SALVATION UNLIMITED    by Edward Heppenstall


1
MAN
THE PROBLEM:
WHO IS HE?


THE QUESTION as to the nature and destiny of man will not rest unanswered. We do not wonder at this. One of the most important questions we can ask is: What is man? Who is he in this world? Every person is under obligation to ask himself: Who am I? Why am I here? Where did I come from and where am I going? Personal identity and maturity depend on the answers to these questions. We cannot be honest with ourselves until we seek such answers.

According to the Bible account, the first thing we learn about man is that he is a created being, made in the image of God. We read these words in the first chapter of Genesis:

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image and likeness to rule So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase, fill the earth and subdue it, rule over . . . every living thing that moves upon the earth" (Gen. 1:26-28, N.E.B.). [Texts in this book credited to N.E.B. are from The New English Bible. © The Delegates of the Oxford University Press anti the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press 1970. Reprinted by permission.]

What is man that thou shouldst remember him, mortal man that thou shouldst care for him? Yet thou hast made him little less than a god, crowning him with glory and honour. Thou makest him master over all thy creatures; thou hast put everything under his feet: . . . 0 Lord our sovereign, how glorious is thy name in all the earth! (Ps. 8:4-9, N.E.B.).

Herein is the greatness of man: made in Godís image, a son of God, a godlike being with capacity for fellowship with God. He is a child of Godís creation, made to respond freely as an earthly son to his father. He is the original prince of this world, responsible only to God Himself.

Because God is love, love requires fullness of expression. God as love cannot live by Himself in an empty universe. Love requires a beloved. God expressed Himself in creatures akin to Himself, holding communion with them. As free moral agents, Adam and Eve were given the opportunity of a right response, a clear recognition of personal responsibility to Him who had created them. Man was made in the likeness of God, not in the likeness of the brutes.

Man must never be thought of as separate from God. Man is not given qualities by which he functions independently of God. The moment man is thought of as independent of God, man destroys his identity. He no longer can see himself or understand himself as man.

At no time is man viewed as "neutral" or isolated, but always in relationship to God. . . . When the Bible speaks about man it is not expressing some subjective estimate of man, but is speaking about the real actual nature of man, "who can simply not be thought of without God." . . . That is what the theological approach demands; it asks for the opposite of an abstract view of man which treats man as an isolated and self-enclosed unity, which can exist and which can be understood by itself.óG. C. BERKOUWER, Man, the Image of God (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Win. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962), pp. 32, 33. Used by permission.

Berkouwer states further:

The light of Scripture reveals . . . a wholly real relationship to God, without which man in his essence and his actuality can never be understood.óIbid., p. 33.

The second fact we learn about man is that because of who man is, he had intrinsic value to God and to his fellow men, since all men share in the divine likeness. Man was created to be a king on earth, not a slave; a prince, not a pauper. Man is the vicegerent of God, having dominion over the earth. Thus God purposes for man the highest destiny, the noblest fulfillment, an eternity of creative achievement.

Nothing is more reasonable and inspiring than Godís account in Genesis of manís origin and destiny, endorsed by Jesus Himself. (See Matthew 19:4.) Whatever is our view of man will determine the value we place upon him. According to Godís Word, the chief end of man is to glorify God, to enjoy the fellowship of Godís highest creatures throughout the universe.

The third fact is that God gave man life. Only God has life in Himself. The life man has is not his own. It is continually derived from God. In the beginning God created man and gave him life, but only in dependence on God and union with God Himself. As long as man is linked with God he continues to live. Separated from the Source of life, he must die sooner or later. Man is not immortal; neither does he have an immortal soul. He is not constructed of two or three separate entities such as body, soul, and spirit. These and other terms refer to differing functions of the whole man. When the apostle Paul speaks of the conflict between spirit and flesh in the Christian life, he does not refer to two separate entities but to two opposing tendencies within the whole man.

God never addresses a part of man as having more significance than the rest of man. God always speaks to man in his totality. There is no separate consciousness in any of these parts. The image of God is never localized in some part of man. The whole man is made in Godís image.

The Scripture never pictures man as a dualistic, or pluralistic being, but that in all its varied expressions the whole man comes to the fore, in all his guilt and sin, his need and oppression, his longings and his nostalgia. And it is thus a priori unlikely that the Biblical view of man will distinguish a higher and a lower part in man implying that the higher part is holier than the lower and stands closer to God, the lower as such then being impure and sinful and further away from the God of life.óIbid., p. 203.

The most striking thing in the Biblical portrayal of man lies in this, that it never asks attention for man in himself, but demands our fullest attention for man in his relation to) God.óIbid., p. 195.

