The Origin of Man

In Genesis, the "Book of Beginnings," Moses writes: "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness..." (Genesis 1:26). God is not physical in nature. Instead, as Jesus tells us, "God is a Spirit" (John 4:24). The "image of God" in man must therefore signify the spiritual nature God has given him. Man's likeness to his Creator is to be seen primarily in his personality, intellect, and moral constitution.

The Lord, Moses says, is "the God of the spirits of all flesh" (Numbers 27:16). And the writer of Hebrews informs us that God is "the Father of spirits" (Hebrews 12:9). Thus with regard to their origin, all men are called "the offspring of God" (Acts 17:29). Moses further writes: "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Genesis 2:7). This verse lays stress on the fact that man is also endowed with a physical nature. God formed man's body from the elements of the earth and formed "the spirit of man within him" (Zechariah 12:1). As the present dwelling of the human spirit, the physical body in therefore called "our earthly house" (II Corinthians 5:1).

The Purpose of Man's Creation

The fundamental reason for man's existence is indicated by Solomon: "The Lord hath made all things for himself" (Proverbs 16:4). John expresses essentially the same idea: "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou has created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created" (Revelation 4:11). Paul writes: "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever, Amen" (Romans 11:36). "All things" obviously includes man. God created man for Himself, for His pleasure. Further, what God has said of Israel may also be said of every man: "I have created him for my glory" (Isaiah 43:7).

The Rank and Stewardship of Man

Man, Moses revealed, ranks above the animal creation and has been given dominion over it. He writes: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" (Genesis 1:27-28).

Though given dominion upon the earth, man is nevertheless ranked below the angels. David muses upon humanity's place in the Divine order of things and inquires: "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast make him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of they hands..." (Psalm 8:4-6).

The Duty of Man

The essence of man's duty is a reverence for God expressed in obedience to His will. Moses puts it this way: "Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him" (Deuteronomy 8:6). Jesus, referring to the Hebrew scriptures, says: "for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Matthew 4:10).

Elsewhere He expresses man's obligation in terms of love. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22:37-39). "Let us hear," says Solomon, "the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

The Disobedience of Man

Man has woefully failed to fulfill his duty. Speaking of the disobedience of men in ancient times, Paul says: "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened" (Romans 1:21). It is a sad fact that the disobedience of the ancients has been repeated in each succeeding generation. Hence the apostle further remarks: "For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another" (Titus 3:3).

Solomon, moreover, affirms the disobedience of all men: "There is not a just man upon the earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not...Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions" (Ecclesiastes 7:20,29). Paul also recognizes this universality of disobedience when he says: "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). The prophet Isaiah sums up the matter thus: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6).

The Consequences of Man's Disobedience

All of the evils in the world are either directly or indirectly the result of man disobeying God's will. One consequence of disobedience is death and the suffering and sorrow that goes with it. Regarding the fruit of the forbidden tree, God warned Adam: "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:17). Adam partook of the fruit and brought death not only to himself but to all his descendants as well. So Paul writes: "Wherefore, as by one sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men..." (Romans 5:12).

Another consequence of disobedience is alienation from God--i.e. the loss of His favor and fellowship. Thus, reminding the Colossian Christians of their former state, Paul says: "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled" (Colossians 1:21). But the ultimate consequence of disobedience, if it is not rectified, is eternal ruin. For the Lord, Paul tells us, shall be revealed from heaven, "In flaming fire taking vengeance of them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (II Thessalonians 1:8-9).

The Salvation of Man

Man is utterly powerless to save himself from the consequences of his disobedience. "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him" (Romans 5:8-9). It is therefore Christ who is said to be "the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Hebrews 5:9). For this reason Paul can boldly say: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth..." (Romans 1:16).

The Destiny of Man

In the Hebrew letter we read that "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). At the day of judgment, the Lord "will render to every man according to his deed" (Romans 2:6). In Jesus' own words: "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28-29).

Summary Truths

From the beginning of the race, man has preferred his own way rather than the will of his all-wise Creator, invariably suffering the consequences of his self-will. No one has stated better than Solomon this lesson so often illustrated and yet seemingly so hard to learn: "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 14:12).