What Is Man?

Gordon J. Pennock
Brookfield, Ill.

The Bible contains many questions which are of thrilling interest. We venture to suggest that none is more challenging than this one: "What is man?" This query was posed by David, the "sweet singer of Israel" in the long ago, when lie wrote:

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,

The moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

What is man, that thou art mindful of him?

And the son of man, that thou visitest him?

-Psalm 8:3,4

David's early life afforded him many hours in which to gaze and meditate upon the grandeur of the stars of heaven. Like boys and girls, and men and women of today, he likely made mental comparlsons between their majesty and mystery, and his own smallness and seeining insignificance. So it is that he was later moved by the Our question - "What is man?" We invite you to study and reflect upon it.

Man Compared to The Universe

It has been said that "the creature never appears as pitiful and inconsiderable as when it views itself with one eye, and its creator with the other." Let us for the moment compare man with the creation of The Creator. Compared to the earth, upon which man dwells, he is as but L grain of sand upon the sea-shore. And yet, the earth is but a small seginent of God's universe. How great is the universe? To be sure, its expanse is just as much a mystery now, as when the Lord humbled job by asking him,

Canst thou bind the cluster of the Pleiades,

Or loose the bands of Orion?

Canst thou lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season?

Or canst thou bind the Bear with her train?

Knowest thou the ordinances of the heavens?

Canst thou establish the dominion thereof in the earth?

--Job 38:31-33

Scientists have made many calculations concerning the measure of the universe. It is said that "our closest neighbor among the starry host is twenty-five trillion miles away. The light which left this star (Alpha) five years ago is just now reaching the earth, having been travelling all this time at the rate of 186,000 miles per second. Pollux, the brighter star of the twins, is thirty-two light years from the earth, a distance of 192,000,000,000,000 miles!" (Why We Believe The Bible, Dehoff, P. 19).

Its immensity is further illustrated when we consider that it would take Sputnik II, which is orbiting at a calculated speed of 17,840 miles per hour, more than one-and-onequarter million years to reach Pollux from the earth.

The significance of such astronomical figures are, of course, difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend. But they do, serve to show the minuteness of man, and make us to exclaim, "What is man, that thou art mindful of him?"

The Physical Man

David again wrote concerning his physique: "I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Ps. 139:14). Certainly, this cannot be other than true of all men, since God is their creator. The human body is a complex and complicated organism. It is made up of approximately 200 bones, 500 muscles and 1000 ligaments, forming one of the strongest structures for its size and weight in existence. It is able to absorb great shocks and exert unusual energies. The skin is said to have 200 million pores which open and close thermostatically for the maintainance of a normal body-temperature. The heart, which is about the size of the clenched fist, contracts about 100,000 times a day, pumping nearly 6,000 pounds of blood through the circulatory system. Like the sanitation-SyStem of a great city, the blood flows through arteries from the heart to all parts of the body, delivering its life-sustaining treasures to each tiny cell. It then returns through the veins, bringing with it a cargo of poison and waste. After passing through a filtering and purifying process, it is reladen with life and once more sent upon its way. This operation continues perpetually for the entire span of life.

Again, the brain and nervous-system performs much as the capital and communicationsystem of an empire. Through these all parts and areas of the body are kept in constant touch with one another. Over this system orders proceed from the brain, and messages are transmitted to it, with infinite speed and accuracy. The images of the eye, the tones of the ear, and the sensations of taste, touch and smell are recorded and filed away in the memory, to be called forth at will.

Truly, we are "fearfully and wonderfully made!" Yet, our physical structure is no more intricate than that of any other creature which the Lord has made. So, we will have to look. beyond man's physical nature to learn his real worth and favored station in the scheryie of life.

Man is the image of God

The true worth of man is only understood when we remember and consider that lie was made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1 :27). "Man is not an organism; he is an intelligence served by organs." He is much more than a mere physical being; he is an intellectual and spiritual being. It is in these senses lie is the image and likeness of God, and as such stands in contrast with, and elevated above the beasts of the field, or the jungle. He is neither a glorified gorilla nor an intelligent ape.

Man stands in contrast with animals in that he is guided by reason, but they by instinct - ninate propensities and inherited wisdom. Jeremiah the prophet wrote: "0 Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer. 10:23). Man must be taught, instructed and guided. His reason is stimulated and prompted by revelation from God, nature, communication with his fellow men, and personal experience. The animal kingdom over which man has been made the ruler (Gen. 1 :26, 28; Ps. 8:6-8) builds its homes, hears and nurtures its offspring, and otherwise lives its life, as it has done from the beginning of its existence. But man is creating, building, changing, expanding and exploring. Aninials ire limited by instinct; man is inspired and impelled by reason.

Scientific Achievements

The first command God gave to man was: "Be fruitful and InUltiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it" (Gen. 1 :28). We suggest that the whole history of science is the story of man's efforts to "subdue" the elements and energies of the world, and to bring them into his service. His achievements are stupendous. He has tunneled mountains and bridged mighty rivers. He has explored the length, breadth and depth, of land and sea, and brought forth her treasures. He has studied the elements and has succeeded in harnessing thern to work for him. He has used them for travel, transport and communication, by land, sea and air. They are employed in the operation of his mighty utility and industrial plants. Their power and resources have been used for the fabricating of fearful weapons of war, as well as tools for peace. He has unlocked many of the secrets of nature, and has enlisted them into his combat of disease and death. He has erected beautiful honies in which to live, equipped with autoinatic and push-button conveniences and luxuries, surpassing by far the wildest dreams of generations past. He has by selection and cultivation increased the productivity of the anlinal and vegetable kingdoms, and has processed their products for the feeding and clothing of his body, is well as many other uses. He has now turned his attention and experiments to the regions of outer space. Already he has rocketed into orbit two artificial bodies, "Sputnik" and "Mutnik," and they are now circling the globe as stars of the heavens. How far he will succeed in exploring these spaces, only "The Father" knows.

