Why Does God Save Us?
Salvation Lesson #02
September 11, 2002
“Father, we do thank You for this opportunity that we have in a free nation to gather together and study Your Word. We thank You for the way You continue to protect and provide for this nation. Father, we pray that You would continue to protect us from those who seek to destroy this nation. We pray You will give our security forces the wisdom and the skill in order to capture those who seek to bring weapons of mass destruction into this country.
“Father, we pray for our leaders that You would give them wisdom and courage to do what needs to be done in order to stop the growth of evil and those who seek to destroy the West. Father, we pray that You would continue to give us as a nation, a people, the freedoms to teach the Word and people who would be responsive and that we might continue to send our missionaries throughout the world and that we might support Israel.
“Father, now as we gather around Your Word, we pray that You would help us to understand these things and gain a greater appreciation for the salvation You have provided for us. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Last week, we began a new study on salvation. The thrust last week was to look at a few questions.
We started by looking at Hebrews 2:3 where the writer of Hebrew asked the question, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” Throughout the Scriptures, an emphasis is that believers should take time to reflect on and to meditate on and to think profoundly about what took place on the Cross. As we have seen in 1John 3:15, it is by the Cross that we know what love is. We learn much about God’s love for mankind. At the Cross, we learn the model of the way we as believers are to treat one another.
We need to take time to understand our salvation. It is also important for us to understand what the Scriptures teach about salvation. We live in a day when there is much confusion about salvation. There’s much confusion about what the Bible teaches. People are in the guise of sheep, and pastors are teaching false doctrines. They use the key words of Scripture like grace and God’s love and talk about the Gospel. They even use phrases like faith alone in Christ alone. Yet, they import works into their whole system of salvation. We have to understand the dynamics the Scripture teaches.
I’m approaching this from the viewpoint of asking several questions. First of all, what is salvation? We covered this last time and saw that salvation is based on the Hebrew verb yashah and the noun Yeshua. In the New Testament, the verb SOZO means to deliver. Specifically, when it’s applied to salvation and the spiritual realm, it is deliverance from the penalty of sin.
The second question is why does God save us? Why does God care about saving us? That is the question we’re in the middle of now. Third, what are we saved from? This is understanding the penalty and the dynamics of that penalty. Fourth, what are the mechanics of salvation? Fifth, this asks the question of how we are saved? Is it by works? Is it by faith? Is it by a combination of faith and works? How is it that we are saved? Who saves us? Is it God? Is it man? Is it a cooperative work? Who saves us? What does it mean to be saved? How does Scripture use the term?
On what basis are we saved? How does the death of Christ save us? What are the conditions of salvation? How is it that salvation is applied? How is the work of Christ applied? When are we saved? When does that take place in our lives? When does salvation occur?
There is the question related to eternal security. Can salvation be lost? Furthermore, why doesn’t God save everyone? The Scripture says that God desires that all be saved. Why, then, doesn’t He save everyone? Can we have a one hundred percent certainty of our salvation? What is the doctrine of assurance? What is assurance based on? How can we know for sure that our destiny is Heaven?
We looked at the question of what we must believe to be saved in terms of the irreducible minimum of the gospel. What is it we must believe in order to be saved? Last time, we began with the question, What is salvation? We saw that the verb SOZO is used of the past tense, present tense, and future tense in the New Testament. For example, Ephesians 2:8–9 says, “For by grace you have been saved”—past tense—“through faith and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.”
There are three stages of salvation. The word SOZO is used to describe each of them. We must always be careful when we read the Bible and it talks about salvation. What does it mean? In our modern evangelical churches, we often think of salvation as being delivered from the penalty of sin and not ending up in the Lake of Fire, but the word “salvation” has three usages in the Scripture. It refers to that moment when we put our faith alone in Christ alone. We are justified. That’s justification salvation.
Passages like Philippians 2 talk about working out your salvation with fear and trembling. That salvation has to do with the ongoing application of doctrine in the believer’s life, being saved or sanctified in the spiritual life. That’s sanctification salvation.