The Fall of Man

The Creation account given in Genesis states that when God looked on everything that He had made, He saw that it was good (see Gen. 1:31). The Bible also affirms that man is no longer what God made him or intended him to be. As we look at our world, we can see that something has gone terribly wrong with it. Nothing is more apparent than that.

Whenever we reflect on the nature of man, we cannot escape considering evil, which man does and lives and experiences in his everyday life. It is not possible to distance ourselves from this serious problem by a simple relativizing of human evil. Nor is it possible to escape it by stressing the anonymity of evil, since it stands constantly before us in concrete and localized form.óIbid., p. 13.

According to the Bible, it all started with Satan, the devil, who sought to usurp the place of God.

How art thou fallen from heaven, 0 Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High (Isa. 14:12-14).

Satan dethroned God in his life and put himself there. This claim to a life independent of God was a declaration of war against the Creator of heaven and earth. This war began in heaven and moved to this earth (see Rev. 12:7-9).

The first human characters in the war were Adam and Eve, the first parents of all living beings on earth. God made them perfect in a perfect world, with perfect freedom to respond to Him in love. Then one day, Satan, an apostate angel once called Lucifer, invaded Eden and persuaded Adam and Eve to follow him. They listened and accepted his offer to help them become gods in their own right by asserting their independence from God (see Gen. 3:5). They dethroned God in their lives and put self-will in place of Godís will. Instead of freedom, they became captives of Satan, who declared himself the prince of this world. Adam and Eve lost their sovereignty.

By their own choice Adam and Eve separated themselves from the life of God. Their whole natures were corrupted. A physical, mental, and spiritual change passed over them by virtue of the fact that they had fallen into sin.

Consequently, all of Adamís descendants born thereafter have inherited the result and the consequences of Adamís sin: separation from God. Babies die, not because they have actually sinned or are punished by God, but because they are now part of this alienation from the Source of life. All men were born self-centered, not God-centered. This is the beginning point of all sin, a life apart from God, where self is king rather than God.

Mark what follows. It was through one man that sin entered the world, and through sin death, and thus death pervaded the whole human race, inasmuch as all men have sinned (Rom. 5:12, N.E.B.).

As a result of Adamís sin all men sin and all men die. There are no exceptions. The fall from righteousness to unrighteousness did take place. It did occur. Adamís original righteousness and right relation with God have been lost. Since then the Bible declares of man:

There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, . . . there is none that doeth good, no, not one (Rom. 3:10-12).

This rupture between God and man is not an illusion or myth that can be dismissed by right thinking and right living. Sin is a religious concept. It describes something that happened and exists between God and man. The failure and sinfulness of the human race are due to manís wrong relationship with God.

Sin . . . is not merely an ethical, but . . . a religious conception. It does not denote simply wrong of man against man, but expresses a relation of the individual and his action to God. It does not regard the wrong act simply as a violation or transgression of moral law, but as violation of duty towards God, or offence against Him. "Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned" (Ps. 51:4).óJAMES ORR: Godís Image in Man (New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1907), pp. 212, 213.

The Fall involved all men. The effects of that historical catastrophe caused this planet to be inhabited by a race of sinners whose "carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom.8:7, 8).

Man in every part of his being has fallen away from God and from righteousness. In relation to God, man stands in opposition. In relation to himself, he is divided. Sin has perverted and disorganized his nature. His spiritual disease seems incurable. Sin and death hold dominion over man. The haunting evil in man cannot be banished from the world by man himself. No mere man has completely lived up to Godís original purpose.

Sin not only brings disease and bondage but divine condemnation and judgment. Sin not only causes unhappiness but brings upon man the death penalty for breaking the law of God. Man is not just sick. He is a lost man. He lacks not only social and emotional compatibility but righteousness and harmony with God. Any view that falls short of the Bible truth about man is radically defective as to the nature of man and his basic problem. The Bible says that the natural man is dead in sin, and deserving of divine judgment. The condemnation is as sweeping as it is unequivocal, and is a natural consequence of manís own choice.

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath (Eph. 2:1-3).

The real essence of the evil act . is . the selfó will which throws off Godís authority, and arrogates to itself the right to choose its own end, and that an-other end than Godís. . . . Sin in its essence is the taking into the will of the principle opposite to thisóthat not Godís will, but my own will, is to be the ultimate law of my life. It is the exaltation of self against God: the setting up of self-will against Godís will: at bottom Egoism.óIbid., pp. 216, 217.

Therefore man is unable to make a true evaluation of himself. Because of sin, self-knowledge as to who he is becomes very difficult to obtain.

