|Chapter 7: THE NATURE OF MAN
Seventh-day Adventists Believe...
Man and woman were made in the image of God with
individuality, the power and freedom to think and to do.
Though created free beings, each is an indivisible unity of
body, mind, and spirit, dependent upon God for life and
breath and all else. When our first parents disobeyed God,
they denied their dependence upon Him and fell from their
high position under God. The image of God in them was
marred and they became subject to death. Their descendants
share this fallen nature and its consequences. They are
born with weaknesses and tendencies to evil. But God in
Christ reconciled the world to Himself and by His Spirit
restores in penitent mortals the image of their Maker.
Created for the glory of God, they are called to love Him
and one another, and to care for their environment.
--Fundamental Beliefs, 7
THE NATURE OF MAN
And "God said, `Let Us make man in Our image, according
to Our likeness.'" God did not speak into existence His
crowning creation. Instead, He lovingly stooped to shape
this new creature from the dust of the earth.
Earth's most creative sculptor could never carve out such
a noble being. Perhaps a Michelangelo could fashion a
stunning exterior, but what of the anatomy and physiology
carefully designed for function, as well as for beauty?
The perfect sculpture lay completed with every hair,
eyelash, and nail in place, but God was not finished. This
man was not to collect dust, but to live, to think, to
create, and to grow in glory.
Stooping over this magnificent form, the Creator
"breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man
became a living being" (Gen. 2:7; cf. 1:26). Realizing man's
need for companionship, God made "him a helper comparable to
him." God caused "a deep sleep" to come over Adam and, as
Adam slept, God extracted one of Adam's ribs and made it
into a woman (Gen. 2:18,21,22). "So God created man in His
own image; in the image of God He created him; male and
female He created them." Then God blessed them, and God said
to them, "`Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and
subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the
birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on
the earth.'" A garden home more splendid than the finest on
earth today was given Adam and Eve. There were trees, vines,
flowers, hills, valleys--all adorned by the Master Himself.
Two special trees, the tree of life and the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil, were there. God gave Adam and
Eve permission to eat freely of every tree except the tree
of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:8,9,17).
Thus the crowning event of Creation week was
accomplished. And "God saw everything that He had made, and
indeed it was very good" (Gen. 1:31).
The Origin of Man
Though today many believe that human beings originated
from the lower forms of animal life and are the result of
natural processes that took billions of years, such an idea
cannot be harmonized with the Biblical record. That human
beings have been subject to a process of degeneration is
crucial to the Biblical view of the nature of man.(*1)
God Created Man
The origin of the human race is found in a divine
council. God said, "`Let Us make man'" (Gen. 1:26). The
plural "Us" refers to the trinitarian Godhead--God the
Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (see chapter 2
of this book). Of one purpose, then, God began to create the
first human being (Gen. 1:27).
Created From the Dust of the Ground
God formed man from "the dust of the ground" (Gen. 2:7),
using pre-existing matter but not other forms of life, such
as marine or land animals. Not until He had formed every
organ and put it in its place did He introduce the "breath
of life" that made man a living person.
Created after a Divine Type
God created each of the other animals--fishes, birds,
reptiles, insects, mammals, etc.--"according to its kind"
(Gen. 1:21,24,25). Each species had a typical form of its
own and the ability to reproduce its specific kind. Man,
however, was created after the divine type, not after a type
of the animal kingdom. God said, "`Let Us make man in Our
image, according to Our likeness'" (Gen. 1:26). There is a
clear discontinuity between human beings and the animal
kingdom. Luke's genealogical entry describing the origin of
the human race expresses this difference simply, but
profoundly: "Adam, the son of God" (Luke 3:38).
Man's Exalted Position
The creation of man was the zenith of all Creation. God
put man, created in the image of the sovereign God, in
charge of Planet Earth and all animal life. L. Berkhof
states of Adam, "It was his duty and privilege to make all
the nature and all created beings that were placed under his
rule, subservient to his will and purpose, in order that he
and his whole glorious dominion might magnify the almighty
Creator and Lord of the universe, Gen. 1:28; Ps.
The Unity of the Human Race
The genealogies in Genesis demonstrate that the
successive generations after Adam and Eve all descended from
this first pair. As humans, we all share the same nature,
which constitutes a genetic or genealogical unity. Paul
said, "`From one man he [God] made every nation of men, that
they should inhabit the whole earth'" (Acts 17:26, NIV).
Furthermore, we see other indications of the organic
unity of our race in the Biblical assertions that Adam's
transgression brought sin and death upon all, and in the
provision of salvation for all through Christ (Rom. 5:12,19;
1 Cor. 15:21,22).
The Unity of Man's Nature
What are the characteristic parts of human beings? Are
they made up of several independent components, such as a
body, a soul, and a spirit?
The Breath of Life
God "formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed
into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a
living being" (Gen. 2:7).
When God changed the elements of earth into a living
being, He "breathed" the "breath of life" into the nostrils
of Adam's lifeless body. This breath of life is "the breath
of the Almighty" that gives life (Job 33:4)--the spark of
life. We might compare it with the streams of electricity
that, when they flow through various electrical components,
transform a quiet, gray panel of glass in a box into a
pulsating splash of color and action--when we flip the
switch on a color TV. The electricity brings sound and
motion where once there was nothing.
Man--a Living Soul
What did the breath of life do? When God formed the human
being from the elements of the earth, all the organs were
present: the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, spleen, brain,
etc.--all perfect, but lifeless. Then God breathed into this
lifeless matter the breath of life and "man became a living
The scriptural equation is straightforward: the dust of
the ground (earth's elements) + the breath of life = a
living being, or living soul. The union of earth's elements
with the breath of life resulted in a living being, or soul.