In the third phase, we are absent from the body and face-to-face with the Lord. That is glorification salvation. Romans 5 talks about the fact we have been justified so that we will be saved. That is a future tense concept.
At Phase 1, we are saved from the penalty of sin. We are no longer destined for the Lake of Fire. In Phase 2 sanctification, the spiritual life, we are being saved from the power of sin. Every believer still has a sin nature that’s every bit as powerful as it was before he was saved. He is still prone to the same sins. In fact, he might even be more tempted than he was before he was saved. Eventually, he will be saved from the presence of sin. These are the three stages of salvation. We always have to distinguish these stages.
We covered that in our answer to the question, What is salvation? Then, we came to our next question. Why should God save man? Why does God save the human race? We could approach that answer in many different ways, but I want to ground it in the nature of man as being created in the image of God. In order to do that, we have to understand something about the creation of man in Genesis 1 and 2 and what the Scripture says about the very nature and purpose of mankind.
Under point one, we saw in Genesis 1 the statement, “In the beginning God created…” God created. He is distinct from His creation. At a point in time, God created the universe. At a point in time, God created the earth. At a point in time, God created the human race. We can say under point one that God created the human race and defined its nature, function, and limitations. As the Creator, God had the right to determine what man was going to be like. He defined his nature, his characteristics. He defined the roles of the human race, roles for men and roles for women. There are distinct functions. He has a purpose for the human race. He defined that purpose.
Man, the creature, doesn’t come along and generate from his own experience what he thinks his role should be, what he thinks his function should be. He is what he is because God made him that way, and he is to function the way he is supposed to function because God made him a certain way. The creature has limitations. As a creature, he is necessarily finite and restricted. We have to understand those limitations. As such, he is to operate within the parameters that God defined. All of this is covered under point one, which is that God created man and defined man.
God is the God who is distinct from the universe and all that is in it. He is not part of the chain of being or the cycle or circle of life. He is the One who determines the nature of reality. Reality is what God says it is. A tree is a tree because God created it the way it is, and then God called it a tree. In Genesis 1, God created the universe, and He created the darkness. He “divided the light from the darkness. He called the light day, and the darkness He called night.” God defined the terminology.
He set the categories after He created the various species, which the Bible refers to as kind. They’re not exactly parallel, but each creature replicates, reproduces after its own kind. God set the boundaries. He had the right to do that because He is the Creator. He is the One who established certain terminology, certain verbiage. He defined the issues.
Often, I hear people say, “I want the Bible to be relevant.” When I was in seminary, I used to hear that we needed to make the Bible relevant. I thought, “You know, that’s really not looking at it the way it should be looked at.” The issue is not making the Bible relevant to man but making us relevant to God. You see, man departed from God.
Most people come to church wanting a pastor to scratch whatever is itching them at that particular time, whatever their problem in life is. Maybe it’s a marriage problem or a work problem or some emotional problem, and they want to go away feeling good, rather than learning to think as God wants them to think.
The purpose of Scripture is to teach us how to look at reality as God defined it. God gave us the Scriptures, and the Scriptures represent His thinking. In 1 Corinthians 2:16, we are told that the Scriptures are “the mind of Christ.” As such, they represent the unified thought of God and His thinking in terms of every category of human existence. It gives us a framework for understanding God.
We, as sinners, have departed from God. Our thinking is screwed up. Our thinking is distorted. Worldly thinking has shaped it. It’s been shaped by human experience and human ideas and human philosophies. The problem is that we don’t let God define the problem. We come into church, and we say, “This is my problem God. Address it.”
The issue is to sit down and let the Scriptures define the problem. Once we understand how God properly defines it, then we can understand the proper solution. We have to first let God define the real problem. We start from the Scripture and not from our experience. We start with God as the Creator who defines the role, function, and nature of mankind as well as his limitations.
The second point we covered last time was that God created man in His own image. This is found in Genesis 1:26–27, “And God said let us make man”—the Hebrew word is adam, meaning mankind—“in our image according to our likeness and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. And God created man in His own image. In the image of God, He created him, male and female, He created them.”