Scripture . . . speaks of the darkness, apostasy, rebellion of man, his opposition to everything God intended in creating man in His image. Hence man, in his rebellion, precisely in his insistence on autonomy, is in inescapable and deepseated conflict with himself, with his "essence," his true humanity. . . . For man as sinner is alienated not only from God but also from himself.óBERK0WER, op. cit., p. 65.

The Sinfulness of Man

Man ought more highly to regard Godís truth concerning his divine origin and destiny. The God of heaven never relinquishes His position as Father. Man in his wretched condition is never deserted by the God of heaven. At the same time God is very realistic about the sin problem. The Scriptures speak categorically of manís depravity and descent into sin.

(Jer. 17:9). From head to foot there is not a sound spot in you (Isa. 1:6, N.E.B.). I am carnal, sold under sin (Rom. 7:14). For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing (verse 18).

Total depravity is the phrase used to describe the sinner in his lost condition. This does not mean that sin manifests itself in every man in the same manner or to the same degree. It does not mean necessarily total wickedness or sinfulness. The word total simply has reference to the whole man as being infected with sin. No part of man is exempt. The alienation from God has adversely affected man in all his parts: his will, feelings, reason.

There is no limit or boundary within human nature beyond which we can find some last human reserve untouched by sin; it is man himself who is totally corrupt. . . . But a warning against every attempt to find in fallen man some "remnant" which can escape the divine indictment should never minimize the reality of manís being human in his being sinner; something which in the eyes of God does not relativize sin, but emphasizes it.óBERKOUWER, op. cit., p. 135.

Anthropologists and sociologists frequently. assert that belief in manís total depravity is contrary to sound psychology, an exaggerated statement of manís sinfulness that fails to do justice to the good in manís nature. They affirm that man is basically good as evidenced by the great progress man has made in the course of history, in the noble specimens of manhood and womanhood. Religionists, as well, point to the virtues of men who make no claim to be Christian as evidence that any belief in manís depravity goes contrary to the facts.

There are many dimensions to sin, many grades in the seriousness of sin, many kinds of specific sins. But there is also a universal state of sinfulness. . . . The sinfulness of the human situation betrays moreover the fact that all men are somehow bound to sin. . . .Therefore, sin dominates men. It is not merely an occasional decision; it is a power that creates the atmosphere in which men live. It dominates their mind (Rom. 1:21), their will (Rom. 7:15-20), and their body (Rom. 7:24). Individual men are inextricably involved and hopelessly controlled by something which Paul telescoped into the word "sin."óLEWIS B. SMEDES, All Things Made New (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (1970), p. 102. Used by permission.

If ever the evidence was conclusive it is apparent today. Manís life is everywhere set against righteousness and the law of God. Man in his sinfulness cannot apprehend the truth of God. Each succeeding generation makes the same tragic mistakes. Man never seems to learn. Evil tendencies abound. Sin has produced a radical insanity of evil passions, selfish ambitions, wild desires, unreasonable emotions that are the curse of all men on the earth.

Manís moral and spiritual disorder reaches back throughout manís entire history, perpetuated through every generation since the fall of Adam. Manís sinful nature cannot be changed except by the power of God. The Christian faith is Godís program for manís restoration and transformation.

Unfortunately, the natural man, the unregenerate man, whose mind is darkened and blinded by sin and self-will, is unable to understand and acknowledge the truth about himself as God sees it. Because man chooses to take his motivation from himself rather than from God, the seriousness of his sinfulness is toned down. Men may detect the injustice of manís inhumanity to man. They may interpret religion, and manís personal happiness, in terms of meeting manís social, physical, and emotional needs, without dealing with manís basic problem. Life with God cannot be assumed or taken for granted merely because of manís natural virtues and goodness. To shift manís center from self, back to God, does not occur automatically or easily within the course of secular education, human culture, and the natural process of human development.

It is possible to build a desirable moral and social order and still ignore God. Man is deeply fallen. The natural qualities and power with which God endowed him at Creation are not sufficient to save him. They do not lead him back to God. Man in his fallen condition tends to dedicate these gifts mostly to the worship of self. For the most part men tend to believe in the competency of the human mind to arrive at truth without special revelation from God. They continue to make the same mistake that Adam and Eve made in the beginning. They accept Satanís offer to be like God without God, self-contained and self-sufficient. Consequently, the Bible passes judgment on the natural goodness and righteousness of men outside of God.

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away (Isa. 64:6).