This "breath of life" is not limited to people. Every
living creature possesses it. The Bible, for example,
attributes the breath of life to both those animals that
went into Noah's ark and those that did not (Gen. 7:15,22).
The Hebrew term in Genesis 2:7 that has been translated
"living being" or "living soul" is nephesh chayyah. This
expression does not exclusively designate man, for it also
refers to marine animals, insects, reptiles, and beasts
(Gen. 1:20,24; 2:19).
Nephesh, translated as "being" or "soul," comes from
naphash, meaning "to breathe." Its Greek equivalent in the
New Testament is psuche. "Inasmuch as breath is the most
conspicuous evidence of life, nephesh basically designates
man as a living being, a person."(*3) When used of animals,
as in the Creation story, it describes them as living
creatures that God created.
It is important to note that the Bible says that man
became a living soul. Nothing in the Creation account
indicates that man received a soul--some kind of separate
entity that, at Creation was united with the human body.
An Indivisible Unity
The importance of the Creation account for properly
understanding the nature of man cannot be overestimated. By
stressing his organic unity, Scripture portrays man as a
whole. How then do the soul and spirit relate to the nature
1. The Biblical meaning of soul.
As we have already mentioned, in the Old Testament "soul"
is a translation of the Hebrew nephesh. In Genesis 2:7 it
denotes man as a living being after the breath of life
entered into a physical body formed from the elements of the
earth. "Similarly, a new soul comes into existence whenever
a child is born, each `soul' being a new unit of life
uniquely different, and separate, from other similar units.
This quality of individuality in each living being, which
constitutes it a unique entity, seems to be the idea
emphasized by the Hebrew term nephesh. When used in this
sense nephesh is not a part of the person; it is the person,
and, in many instances, is translated `person' (see Gen.
14:21; Num. 5:6; Deut. 10:22; cf. Ps. 3:2) or `self' (Lev.
11:43; 1 Kings 19:4; Isa. 46:2; etc.).
"On the other hand, expressions such as `my soul,' `your
soul,' `his soul,' etc., are generally idioms for the
personal pronouns `I,' `me,' `you,' `he,' etc. (see Gen.
12:13; Lev. 11:43,44; 19:8; Joshua 23:11; Ps. 3:2; Jer.
37:9; etc.). In more than 100 of 755 occurrences in the Old
Testament the KJV translates nephesh as `life' (Gen. 9:4,5;
1 Sam. 19:5; Job 2:4,6; Ps. 31:13; etc.).
"Often nephesh refers to desires, appetites, or passions
(cf. Deuteronomy 23:24; Proverbs 23:2; Ecclesiastes 6:7),
and is sometimes translated `appetite' (Prov. 23:2; Eccl.
6:7). It may refer to the seat of the affections (Gen. 34:3;
S. of Sol. 1:7; etc.), and at times it represents the
volitional part of man, as when translated `pleasure' (KJV)
in Deuteronomy 23:24; Psalm 105:22; Jeremiah 34:16. In
Numbers 31:19 the nephesh is `killed,' and in Judges 16:30
(translated `me') it dies. In Numbers 5:2 (`the dead') and
ch. 9:6 (`dead body') it refers to a corpse (cf. Lev. 19:28;
"The usage of the Greek word psuche in the New Testament
is similar to that of nephesh in the Old Testament. It is
used of animal life as well as human life (Rev. 16:3). In
the KJV it is translated forty times simply as `life' or
`lives' (see Matt. 2:20; 6:25; 16:25; etc.). In some
instances it is used to mean simply `people' (see Acts 7:14;
27:37; Rom. 13:1, 1 Peter 3:20; etc.), and in others it is
equivalent to the personal pronoun (see Matt. 12:18; 2 Cor.
12:15; etc.). Sometimes it refers to the emotions (Mark
14:34; Luke 2:35), to the mind (Acts 14:2; Phil. 1:27), or
to the heart (Eph. 6:6)."(*4)
The psuche is not immortal, but subject to death (Rev.
16:3). It can be destroyed (Matt. 10:28).
The Biblical evidence indicates that sometimes nephesh
and psuche refer to the whole person and at other times to a
particular aspect of man, such as the affections, emotions,
appetites, and feelings. This usage, however, in no way
shows that man is a being made up of two separate and
distinct parts. The body and the soul exist together;
together they form an indivisible union. The soul has no
conscious existence apart from the body. There is no text
that indicates that the soul survives the body as a
2. The Biblical meaning of spirit.
Whereas the Hebrew word nephesh translated soul, denotes
individuality or personality, the Old Testament Hebrew word
ruach, translated spirit, refers to the energizing spark of
life essential to individual existence. It stands for the
divine energy, or life principle, that animates human
"Ruach occurs 377 times in the Old Testament and most
frequently is translated `spirit,' `wind,' or `breath' (Gen.
8:1, etc.). It is also used to denote vitality (Judges
15:19), courage (Joshua 2:11), temper or anger (Judges 8:3),
disposition (Isa. 54:6), moral character (Eze. 11:19), and
the seat of the emotions (1 Sam. 1:15).
"In the sense of breath, the ruach of men is identical
with the ruach of animals (Eccl. 3:19). The ruach of man
leaves the body at death (Ps. 146:4) and returns to God
(Eccl. 12:7; cf. Job 34:14). Ruach is used frequently of the
Spirit of God, as in Isaiah 63:10. Never in the Old
Testament, with respect to man, does ruach denote an
intelligent entity capable of sentient existence apart from
a physical body.
