives after the flesh.” Luther’s comments point out that “flesh” equates to affections and desires that run contrary to God, not only in the area of sexual activity, but in every area of life.

To get a solid understanding of the term “flesh” requires examining its usage and definition in Scripture, how it manifests in the life of both believers and unbelievers, the consequences it produces, and how it can ultimately be overcome.

A Definition of the “Flesh”
The Greek word for “flesh” in the New Testament is sarx, a term that can often in Scripture refer to the physical body. However, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature describes the word this way: “the physical body as functioning entity; in Paul’s thought esp., all parts of the body constitute a totality known as flesh, which is dominated by sin to such a degree that wherever flesh is, all forms of sin are likewise present, and no good thing can live.”

The Bible makes it clear that humanity did not start out this way. The book of Genesis says that humankind was originally created good and perfect: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’ … God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26–27). Because God is perfect, and because an effect always represents its cause in essence [that is, a totally good God can only create good things, or as Jesus said, “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit” (Matthew 7:18)], both Adam and Eve were created good and without sin. But, when Adam and Eve sinned, their nature was corrupted, and that nature was passed along to their offspring: “When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth” (Genesis 5:3, emphasis added).

The fact of the sin nature is taught in many places in Scripture, such as David’s declaration, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). David does not mean he was the product of an adulterous affair, but that his parents passed along a sin nature to him. In theology, this is sometimes called the “Traducian” (from the Latin term meaning “from a branch”) view of human nature The Traducian view is that a person’s soul is created via his parents, with the child inheriting their fallen nature in the process.

The Bible’s view of human nature differs from that of Greek philosophy in that Scripture says the physical and spiritual nature of humankind was originally good. By contrast, philosophers such as Plato saw a dualism or dichotomy in humanity. Such thinking eventually produced a theory that the body (the physical) was bad, but a person’s spirit was good. This teaching influenced groups such as the Gnostics who believed the physical world was mistakenly created by a demi-god called the “Demiurge.” The Gnostics opposed the doctrine of Christ’s incarnation because they believed God would never take on a physical form, since the body was evil. The apostle John encountered a form of this teaching in his day and warned against it: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:1–3).

Further, the Gnostics taught that it did not matter what a person did in his body, since the spirit was all that mattered. This Platonic dualism had the same effect back in the first century as it does today—it leads either to asceticism or licentiousness, both of which the Bible condemns (Colossians 2:23; Jude 4).

So contrary to Greek thought, the Bible says that humanity’s nature, both the physical and spiritual, were good, yet both were adversely affected by sin. The end result of sin is a nature often referred to as the “flesh” in Scripture—something that opposes God and seeks sinful gratification. Pastor Mark Bubek defines the flesh this way: “The flesh is a built-in law of failure, making it impossible for natural man to please or serve God. It is a compulsive inner force inherited from man’s fall, which expresses itself in general and specific rebellion against God and His righteousness. The flesh can never be reformed or improved. The only hope for escape from the law of the flesh is its total execution and replacement by a new life in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Manifestation and Struggle with the Flesh
How does the flesh manifest itself in human beings? The Bible answers the question this way: “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19–21).

Examples of the flesh’s outworking in the world are evident. Consider a few sad facts taken from a recent survey on the effect of pornography in America. According to the study, every second in the U.S.:

•     $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography

•     28,258 Internet users are viewing pornography

•     372 Internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines

And every 39 minutes, a new pornographic video is being created in the United States. Such statistics underscore the statement made by the prophet Jeremiah who mourned that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

The Consequences of the Flesh

The Bible says that living in the flesh produces a number of unfortunate consequences. First, Scripture states that those who live according to the flesh, and who never desire change or repent from their sinful behavior, will experience separation from God both in this life and the next:

•     “Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the [sinful practices] of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death” (Romans 6:21)

•     “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13)

•     “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7–8)

Further, a person also becomes a slave to his/her fleshly nature: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Romans 6:16). This slavery always leads to a destructive lifestyle and deteriorated living. As the prophet Hosea said, “For they sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7).