Let us give our philosophers, moralists, and scientists the credit they deserve, but let not man proclaim them the saviors of the race. Belief in the evolutionary origin of man and belief in his natural goodness and progress conspire to obliterate the real truth about manís lost condition and his need of divine revelation and salvation. While we can appreciate the progress seen in the world today under the leadership of brilliant men, let us recognize that these things do not obviate manís need for salvation at the hands of the living God. Man has nothing, absolutely nothing, in himself that he can use to solve the problem of sin and death. We regret that modern man, for the most part, forsakes the light of the gospel for the artificial light of human reason and the creations of manís own mind.

It is customary to magnify the greatness of man above the revelation from God and point with undisguised satisfaction to the natural goodness of man in the hope that ultimately the world will arrive at the millennium. But the belief that man can, by himself, save civilization is sheer foolishness. Mankind will never undergo the necessary change of heart and life by any human method of development. Modern man needs more than liberty by law and discipline, however good this may be for the social and civil order. He needs liberty by Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, "If you dwell within the revelation I have brought, you are indeed my disciples; you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free. . . . If then the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free" (John 8:31ó36, N.E.B.).

It is not easy to get man to think seriously about his own spiritual needs. Modern man is not concerned much about his sins or his distance from God. Unfortunately, the pleasantness of sin is a distinct possibility. Much of sin offers men both delight and pleasure. People do succeed in the ways of unrighteousness here on earth. Not all sin is unattractive. The wages of sin are not always seen in the light of failure and wretchedness.

Often men come to believe that sin is terrible only when it results in disease, poverty, prison, extended suffering, and death; and that so long as one can escape these things, sinful living can be made desirable. But sin is never more perilous than when it is successful. It is never more costly than when it pays off. It is never more disastrous than when it appears attractive. It is never more deceptive than when people find so much satisfaction with it.

The tempter often works most successfully through those who are least suspected of being under his control. The possessors of talent and education are admired and honored, as if these qualities could atone for the absence of the fear of God or entitle men to His favor. Talent and culture, considered in themselves, are gifts of God; but when these are made to supply the place of piety, when, instead of bringing the soul nearer to God, they lead away from Him, then they become a curse and a snare. The opinion prevails with many that all which appears like courtesy or refinement must, in some sense, pertain to Christ. Never was there a greater mistake. These qualities should grace the character of every Christian, for they would exert a powerful influence in favor of true religion; but they must be consecrated to God, or they also are a power for evil. Many a man of cultured intellect and pleasant manners, who would not stoop to what is commonly regarded as an immoral act, is but a polished instrument in the hands of Satan. The insidious, deceptive character of his influence and example renders him a more dangerous enemy to the cause of Christ than are those who are ignorant and uncultured.óThe Great Controversy, p. 509.

Most of the ways of educated men and women are exempt from the crudities and vulgarities that one finds on skid row. The excesses and brutality of men disgust right-thinking people. But men seem to be little disturbed by the attractive sinfulness of our day, the licentious living magnified in modern fiction and portrayed on screen, stage, and television, the sensual pleasures veneered with fine clothes and gold, the subtle theological errors advanced with charm, smoothness, sophistication, and gentility. It is here that the souls of men stand in particular jeopardy.

Today man faces a crisis of independenceóhis autonomy, confidence in his own strength, capacity, and ability. The smarter and the greater he appears to be the more importance he attaches to himself, the more he deifies himself. Man, with all his wisdom, has exploited his fellow men and the world in which he lives. The world is no longer a safe place to dwell in. Outside of God man can only wax worse and worse. The alienation of the human heart from God is the most tragic thing that has ever happened to man.

Is Man Really Lost?

The Bible begins with God and ends with God.

In the beginning God created (Gen. 1:1).

He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly (Rev. 22:20).

Between the beginning of our world and its end lies the history of man. Let us remember then that certain facts confront those who dwell on the earth. First, God created man in His image. Second, man fell from original righteousness with the consequent involvement of the human race in sin. Third, in view of the fact that man is a historical being, God must enter into human history and become part of the historical process if man is to be saved. Godís invasion into our world on a rescue mission occurred in the person of Godís Son, Jesus Christ. These are supreme historical realities, not illusions. Because they are facts that belong to the history of man, man must pay attention to them.

Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. . . . How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? (Heb. 2:1-3).

The rescue of our world cannot be realized by glossing over the facts. But what shall we conceive this human tragedy to mean in terms of manís eternal destiny? Is it really true that hundreds of millions of people are lost, that most people who live on this planet are destined for eternal extinction? Or is God so loving and merciful that He will forgive and save all His lost children regardless?