The issue here is to understand what it means that man was created in the image of God. There are two key phrases here. Number one is “in our image” or in “the image of God.” The second phrase is according “to the likeness of God.” We noted last time that the words image and likeness as set up here in Hebrew grammar are synonymous terms. Image and likeness are synonyms, which parallel each other. It’s not an image that’s a likeness. These are parallel or synonymous concepts.
In the history of theology, theologians have tried different ways to define the image of God. The first is that they view it functionally. This is related to what man is to do. He is to rule over creation, so that’s what image means. It means to rule over creation. The terminology that we find here in Genesis 1:26 is “to rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle over all the earth…” We find this terminology as well in Psalm 8:5–6, which indicates that this is part of man’s function. He is to rule over creation. Notice that not only does Genesis 1:1 draw a distinction between God as the Creator over His Creation, but Genesis 1:26–27 draws just as harsh a line between man as the image bearer of God who is to rule the creation and all other life forms.
Man is not in a chain of being in all other life forms. He is distinct, a distinct life form. He is not related to the animals. I know that’s a tough one for PETA to understand. We all appreciate the fact that we have to treat animals in a responsible manner and should not be unduly cruel to animals, but animals are animals. They are not people. The Bible draws a clear distinction for that, but folks like PETA—For those of you who don’t know, that’s the animal rights’ crowd—think the Bible is terrible.
The first thing that happened after man sinned was that God had to kill an innocent lamb in order to provide a sacrifice. That was terrible. From the very git-go, we see that the animal rights crowd’s presupposition is that this can’t be right. They think that it can’t be what God is like because that was cruel. They start from a presupposition that there is no distinction between man and animals. Man is not viewed as an animal in the Scripture. He is distinct because he is made in the image of God. This is the functional view.
The relational view emphasizes the image as giving us the ability to relate to one another and to relate to God.
The substantive view, which is the more correct view, says that the image is in man and that man in his immaterial essence is reflective of the character or qualities or essence of God. We would say that man is created in his immaterial essence, his soul, as a reflection of God and to reflect God. That determines his function and his ability to relate. It’s not that function and relationship don’t have anything to do with the image, but they are results. They are not the core idea related to image.
Man was created in the image of God. Genesis 1:26–27. We discovered in point number three that man was made in the image of God. This is the Hebrew word betsalmenu.
According to the likeness is kidmutenu. The first word betsalmenu has to do with being in the likeness or a resemblance or a representation of God. Man was created to represent God. By looking at man in his immaterial essence, we get some idea of what God Himself is like. That’s the connotation of being in the image of God. Kidmutenu has the idea of being a likeness or a similarity. Man is analogous to God.
Image, therefore, describes not the physical aspect of man, point number four, but the composition of his soul, the composition of his character. We can support this a couple of different ways.
In Genesis 5 after Adam began to have children, we’re told that he his children were in the image of Adam. It didn’t stop there.
In Reformed Theology, and we’ll get into the implications of this later, but I want to talk about this now. In Reformed Theology and hyper-Calvinism, the image of God, for many Calvinists, was eradicated at the Fall. There’s a difference between having the image of God eradicated at the Fall and having the image of God defaced at the Fall. Those are two different issues, and they have tremendous implications on understanding salvation. We will look at those implications eventually.
Even though Genesis 5 talked about Adam having children in his own image, by the time we get down to Genesis 9:6 where God authorized capital punishment in the Noahic covenant, God stated, “Whoever sheds man’s blood by man his blood shall be shed for in the image of God He made man.” It was still talking about the image of God at the time of the Flood. That’s the reason that capital punishment should be executed. It is not because it’s a deterrent. It’s not because it’s a serious crime. It’s not because it indicates that these people need to be removed from society but because ultimately man is so valuable. Man is a reflection of God, so the murder of another human being is like an attack on God. It indicates something in the soul of the murderer that has become so deformed because of sin that the individual needs to be removed.
God in His omniscience knew that man would inappropriately apply the death penalty. God in His omniscience knew that man would unjustly apply the death penalty, but God in His omniscience knew that the death penalty was necessary to provide order and stability in a national entity. Despite the fact that man makes mistakes, despite the fact that human institutions, courts, and governments all are fallible, God still delegated this authority to man. It is a serious responsibility, one that should be taken seriously and one that should be applied consistently. Genesis 9 reinforced the idea that mankind is still in the image of God.