"The New Testament equivalent of ruach is pneuma,
`spirit,' from pneo, `to blow,' or `to breathe.' As with
ruach, there is nothing inherent in the word pneuma denoting
an entity in man capable of conscious existence apart from
the body, nor does New Testament usage with respect to man
in any way imply such a concept. In such passages as Romans
8:15; 1 Corinthians 4:21; 2 Timothy 1:7; 1 John 4:6 pneuma
denotes `mood,' `attitude,' or `state of feeling.' It is
also used of various aspects of the personality, as in
Galatians 6:1; Romans 12:11; etc. As with ruach, the pneuma
is yielded to the Lord at death (Luke 23:46; Acts 7:59).
Like ruach, pneuma is also used of the Spirit of God (1 Cor.
2:11,14; Eph. 4:30; Heb. 2:4; 1 Peter 1:12; 2 Peter 1:21;
3. Unity of body, soul, and spirit.
What is the relationship between body, soul, and spirit?
What is the influence of this relationship on the unity of
a. A twofold union.
Although the Bible views the nature of man as a unity, it
does not precisely define the relationship between body,
soul, and spirit. At times soul and spirit are used
interchangeably. Notice their parallelism in Mary's
expression of joy following the annunciation: "`My soul
magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my
Saviour'" (Luke 1:46,47).
In one instance man is characterized by Jesus as body and
soul (Matt. 10:28) and in another instance by Paul as body
and spirit (1 Cor. 7:34). In the former soul refers to the
higher faculty of man, presumably the mind, through which he
communicates with God. In the latter spirit refers to this
higher faculty. In both instances the body includes the
physical, as well as the emotional, aspects of a person.
b. A threefold union.
There is one exception to the general characterization of
man as comprising a twofold union. Paul, who spoke of the
twofold union of body and spirit, also spoke in terms of a
threefold union. He states, "Now may the God of peace
Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit,
soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our
Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:23). This passage conveys
Paul's desire that none of these aspects of the person be
excluded from the sanctification process.
In this instance spirit may be understood as "the higher
principle of intelligence and thought with which man is
endowed, and with which God can communicate by His Spirit
(see Rom. 8:16). It is by the renewing of the mind through
the activities of the Holy Spirit that the individual is
transformed into Christ's likeness (see Rom. 12:1,2).
"By `soul'...when distinguished from spirit, may be
understood that part of man's nature that finds expression
through the instincts, emotions, and desires. This part of
one's nature can be sanctified, too. When, through the
working of the Holy Spirit, the mind is brought into
conformity with God's mind, and sanctified reason bears sway
over the lower nature, the impulses, which would otherwise
be contrary to God, become subject to His will."(*6)
The body, which is controlled by either the higher or the
lower nature, is the physical constitution--the flesh,
blood, and bones.
Paul's sequence of first the spirit, then the soul, and
finally the body is no coincidence. When the spirit is
sanctified, the mind is under divine control. The sanctified
mind, in turn, will have a sanctifying influence on the
soul, i.e., the desires, feelings, and emotions. The person
in whom this sanctification takes place will not abuse his
body, so his physical health will flourish. Thus the body
becomes the sanctified instrument through which the
Christian can serve His Lord and Saviour. Paul's call for
sanctification is clearly rooted in the concept of the unity
of human nature and reveals that effective preparation for
Christ's second advent necessitates the preparation of the
whole person--spirit, soul, and body.
c. An indivisible, sympathetic union.
It is clear that each human being is an indivisible
unity. The body, soul, and spirit function in close
cooperation, revealing an intensely sympathetic relationship
between a person's spiritual, mental, and physical
faculties. Deficiencies in one area will hamper the other
two. A sick, impure, or confused spirit or mind will have a
detrimental effect on one's emotional and physical health,
as well. The reverse is also true. A weak, sick, or
suffering physical constitution will generally impair one's
emotional and spiritual health. The impact the faculties
have on each other means that each individual has a
God-given responsibility to maintain the faculties in the
best possible condition. Doing so is a vital part of being
restored into the image of the Creator.
Man in the Image of God
The living beings that God created on the sixth day of
Creation were made "in the image of God" (Gen. 1:27). What
does being created in God's image imply?
Created in the Image and Likeness of God
It is frequently suggested that human moral and spiritual
dimensions reveal something about God's moral and spiritual
nature. But since the Bible teaches that man comprises an
indivisible unity of body, mind, and soul, man's physical
features must also, in some way, reflect God's image. But
isn't God a spirit? How could a spirit being be associated
with any form or shape?
A brief study of the angels reveals that they, like God,
are spiritual beings (Heb. 1:7,14). Yet they always appear
in human form (Gen. 18:1-19:22; Dan. 9:21; Luke 1:11-38;
Acts 12:5-10). Could it be that a spiritual being may have a
"spiritual body" with a form and features
(cf. 1 Cor. 15:44)?
The Bible indicates that some people have seen parts of
God's person. Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy
elders saw His feet (Ex. 24:9-11). Although He refused to
show His face, after covering Moses with His hands God
revealed His back to him as He passed by (Ex. 33:20-23). God
appeared to Daniel in a judgment-scene vision as the Ancient
of Days seated on a throne (Dan. 7:9,10). Christ is
described as "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15)
and "the express image of His person" (Heb. 1:3). These
passages seem to indicate that God is a personal being and
has a personal form. This should come as no surprise, for
man was created in the image of God.
Man was created a "little lower than the angels" (Heb.
