Image of God
You, as well as all other human beings, at birth were fashioned in a tarnished “image (likeness) of God.” God utilized a unique blueprint, His image, in the creation of mankind (male and female), the pioneers, and the original forerunners of the human race. Unfortunately, this image was corrupted by them soon after they were positioned in the Garden of Eden.
But this image is restored on a personal, individual basis when a person becomes a Christian, the instant one makes the decision to trust (place only faith in) Jesus Christ alone for personal eternal salvation. In brief, as it pertains to mankind, the “image of God” was introduced in the very beginning as the model in fashioning the human race at its creation.
(Although facets of the “image of God” are reflected in the spectrum of mankind, only one Person in all of history was/is in God’s full image. That Person is Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3], who indeed is God [John 1:1]. For a more detailed presentation on the deity of Jesus Christ, please click on http://bibleone.net/deity0fJC.htm)
The creation (beginning/origin) of man (mankind) is found only in God’s Word, a compilation of various scripts that man has labeled “The Holy Bible.” Note the following passages of Scripture.
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 (Hebrew: “adam” – a generic term meaning all mankind) in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Genesis 2:7, 15-18, 21-24
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. . . . Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but 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.” And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”. . . And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Genesis 5:1b, 2
. . . In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind (NKJV: “adam” – a Hebrew generic term meaning all mankind) in the day they were created.
Both are One
It should clearly be understood that the creation of mankind involved not one but two entities, a male (man) and a female (woman). And even though the female was taken from a portion of the male, together they were to be considered as “one” (Genesis 2:21-24). This divinely initiated process (“type”) in the Old Testament illustrates the process (“antitype”) featured in the New Testament, which is how the “bride of Christ” will be taken from the “body of Christ” (the “Church”) for the purpose of co-ruling alongside Christ during the coming Messianic Era, the establishment of the thousand year kingdom upon and over the earth (Revelation 19:7-9; 20:4).
One other significant truth is that although Scripture assigns different stations for each sex, neither one is considered more important or special. They are equal before God. Within the Garden of Eden, they were to “have dominion” together (equally), not separately.
Whereas the definition or meaning of the English terms “image” and “likeness” normally conveys the concept of a duplicate visual representation, they embody a far deeper and more intricate, multifaceted description as it relates to mankind. One needs only to recognize the unending optical differences between all individuals (i.e., that no two persons [even so-called “identical twins”] are exactly alike) in order to understand this truth.
When God created “man” (i.e., “male and female”) something entirely different was His objective, as depicted in the following section.
Although one may argue that there are additional facets comprising the “image of God,” this writer believes the following are most critical.
Once “the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground,” He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). One might argue that this life was nothing new, since God had already brought forth living non-humans, i.e., animals (Genesis 1:20-25). But this was not and is not the case. The life that God placed in man at his creation was a very special life. It was spiritual life, one that was in addition to that which man would share with the animal kingdom (i.e., an “earth-related [corporeal] life”) – a life that followed the pattern of God’s restoration of a ruined earthly creation in chapter one in the book of Genesis, a life executed by His Spirit, one of three Persons who comprise the essence of Almighty God.
(Here one may conjecture that as long as this “spiritual life” was unaffected in man, his “earth-related life,” along with all other living beings (animal kingdom) on earth, would perpetually continue. Such would be a reasonable supposition.)
The most significant aspect of spiritual life that God breathed into man was that it allowed him to walk with God, to have a close and personal association with his Creator – to be one with God. And upon man’s transgression, this was immediately abandoned as both male and female in fear realized their nakedness, as they attempted to cover themselves with “fig leaves” and “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:7-10).
When man transgressed God’s specific instruction, i.e., “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but 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”, and did eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he most surely died “spiritually.” Yet his “earthly-related life” continued in a corrupted (death induced) state, i.e., Adam’s sin introduced a diminishing process of life to all living beings (and to all descendants), eventually leading to temporal death (Genesis 3:17-19).
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. (Romans 5:12)
For as in Adam all die . . . . (1 Corinthians 15:22a)
Another facet of the “image of God” is its tripartite (3-part) composition. It is unfortunate that mainstream Christianity fails to understand and accept this concept, which is clearly revealed in Scripture.
(For a more detailed treatment of the doctrine of the Trinity, the reader is advised to access the document at http://bibleone.net/print_tbs10.html.)
Just as God, who is One in Essence yet is composed of and revealed through three distinct Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – man was created as a tripartite being, i.e., spirit, soul, and body. Man’s sin corrupted this image by causing death to his spirit, thereby also resulting in temporal (time-based, degenerative) death for his remaining parts (soul and body).