Point five says that these terms explain that man is not only in the image of God, but he is the image of God. That’s an important distinction to make. The fact that man is the image of God means that man was designed to be a representative of God. Since we can’t look at God who is immaterial and a Spirit, mankind is to be a representative of God, not only in man’s very nature but also in terms of his function. Man is set over the creation.
On the earth, the creation is made up of land animals, sea creatures, and creatures of the air, birds. Over all of creation, God has set mankind. Mankind is to rule the creation in God’s place. God created mankind and set him over creation, gave him responsibility to rule and reign over creation and to use it in a responsible manner.
That’s the difference between the kind of environmentalism that is so often practiced today and biblically endorsed responsible use of the environment. They may end up saying the same things, that they don’t want to pollute the land, they don’t want to pollute the air, and they don’t want to pollute the sea, but it comes from completely different reasons. In typical environmentalism, the land, the sea, and the air are all elevated to such a high level that they are equal to man; therefore, we can’t ever develop anything technologically that might have negative consequences on the land.
This happens in primitive societies that operate on pantheism where the earth and nature are equal to man. An American Indian never developed any technology. The aborigines in South America or Africa or Australia never developed any kind of technology because they looked at themselves as part and parcel of nature. Because of the consequences of biblical thinking on Western civilization, we saw the development of genuine technology after Greek civilization. The advance of genuine technology came because of the understanding that God created natural resources for man to use and develop in a responsible manner.
Man is in the image of God, and he is to rule over creation. As we’ve studied before, the ancient world had a treaty form called the suzerain-vassal treaty form. The suzerain was the great king. For example, during the time of the Hittite Empire, the Hittites had various city-states or vassal countries that were on the border of the empire. The great king would enter into a treaty with the vassals. The king would say that as long as they protected his borders and as long as they watched over his merchants as they went out on the trade caravans, as long as they took care of them, then he would do certain things to protect them. He would send his armies in there to defeat their enemies. He would supply certain things, but they had to do all he asked them to do. Then, he would bless them.
That was the concept of the suzerain-vassal treaty. A main empire had satellite vassals who represented the great king, the suzerain. They were representatives and had to carry out the wishes of the suzerain. That is the imagery in Genesis 1:26–27. God is the great king. Man is the vassal. He is to fulfill the function, the role that God has assigned to him. In the ancient world, this terminology of being in the image of the great king was used in those treaties. That helps us to understand the framework that God has here. Man is in the image of God. He is designed to represent God and to rule over the creation.
The next thing we learn has to do with the function of man. Point number six says man was created to fulfill the role as God’s vice-regent. A vice-regent is someone who rules in the place of someone else. Man was thus created to fulfill the role as God’s vice-regent, his personal representative and ruler over creation. What man is is inseparably linked to what he is to do. He is to rule over the creation. Mankind has a role. He was designed to carry out that role, and God gives him a physical body to enable him to fulfill that mission.
Here’s something else about that physical body. In eternity past, billions and billions and billions of years ago, God knew all the knowable. Under the category of the omniscience of God, God knows all the knowable. There’s nothing that God does not know. His knowledge is not derivative. It is immediate. God’s knowledge is exhaustive, and it is intuitive. That means that God instantly has always known everything there is to know. He knows all the possible as well as all the actual.
Putting this into an anthropomorphic form, God knew ten thousand years ago that He would create a creature and that He would give that creature free will. He knew that creature would disobey Him under any and all possibilities. “That creature will eventually exercise his will against Me,” God knew. He also said, “I will have to provide a salvation for that creature. In order to do that, I will have to take the form of that creature, and I will have to become one with that creature in order to pay the penalty as a substitute for his sin,” so billions of years ago, God knew that when He created this creature, man, He was going to have to become finite. He was going to have to enter into human history and become a man.
