Doctrinal Study Helps - Humanity

Disciple’s Study Bible

Summary of the Doctrine of Humanity

God’s creation of humanity. People are the crown of God’s creative activity, the most significant of His creatures. Throughout the Bible, God and people are the chief characters. The world is the stage upon which they confront and relate to one another. As we might expect, one of the major teachings of the Bible is the understanding of humanity.

Human beings are created in God’s image (Ge 1:26-28). The primary emphasis appears to be spiritual. This image was marred by sin. It can be seen clearly in Jesus (Jn 14:7-9) and is being recreated in Christians (Col 3:9-11). A part of the image of God is seen in human responsibility for the world and all that is in it. We must use the world and our own gifts in accord with God’s will. Thus we are ultimately responsible to Him for our acts and for our choices.

Something about the nature of God is also revealed in the loving commitment of a husband and wife, for it was the pair that were first created (Ge 1:26-28). The same thing is to be seen in the love of God’s new people in His kingdom (Jn 17:20-23).

The commands of God and people’s choices to obey or not to obey further expand our understanding of the image of God (Ge 2:17). Humanity’s freedom of choice is a reflection of God’s absolute freedom. The sense of right and wrong within the human conscience is also such a reflection (Ro 2:12-16).

A further reflection of the divine image lies in the great potential that people possess (Ge 11:1-9). The value of this potential can be seen in the way people use it (Ge 4:17-22). At its highest, however, it is still limited (Job 28).

The reflection of God in human personality ultimately places value on people (Mt 16:26). The final evaluation of human worth is seen in the price God paid for humanity’s redemption (Jn 3:16). God’s love places ultimate worth on His human creatures.

Nature of God’s human creation. Human nature is precisely what God gave to His people, and this nature pleased Him (Ge 1:26-28, 31). No basis for pride exists in this, for often we act more like animals than intelligent humans (Job 4:18-21; 2 Pe 2:10-22).

God created a physical body for humans from the dust of the earth (Ge 2:7). Similarly He created animals from the ground (Ge 2:19). Both have flesh and are living creatures (Ge 1:24; 2:7). The body is God’s gift, and its parts are intended to work together (1 Co 12:18-26). Ultimately, however, the physical body is not eternal (2 Pe 1:13-15). Resurrected humans will receive a resurrected body.

A part of humanity’s nature is the spiritual nature, the part that reaches out and responds to God (Ge 32:1-30; 35:1). When that nature has been redeemed, people are assured that their spiritual natures ultimately will be victorious over sin.

The Bible clearly states that people have been given minds and are expected to use them (Job 32:8). However, human wisdom at best is quite limited. The ultimate foundation for wisdom is found in God’s Word (Pr 1:1-7).

People also are endowed by God with feelings and emotions (Ps 73:21-22). This allows us to rise above the physical, to share in the joys and sorrows of one another, as well as to develop attachments and commitments.

Experiences of human life. Life is also the gift of God, the result of His direct creative act (Ge 2:7). At its best, life is a joyful experience in God’s presence and in the presence of others. At its worst, it is utterly unbearable, so that death is desired (Job 7:16).

Birth is the avenue by which life is passed on from generation to generation. While viewed as a natural process of marriage and love, it is also clearly seen as God’s gift (Ge 8:10-14).

Children of godly parents are blessed by their early dedication to the Lord (1 Sa 1:21-28) All children are loved and cared for by Jesus (Mt 19:14). As they grow, children become youth on the way to adulthood. There they experience the hopes and dreams of adolescence (Ge 37:2-11). This is the time of great expectations. At the same time, it is the period of immaturity, where strengths and abilities are tried out (Jer 1:6-7).

Marriage is intended by God to meet the basic human need of love and companionship (Ge 2:18). It is the basis of joy and celebration (Ge 2:21-25) but can become a source of heartbreak through infidelity and strife (Hos 3:1-3; Mt 5:31-32).

On the other hand, celibacy is an acceptable life-style when it is based on the desire to find the best means of service to God (1 Co 7:32-38). It needs to be entered into with the full awareness of its difficulties (1 Co 7:8-9).

One normal expectation of marriage is to have children, although this is not always possible. When people become parents, they are responsible for the proper guidance a training of their children (Pr 23:13-14).

Human work is a part of God’s intent for people (Ge 2:15). We are expected to do our best and to bring our labor to a good conclusion (2 Ch 32:30). Work is a necessity to support both life and ministry (Ac 18:3).