The fact of the matter is that obeying the flesh always results in breaking God’s moral law. Nevertheless, in a very real sense, a person can never break God’s moral law, although he can certainly disobey it. For example, a person can climb up on a roof, tie a cape around his neck, and leap off the roof in hopes of breaking the law of gravity. However, he will quickly learn that he cannot fly; he cannot break the law of gravity, and the only thing he breaks in the end is himself, while proving the law of gravity in the process. The same is true of moral actions: a person may disobey God’s moral law through fleshly living, but he will only prove the moral law of God true by breaking himself in some way via his own behavior.

Overcoming the Flesh
The Bible provides a three-step process for overcoming the flesh and restoring oneself to a right relationship with God. The first step is a walk of honesty where a person acknowledges his sinful behavior before God. This involves agreeing with what the Bible says about everyone born of human parents: people are sinners and enter the world in a broken relationship with the God who made them:

•     “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3)

•     “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.… If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8, 10)

The next step is a walk in the Spirit, which involves calling out to God for salvation and receiving His Holy Spirit that empowers a person to live rightly before God and not obey the flesh’s desires. This transformation and new walk of life is described in several places in Scripture:

•     “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

•     “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11)

•     “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)

•     “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)

•     “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Romans 13:14)

•     “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18)

•     “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11)

The last step is a walk of death, where the flesh is starved of its desires so that it eventually dies. Even though a person is born again through the Spirit of God, he must understand he still possesses the old nature with its desires that war with the new nature and the desires that come from the Spirit. From a practical standpoint, the Christian purposely avoids feeding the old, fleshly nature and instead practices new behaviors that are driven by the Spirit:

•     “But flee from [sinful actions], you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11)

•     “Now flee from youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 2:22)

•     “But I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)

•     “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)

•     “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24)

•     “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;” (Romans 6:6)

•     “But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:20–24)

Conclusion
Susanna Wesley, mother to the great preachers and hymn writers John and Charles Wesley, described sin and the flesh this way: “Whatever weakens your reasoning, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes away your relish for spiritual things, in short—if anything increases the authority and the power of the flesh over the Spirit, that to you becomes sin however good it is in itself.” One of the goals of the Christian life is the victory of the Spirit over the flesh and a change of life, which manifests in righteous living before God.

Although the struggle will be very real (which the Bible makes clear), Christians have assurance from God that He will bring them eventual success over the flesh. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).[1]

 


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

Questions about Humanity: What Is the Heart?

First, we’ll state the obvious: this article is not about the heart as a vital organ, a muscle that pumps blood throughout the body. Neither is this article concerned with romantic, philosophical, or literary definitions.

Instead, we’ll focus on what the Bible has to say about the heart. The Bible mentions the human heart almost 300 times. In essence, this is what it says: the heart is that spiritual part of us where our emotions and desires dwell.

Before we look at the human heart, we’ll mention that, since God has emotions and desires, He, too, can be said to have a “heart.” We have a heart because God does. David was a man “after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). And God blesses His people with leaders who know and follow His heart (1 Samuel 2:35; Jeremiah 3:15).

The human heart, in its natural condition, is evil, treacherous and deceitful. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” In other words, the Fall has affected us at the deepest level; our mind, emotions and desires have been tainted by sin—and we are blind to just how pervasive the problem is.

We may not understand our own hearts, but God does. He “knows the secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:21; see also 1 Corinthians 14:25). Jesus “knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man” (John 2:24–25). Based on His knowledge of the heart, God can judge righteously: “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10).

Jesus pointed out the fallen condition of our hearts in Mark 7:21–23: “From within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.” Our biggest problem is not external but internal; all of us have a heart problem.

In order for a person to be saved, then, the heart must be changed. This only happens by the power of God in response to faith. “With the heart one believes unto righteousness” (Romans 10:10). In His grace, God can create a new heart within us (Psalm 51:10; Ezekiel 36:26). He promises to “revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15).