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
. . . For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. (James 4:14b, Psalm 89:48; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Job 14:1, 2)
Contrary to those who hold tenaciously to the belief that before time God has selected some individuals for salvation and some for condemnation, determinations totally divorced from any personal and willful actions by the individuals so affected, Scripture, from its very beginning and throughout, clearly assigns the responsibility for acceptance or rejection of God’s expressed will squarely upon man himself.
It is not the objective of this document to discuss the doctrine of predestination, election, or foreknowledge. Should anyone wish to carefully examine such, the following link may be helpful: http://bibleone.net/print_tbs124.html.
During the creation of man, God gave man the intellectual freedom to either obey or disobey God’s instruction, i.e., self-determination (Genesis 2:16, 17). Actually, no other attribute could better reflect the “image of God.” For if this was not possible, man would then be nothing more than a puppet, existing solely at the mercy of the Creator – such would positively not reflect the “image of God.”
In addition to Adam and Eve (the name given to the woman by Adam in Genesis 3:20) embodying life, tripartite composition, and self-determination, they were assigned a dual purpose, direction, their mission upon earth; as per the following:
“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” (Genesis 1:26b),
“Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28b),
they were to direct their attention and efforts toward the following two objectives:
1) Populate the earth.
2) Rule over (govern, oversee) the earth.
As one studies the Word, only two parameters forcefully stick out in regards to the first purpose listed above: (1) Only by and through the union of a male and female is it possible for the procreation of the human race, and (2) Only the marriage and union of a man and woman is recognized and approved by God; all other unions, e.g., male and male or female and female are totally disapproved by God (Leviticus 18:1, 22; 20:13; Mark 10:6-9; Matthew 19:4-6; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Ephesians 5:31; Romans 1:26-32). For a closer examination of this truth, the reader is referred to the study at http://bibleone.net/Homosexuality.htm.
As to the second purpose assigned to mankind, such will be fulfilled by those Christians who become “overcomers” during their temporal life (Revelation 2:17; 3:5, 12, 21), who realize their reward from their works of “gold, silver, and precious stones” (1 Corinthians 3:12) at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10), who become the “bride of Christ” (Revelation 19:7, 8), and who “reign” with Him during the coming Messianic Era (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 20:4)..
Bottom line, mankind (male and female) was created in the image of God, an image that conveyed spiritual life, a tripartite composition, free will (self-determination), and purpose – all of which were affected by the transgression to God’s command pertaining to the “tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
Yet, God’s plan for mankind did not end. Redemption would be available for all who would accept it by faith.
(A comprehensive study pertaining to the “Tree of Life” may be viewed by clicking on the following link: http://bibleone.net/the-tree-of-life.htm.)
Redemption for mankind, for each man and woman throughout time, is based on the finished work on the cross of Calvary by the Son of God, Jesus the Christ. When Christ proclaimed “It is finished” (John 19:28, 30) after experiencing a separation from God (i.e., spiritual death) the Father for a specific period of time (Matthew 27:45, 46; Mark 15:33, 34), He meant exactly that (a perfect tense is used in the Greek text, referring to action completed in past time and existing during present time in a finished or competed state – lit., “It has been finished); and when the Word of God reveals that man’s redemption (eternal [spirit] salvation) is of divine origin, based entirely on the Son’s finished work, the Word of God means exactly that!
When man sinned in the garden, he died spiritually; and when unregenerate man, “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), is made alive by executing a willful decision of faith solely in Jesus Christ (Acts 16:30, 31; Ephesians 2:8, 9), he is made alive spiritually. But this is only one aspect of man’s redemption. Granted, it is eternal, a salvation which can never be reversed or cancelled by man or God; still, but it is only a start. The remainder of this section will be a replication of Chapter 1 of Arlen L. Chitwood’s book, Salvation of the Soul, a chapter that will explain in detail all three aspects of God’s comprehensive redemption for mankind, as follows:
Salvation — Past, Present, Future
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8, 9)
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit [lit. “for the sake of the ones about to inherit”] salvation? (Hebrews 1:14)
“Salvation” in the Word of God is spoken of in three tenses — past, present, and future:
1) Christians have been saved.
2) Christians are being saved.
3) Christians are about to be saved.
The previously quoted verses provide examples of how Scripture deals with each of these three tenses or aspects of salvation.
In Ephesians 2:8, 9, salvation is a past, completed act.
In 1 Corinthians 1:18, salvation is a present, continuous work.
In Hebrews 1:14, salvation is a future, inherited possession.
Since the Word of God presents salvation in a framework of this nature, it is vitally important in Scriptural interpretation to first ascertain to which of these three aspects of salvation any given passage pertains.