Indeed, man has gone far in his conquest of the earth. These victories have only been made possible by the intellect or genius that are his by inheritance from God, in whose image he was created. Truly was it said by Robert South, "The Bible tells us that God made man in his own image; science gives us the proof of it showing that in very truth the ideas of man's mind are akin to the ideas of the Divine mind." - Homiletic Ency., par. 3384

Man is a spiritual being

Man is the image and likeness of God not merely because he is an intellectual being, but also because he is a spiritual being. Man possesses a soul which will live eternally. This truth is set forth in many portions of Scripture.

When God created Adam, "He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Gen. 2:7) The prophet, Zeckariah, declared that when Jehovah stretched forth the heavens and laid the foundation of the earth, He "formeth the spirit of man within him" (Zeck. 12:1 ).

The Apostle Paul, speaking to the philosophers of Athens, said: "In him (God) we live, and move, and have our being; as certain even of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and device of man" (Acts 17:28, 29).

Note: "we (men) are the offspring of God." Jesus, speaking to a woman of Samaria, said: "God is a spirit" (John 4:24). A law of both the natural and spiritual realms is, that like begets like. Therefore, it logically follows that since "God is a spirit," and, "we are the offspring of God," we are therefore spiritual beings like unto God.

This idea is set forth in the Hebrew letter in these words: "We had the fathers of our flesh to chasten us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?" (Heb. 12:9).

That God is the creator of man's entire being cannot be questioned. But note: while mans body was formed "of the dust of the ground," his spirit was imparted to him by a second act of The Creator. (Gen. 2:7; Zeck. 12:1). Following their creation, God established in Adam and Eve a natural law of procreation, and commanded them, saying, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth" (Gen. 1:28). Through them and by this law, all human flesh has subsequently come into the world. But into every one born through this process, God has implanted His spirit, thus making every human being both the offspring of fleshly parents, and the offspring of God.

That man is both fleshly and spiritual, mortal and immortal in his nature, is recognized by Solomon when he wrote by inspiration: "The dust returneth to, the earth as it was, and the spirit returneth unto God who gave it" (Ecc. 12:7).

Man's Spirit will survive his body

The writer, James, stated a simple fact, when he said: "The body apart from the spirit is dead" (Jas. 2:26). But this does not justify the conclusion that the spirit dies when the body dies. In fact, there is much evidence to show that such is not true. May we invite your consideration of the following scriptures.

Peter wrote: "I think it right as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance" (2 Pet. 1:13). Peter not only recognized a distinction between his "tabernacle" (body) and his person, but he was aware of a time when the two would be separated. This separation would be brought about by a "putting off of my tabernacle" (V. 14), signifying that his spirit would survive his body.

In this same vein of thought, Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: "Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16).

"By the outward man and the inward man Paul shows that he was no materialist: he believed that we have both a body and a soul; and so far was he from supposing that when the body dies the whole man is decomposed, and continues so to the resurrection, that he asserts that the decays of the one lead to the invigorating of the other; and that the decomposition of the body itself leaves the soul in the state of renewed youth. The vile doctrine of materialism is not apostolic." - Commentary, A. Clark, on Rom. 4:16.

In full recognition of the inevitable death of the body, but survival of the "inward man" - his spirit, he entertained the hope of an eternal "house" for its habitation. He said, "We know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with bands, eternal, in the heavens" (2 Cor. 5:1). He anticipated his own demise with calmness and confidence, saying: "Whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord; . . . and are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:6-8). And again: "I am in a strait betwixt the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ; for it is very far better: vet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake" (Phil. 1 :22-24).

No lesson in the Bible shows more clearly the deathlessness of human spirits, whethe r of good or evil men, than the one taught by Jesus in the l6th chapter of Luke, verses 19 through 31. We request you, our reader, to open your Bible now and read that story.

Some attempt to diminish the force of this lesson, by declaring it to be a parable. May we suggest, that whether it be a parable or not, it is still a statement of solemn truth. The parables of Jesus were not fables - they were true-to-life stories setting forth moral and spiritual lessons.

The points to be noted here are these: (I) Two men, described to us as a "rich man" and another named "Lazarus," lived upon the earth and eventuallv died; and (2) Both are said to have been in conscious existence after death.

Thus Jesus has permitted us to view the destiny and state of human souls, divested of the fleshly bodies in which they lived upon the earth. That which befell these men must ultimately befall all men. How fitting here ,ire these words of Longfellow, the poet:

Life is real, life is earnest,

And the grave is not its goal.

"Dust thou art, to dust returnest"

Was not spoken of the soul.

What then?

And last, but not least, we need to observe that we, as creatures endowed with spirits which will survive the death and decay of these fleshly bodies, must one day give an accounting to our Creator, the one whose image and likeness we bear, for the way in which we have used our bodies, intelligences, and spirits, while living upon the earth. Hear these solemn words of Holy Writ: "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment" (Heb. 9:27). And again: "We must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor. 5 :10).

In view of the foregoing facts and considerations, we earnestly entreat you, our reader, to

"So live that, when thy summons comes to join

The innumerable caravan, which moves

To that mysterious realm where each shall take

Flis chamber in the silent halls of death,

Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,

Scourged to his dungeon; but sustained and soothed

By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave

Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch

About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams."

-William Cullen Bryant

Truth Magazine II:4, pp. 18-21
January 1958