By Mike Willis
Before one will turn to Christ for salvation, he must understand his need for Christ. Until one grasps his plight, he will not appreciate the grace of God in saving mankind from his sins. This article is designed to explain who man is and what is his circumstance outside of Christ.
Man is Created in the Image of God
The Scriptures reveal that man is a being created in the image of God. Not all men share that idea of man. Some believe that man is the product of millions of years of evolution. The evolutionary model postulates that life began as a result of a big bang billions of years ago. Over billions of years of random evolution and on the basis of the survival of the fittest, humans gradually came into existence. The upward development of man continued until modern man evolved. The logical consequences of these presuppositions include such things as:
- There is no God or supernatural influence on the world.
- Man is a product of random evolution.
- Man is a more highly developed animal, but not significantly different from other animal life.
- There are no moral absolutes imposed on man by a divine being.
In contrast to this, the Bible states that man is created in the image of God. The Genesis account states that God created man out of the dust of the earth, not previously existing animal life (2:7). Then the record adds that he is made in God’s own image: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (1:26-27). Inasmuch as God is spirit, not flesh and blood, to have the image of God, man must have an immortal spirit. This spirit survives the death of the body (see 2 Cor. 4:16; Eccl. 12:7; Matt. 10:28).
As a being created in the image of God, man is the acme of God’s creation. Just as a man longs for a fellowship with his child and the child longs for a fellowship with his parent, so does God want a fellowship, association, and communion with his children. Man’s nature is such that there is an emptiness in man when this fellowship is lacking (see Ps. 42:1; 63:1-2; 84:2; 143:6-7; Isa. 26:8-9). One might as well deny his need for food, water, and air as to deny his need for this fellowship with God.
Man Is Separated From God By His Sin
When man came from the creative hand of God, he enjoyed perfect communion with God. The Genesis narrative leaves the impression that Adam and Eve enjoyed association with God in Eden (Gen. 3:8). When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden, he gave them the commandment not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He said, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17). God provided abundantly for man’s every need in the Garden.
The Devil entered the body of a serpent and tempted Eve while she was in the Garden. He used the same avenues of temptation to persuade her to sin as he uses with every other man: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17). He approached her, creating doubt in the goodness of God. The narrative reads:
Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons (3:1-7).
The woman exercised her free will, choosing to disbelieve the word of God and to believe the lies of the devil, and ate of the forbidden fruit, transgressing the commandment of God and thus becoming guilty of sin (1 John 3:4).
The Lord promised Adam that in the day that he ate of the forbidden fruit he would die. The word “death” describes what happens which the spirit of man departs from the body (Jas. 2:26). The word is used in both a physical and a spiritual sense. In a spiritual sense, the word “death” is used to describe man’s state of being separated from God (Isa. 59:1-2); eternal spiritual death refers to man’s condition of being eternally separated from God in hell, described as the second death (Rev. 20:6). In the day that Adam ate of the fruit, he was alienated from God by his sin (see Gen. 3:8). God pronounced the judgment of physical death on mankind as a consequence of his sin (Gen. 3:19). The consequences of Adam’s sin that passed to all humanity was the consequence of being driven from the Garden of Eden, wherein was the Tree of Life. If a man could eat of the Tree of Life, he would live forever (Gen. 3:22-24). Because all of mankind is separated from the Tree of Life, physical death passes to all men, even on those who have not sinned in the likeness of Adam’s transgression (such as infants).
From this narrative, let us observe these relevant and pertinent observations:
1. Sin is the transgression of the word of God. Sin is not merely the violation of one’s conscience, the imposition of society’s moral values, a guilt complex, or outdated (“Victorian”) ethics imposed unconsciously on man. Rather, sin is the transgression of God’s revealed word.
2. Man sins as a result of his free will to sin. Sin cannot be explained by such things as the following: (a) Sin is inherited, as is suggested by those who claim that man sins because he inherited the depraved nature of Adam. What caused Adam to sin? (b) Sin is caused by poor economic conditions. Some think that sin would be eradicated if everyone was financially secure. But Adam was financially secure and still he sinned. (c) Sin occurs because man is uneducated. Some think that sin can be eradicated by educating the populace. But Adam and Eve sinned, even though they knew the expressed will of God. Sin occurs because man of his own free will chooses to disobey God.
What occurred in Adam occurs in every man’s life. Man chooses to sin, to disobey God. The Devil tempts us through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17). Every man is drawn away by his own lust and enticed and then chooses to sin. James described this as follows:
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:13-15).
Sin is universal. Every man who has reached the age to choose between right and wrong has transgressed the will of God. Paul said, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
3. The just punishment for sin is death. The same separation that occurred between God and Adam occurs between God and any other man who chooses to sin. Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). The sins that you and I commit bring the sentence of death, separation from God, upon every man. Isaiah said, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isa. 59:1-2).
So here is man’s plight: (1) He is created in the image of God with an immortal soul that does not cease to exist at the death of his body; (2) He is guilty of sin, the transgression of the will of God; (3) The just punishment of that sin is separation from God, an alienation that occurs at the moment of sin and ultimately ends in eternal separation from God in the punishment of hell, a place of everlasting torment.
Answerable to God
In understanding man’s circumstance before God, one must also add that every man is going to stand before God in judgment for the sins he has committed. Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). Again, he wrote, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12). In his sermon on Mars Hill, Paul preached, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).
So man’s condition is that of a condemned sinner having to answer to a just God for his sins.
There is nothing that man can do by himself to atone for his sins. All of the good works that a man may do will not erase one sin. Left to himself, man is doomed to eternal damnation in hell. He stands in need of a Savior, of God’s divine grace. Thanks be to God that he did not leave us without hope, but loved us enough to act to make possible human redemption and salvation.