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Christian Basics- Chapter 3, Man and Sin

Written by: Guenther, Herb and Debbie    Posted on: 05/05/2003

Category: Bible Studies

Source: CCN

                    Man and Sin

    We believe man was created in the image of God but fell into sin and is therefore spiritually dead, and only through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit can salvation and spiritual life be obtained. 1

    Man is unique in all creation in that he seeks to understand himself and his world.  However we have many limitations.  Yes we are making small steps toward knowing more about what we see. But it would be arrogant to believe that we are much further along in our understanding of an infinite universe than we were 100 or 1000 years ago.  Each generation feels sure that is has achieved the essential grasp of the universe, while at the same time laughing at some of the ideas of those who have gone before.

    What we would like to do in this chapter is to look at the universe from a different starting point.  Our starting point will be the revealed truth of God found in the Bible.  This does not in any way belittle the work of our minds and hands in our quest for understanding.  It means that we accept our limitations, and take a clear look at the history of human understanding.  We must recognise that it is but a journey just begun toward a shore along way away.

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) had this to say about man.

              Those evening clouds, that setting ray,                 And beauteous tints, serve to display                     Their great Creator's praise;               Then let the short-lived thing call'd man,                 Whose life's comprised within a span,                       To Him his homage raise.

                We often praise the evening clouds,                       And tints to gay and bold,                     But seldom think upon our God                   Who tinged these clouds with gold.

    The study of, or science of man is called anthropology.  There are two ways to approach the subject of anthropology.  One way is though the study of human philosophy and learning.  It limits itself to the products of our own reason and discovery abilities.  The other is based on Biblical revelation in conjunction with human experience.

    Because it is the intent of this survey of Christian belief to deal with as many of the questions of faith and doubt as practical, we will look at the origin and identity of mankind.  We do not believe that it requires blind faith or the absence of reason or intellect to trust that God's active hand was present at our beginning, and continues to this day.  This is what our hearts tell us.  Lets look at why.

    First let us recognize that everybody starts with some assumptions when discussing these subjects.  We as Christians do not have to be ashamed to listen to the testimony of the Bible and our hearts.  It is not in any way less real to trust a God who has worked personally in our lives, than it is to accept the testimony of experts in the fields of the natural sciences.  It is important to realize however that the

                                (11) same data can lead to two entirely different conclusions depending on the frame of mind of those interpreting the data.

    At the time of this writing there is a crisis in the mid-east. After a short time of general blissful world agreement we are starting to see some problems.  Different peoples are not only disagreeing with the correct response to the problem, but disagree on what the problem is and who caused it.  These differences exist even though everything that could possibly impact on the regions problems can be documented in print and film.  The point here is to show an example of different opinions resulting from the same information but different outlooks.

    Essentially there are two ways of looking at the "problem" of the beginning of the physical universe, and subsequent appearance of mankind.  The Christian perspective is that there is an eternal God. This God is fundamentally different than all other entities in that He does not exist in time.  He created the universe, and us, from nothing.  We do not fully understand His reason for creating but He has told us that He has retained all power and authority.

    The "secular" science dealing with the origin and organization of the universe is Cosmology, which is a branch of astronomy.  It is a field undergoing rapid changes in its accepted theories.  The current theory presented by students of the subject of Cosmology is the "Big Bang" theory.  It states that about 12 to 25 billion years ago all matter existed for an instant in one physical point at the same time. 2  From this "event" proceeded the universe as we know it.  All rules or laws of physics are presumed to be inherent in matter and energy.  The belief is presented that only time, chance, and natural law were needed to get from there to the present world and universe.

    Note that there is no explanation given for the origin of the matter in the first place.  Although some argue for a open universe, seeing the present one collapsing upon itself to restart.  They are now looking for enough "missing matter" to create a strong enough gravitational attraction to pull the universe back together again to start another cycle.

    Moving on to the origin of life, no explanation is given for the lack of success in "creating life"  (although this is a separate field).  The intent here is not to look down on science or hold scientists up to ridicule.  However, they make assumptions as we do, and have many unanswered questions, as we do.  It is only the ignorant that tell us that science has all the answers, not the true scientist. It is logical to predict that scientific opinions will change as much in the next 100 years as they have in the previous 100 years.  Why substitute devotion to changing opinions of human worth for a personal relationship with a God who loves you?