The last stage of the life process is age (Job 5:26). With the coming of age, life-styles change, and a life founded on service to God still can find avenues of service (Ecc 12:1-7; 2 Sa 19:32-37).

Termination of human life. From the beginning, death has been understood as the consequence of human rebellion (Ge 2:17). This includes both physical as well as spiritual death. The Bible contains a growing revelation that death is not the ultimate end of life, to through Jesus Christ we have hope of a final victory over both spiritual death through redemption and physical death through resurrection (Ro 5:19-21; 1 Co 15:19, 2l-22, 5l-57).

In our present state, death is viewed as the natural end of life, something to be accepted like any other part of life (2 Sa 14:14). No achievement or capacity on the part of a person allows an escape from death until this world is transformed (Eze 32:17-32). For the Christian, death is not to be feared because of Jesus’ resurrection (1 Co 15:51-57).

The death process was begun by human sin (Ge 2:17). It is continued in each of us through our own personal rebellion against God (Jer 31:29-30). Spiritual death is the result of personal sin (Ro 5:12).

As a natural part of life, death is to be accepted. Grief over the loss of a loved one is natural (2 Sa 1:19-27). Such grief is not an expression of a lack of faith in God but is the natural outcome of life.

Throughout most of the Bible, proper burial was considered to be of extreme importance (Ge 23:3-20). On the other hand, Jesus called His followers to a service to those who are alive, which is more important than their service to the dead (Mt 8:21-22).

Interactions of human life. Each person in this world lives in relationship to those round about. We are involved in personal relationships with our families, our friends, our communities, our world, and God.

The primary human relationship is that with God. We are His creatures. He is the Creator (Ge 1:26-28; 2:7). Creatures are at all times subservient to the Creator, whether they acknowledge this or not.

At the same time, God grants to humanity the power of choice (Ge 3:12-13). At the moment of choice, people are free to obey or to rebel. Each person is responsible for such choices and must face the consequences of them (Ex 20:2-11).

Through God’s acts of redemption, people are brought into a new relationship with Him (Col 1:21-22). This new relationship is everlasting, as we have been brought into God’s family through adoption (Ro 8:29).

Every person is also related to the community. Our acts affect those around us, and we are affected by theirs (Jos 7:1). This not only calls for purity in life, it also calls for our compassionate response to others’ needs (Jnh 1:12-13).

The basis for a stable society is a stable family (Ex 20:12). Family relationships can be and should be used to aid one another in the service of God (Ex 4:14-15). Family ties should be maintained by bonds of love (Lk 15:31-32).

A direct relationship exists between human obedience to God and a wholesome relation to God’s creation (Lev 26:3-8). The proper use of the world’s resources offers opportunity for God’s abundance for all (Pr 14:4).

Summary of the Doctrine of Sin

Definition of sin. The Bible gives no formal definition of sin but describes sin in a number of ways. Sin basically is rebellion against God. From the very beginning humankind has wanted to run the show. Adam and Eve both demonstrated their rebellious natures by seeking to become like God. This malady has infected every person since.

Origin of sin. The Bible teaches that all persons without exception are under the dominion of sin, but the Bible has little to say philosophically about the origin of sin. The Bible does not teach that God is the originator of sin. Satan introduced its long and melancholy reign into human history when he beguiled Eve (Ge 3). Since that time, sin has been like a malignant cancer upon the face of human history, distorting and disfiguring the relationship of humanity to God.

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the sinful state of humanity is recognized to be the result of individual choice. Just as Eve chose and then Adam, so every person after them has made this fateful choice to embrace sin.

Some statements in both the Old and New Testaments can be interpreted to mean that humanity’s sinful nature is inherited. Humans are born with a natural tendency to sin and live in an environment of persons and opportunities that make sinning easy. The Jewish mind had no problem in admitting two mutually exclusive ideas into the same system of thought. Any idea that humanity inherits a sinful nature must be coupled with the corollary that every person is indeed responsible for choosing to sin.

The biblical understanding of the corporateness and solidarity of the human race also must be considered to understand sin’s origin. When Adam sinned in rebellion, he incorporated all of his descendants in his action. (Heb 7:9-10 uses a similar analogy.) This interpretation does not remove the necessity for each person to accept full responsibility for sinful actions and attitudes.

Adam and Eve set the stage by rebelling against the explicit command of God. Every person who has lived since has followed their example. Whatever else we may say about the origin of sin, we can be sure that the Bible teaches this.