Part of that role of becoming a man was to demonstrate who God is. Remember that John 1:14 tells us, “No one has seen God at any time but the only begotten God He has explained Him.” When Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was going to be incarnate, God asked, “What kind of a body do I want to show up in? What kind of body do I need that will allow Me to manifest Myself in all of My glory and all of My character in the highest and best possible way?”
God designed the human body that He gave Adam, knowing that eventually He would enter into that same body. That same body had to do the duty of being able to be a finite replica of an eternal, infinite, holy, righteous God. That blows our minds when we start thinking about it that way. God didn’t make us look the way we do physically simply because that was a nice functional form. It is a nice functional form, but the function is because it was designed to be the house of the eternal God when He became incarnate. It is a body and a mentality designed to be able to fulfill the role that God assigned it. We are made the way we are with the abilities that we have with the soul that we have in order to fulfill the mission of ruling over the creation.
That’s defined by two words, radah, meaning to rule, to have dominion, to dominate. To dominate is not the same as to domineer. Look it up in the dictionary. To dominate means simply to rule over, to be in a position of authority over. To domineer means to do it in a tyrannical manner. There’s a difference in the terms. Just because they’re based on the same root doesn’t mean they have the same connotation. Ruling has to do with responsible dominion.
Second, we are to subdue the earth. That means to bring it under control. That began when Adam started naming the creatures. He had no idea who those creatures were when God started bringing them to him. Adam had to observe them just like any scientist. He had to make notes in order to remember all he was doing, all the names he was giving creatures. He probably invented writing on the spot. Remember Adam was brilliant. He invented some way of writing and began to note the differences between various kinds and named the animals. That was the starting point. We’re still in that process of discovering, observing, noting, defining, and distinguishing between various parts of creation.
God initiated vocabulary and categorization in Genesis 1. Adam started carrying that out in the application of the task to name the animals. That’s what it means to subdue the earth, to begin to bring it under control. We can’t control anything until we understand it in terms of its categories, in terms of its strengths and weaknesses. That’s why we go to school. That’s why going to school sometimes is painful because we’re trying to bring under control a vast amount of knowledge.
Man was created to understand, control, and master the creation. That indicates that something about image has to do with intellectual ability and decision-making. Adam had to decide what he was going to name those animals. We see right away that part of this imageness has something to do with thinking and something to do with making decisions.
We also observe from this that man and woman together represent God on earth. They’re both in the image of God. They’re both on the team. They have different roles on the team. Just because they’re both on the team that’s designed to win the Super Bowl doesn’t mean that every player on the team has the same role. If every player tried to act like a quarterback, that team would not win the Super Bowl. Everyone on the team, both male and female, is created in the image of God; however, they have different roles to fulfill in terms of the creation. The male was given the primary task of ruling, and the woman was created in order to be his ezer, his helper or his assistant, Genesis 2 says.
In modern human viewpoint thought and in feminism, women have been taught to think that the role of a helper and assistant is somehow demeaning. It’s not very important. It’s not very significant. They believe that the old kind of traditional theology is very misogynistic or hateful toward women. If you think that way, what do you do with the passage in the Psalms that says God is our helper, that God is our ezer? If being an ezer is inherently insignificant, if being an ezer is somehow not important, what are you saying about God when the Scriptures say that God is an ezer?
If you’re saying that being an ezer is demeaning, then you’re saying that God is demeaned. The Scriptures don’t say that. They see the role of being a servant or a helper as one of the most exalted roles possible. It’s only arrogance that says that the role of the servant, the role of the helper, and the role of the assistant is insignificant or irrelevant. In terms of point number seven, we see that both man and woman, male and female, are equally image bearers, but they are distinguished in terms of their roles.
We’ve looked at image as it was used in the early part of Genesis. It doesn’t stop in Genesis. When we get into the New Testament, some fascinating things are said about the image of man. Here, He relates it to Christ. The believer is to be conformed to the image of Christ after salvation. The image wasn’t destroyed when Adam sinned. The image wasn’t destroyed; it was defaced. At salvation and on the basis of the Word of God, the image starts to be restructured and to be brought back and to be recovered.