    Let's look at Biblical revelation as it contrasts to Cosmology. Note that we referred to contrasting not opposing.  True science describes God's handiwork, but is subject to our relative lack of understanding of it.  Just as scientists should not over state their understanding, so we also should not overstate ours.  Also the Bible is not a physics or biology text book.

    "At this point a crucial question arises, whether the Bible purports to teach the sciences as such.  In spite of the fact that some

                                (12) earnest men have felt that extended psychology can be constructed on the text of the Bible, the more conservative teachers are convinced that on truth concerning God---His creation, and man in His relation to God--the Bible speaks with completeness and finality, but that on related themes it is accurate so far as it may have occasion to go." 3

    Why belabor these points?  The assumptions we make have a fundamental and direct impact on how we view our relationship with God.  We must, as a practicing Christians treat what God has to say with respect and give it a place of importance in our lives.  We cannot be running around, frightened to stand up for what we believe. This will rob our Christian experience of vitality.

    So what does God say?  Gen 1 tell us that God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1).  He filled His creation with lower creatures, and then made us in His image (Gen 1:26), we were created without sin and holy.  Clearly we do not "look like" God so what does this mean? In chapter 2 we learned some things about God.  We learned that God is a Person, that He reasons, plans, feels love and Joy, as well as grief.  God is just, and is a moral being, that He is consistent.

    We, as His creation, have these same characteristics.  They are the things that separate us from the rest of creation.  The Biblical account of creation clearly shows our commonalty with animal life.  It also shows that we are, as physical beings, an organised assembly of Chemicals from the earth.  These facts are easily verified by any chemist or biologist.

How long has man been on the earth?  According to Bishop Usher, on the grounds of the Hebrew Scriptures, since BC 4004.  According to Hales, based on the Septuagent Version, since BC 5411.  These men used primarily the tables of genealogy to mark the passage of years.  We should remember however that the purpose of the genealogical table is to show decent and not the passage of time.

For example in Gen 46:18 Zilpa's grandsons and great grandsons are listed as sons.  In Gen 10:18 Canaan is listed as the father of Sidon his firstborn, and of 10 nations or races!  In Matt 1:11 Josiah is listed as the father of Jeconiah, his grandson.  There are other examples, but it is clear that the Bible's purpose in these tables is to trace decent and not time.  We are told in Genesis that man is the last of all creatures to be created.

What is a man?  While we are alive here on earth we experience a unity of body (the material self) and the soul (the immaterial).  These two elements can only be separated by death.  We are so made that while alive we are in no way conscious of any separation between body and soul.

Secular psychology also agrees that man is composed of more than one part.  However it views them as being permanently inseparable.  When we die, and our body is seen to obviously decay, they maintain that the inseparable "other part" must also cease to exist.

The Bible however teaches us that we are separated from our bodies for a time.  And that at a time appointed by God all men will be resurrecting to face judgment.  This will happen to everyone whether justified in Christ or not.  In either case the soul of a person is

                                (13) always eternally existent.

    Let's look at the facts surrounding the non-physical characteristics of man.  According to the Bible man's nature extends beyond psychology and philosophy.  To truely understand the whole man we must rely on the statements of Scripture and the counsel of the Holy Spirit.

The Fall of Man

    Are we the same in the present age as we were when God created the first man and woman?  No.  Genesis chapter three tells us about the "fall" of man.  After the creation God had established a close and wonderful relationship between mankind and Himself.  This allowed a complete, honest, and personal direct friendship with Him.

    However the Serpent presented supposed equality with God to Adam and Eve.  They chose "to be like God" (Gen 3:4) over obedience.  Were Adam and Eve doomed to fail in this way?  No they were not, they had the freedom to choose evil, and did.  They also had the freedom not to sin.  Adam and Eve where capable of being tempted, but had no original tendency to sin as we have.  They were not compelled or impelled to sin as we are.

