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5 things about being human

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5 things about being human
Posted on April 17, 2020  - By Dr. Scott Shiffer

This week, we will discuss some of the things God created us to be according to His Word. We often ask why we are here and what it means to be created in God’s image. We also ask about having purpose in life and about what God wants us to do or be. In this post, I will share some Biblical insights to these questions and more.

Made with purpose

We are created in God’s image and to be His stewards

God did not need to make man, but He chose to do so for His own glory (Isaiah 43:7). Our purpose in life is to glorify God (Psalm 16:11, Psalm 27:4). Humanity is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). This means that we bear God’s image in every way that we are like God. God’s image in man became distorted and broken in the fall, but that image was not totally lost (Genesis 9:6). Our redemption in Christ is a progressive recovering of God’s image (Colossians 3:10, 2 Corinthians 3:8). When Christ returns, He will complete His restoration in us, and we will once again be fully conformed to God’s image (Romans 8:29, 1 Corinthians 15:49).

Humanity is part of creation. Humans have no independent existence. However, humanity has a unique place in creation. We are God’s stewards of the earth. We are His representatives and it is our job to cultivate and care for all of the other created things in the world — including the land, sea, air, plants, animals, birds, and sea creatures. Proper care of God’s world is part of our purpose in bringing God glory. While we are limited beings and can only do so much to care for the world and for one another, those limitations are not bad and are, in fact, part of how God created us to be. Our limitations remind us that we need one another and that we need God. While we are to rule over creation as God’s representatives in the world, we must remember that we have a responsibility to be good stewards of God’s world.

We are God’s stewards of the earth. Proper care of God’s world is part of our purpose in bringing God glory

Humanity is a direct creation of God (not descended from any other beings). Humanity is created out of the earth (at death, our corrupted bodies return to the earth). Humans were created as holy beings before the Fall. They were created absent of any kind of evil and remained that way until the Fall. Humans were created to live for eternity.

The image of God is universal within the human race. Both men and women are equally created in God’s image and, as such, both genders equally reflect what it means to be like God. We are like God because we have a moral sense of right and wrong. We are like God because we have immaterial spirits and souls. We are like God because we have the ability to think and use logic and reason. We are like God because we were designed for community. We are like God because we are creative. We are like God when we properly show emotions that reflect God’s character such as goodness, righteousness, justice, holiness, love, mercy, grace, etc.

Made to be social

We are created for community

Humanity is fundamentally a community. Genesis 1:26-27 teaches that God created people, and it uses plural pronouns, such as “them” and “us”. This does not teach individualism. Individualism did not make man complete; man needed woman. Even when Adam walked with God in the Garden, God said to Adam, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Some of the most meaningful times in worship are in the midst of the community worshipping as the community. God is One, but God is also Triune, being one essence in three distinct persons, all in relationship to One another. In the same way, we are all human (one essence) made up of many different persons. God is a communal being, and He has sovereignly chosen to create us in His image as communal beings.

Humans were not made to be in private relationships with God alone and isolated from others, but they were to have relationships with God through and with each other. Community between humans takes on a special role in the marriage relationship between man and woman because, in marriage, the two become one.  This is the closest picture of the Trinity that humanity can grasp, because God is Triune and One.  Likewise, the Church has one faith in one Lord, but we each have different gifts.

Humans are created to have a relationship with the earth. We were created for the earth; it is our home, and we are to subdue it, care for it, and rule over it. We are also to multiply and fill it. Children are to have a relationship with their parents characterised by honour and obedience. When we are redeemed, we are made sons of God, and to be authentically human, we are to be in a relationship with God where we display the same characteristics by which we relate to our parents. To know how to do this, we must look to God’s Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 5:3).

We cannot separate our relationship with other humans from our relationship with God. If we are at odds with another person, we must leave our gifts at the altar of worship and first be reconciled to that individual. God loves other believers as much as He loves you, and you cannot love God without feeling the same way about those around you.

God loves other believers as much as He loves you, and you cannot love God without feeling the same way about those around you

God created humans for the purpose of worshipping Him (John 4: 23) and for the purpose of living eternally with Him in fellowship (Revelations 21:3).  When the relationships of the community to God become more private than communal, it stifles what God desires to do in the lives of His people as a community, because no longer are people using their gifts to serve others at their full potential.  We must remember that the community comes together to worship God, not to get something out of it.

Humans should also have relationships with other creatures, but that should not kill or replace our relationships with other humans (Ephesians 2:11-16).  We are to love God’s creation and care for it as if we are caring for God’s own possessions.  After all, the earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it belongs to Him.

Made with dual natures

We are created as physical and spiritual beings

Humanity has been created as both a physical and spiritual being (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). 2 Corinthians 5:10 teaches that the body is the partner to the soul. If we do not relate to God as physical beings, we do not relate to God at all. To think about God, we must use our mind, which includes our brain, which is both spiritual and physical. We always relate to God in physical ways; we praise Him with our tongues and lips, we long to know Him in the seat of our emotions, we link this to our hearts, and we want to see Him with our eyes.

Only Christ can separate the soul and the spirit (Hebrews 4:12). The word “soul” is used in Scripture in relation to the things of the world. The word “spirit” is used in Scripture in relation to the things of God. There will be a reuniting of the soul and the body at the resurrection. The Bible teaches that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). However, we will not again be fully human until our bodies are restored in the eternal state.