God’s work of creating a new heart within us involves testing our hearts (Psalm 17:3; Deuteronomy 8:2) and filling our hearts with new ideas, new wisdom, and new desires (Nehemiah 7:5; 1 Kings 10:24; 2 Corinthians 8:16).

The heart is the core of our being, and the Bible sets high importance on keeping our hearts pure: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).[1]

 


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

Questions about Humanity: What Is the Human Soul?

The Bible is not perfectly clear as to the nature of the human soul. But from studying the way the word soul is used in Scripture, we can come to some conclusions. Simply stated, the human soul is the part of a person that is not physical. It is the part of every human being that lasts eternally after the body experiences death. Genesis 35:18 describes the death of Rachel, Jacob’s wife, saying she named her son “as her soul was departing.” From this we know that the soul is different from the body and that it continues to live after physical death.

The human soul is central to the personhood of a human being. As C. S. Lewis said, “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” In other words, personhood is not based on having a body. A soul is what is required. Repeatedly in the Bible, people are referred to as “souls” (Exodus 31:14; Proverbs 11:30), especially in contexts that focus on the value of human life and personhood or on the concept of a “whole being” (Psalm 16:9–10; Ezekiel 18:4; Acts 2:41; Revelation 18:13).

The human soul is distinct from the heart (Deuteronomy 26:16; 30:6) and the spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12) and the mind (Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). The human soul is created by God (Jeremiah 38:16). It can be strong or unsteady (2 Peter 2:14); it can be lost or saved (James 1:21; Ezekiel 18:4). We know that the human soul needs atonement (Leviticus 17:11) and is the part of us that is purified and protected by the truth and the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:22). Jesus is the great Shepherd of souls (1 Peter 2:25).

Matthew 11:29 tells us that we can turn to Jesus Christ to find rest for our souls. Psalm 16:9–10 is a Messianic psalm which allows us to see that Jesus also had a soul. David wrote, “Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” This cannot be speaking of David (as Paul points out in Acts 13:35–37) because David’s body did see corruption and decay when he died. But Jesus Christ’s body never saw corruption (He was resurrected), and His soul was not abandoned to Sheol. Jesus, as the Son of Man, has a soul.

There is often confusion about the human spirit vs. the human soul. In places, Scripture seems to use the terms interchangeably, but there might be a subtle difference. Otherwise, how could the Word of God penetrate “even to dividing soul and spirit” (Hebrews 4:12)? When the Bible talks about man’s spirit, it is usually speaking of an inner force which animates a person in one direction or another. It is repeatedly shown as a mover, a dynamic force (e.g., Numbers 14:24).

It has been said that there are only two things that last: the Word of God (Mark 13:31) and the souls of men. This is because, like God’s Word, the soul is an imperishable thing. That thought should be both sobering and awe-inspiring. Every person you meet is an eternal soul. Every human being that has ever lived has had a soul, and all of those souls are still in existence somewhere. The question is, where? The souls that reject God’s love are condemned to pay for their own sin, eternally, in hell (Romans 6:23). But the souls that accept their own sinfulness and God’s gracious gift of forgiveness will live forever beside still waters with their Shepherd, wanting for nothing (Psalm 23:2).[1]

 


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

Questions about Humanity: What Is a Mercy Killing?

“Mercy killing” is simply another word for “euthanasia” in most English-language dictionaries. Euthanasia and, therefore, mercy killing is “the act of putting a person or animal to death painlessly or allowing them to die by withholding medical services, usually because of a painful and incurable disease.”

The Greek word euthanasia translates to “good death,” making it and mercy killing terms that can be comforting in the face of difficult medical situations. When any person, especially a family member or close friend, is experiencing pain, mental degeneration, or other adverse condition, our instinct is to relieve the person in any way possible. Sometimes, this desire to alleviate pain can become so strong in the caregiver or patient that it overrides our deeper impulse to preserve life and survive.