2:7), an indication that he must have been endowed with
mental and spiritual gifts. Although Adam lacked experience,
insight, and character development, he was made "upright"
(Eccl. 7:29), a reference to moral uprightness.(*7) Being in
the moral image of God, he was righteous, as well as holy
(cf. Eph. 4:24), and was part of the Creation God pronounced
"very good" (Gen. 1:31).
Since man was created in the moral image of God, he was
given the opportunity to demonstrate his love and loyalty to
his Creator. Like God, he had the power of choice--the
freedom to think and act according to moral imperatives.
Thus he was free to love and obey or to distrust and
disobey. God risked man's making the wrong choice, because
only with the freedom to choose could man develop a
character that would fully display the principle of love
that is the essence of God Himself (1 John 4:8). His destiny
was to reach the highest expression of the image of God: to
love God with all his heart, soul, and mind and to love
others as himself (Matt. 22:36-40).
Created for Relationships With Others
God said, "`It is not good that man should be alone'"
(Gen. 2:18), and He made Eve. Just as the three members of
the Godhead are united in a loving relationship, so we were
created for the fellowship found in friendship or marriage
(Gen. 2:18). In these relationships we have the opportunity
to live for others. To be genuinely human is to be
relationship oriented. The development of this aspect of the
image of God is an integral part of the harmony and
prosperity of the kingdom of God.
Created to Be Stewards of the Environment
God said, "`Let Us make man in Our image, according to
Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the
sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle; over
all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on
the earth'" (Gen. 1:26). Here God mentions man's divine
image and his dominion over the lower creation in one
breath. It was as God's representative that man was placed
over the lower created orders. The animal kingdom cannot
understand the sovereignty of God, but many animals are
capable of loving and serving man.
David, in referring to man's dominion states, "You have
made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You
have put all things under his feet" (Ps. 8:6-8). Man's
exalted position was indicative of the glory and honor with
which he was crowned (Ps. 8:5). His was the responsibility
to rule graciously over the world, imaging or reflecting
God's beneficent rule over the universe. So we are not the
victim of circumstances, dominated by environmental forces.
Rather, God has commissioned us to make a positive
contribution by shaping the environment, using each
situation in which we are placed as an opportunity to
accomplish God's will.
These insights provide the key to improving human
relationships in a world in which brokenness abounds. They
also hold the answer to the selfish consumption of earth's
natural resources and the inconsiderate pollution of air and
water that lead to an increasing deterioration of the
quality of life. Adoption of the Biblical perspective on
human nature provides the only assurance of a prosperous
Created to Imitate God
As human beings, we are to act like God because we were
made to be like God. Though we are human, and not divine, we
are to reflect our Maker within our dominion in every way
possible. The fourth commandment appeals to this obligation:
we are to follow our Maker's example in working the first
six days of the week and resting on the seventh
Created With Conditional Immortality
At Creation, our first parents were given immortality,
though their possession of it was conditioned upon
obedience. Having access to the tree of life, they were
destined to live forever. The only way they could jeopardize
their state of immortality was through transgressing the
command that forbade them to eat of the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil. Disobedience would lead to death
(Gen. 2:17; cf. 3:22).
Though created perfect and in God's image, and placed in
a perfect environment, Adam and Eve became transgressors.
How did such a radical--and terrible--transformation come
The Origin of Sin
If God created a perfect world, how could sin develop?
1. God and the origin of sin.
Is God the Creator also the author of sin? Scripture
points out that by nature God is holy (Isa. 6:3) and there
is no unrighteousness in Him. "His work is perfect; for all
His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice;
righteous and upright is He" (Deut. 32:4). Scripture states,
"`Far be it from God to do wickedness, and from the Almighty
to commit iniquity'" (Job 34:10). "God cannot be tempted by
evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone" (James 1:13); He
hates sin (Ps. 5:4; 11:5). God's original Creation was "very
good" (Gen. 1:31). Far from being the author of sin, He is
"the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him"
2. The author of sin.
God could have prevented sin by creating a universe of
robots that would do only what they were programmed to do.
But God's love demanded that He create beings who could
respond freely to His love--and such a response is possible
only from beings who have the power of choice.
Providing His creation with this kind of freedom,
however, meant that God must take the risk that some created
beings would turn from Him. Unfortunately, Lucifer, a
high-ranking being in the angelic world, became proud (Eze.
28:17; cf. 1 Tim. 3:6). Dissatisfied with his position in
God's government (cf. Jude 6), he began to covet God's own
place (Isa. 14:12-14). In an attempt to take control of the
universe, this fallen angel sowed seeds of discontent among
his fellow angels, and won the allegiance of many. The
resulting heavenly conflict ended when Lucifer, now known as
Satan, the adversary, and his angels were expelled from
heaven (Rev. 12:4, 7-9; see also chapter 8).
3. The origin of sin in the human race.
Undeterred by his expulsion from heaven, Satan
determined to entice others to join his rebellion against
God's government. His attention was drawn to the newly
created human race. How could he lead Adam and Eve to rebel?