The believer is to be conformed to the image of Christ and to represent Christ as an ambassador on earth. Notice how that representation as an ambassador of Christ is related to the initial role of representing God as a vice-regent over the creation.
Genesis 2:15 talks about the fact that the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and to keep it. The key word for cultivate and keep means to work it. Cultivate is from the Hebrew word ’abad, which means to work or to serve. The word translated to keep is shamar, meaning to guard. God gave man work responsibilities prior to the Fall. Work wasn’t the result of sin. I know that is hard to understand because work has been affected by sin like everything else has. Prior to the Fall in the Garden of Eden, responsibility was related to man’s role as an image bearer.
Genesis 2:19 says, “Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky and brought them to man to see what he would call them. Whatever man called the living creature that was its name.” The role of man is to work over creation and to control creation.
The act of naming in the ancient Near East was tantamount to exercising control and dominion over something.
There was only one prohibition in the Garden. Man was free to do whatever he wanted outside of one prohibition. He was placed in the Garden, and he had freedom to decide the best way to name the animals. God didn’t tell him that he was going to name that strange looking thing with the long nose an elephant and that he was going to name that other thing with horns on its nose a rhinoceros. God gave man the freedom to make those decisions.
Within the structure that God established, man is free to operate. That’s why later we can say that man clearly has free will even though God is sovereign. God decided that in human history, His sovereignty would be limited so that the creature can have a restricted amount of freedom, so that the creature can be free.
The prohibition in the Garden was that the creature couldn’t eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
In the ninth point I want to expand that a little bit. Let’s look at the characteristics of the image of God as they were developed in the New Testament in relationship to the believer. I want to look at three verses, Colossians 3:10, Ephesians 4:24, and 2 Corinthians 3:18.
In Colossians 3:10, Paul stated that after salvation, we have put on the new self “who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.” This new image is to be renewed in the arena of knowledge “according to the image of the One who created him.” It’s not merely an intellectual capacity but a way of thinking that is related to true knowledge of the revelation of God. We have to start thinking as God thinks. We have to think according to God’s revelation of Himself. This means that part of the image is a renewal of our intellectual ability and our thought processes according to truth, according to absolute truth. The process of thought is part of the imageness of God.
In Ephesians 4:24, we are told, “Put on the new self which is in a likeness of God which has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” The concepts of righteousness and holiness have to do with moral capacity. The emphasis is on man’s integrity. If the likeness of God is being renewed according to righteousness and holiness based on the truth, we know that the image of God has to do with a moral quality.
The third verse we find this in is 2 Corinthians 3:18. “We all with unveiled faith beholding in a mirror the glory of the Lord or being transformed into the same image from glory to glory just as the Lord, the Spirit.” Here, we see that a dimension of divine glory is related to the image and that part of the image is to reflect that glory. As we are being renewed in our spiritual growth, we reflect that same glory, not the kind of glory that was evidenced by Jesus Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration, which was a brilliant glory that was related to the shekinah glory of the Old Testament. This is the glory that John spoke of in John 1:14 after Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding. He talked about Jesus’ miracle, saying, “We beheld His glory.” Glory has to do with character. The character displayed at that marriage feast was His compassion toward man as He fulfilled a request of His mother.
The image of God relates to four categories. First, in the self-consciousness of man, he knows he exists. He knows he is distinct from the creatures. This is characterized by the phrase, “I am”. Second, he has reasoning power or mentality. He thinks, so this is the phrase, “I think”. Third, he has that moral quality, that moral reasoning. He knows right from wrong. This is in his conscience, and it’s characterized by the phrase, “I ought”. Fourth, he is volitional. He makes decisions. There is self-determination in man. “I will”.
“I am” reflects his self-consciousness. “I think” reflects his reasoning ability, his mentality. “I ought” reflects his moral capacity. “I will” reflects his ability of self-determination.
The Bible says that man is not only made up of this material physical body that’s formed from the dust of the ground, but also this image is comprised of two immaterial aspects. The one that we just mentioned is the “I am,” the self-consciousness, the mentality, the moral capacity, and the volition. That has to do with what we call the soul.