This struggle is not new to humanity. In fact, one of the oldest stories in the Bible tells of Job’s desire for death in the midst of his suffering. Job laments his life, even requesting God to kill him rather than allow his pain—emotional, physical and spiritual—to continue (Job 6:8–11). Most pertinently, Job declares, “I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine. I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; my days have no meaning” (Job 7:15–16).

Does the Bible endorse Job’s feelings? It certainly recognizes that such feelings exist. Other characters in Scripture have, in desperation, asked for an early end to their lives, including Elijah (1 Kings 19:4) and Saul (1 Chronicles 10:4). Scripture acknowledges that emotion and even logic can support the idea of a “mercy killing.” However, we do not live by emotion or logic but by faith (Romans 1:17). God has plans and an understanding we can never grasp. He is the Giver and Sustainer of life (Nehemiah 9:6), and we do not have the right to usurp His authority. Near the end of Job’s story, his friend Elihu warns him, “Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction” (Job 36:21). It is not our place to decide the time or manner of our death. Mercy killing is a sin against God’s plan and power.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian who had great personal experience with suffering. He was imprisoned and eventually executed by the Third Reich during World War II. While in prison, he wrote this in his Ethics, published posthumously: “The right to the end of life is reserved for God, because only God knows the goal toward which a life is being directed. God alone wishes to be the one who justifies or rejects a life.”[1]

 


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

Questions about Humanity: Is There Anything I Can Do to Guarantee Myself a Long Life?

“’Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise—‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth’ ” (Ephesians 6:3–4). In this passage, the apostle Paul is quoting from the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:12 specifically: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” This represents the only instance of God connecting long life as a reward for something we do. Is this promise of long life for honoring your parents true? And, if so, why is honoring your parents so highly valued to God that He rewards it with long life?

First, yes, the promise is true, but not in a universal sense. There are people who honored their parents, but died young. And there are people who did not honor their parents, but lived a long life. Therefore, it is a principle that is generally true. If you honor your parents, God will, generally speaking, reward you with a long life. However, this promise does not override other decisions we make which impact how long we live. For example, if a man honors his parents, but then decides to commit suicide, the act of suicide “negates” the reward of long life. The same can be said of those who engage in reckless and dangerous activities. God’s reward of long life for honoring parents does not miraculously make you immune from serious injury or death.

Again, the reward of long life for honoring your parents is a general principle, not a universal truth. God considers the way a child treats his/her parents so important that He usually rewards those who honor their parents with long life. Solomon urged children to respect their parents (Proverbs 1:8; 13:1; 30:17). Jeremiah declared that those who honor their parents are blessed (Jeremiah 35:18–19). Disobedience to parents is a trait of those who rebel against God (Romans 1:30; 2 Timothy 3:2). This brings us to the second point. Why is honoring your parents so highly valued to God that He rewards it with long life?

There are at least two reasons for the value God places on honoring your parents. (1) God entrusts parents with the responsibility to raise their children in a godly manner. The task of parenting is not easy. It is painful, stressful, expensive, and often unappreciated. For a child to not recognize, and be grateful for, the sacrifices parents make on his/her behalf is an affront to the position of authority and value God has given to parents. It is similar to how we are to respond to the government (Romans 13:1–7). If God has placed us under authority, to rebel against that authority is to rebel against God Himself.

(2) God desires us to honor our parents because our relationship with our earthly parents is an illustration of our relationship with our Heavenly Father. For example, Hebrews 12:5–11 compares the discipline a child receives from parents to the discipline believers in Christ receive from God. Just as our parents are our biological progenitors, God is our Creator. We are children of God and children of our parents. To dishonor our parents is to distort the picture of what our relationship with our Heavenly Father is to be.

Do you want to live a long life? Honor your parents. Why? Because God placed you under their authority and guidance, and because your attitude towards your parents is illustrative of your attitude towards God. While this reward is not universal—and while it does not override every other decision you make—it is still generally true. If you want to live a long life, honor those who gave you life in the first place.[1]

 


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