When the Bible affirms that "there is none righteous, no, not one: . . . there is none that seeketh after God" (Rom. 3:10, 11), does this mean that all the "good" people in the world who do not believe in Jesus Christ are going to suffer the agonies of hell-fire and the outer darkness, where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth? Is there danger that we consider God as permissive and grandfatherly and refuse to consider the possibility of manís being eternally lost?

How serious is Jesus Christ about this question?

For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? . . . Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish (Matt. 18:11-14).

Jesus warned that men could perishóforever. Men could build their lives either upon the rock or on the sand. The consequence of building on the sand would be final destruction, but on the rock, life eternal. He said further that men must choose one of two masters; they take one of two roads, the broad road or the narrow way. The choice men make would be decisive for the life to come. Christ spoke of the final day when He would separate the sheep from the goats:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, . . . before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. ... Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:31-41).

Why not soften the blow? Why discourage people by talking too much about their sins and their being lost? Why not limit the classification "goats" to the incorrigibles? Why not include with the "sheep" all the fair-minded, the orderly, those who give a good account of themselves as law-abiding citizens? Why make salvation so difficult? Men need a simple way of salvation. If men are living good moral lives, why not let this be enough to usher them through the pearly gates?

If men join a church why not recognize they are all heading toward the one kingdom of God? Why not make a simple confession of belief in God sufficient to save men? Why not believe that to be saved God simply requires men to live up to the best they know, regardless of race, color, creed, country, or religion? Why press the authority of the Bible upon people who live respectable lives? Why clothe the pulpit and the preaching with the claims of an infallible Bible and insist that men obey all the commandments of God? Is it not better to believe that the God who guides the stars will at last bring our earth-ship to the safe haven that God destined for her at Creation? Is not God far too good to let His wayward children perish at last?

However, salvation is not to be purchased at the price of error and falsity. Sinful men are dependent upon what God has revealed. Bible truth can never be a fetter upon the freedom and salvation of man. For man to be redeemed and transformed there is need of a divine agency, but with the solemn endowment of freedom of choice.

Godís revelation in Jesus Christ and in His Word alone can show man the way, the truth, and the life. Man must see the truth of God before he can appropriate it. His response to Godís way of salvation cannot be blind reception. Redemption is reconciliation to God and restoration of man to the image in which God created him. His salvation cannot be realized except as he discerns Godís supreme effort in human history for manís rescue.

Men do differ as to the nature of man, sin, and Jesus Christ. The struggle of the Christian church shows the encounters between truth and error. The choice lies, therefore, between the Word of God and the word of men. What a man believes does matter. Men may affirm they care little or nothing for the great truths of the Bible. Men also may affirm they care little or nothing for the doctorís knowledge of medicine. But this is perilous. The sound mind must insist that the doctor, the dentist, the builder of the house, the man who repairs his shoes, must know his business before he begins to practice it. So it is that if a man does not believe the revealed Word of God, then there will be no need to live by it. He has made the choice and he cannot avoid the consequences.

Manís lost condition is clearly seen in the greatness of the salvation provided for him by God in Jesus Christ. The price that God paid to save men speaks unmistakably of who man is and how vital it is to rescue him from sin and eternal loss. Men measure the worth of the kidnapped by the price paid for his ransom. How great must man I be who must be rescued at such a price!

Jesus Christ is the center of human history, the Rock, the unmovable Foundation upon which man can depend. All the lines of history converge toward this one Man. The universal tragedy of sin and the divine redemption in Christ belong together. Man in himself has no way back to God. He cannot be lured by clever arguments and social improvements into reconciliation with the God of heaven. Man is blind to his lost condition unless he is enlightened by God and by His Word.

The more we face the truth about man in this world, the more salvation by Jesus Christ is seen as necessary. The right view of sin and death demands the right view of the divine remedy. Let a man state his understanding of the nature of man and he will state what he thinks of Jesus Christ and His work. Both truths stand or fall together. Where a man is able to redeem himself, he is no longer in need of a divine Redeemer.

Apart from the person and work of Jesus Christ man must sink under the eternal judgment of God.

But as it is, he has appeared once and for all at the climax of history to abolish sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is the lot of men to die once, and after death comes judgement, so Christ was offered once to bear the burden of menís sins, and will appear a second time, sin done away, to bring salvation to those who are watching for him (Heb. 9:26-28, N.E.B.).

Only God is equal to the sin and death problem. Men need to believe in the one true God whose Word and acts reveal He is truly able to save the world. Men do not need theories about salvation and self-improvement that are the product of manís own thinking. They need the mighty acts of God, a salvation wrought out by God Himself and not by man.


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