There’s another immaterial aspect, and we see that in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Man is comprised of three components or three parts, body, soul, and spirit. We studied this in the past. May I remind you that sometimes soul and spirit are used in an extremely generic or vague manner. Sometimes, spirit can stand for the immaterial part of man. Sometimes, soul can stand for the immaterial part of man. Sometimes, spirit reflects man’s thinking ability. Sometimes, soul reflects thinking ability. These terms can be used in different ways. In this passage, it is clear that Paul distinguished them. Even though they do overlap, they have distinct qualities.
Hebrews 4:12 also makes this same distinction. “For the Word of God is alive and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit.” Even though soul and spirit may appear inseparable and in some passages are so close we can’t distinguish the difference, the Word of God makes it clear that there is a difference. It divides between the function of the soul and the function of the spirit, the human spirit.
Remember what I said earlier about the fact that God created things and He initiated vocabulary and He as the Creator has the right to define the meaning of words. We live in an age when words are assaulted on a daily basis, especially words from Scripture. I’ll never forget learning something when I went to Russia for the first time. When the Communists took over Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1918, one of the first things Lenin did was to take about 12,000 words out of the Russian vocabulary. It’s an enormous language, and a lot of words were antiquated, but a lot of the words he took out of the dictionary were words that were necessary to understand the Russian Bible. Satan attacks Christianity by destroying its vocabulary.
We’ve seen this in the last one hundred and fifty years. Take the good word Pentecostal. Every believer is a Pentecostal. Why? Because the Church began at Pentecost, but that word has been co-opted and given a distorted meaning by certain sects in Christianity. The same thing is true with holiness. Holiness is a great word. We’re to be holy. Most people don’t understand what holy is any more. It’s lost its meaning. It’s become diluted. There was a certain segment of Christianity that had a distorted view of holiness and emphasized that, and they became holiness churches.
Satan destroys the meaning of certain words by using people to come along, take that word and twist it and give it new meaning. When we go back and read that new meaning into the Scripture, we get a distorted interpretation. CHARISMADA is a great Greek word. It refers to the grace gifts, the spiritual gifts or the gifts God gives us—from CHARISMA, meaning grace. It’s been perverted to meaning charismatic.
Satan attacks divine viewpoint by attacking vocabulary. Today, we live in a world in which people talk about spirituality all the time. They say, “Oh, that person’s spirit is so nice.” In everyday usage, words like spirit and spirituality become distorted and don’t have anything to do with the Scripture. We have to let the Bible define soul and spirit.
1 Corinthians 2:14 makes a distinction between a person who has a soul and one who doesn’t. In the English, it reads, “The natural man does not accept the things of the spirit of God.” The word translated natural is the Greek word PSUCHIKOS, which means soulish. PSUCHE is from the Greek, meaning soul. “The soulish man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.” We realize we have to have this human spirit in order to understand the things of God.
This is further seen in passages like James 3:15. “This wisdom is not that”—referring to human viewpoint wisdom—“which comes down from above but it”— human viewpoint wisdom—“is earthly, natural.” It’s not related to the spirit at all. It is also demonic.
Our clearest definition comes in Jude 1:19. “These are the ones”—referring to unbelievers—“who cause divisions, worldly minded”—soulish, those who don’t have a human spirit—“devoid of the spirit.” It literally in the Greek means not having a spirit. Unbelievers are born without a human spirit.
Man has three parts, body, soul, and spirit. We all have a physical human body. It’s a physical machine. Inside that physical machine is a human soul that runs the machine. It’s made up of four components: “I am”, self-conscious; “I think”, mentality; “I will”, volition; and “I ought”, conscience. Those are the four elements of the soul.
When God created Adam, he not only had a soul as part of his image, but he also had a human spirit as part of his image. The two worked together like a hand in a glove. The human spirit is that quality which enabled his self-consciousness to not only relate to man as “I am” but to God as the Creator. It enabled his mentality to think God’s thoughts after Him and to think as God would have Him think. It enabled his volition to focus on God’s prohibitions, and it enabled his conscience to know the difference between right and wrong.