They lived in a perfect world, with all their needs provided
for by their Creator. How could they ever become
discontented and distrust the One who was the source of
their happiness? The account of the first sin gives the
In his assault on the first human beings, Satan decided
to catch them off guard. Approaching Eve when she was near
the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Satan--in the
guise of a serpent--questioned her about God's prohibition
against eating of the tree. When Eve affirmed that God had
said that they would die by eating of the tree, Satan
challenged the divine prohibition, saying, "You will not
surely die." He aroused her curiosity by suggesting that God
was trying to keep her from a wonderful new experience: that
of being like God (Gen. 3:4,5). Immediately, doubt about
God's word took root. Eve became infatuated with the grand
possibilities the fruit was said to offer. The temptation
began to play havoc with her sanctified mind. Belief in
God's word now changed to belief in Satan's word. Suddenly
she imagined that "the tree was good for food, that it was
pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one
wise." Dissatisfied with her position, Eve yielded to the
temptation of becoming like God. "She took of its fruit and
ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate"
In trusting her senses rather than God's word, Eve
severed her dependence upon God, fell from her high
position, and plunged into sin. The fall of the human race,
therefore, first and foremost was characterized by a
breakdown in faith, in God and His word. This unbelief led
to disobedience, which, in turn, resulted in a broken
relationship and finally a separation between God and man.
The Impact of Sin
What were the immediate and long-term consequences of
sin? How did it affect human nature? And what is the
prospect of eliminating sin and improving human nature?
1. The immediate consequences.
The first consequence of sin was a change in human nature
that affected interpersonal relationships, as well as the
relationship with God. The new exhilarating, eye-opening
experience brought Adam and Eve only feelings of shame (Gen.
3:7). Instead of becoming God's equals, as Satan had
promised, they became afraid and attempted to hide
When God questioned Adam and Eve about their sin, instead
of admitting their fault, they tried to pass the blame
along. Adam said, "`The woman whom You gave to be with me,
she gave me of the tree, and I ate'" (Gen. 3:12). His words
imply that both Eve and, indirectly, God were responsible
for his sin, clearly showing how his sin had broken his
relationship with his wife and his Creator. Eve, in turn,
blamed the serpent (Gen. 3:13).
The dire consequences that came of it reveal the
seriousness of their transgression. God cursed Satan's
medium, the serpent, condemning it to move on its belly, as
a perpetual reminder of the Fall (Gen. 3:14). To the woman
God said, "`I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your
conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your
desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over
you'" (Gen. 3:16). And because Adam listened to his wife
instead of to God, the earth was cursed to increase the
anxiety and toil of his labors: "`Cursed is the ground for
your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your
life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of
your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken'" (Gen. 3:17-19).
In reaffirming the unchangeableness of His law and that
any transgression leads to certain death, God said: "`Dust
you are, and to dust you shall return'" (Gen. 3:19). He
executed this verdict by expelling the transgressors from
their Edenic home, severing their direct communication with
God (Gen. 3:8), and preventing them from partaking of the
tree of life, the source of eternal life. Thus Adam and Eve
became subject to death (Gen. 3:22).
2. The character of sin.
Many scriptural passages, including particularly the
account of the Fall, make it clear that sin is a moral
evil--the result of a free moral agent's choosing to violate
the revealed will of God (Gen 3:1-6; Rom. 1:18-22).
a. The definition of sin.
Biblical definitions of sin include: "the transgression
of the law" (1 John 3:4, KJV), a failure to act by anyone
"who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it" (James
4:17, NIV), and "whatever is not from faith" (Rom. 14:23).
One broad inclusive definition of sin is: "Any deviation
from the known will of God, either of neglect to do what He
has specifically commanded or of doing what He has
Sin knows no neutrality. Christ states, "`He who is not
with Me is against Me'" (Matt. 12:30). Failure to believe in
Him is sin (John 16:9). Sin is absolute in its character
because it is rebellion against God and His will. Any sin,
small or great, results in the verdict "guilty." Thus
"whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumbles in one
point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10).
b. Sin involves thoughts, as well as actions.
Frequently sin is spoken of only in terms of concrete and
visible acts of lawbreaking. But Christ said that being
angry with someone violates the sixth commandment of the
Decalogue, "You shall not kill" (Ex. 20:13, RSV), and that
lustful desires transgress the command "You shall not commit
adultery" (Ex. 20:14). Sin, therefore, involves not only
overt disobedience in actions but also thoughts and desires.
c. Sin and guilt.
Sin produces guilt. From the Biblical perspective, guilt
implies that the one who has committed sin is liable to
punishment. And because all are sinners, the whole world is
"guilty before God" (Rom. 3:19).
If not cared for properly, guilt devastates the physical,
mental, and spiritual faculties. And ultimately, if not
resolved, it produces death--for "the wages of sin is death"
The antidote for guilt is forgiveness (Matt. 6:12), which
results in a clear conscience and peace of mind. This
forgiveness God is eager to grant repentant sinners. To the
sin-burdened, guilt-ridden race, Christ graciously calls,
"`Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I
will give you rest'" (Matt. 11:28).
d. The control center of sin.
The seat of sin is in what the Bible calls the
heart--what we know as the mind. From the heart "spring the
issues of life" (Prov.4:23). Christ reveals that it is the
person's thoughts that defile, "`for out of the heart
proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications,
thefts, false witness, blasphemies'" (Matt. 15:19). It is by
the heart that the entire person--the intellect, will,
affections, emotions, and body--is influenced. Because the
heart is "`deceitful above all things, and desperately
wicked'" (Jer. 17:9), human nature can be described as
corrupt, depraved, and thoroughly sinful.
3. Sin's effect on humanity.
Some may feel that the sentence of death was too severe a
penalty for eating the forbidden fruit. But we can only
gauge the seriousness of the transgression in the light of
the effect of Adam's sin on the human race.
Adam and Eve's first son committed murder. Their
descendants soon violated the sacred marriage union by
engaging in polygamy, and it was not long before wickedness
and violence filled the earth (Gen. 4:8, 23; 6:1-5, 11-13).