Characteristics of sin. The Bible uses a number of picturesque analogies to describe various aspects of sin. Bible writers speak of transgression of God’s Law as one aspect of sin. God made a covenant with Israel and revealed His Law to Moses as conditions of the covenant. This code became the standard for right living. Any violation of this code was considered sin. Disobeying the known will of God is sin.

God revealed His character to Israel as righteous and holy. He commanded Israel to be holy even as He was holy (Lev 11:44). Any action that violates the righteous character of God is sin. Any desire that does not conform to the righteous character of God is an evil desire, and thus to hold on to such a desire is sinful.

God created man and woman and ordered them to multiply and populate the earth so that He might have fellowship with His creation. When any person breaches this fellowship, the action is looked upon as sinful.

In the Bible sin is also seen as unbelief directed toward God. God’s truthfulness is not 0 be questioned, for God does not lie. Unbelief basically questions the truthfulness of God. Thus it is sin. To demonstrate a lack of faith in God’s promises or commands is sin.

Biblical vocabulary characterizes sin in a number of interesting ways. Sin is "missing the mark." As a marksman might aim at a target and miss it with an arrow, so a person who sins is missing the mark established by God for righteousness. God has established a standard for righteousness. When a person violates this standard, it is sin. This is known as "stepping across the line" or transgressing the commands of God. Lawlessness is another characterization for sin. The lawless person has no regard for the laws of God.

The basic sin of the Bible is that of rebellion. When one knows the will of God and refuses to conform to it, this is rebellion. This is a grievous sin.

Consequences of sin. Nothing in the Bible is considered to be any more serious than a sin in any of its many forms. Primarily sin is so serious because it is basically against God. Though the action may be directed against another person, ultimately it is against God, who created all things.

Sin also is serious because it brings alienation from God. The disastrous results of the sin of Adam and Eve in being cast from the garden certainly illustrate the alienation sin causes from God.

Sin brings about God’s intervention in human affairs. This intervention adds weight to the seriousness of sin.

The consequences of sin as set forth in the Bible are varied and many. When a person follows a sinful course consistently, that person will become enslaved to sin (Ro 6). The consistent practice of sin will lead to slavery to sin.

Sin also results in personal depravity. Some certainly will say that depravity is the cause of sin. This surely is a valid argument. A continuance in sin adds to this personal depravity. Depravity can be defined as crooked, perverse, or corrupt. Each of these is an apt characterization of the person whose life has been marred by the constant practice of sin.

Another consequence of sin is spiritual blindness. This is a self-imposed blindness, but it is real and detrimental nonetheless. The adage holds true: "There are none so blind as those who refuse to see." Spiritual truths simply are not visible to that person who has been blinded by sin.

Moral insensitivity is a devastating consequence of sin. The more a person practices sin, the more inept that person becomes in the moral sphere. Such a person reaches the point where the distinction between right and wrong is blurred because of sin.

A person brings guilt upon himself or herself by sin. Personal problems cannot rightly be blamed on another person. Each person must accept the guilt of personal sin (Eze 18:4).

Sin and death are corollaries in the Scripture. One of the by-products of sin is death. This does not mean that every person’s death is a result of some sin committed by that person, though there are instances where this is true. Death entered the world because of sin, so we may say that the sin principle and the death principle are vitally related. Continual sinning will bring spiritual death to that person who has not come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for spiritual salvation (Rev 20:14).

One of the most devastating consequences of sin for the individual is that sin produces separation from God both in this life and in the life to come. The separation in this life need not be permanent if one repents of sin and turns in faith to Jesus for salvation. For the person who refuses to repent in this life, separation from God becomes final and permanent.

Sin not only has devastating consequences for a person’s relation to God, there also are consequences as far as human relations are concerned. Sin produces estrangement from others in this life. When one person wrongs another person, the logical consequence is alienation. Again this relationship need not be permanent, but it is real and can be devastating to good interpersonal relationships.

God’s intervention. God does not ignore sin. He seeks through the Bible, His servants, and life’s experiences to warn people of sin’s consequences. He acts in judgment to discipline His people, seeking to lead them to Him. He ultimately gives unrepentant sinners over to final judgment. That is not His will. He calls all people to repentance and offers forgiveness freely to those who confess and turn from sin.

Taken from: Disciple’s Study Bible Copyright 1988 Holman Bible Publishers