Adam disobeyed God and ate from the fruit. Genesis 2:17 says, “If you eat from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil you will surely die.” The day Adam ate of the fruit he didn’t die physically. He died spiritually.
If you don’t believe that man is created in three parts as some theologians don’t and they just talk about the immaterial part, which is very vague and general, then watch what happens. If you talk about spiritual death and you don’t have a real, human spirit, then what died? Nothing died. It just becomes an empty figure of speech.
When Adam died, he lost the human spirit. He still had his mentality, self-consciousness, conscience, and volition, but now he didn’t have a human spirit that enabled those elements to relate to God. He was still in the image of God, but he was now defaced. Furthermore, he had a sin nature, which further distorted his thinking, his volition, his conscience, and his self-consciousness. The only solution was to have a rebirth, a new birth, which provided a new human spirit. That’s what happens at salvation.
At the Fall of man, man changed. He didn’t lose the image of God, but it became defaced in spiritual death. There were consequences to that decision that Adam made, and he became dead. Ephesians 2:1 states, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” That’s a positional term. They were in their trespasses and sins because the deliverance of Christ’s death on the Cross had not been applied. “It was in those sins in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the Prince of the power of the air, according to the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”
Ephesians 2:3 says, “Among them we all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh”—of our sin nature—“indulging the desires of the sin nature and of the mind and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest.”
Man acquired a sin nature at the Fall which is passed down genetically from father to offspring. At the Fall, that righteousness that allowed God to have fellowship with His creatures was destroyed. God created man to have fellowship with Him. Man is in God’s image; therefore, he can relate to God. He can understand God. He can fulfill God’s tasks for him. When Adam sinned and disobeyed God by eating the fruit, that image was defaced, and man lost his ability to have a relationship with God.
In effect, a barrier was erected between God and man. This week and next week, we’re going to look at the components of that barrier and how that barrier problem is resolved.
The first problem in the sin barrier is the basic problem of sin. Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
That is the basic problem; we fall short of God’s character and God’s demands. As a righteous God, God can have a relationship with His creature only when that creature is also righteous.
Then there’s the penalty of sin. The penalty of sin is spiritual death. In Genesis 2:17, God said to Adam, “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Romans 5:12 states, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men.” That’s the second problem.
The third problem is the character of God Himself. God is perfectly righteous; therefore, when man sins, he is a sinner and lacks perfect righteousness. He cannot have a relationship with God.
The fourth problem is spiritual death. Man lost that human spirit. That’s a quality of man that is no longer there. He’s not born with it. He can’t automatically know God. He is spiritually dead, so God had to solve that problem.
The next problem is his lack of righteousness. Man has lost righteousness.
Finally, man is positionally related to the head of the human race and because he is in Adam, Scripture says in 1Corinthians 15:22, “In Adam all die.” This is the problem. It’s a major, manifold problem. It’s not just a simple problem of having disobeyed God. One of the reasons people have trouble understanding eternal security is because they don’t understand the depths of the problem; therefore, they don’t understand the extent of the divine solution. Because they don’t understand everything that happened at salvation, they think that somehow they can lose it. Once they understand the depth of the problem and once they understand the extent of the solution, they realize that salvation is a free gift that can never be lost. It can’t be earned. Man can’t deserve it at all.
Man can do nothing to gain salvation. It had to be done completely by someone else. Jesus Christ died on the Cross to provide that solution so that salvation is by faith in Him alone, no works, no ritual, no morality. Nothing can help. Christ paid the penalty in full at the Cross. Christ did it all so that man can have a relationship with God.
We’ll come back next time and look at the barrier in a little more depth. Then, we’ll look at the solution. Let’s pray.
“Father, we do thank You for this opportunity to study Your Word once again. We realize the extent of your manifold grace, and we realize how complex our salvation is and yet how simple. All we need do is put our faith alone in the completed work of Christ on the Cross, and we have eternal life. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to Your mercy.” You provided a perfect salvation.
“Father, now we pray that as we continue our study of salvation, You’ll help us to understand these things and have a greater appreciation for all that we have, and all that You have done for us. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”