God's appeals for repentance and reformation went unheeded,
and only eight persons were saved from the Flood waters that
destroyed the unrepentant. The history of the race after the
Flood is, with few exceptions, a sad account of the
outworkings of the sinfulness of human nature.
a. The universal sinfulness of humanity.
History reveals that Adam's descendants share the
sinfulness of his nature. In prayer, David said, "In Your
sight no one living is righteous" (Ps. 143:2; cf. 14:3).
"`There is no one who does not sin'" (1 Kings 8:46). And
Solomon said, "Who can say, `I have made my heart clean, I
am pure from my sin'?" (Prov. 20:9); "There is not a just
man on earth who does good and does not sin" (Eccl. 7:20).
The New Testament is equally clear, stating that "all have
sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23) and
that "if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and
the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8).
b. Is sinfulness inherited or acquired?
Paul said, "In Adam all die" (1 Cor. 15:22). In another
place he noted, "Through one man sin entered the world, and
death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because
all sinned" (Rom. 5:12).
The human heart's corruption affects the total person. In
this light Job exclaims, "`Who can bring a clean thing out
of an unclean? No one!'" (Job. 14:4). David said, "Behold, I
was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother
conceived me" (Ps. 51:5). And Paul stated that "the carnal
mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law
of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the
flesh cannot please God" (Rom. 8:7,8). Before conversion, he
pointed out, believers were "by nature children of wrath,"
just like the rest of humanity (Eph. 2:3).
Although as children we acquire sinful behavior through
imitation, the above texts affirm that we inherit our basic
sinfulness. The universal sinfulness of humanity is evidence
that by nature we tend toward evil, not good.
c. The eradication of sinful behavior.
How successful are people in removing sin from their
lives and from society?
Every effort to achieve a righteous life through one's
own strength is doomed. Christ said that everyone who has
sinned is "a slave of sin." Only divine power can emancipate
us from this slavery. But Christ has assured us, "`If the
Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed'" (John 8:36).
You can only produce righteousness, He said, if "`you abide
in Me'" because "`without Me you can do nothing'"
Even the apostle Paul failed to live a righteous life on
his own. He knew the perfect standard of God's law but he
was not able to achieve it. Recounting his efforts, he said,
"I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I
want, but I do the very thing I hate." "I do not do the good
I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do." Then he
pointed to the impact of sin in his life: "Now if I do what
I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which
dwells within me." In spite of his failures he admired God's
perfect standard, saying, "I delight in the law of God, in
my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war
with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of
sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who
will deliver me from this body of death?"
(Rom. 7:15,19,20,22-24, RSV).
Paul finally acknowledged that he needed divine power to
be victorious. Through Christ he put aside a life according
to the flesh and began a new life according to the Spirit
(Rom. 7:25; 8:1).
This new life in the Spirit is the transforming gift of
God. Through divine grace, we who are "dead in trespasses
and sins" become victorious (Eph. 2:1,3,8-10). The spiritual
rebirth so transforms the life (John 1:13; John 3:5) that we
can speak of a new creation--the "old things have passed
away" and "all things have become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). The
new life, however, does not exclude the possibility of
sinning (1 John 2:1).
4. Evolution and man's fall.
Ever since Creation Satan has confused many by weakening
confidence in the scriptural accounts of the origins of the
human race and man's Fall. One could call evolution the
"natural" view of humanity, a view based on the assumption
that life began by chance and that humans, through a long
evolutionary process, have emerged from the lower forms of
life. Through a process of survival of the fittest, they
evolved to their present status. Not yet having reached
their potential, they are still evolving.
A growing number of Christians have adopted theistic
evolution, which claims that God used evolution in bringing
about the Genesis Creation. Those accepting theistic
evolution do not view the first chapters of Genesis as
literal, but as allegory or myth.
a. The Biblical view of man and evolution.
Creationist Christians are concerned about the impact of
the evolutionary theory on the Christian faith. James Orr
wrote: "Christianity is met today, not by piecemeal attacks
upon its doctrines...but by a positively-conceived
counter-view of the world, claiming to rest on scientific
grounds, ably constructed and defended, yet in its
fundamental ideas striking at the roots of the Christian
The Bible rejects the allegorical or mythical
interpretation of Genesis. The Bible writers themselves
interpret Genesis 1-11 as literal history. Adam, Eve, the
serpent, and Satan are all seen as historical characters in
the drama of the great controversy (see Job 31:33; Ecc.
7:29; Matt. 19:4,5; John 8:44; Rom. 5:12,18,19; 2 Cor. 11:3;
1 Tim. 2:14; Rev. 12:9).
b. Calvary and evolution.
Evolution in whatever form or shape contradicts the basic
foundations of Christianity. As Leonard Verduin asserted,
"In the place of the story of a `Fall' has come the story of
an ascent."(*10) Christianity and evolution are
diametrically opposed. Either our first parents were created
in the image of God and experienced a fall into sin or they
did not. If they did not, then why be Christian?
Calvary most radically questions evolution. If there has
been no fall, why would we need Christ to die in our behalf?
Not just death in general, but Christ's death for us
proclaims that humanity is not "OK." Left to ourselves we
would continue to deteriorate until the human race is
Our hope rests upon the Man who hung from the cross. His
death alone opens up the possibility of a better, fuller
life that will never end. Calvary declares that we need a
substitute to liberate us.
c. The incarnation and evolution.
Perhaps the Creation-versus-evolution question is best
answered by viewing the creation of humanity from the
perspective of the incarnation. In bringing the second Adam,
Christ, into history, God was creatively at work. If God
could bring about this supreme miracle, there is no question
as to His ability to form the first Adam.
d. Has man come of age?