    Why are we different in our natural state than Adam and Eve?  As a result of mankind's disobedience to God, mankind was forced to deal with choosing between good and evil on a permanent basis.  This is a task that we are not up to.  It is in our inherent nature that we will choose evil much of the time, and every last one of us will choose it at least some of the time.  We all fall short of the glory of God (remember we got into this mess by trying to be like Him) the difference could not be wiped out by eating an apple!

The doctrine of Total Depravity

    According to the Bible a fundamental change occurred when Adam and Eve committed mankind's first sin.  There was an immediate change in their condition, and in their relationship with God.  In Gen 3:13-19 God tells Adam and Eve the immediate consequences of their actions. The most notable are that they will face death and are cast out of God's direct presence by being banished from the Garden of Eden.  Total depravity doesn't mean that there isn't anything good or valuable in us, nor does it mean that we are totally bad or wicked.

    What it means is that we are completely unable to meet God's standards of holiness.  We are born spiritually dead as well as to death physically. (Eph 2:1-4, 1 Tim 5:6, Rom 5:12-14, 2:12)  We must face the same fate as all of mankind because of original and personal sin.

    It would be easier to not deal with or talk about sin.  However if we do not have a clear understanding of our natural state, how can we appreciate and be motivated to accept the wonderful gift of Christ?  If we don't understand the marvelous thing He has done for us, how can we love and serve Him?  It is a favorite tool of Satan to lull us to sleep thinking that everything will be ok.  From the very first tempting of Eve he has been telling us that what we want to do is really alright after all.

                                (14)     What is sin?  To put it simply sin is what God says it is.  "The holy character of God is the final and only standard by which moral values may be accurately judged.  To the one who disregards God, there are no moral standards other than social custom, or the dictates of an uncertain and perverted conscience.  And even these it will be observed, though indirect, failing, and feeble, are, nevertheless, reflections on the standards of God.  Sin is sinful because it is unlike God." 4

    Sin is primarily against God.  The Larger Catechism (Westminster) states "Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of any law (or Character) of God, given as a rule to the reasonable creature" From this we can see that all of us are unable to live a life truely free of sin.  No-one is able to be conformed to the character of God. Sin may be characterized by going our own way and following our own desires. (Is 53:6)

    What do we know about Gods view of sin.  Perhaps we may admit to being sinners, but are free from any meaningful or direct consequences from our sin.  What are the consequences of our sin?

    There are personal, corporate and divine consequences resulting from sin.  We can all agree that we have damaged ourselves, that we have limited our human potential as a result of sin.  Think of the guilt that you carry on your own.  We are punished for, and suffer ourselves for our own sin.  Each of us has always had a conscience and the ability to know that we doing right even before we knew God.  Even a child will feel shame when doing wrong, it is part of our humanity.

    The second area in which sin destroys is in our culture or society.  We inflict inner and outer pain on each other every day. This is true even of those that we love.  Mankind is less than he could be because mankind has chosen to be less than he can be.

    We can reason in our own understanding about the personal and sociatal consequences of sin on our own.  But what of the eternal ramifications of sin.  What importance does God place on it.  Lets look at a few examples from the Scripture.

    Satan was banished from heaven for the sin of unholy ambition. Satan wanted to be considered like or equal to God.  The result of his sin is told in the following passages.  Luke 10:18, Rom 16:20, Rev 2:9, Gen 3:14,  1 John 3:8.  Many believe that Satan is the "Morning Star" referred to in Isa 14:12-15.

    Genesis chapter three deals with Adam's and Eve's punishment for sin.  They wanted to have knowledge like God.  For this they were subjected to death and removed from the Garden of Eden among other things.

    Jesus, the only man to ever live a sinless life, had to suffer a horrible death to pay for our sin.  Hence it is reasonable to expect that the punishment that God pronounced on sin is related to how God views it.  We can see that God views sin as a very bad thing indeed.

The consequences for us in relation to God is separation.  Our sin has produced a chasm between us and Him that we cannot bridge by human effort. We will deal further with the issues of sin and death in chapters 4, 5, and 6.                                 (15)   BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS

                      Special section on Angels!

