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Scripture Studies

What is Man?

what is man“What is man, that You should exalt him, that You should set Your heart on him?” Job 7:17

“What is man?” Five passages of Scripture asked this question.

Job asked it twice (Job 7:17; 15:15), King David also twice reflected on the question (Psalm 8:4, 144:3), and in the New Testament this same question was again seriously quoted and asked (Hebrews 2:6).  So I think this question deserves our serious thought, if we want to know who we are, why we exist, and what the future holds for us.

Fact is, this same question has exercised the minds of philosophers and thinkers from time immemorial. But at a certain time in our life, we need to face the question ourselves.

Today we live in a very strange yet frightening age where despite man’s technological advances, new scientific discoveries, and engineering marvels, man seems to grapple when it comes to the basic issues of life. We have a very narrow, if not conflicting views of what it means to be “us”.

We are continually redefining ourselves, albeit narrowly. We measure ourselves based on our personal choices, sexual preference, work, look or physique, and even in terms of material acquisitions.

Now, we have awesome powers at our disposal, but we have no solid moral ground as to how these powers are to be used. The most dangerous part is, man has now the means to destroy the entire human race, in an instant!

In a day when the power of life and death seems to be in the hands of a few men, the question of “What is man?” is not simply academic and philosophical, but a moral and practical one.

In light of these issues, the need again to reexamine God’s word—what it really reveals about ourselves—our nature. So what is man?

The book of beginnings, or Genesis tells us very succinctly as to the nature of our origin,

“And theLORDGod formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being [soul,KJV]”(Genesis 2:7 NKJV).

Basically this verse tells us how finite and mortal man is—“of the dust of the ground”. Without God’s Spirit breathing into man, man is just one lifeless creation. This is in direct contrast to the popular view that man is an “immortal soul” encased in a material body. The Hebrew word “soul” nephesh is a typical reference to our physical body. 

But what makes man unique? This was revealed earlier in a preparatory verse,

“Then 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.’  So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:26-27

Clearly we can already see the God-given potential of man. Out of ‘man’-kind (Heb. adamah, red earth) God created ‘male and female’.  From these two beings (becoming ‘one’ [echad] family), God destined them to be His living symbol (‘image’, Heb. tselem –a figure, or representative). So God placed in mankind this unique role to be God’s very representative of Himself and of His reign (kingdom). This context fits well with God’s subsequent command to reign over all that was made.

The next role was for mankind becoming in God’s own ‘likeness’ (Heb. root ’damah’-to resemble, liken, model, shape, manner, similitude). It is man’s purpose to develop/imprint the perfect, upright, moral excellence and character of God in himself--becoming, literally, in ‘His likeness’!

Moreover, though man clearly does not possess an immortal soul, there an important nonphysical component in him. The Bible records,

“But there isa spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding”(Job 32:8). Likewise, the prophet Zechariah confirms that God “forms the spirit of man within him” (Zechariah 12:1).

Apparently, this “spirit in man” with its physical brain, produces the human mind, with its unique self-awareness, to think and have free will, capacity to learn and develop character, on a level that is vastly superior to animals. Paul indicates it imparts the ability to know “the things of a man”,

“For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” (1 Corinthians 2:11).

But this spirit in man needs to be fine-tuned/connected with the Holy Spirit that comes only from God in order for his potential to be fully developed in him. As the story unfolded, man missed this opportunity because of sin.

So this is the missing key knowledge that has eluded mankind’s purpose since the ‘Adversary’ (Satan) snatched this understanding from him at Eden after the Fall (Gen.3). Mankind is still an incomplete creation—he’s still a material creation, needing to be fully developed into a spiritual creation. 

But, immediately thereafter, man has been captivated by the Deceiver. One of the most powerful lie that continues to be foisted on him is the idea that he is already complete and immortal (no need for God) as the Serpent has said,

“Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”(Genesis 3:4).

In the face of God’s fair warning, man continue to believe and perpetuate this old lie, by clinging to the belief that he is an immortal being—despite failing to eat from the “tree of life” (Genesis 2:9; 3:6).

From here we can see how man has totally lost himself! Without God’s Holy Spirit in him we will continue to be wandering in an endless pursuit. A life without purpose, no direction, no hope and future. We will be drifting aimlessly in the world of materialism, nihilism, and other form of “ism” while under the sway of the great Deceiver (Revelation 12:9).

Where Adam, the first man, failed so our need for the second Adam, to fulfill this mandate. The apostle Paul wrote heavily on this,

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. –Romans 5:12-15

And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.”The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.1  Corinthians 15:45-49

Unless man receives the “quickening” or life-giving spirit, he will remain to be of dust of the earth. “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it”(Ecclesiastes 12:7).

Jesus Christ came symbolically as the “second Adam” removing all the curses of sin and death to those who will come to Him and believe in His saving works!

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 1  Corinthians 15:20-23

We see here how God reveals through Jesus Christ His transcendent purpose for man.  It is within the purpose of God to redeem mankind back to His plan, of bringing man to its full potential.

“For it was fitting for Him [Christ], for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons [and daughters] to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Hebrews 2:10

It is God’s desire from the beginning to share His Eternal life with us—the very reason for the “tree of life”!

Only when man fully understands the significant meaning of the above passages, the realization of just how spiritually broke he is, and his need of God and Savior, will he be able to see his God-given potential as God intended him to be. And only then, will the answer to our life proving question will be made meaningful and true!

“What is man, that You should exalt him, that You should set Your heart on him?” Job 7:17

“What is man, that he could be pure? And he who is born of a woman, that he could be righteous?” Job 15:14

“What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visit him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou made him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passes through the paths of the seas.”  Psalms 8:4-8 KJV

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