Frequently evolutionists have pointed to the enormous
scientific advances in the last few centuries as evidence
that man seems to be the arbiter of his own destiny. With
science supplying his needs, given enough time, he will
solve all the world's problems.
Yet technology's messianic role is meeting increasing
skepticism--because technology has thrust the planet to the
brink of annihilation. Humanity has utterly failed to subdue
and control the sinful heart. Consequently, all the
scientific progress has only made the world more dangerous.
Increasingly, philosophies of nihilism and despair appear
valid. Alexander Pope's dictum, "Hope springs eternal in the
human breast," rings hollow today. Job has a better grasp of
reality--time trudges on "`day after hopeless day'" (Job
7:6, LB). Man's world is running down. Someone had to come
from beyond human history, invade it, and bring a new
reality into it.
Rays of Hope
How great was the depravity of humanity? At the cross
humans murdered their Creator--the ultimate parricide! But
God has not left mankind without hope.
David contemplated humanity's position in Creation. At
first impressed with the vastness of the universe, he
thought man insignificant. Then he became aware of
humanity's true position. Speaking of man's present relation
with God, he said, "You have made him a little lower than
the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor.
You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your
hands" (Ps. 8:5,6,; cf. Heb. 2:7).
In spite of the Fall, there remains a sense of human
dignity. Although marred, the divine likeness was not
completely obliterated. Though fallen, corrupt, sinful, man
is still God's representative on earth. His nature is less
than divine, yet he holds a dignified position as God's
caretaker of earthly creation. When David realized this he
responded with praise and thanksgiving, "O Lord, our Lord,
how excellent is Your name in all the earth" (Ps. 8:9).
The Covenant of Grace
Through transgression the first pair had become sinful.
No longer able to resist Satan, could they ever be free, or
were they left to perish? Was there any hope?
The Covenant Given at the Fall
Before God pronounced the punishment on the fallen pair's
sins He gave them hope by introducing the covenant of grace.
He said, "`I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the
woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise
your head, and you shall bruise His heel'" (Gen. 3:15).
God's message brought encouragement because it announced
that though Satan had brought humanity under his evil spell,
ultimately he would be defeated. The covenant was made
between God and humanity. First God promised through His
grace a bulwark against sin. He would create a hatred
between the serpent and the woman; between Satan's followers
and God's people. This would disrupt man's relationship with
Satan and open the way for a renewed relationship with God.
Through the centuries war was to continue between God's
church and Satan. The conflict would reach its culmination
in the death of Jesus Christ, who was the prophesied
personification of the Seed of the woman. At Calvary, Satan
was defeated. Bruised though the Seed of the woman was, the
author of evil was defeated.
All who accept God's offer of grace will know an enmity
against sin that will make them successful in the battle
with Satan. Through faith they will share in the Saviour's
victory at Calvary.
The Covenant Established Before Creation
The covenant of grace was not developed after the Fall.
The Scriptures bring out that even before Creation the
members of the Godhead had covenanted among Themselves to
rescue the race if it should fall into sin. Paul said God
"chose us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the
world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him
in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus
Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His
will, to the praise and glory of His grace" (Eph. 1:4-6; cf.
2 Tim. 1:9). Speaking about Christ's atoning sacrifice,
Peter said, "He indeed was foreordained before the
foundation of the world" (1 Peter 1:20).
The covenant was based on an unshakable foundation: the
promise and oath of God Himself (Heb. 6:18). Jesus Christ
was the surety of the covenant (Heb. 7:22). A surety is
someone who assumes any debt or obligation in the event of a
default of another person. Christ's serving as the surety
meant that if the human race would fall into sin He would
bear their punishment. He would pay the price of their
redemption; He would make the atonement for their sin; He
would meet the demands of God's violated law. No human being
or angel could assume that responsibility. Only Christ the
Creator, the representative head of the race, could take
that responsibility (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:22).
The Son of God is not only the surety of the covenant, He
is also its mediator or executor. His description of His
mission as incarnate Son of man reveals this aspect of His
role. He said, "`I have come down from heaven, not to do My
own will, but the will of Him who sent Me'" (John 6:38; cf.
5:30, 43). The will of the Father is "`that everyone who
sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life'"
(John 6:40). "`And this is eternal life,'" He said, "`that
they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom
You have sent'" (John 17:3). At the end of His mission He
testified about His execution of the Father's commission,
saying, "`I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished
the work which You have given Me to do'" (John 17:4).
At the cross Jesus fulfilled His pledge to be humanity's
surety in the covenant. His cry "`It is finished!'" (John
19:30), marked the completion of His mission. With His own
life He had paid the penalty God's violated law required,
guaranteeing the salvation of the repentant human race. At
that moment Christ's blood ratified the covenant of grace.
Through faith in His atoning blood, repentant sinners would
be adopted as sons and daughters of God, thus becoming heirs
of eternal life.
This covenant of grace demonstrates God's infinite love
for humanity. Established before Creation, the covenant was
revealed after the Fall. At that time, in a special sense,
God and humanity became partners.
The Covenant Renewal
Unfortunately mankind rejected this magnificent covenant
of grace both before the Flood and after it (Gen. 6:1-8;
11:1-9). When God offered the covenant again, He did so
through Abraham. Again He affirmed the promise of
redemption: "`In your Seed all the nations of the earth
shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice'"
(Gen. 22:18; cf. 12:3; 18:18).
The Scriptures particularly highlight Abraham's
faithfulness to the covenant conditions. Abraham believed
God and He "accounted it to him for righteousness" (Gen.
