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



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

of man?

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;

Num. 9:7,10).

"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

conscious entity.

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

(Ex. 20:8-11).

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).

The Fall

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"

(Heb. 5:9).

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"

(Gen. 3:6).

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

(Gen. 3:8-10).

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

specifically forbidden."(*8)

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"

(Rom. 6:23).

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'"

(John 15:4,5).

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),

p. 69.

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),

pp. 84-90.

12.Cf. Hasel, Covenant in Blood.