Humans are dichotomous beings. To say the body is the whole of what makes someone human is not Scriptural. To say that the spirit is the whole of what makes someone a human is also not Scriptural. It is not Scriptural to say that our souls pre-existed.  To say that God creates the soul at the moment of conception and that He places the immaterial part of man in the body at conception is also not Scriptural. Rather at conception, the body and the soul are brought into existence and God knits the person together in the womb. The body and soul are transmitted through natural birth, and humans are born into sin at conception. This is compatible with the doctrine of original sin (Psalm 51:5).

To say the body is the whole, or the soul is the whole, of what makes someone human is not Scriptural

The Bible uses the terms soul and spirit interchangeably (John 12:27 and 13:21). At death, the Bible sometimes says the soul departs and sometimes the spirit (Genesis 35:18 – soul, Luke 23:46 – spirit). Humans are described as body and soul or body and spirit (James 2:26 – spirit, Matthew 10:28 – soul). Psalm 27:3 suggests that we are completely formed in the womb (body and soul).  Zechariah 12:1 shows that God forms the spirit in the womb.

Each human is to be treated as a unity (body and soul). We are to treat one another holistically. Humans are to be recognized as complex beings. The different aspects of human nature should be attended to and respected. We should not depreciate someone’s body, emotions, or intellect.

Made for eternity

Humans are created as eternal beings

The Fall is a real historical event. The first temptation was to cast doubt on the veracity of the Word of God. The second was to question the goodness of God. When Adam chose to disobey God, God placed a curse on natural creation.

Instead of humans being at peace with creation and ruling over it, the Fall caused humanity to be at war with creation. Another result of the Fall was human mortality, making people subject to physical and spiritual death (Hebrews 9:27). This also caused spiritual death, or separation between man and God in relationship.

If someone does not repent and accept the gospel during his or her life, this leads to the second death (Ephesians 2:1; Revelation 20:14). If someone is only born once, that person will die twice.

If someone is only born once, that person will die twice

Today, all humans are born spiritually dead. Our nature is inclined towards sin, and we are totally depraved. Additionally, as a result of the Fall of man, a curse was placed upon creation, but that curse will be lifted at the coming of the New Heavens and the New Earth (Romans 8:19-21; 2 Peter 3:13).

The Jews and Gentiles were once hostile toward one another, but the crucifixion has brought them into unity; in purpose, both groups are now one. The same is true of the Church. Christ did not die to save you individually, but to bring all believers together as one in purpose, to bring us unity, to bring shalom, peace with the absence of hostility and anger between one another.

Believers need one another (Ephesians 4:17-24). Christians are being transformed into the new man. To best understand the new man, we must look at the person and work of Jesus Christ. His humanity encompasses all that we should be and all that we were created to be.

Made for God

Humans are created for a relationship with God as part of the Church

God created humans for the purpose of worshipping Him (John 4:23) and for the purpose of living eternally with Him in fellowship (Revelations 21:3). Believers are all members of one body called the Church. The Church is made up of all believers – past, present, and future. We are not each a bride of Christ. Rather, the Church is the bride of Christ. In Ephesians 4:25-29, we are encouraged to speak the truth to one another in love and to live with one another in peace. God’s salvation in Christ has taken care of the effects of the Fall (2 Peter 3:13; Isaiah 11:1-10).

In salvation, mortality will be swallowed in immortality (1 Corinthians 15:51-57). No one will be subject to death in the resurrected state (1 Corinthians 15:23). There will be reconciliation and regeneration but no second death for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

In salvation, mortality will be swallowed in immortality. There will be reconciliation and regeneration but no second death for those in Christ Jesus

According to Romans 6:6, the inclination to sin can be controlled by believers, not diminished, but it will eventually be removed entirely (Revelation 21:27). Christ forgives our personal sins and allows us to survive the Fall through the faith we place in Him (Ephesians 1:7). The “old man” is the person you used to be. Therefore, these passages refer to the old lifestyle as no longer existing in us, because with salvation we may now live for Christ. In Isaiah 65, we read that the Lord will bring a new Heaven and a New Earth. In Revelation 21, we are told of the New Earth.

The New Earth is where we will live eternally with our new bodies. According to 2 Peter 3:13, the hope of believers is that we will inhabit the New Earth and live there in the presence of God for eternity.

The Scriptures teach creation, fall, and redemption. The redemption begins after the Fall and culminates in our new bodies, which will be immortal and incorruptible in the New Earth, our eternal home. Through salvation, God has begun the work of redemption in believers even now.

Dr. Scott Shiffer

About Dr. Scott Shiffer

Dr. Scott Shiffer has a Ph.D. in Christian Theology from the B.H. Carroll Theological Institute and has been teaching religion classes since 2006. He leads Faith and Culture Now, an organization to help believers think biblically about culture in America. Scott has given numerous presentations, including one at Oxford. He has spoken at church retreats, youth retreats, conferences, and has taught discipleship classes for many years. Scott is married and has four children. He has a heart for helping believers draw closer to God and for aiding them as they are faced with new challenges every day.



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