15:6). That Abraham's participation in the covenant
blessings, while grounded in the grace of God, was also
contingent upon his obedience reveals that the covenant
upholds the authority of God's law (Gen. 17:1; 26:5).
Abraham's faith was of such quality that he was given the
title "the father of all those who believe" (Rom. 4:11). He
is God's model of the righteousness by faith that reveals
itself in obedience (Rom. 4:2,3; James 2:23,24). The
covenant of grace does not automatically bestow its
blessings on Abraham's natural descendants, but only on such
as follow Abraham's example of faith. "Only those who are of
faith are sons of Abraham" (Gal. 3:7). Every individual on
earth can experience the covenant promises of salvation by
meeting the condition: "If you are Christ's, then you are
Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal.
3:29). From the Godward side the Sinaitic covenant (also
called the first covenant) was a renewal of the Abrahamic
covenant of grace (Heb. 9:1). But Israel perverted it into a
covenant of works (Gal. 4:22-31).
The New Covenant
Later scriptural passages speak of "a new or better
covenant."(*11) But they do so, not because the everlasting
covenant was changed but because (1) through Israel's
unfaithfulness God's everlasting covenant had been perverted
into a system of works; (2) it was associated with a new
revelation of God's love in Jesus Christ's incarnation,
life, death, resurrection, and mediation (cf. Heb. 8:6-13);
and (3) it was not until the cross that it was ratified by
the blood of Christ (Dan. 9:27; Luke 22:20; Rom. 15:8; Heb.
What this covenant offers those who accept it is
enormous. Through God's grace it offers them the forgiveness
of their sins. It offers the Holy Spirit's work of writing
the Ten Commandments on the heart, and restoring repentant
sinners into the image of their Maker (Jer. 31:33). The
new-covenant, new-birth, experience brings the righteousness
of Christ and the experience of justification by faith.
The renewal of the heart it affords transforms
individuals so that they will bring forth the fruits of the
Spirit: "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal.
5:22,23). Through the power of Christ's saving grace they
may walk as Christ walked, daily enjoying the things that
please God (John 8:29). Fallen humanity's only hope is to
accept God's invitation to enter into His covenant of grace.
Through faith in Jesus Christ we can experience this
relationship that assures our adoption as children of God
and heirs with Christ to His kingdom.
1. The doctrine of man has long been a theological term
used to discuss the components of the human family. In this
discussion man does not necessarily mean male, excluding
female, but has been used for ease of discussion and
continuity with theological tradition and semantics.
2. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 183.
3. "Soul," SDA Encyclopedia, rev. ed., p. 1361
4. "Soul," SDA Bible Dictionary, re. ed., p. 1061.
5. Ibid., p. 1064.
6. SDA Bible Commentary, rev. ed., vol, 7 p. 257.
7. Ibid., rev. ed., vol. 3, p. 1090.
8. "Sin, I" SDA Bible Dictionary, rev. ed., p. 1042.
9. James Orr, God's Image in Man (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B.
Eerdmans, 1948), pp. 3,4.
10.Leonard Verduin, Somewhat Less than God: The Biblical
View of Man (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1970),
11.The New Testament associates the experience of Israel at
Mount Sinai with the old covenant (Gal. 4:24,25). At Sinai
God renews His everlasting covenant of grace to His people
who had been liberated (1 Chron. 16:14-17; Ps. 105:8-11;
Gal. 3:15-17). God promises them, "If you will indeed obey
My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special
treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.
And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy
nation" (Ex. 19:5,6; cf. Gen. 17:7,9,19). The covenant was
based on righteousness by faith (Rom. 10:6-8; Deut.
30:11-14) and the law was to be written in their heart
(Deut. 6:4-6; 30:14).
The covenant of grace is always subject to perversion by
the believers' turning it into a system of salvation by
works. Paul used Abraham's failure to trust God--his
depending on his own works to solve his problems--as an
illustration of the old covenant (Genesis 16; 12:10-20; 20;
Gal. 4:22-25). In fact the experience of righteousness by
works has existed ever since sin entered this world and the
everlasting covenant was broken (Hosea 6:7).
Throughout Israel's history the majority tried "to
establish their own righteousness" through "the works of the
law" (Rom. 9:30-10:4). They lived according to the letter,
not according to the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:6). Trying to justify
themselves by the law (Gal. 5:4), they lived under the
condemnation of the law and are in bondage, not in freedom
(Gal. 4:21-23). Thus they perverted the Sinai covenant.
The book of Hebrews applies the first, or old, covenant to
the history of Israel since Sinai and reveals its temporary
nature. It shows that the Levitical priesthood was to be
temporary, performing a symbolic function until the reality
in Christ had arrived (Hebrews 9; 10). Sadly enough many
failed to see that in themselves the ceremonies were
worthless (Heb. 10:1). Adherence to this system of "shadows"
when type had met antitype, shadow had met reality,
distorted the true mission of Christ. Hence the strong
language used to stress the superiority of the better, or
new, covenant over Sinai.
The old covenant, therefore, can be described in negative
and positive terms. Negatively, it refers to the people's
perversion of God's everlasting covenant. Positively, it
stands for the temporary earthly ministry designed by God to
meet the emergency created by this human failure. See also
White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 370-73; White, "Our
Work," Review and Herald, June 23, 1904, p. 8; White, "A
Holy Purpose to Restore Jerusalem" Southern Watchman, March
1, 1904, p. 142; Hasel, Covenant in Blood (Mountain View,
CA: Pacific Press, 1982); cf. Wallenkampf, Salvation Comes
From the Lord (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1983),
12.Cf. Hasel, Covenant in Blood.