    Angels are mentioned at least 108 times in the Old Testament and 165 times in the New Testament.  Angels are different than either man or the Godhead.  The word Angel means messenger in both the both the Old and New Testament.

    In Col 1:16 we learn that angels are created beings.  Unlike man angels are incorperal that is purely spirit.  They may however take a bodily form such as in Gen 19:1 where they appear as men.  They are always referred to using the male gender but we are told in Matt 22:30 that they have no distinction of sex.  Angels are not subject to aging and are eternal.  In this way we will be like them in heaven. 5

    Angels are both stronger and more knowledgeable than man.  They stand in Gods presence, which we are unable to do in our present condition.  They are of a higher order of creation than us, however when we are redeemed we are told that we will judge angels. (1 Cor 6:3)

    The popular notion that angels have wings comes from Dan 9:21 which states that the angel Gabriel "came to me in a swift flight" This was seen my medieval artists to mean that they had wings, when actually all it says is that they can go very fast.  We are told however that cherubim, seraphim, and living creatures do have wings.

    Where do the angels live and how many are there?  We are told several times that the primary residence of the angels is in heaven, or in "the heavens" this could mean that they are existent throughout the infinite universe.  In number they are again linked with the stars in the sky which astronomy and the Bible tell us are beyond human numbering (Gen 15:5)  We are told in Rev 5:11 that there are at least 102,000,000 and these do not represent all of the angels!

    What do the angels do?  They praise and worship God without ceasing (Rev 4:8)  They proclaim God's work and appearance to mankind (Luke 2:9-14)  They watch over us while we are here on earth. (Heb 1:14)

    Why are there so many references to the angels in the Old Testament and during the life of Christ, but nary a word of them now? The truth of the matter is that we don't know for sure.  The best reason is probably that their messengering duty isn't needed now because in the generations after the resurrection of Christ were sent the Holy Spirit.  This does not mean however that the angels are not watching over us as you read this.

    Because there is no way to know anything about angels other than what is written in the Bible we should be careful not to give too much credence to man's speculation.  Indeed there is much that we do not know about angels.  A few things we can indirectly deduce from Scripture follow.

    Angels like man have a free will.  We know this because Lucifer (Satan) and some other angels chose to sin and were cast out of heaven and into the pit.  We know that angels are powerful because one angel

                                (16) was able to kill 70 thousand people in the kingdom of David in three days. (1 Chron 21)  Sometimes angels appear to be normal men, how else could we entertain angels without knowing it (Heb 13:2)?  Sometimes they are dazzling white and blazing glory (Matt 28:2-4).

    We are told by Paul in Col 2:18 that we are not to worship angels.  In Rev 22:8-9 the angels themselves tell John that he shouldn't worship them because they are fellow servants.

              An angel walked by my side today,                 I felt his hand touch me on my way.               Whether sent for purpose or passing by,                 I don't know which, but wonder why.

              It touched me then that my God should love                 me so, To send him from far above.               To help my feet stay on the way,                 that will lead me to His home someday.

              Then my eyes looked up with wonder new,                 and I saw the heavens and in them You.               That my Lord is seen, not in the storm,                 nor cloud, nor fire, or any form.

              But, in the spirit you've sent to me,                 hidden in my heart, where He'll always be.               Guiding, protecting showing the way.                 Together to share my life day by day.

          Discussion Questions

1) Who Made you and how do you know?

2) What are some of man's attributes?

3) What is sin?

4) Are we doomed to sin?

5) What are some of the results of our sin?

1 From the Elmbrook Church Statement of Faith.  Constitution of Elmbrook Church 777 Barker Rd  Waukesha WI 53186 2 Will the Universe Expand Forever  by J. Richard Gott III, James E. Gunn, David N. Schramm and Beatrice M. Tinsly  March 1976 Scientific American 3 Lewis Sperry Chafer, D.D. Litt.D.  Systematic Theology  Vol II pp126  c1947 Dallas Seminary Press. 4 ibid vol II pp 227 5 Know What You Believe  by Paul E. Little  c1970, 1985, 1987  by SP Publications Co.

                                (17)

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