In the past aspect of salvation, dealt with in Ephesians 2:8, the words in the corrected text, “you have been saved,” are a translation of two Greek words that form what is called in the Greek text a “periphrastic perfect.” The “perfect” tense refers to action completed in past time, with the results of this action extending into present time and existing in a finished state. The “periphrastic” construction places additional emphasis on the present, finished state and refers to the persistent results during present time of the past, completed work.
Salvation in this verse is wrought by grace through faith, accomplished completely in past time, and is the present possession of every believer. This present possession, in turn, constitutes an active, continuing, ever-abiding salvation. The eternal security of the believer cannot be expressed in stronger terms than the periphrastic construction of the perfect tense in Ephesians 2:8, for the present results of the past action, in this case, can only continue unchanged forever.
However, in 1 Corinthians 1:18, dealing with the present aspect of salvation, things are presented in an entirely different light than seen in Ephesians 2:8. Rather than the verb tense in the Greek text referring to a past, completed act, the tense refers to a present, continuous work. The former has already been completed, but the latter has yet to be completed.
Then, in Hebrews 1:14, dealing with the future aspect of salvation, matters are presented in a completely different light yet. The wording in the Greek text of this verse refers to something that is about to occur. Nothing is past or present; the reception of this salvation, in its entirety, is placed in the future.
Further, the salvation referred to in Hebrews 1:14 is not only to be realized in the future, but it is also an inherited salvation. And the thought of inheritance further distinguishes the salvation in this verse from the salvation previously seen in Ephesians 2:8, for the salvation that Christians presently possess is not an inherited salvation.
Rather, our present salvation was obtained as a free gift during the time we were alienated from God. And, as aliens (outside the family of God), we were in no position to inherit salvation, for inheritance in Scripture is always a family matter.
In the Old Testament, “sons” were first in line to receive the inheritance, with “daughters” next. If there were no sons or daughters in the immediate family, the inheritance was passed on to the nearest family member or members, designated by the law of inheritance (Numbers 27:8-11).
Consequently, an individual had to be a family member before he could be considered for the inheritance, which, during the present dispensation, is restricted to “children” or “sons” of the Owner. That’s why the statement is made in Romans 8:17, “. . . if children, then heirs . . . .” And that’s also why in Hebrews 1:14 that an inherited salvation pertains to those who have already been saved, those who are no longer alienated from God but are presently family members.
In this respect, the complete scope of salvation — past, present, and future — has a beginning point, with an end in view. It involves the Spirit of God breathing life into the one having no life, effecting the birth from above. And this has been done with a purpose, an end, in view. This has been done so that the Spirit can take the one who now has spiritual life and perform a work in the life of that individual, with a view to an inheritance that will be realized at a future time.
Thus, one should immediately be able to see the importance of proper distinctions being drawn and observed in the realm of these three aspects of salvation. And depending on how one approaches and deals with the different salvation passages in Scripture, either difficulties can be avoided on the one hand or insurmountable problems can result on the other.
The Tripartite Nature of Man
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
Man is a tripartite being comprised of spirit, soul, and body; and the salvation of man within its complete scope (past, present, and future) pertains to the salvation of man with respect to his complete being. In the study of Scripture it is revealed that each of these three parts of man is subject to salvation at different times. Thus, to understand salvation in its complete scope, one must first understand certain things about man’s tripartite nature. Then, salvation in relation to this tripartite nature becomes the issue.
The first chapter of Genesis reveals that man was created in the “image” and “likeness” of God. The word translated “God” in the Hebrew text of this statement is Elohim. This is a plural noun, which, in complete keeping with related Scripture, would include all three members of the Godhead — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (e.g., cf. John 1:1-3).
Since Elohim is a trinity, for man to be created in the “image” and “likeness” of God, he too must be a trinity. Unlike the dichotomous animal kingdom (created apart from the “image” and “likeness” of God) possessing only bodies and souls, trichotomous man (created in the “image” and “likeness” of God) is a triune being. Man not only possesses a body and a soul, but he also possesses a spirit as well.
Jesus is Elohim manifested in the flesh; and having been made in the “likeness” of man (but apart from man’s fallen nature), He, as man, must also be a trinity (John 1:14; Philippians 2:7). This tripartite nature of Christ, in whom “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9), was clearly revealed at the time of His death.
At this time Jesus yielded up His spirit, which went back into the presence of His Father in heaven (Luke 23:46; cf. Ecclesiastes 12:7; Acts 7:59); His soul went into Hades, the place of the dead, housed inside the earth at that time (Acts 2:27); and His body was removed from the Cross and placed in Joseph of Arimathaea’s tomb (Matthew 27:57-61). This threefold separation persisted until the soul and spirit re-entered the body at the time Christ was raised from the dead.
Thus, God, Elohim, is a trinity; Jesus, Elohim manifested in the flesh, is likewise a trinity; and man, created in the “image” and “likeness” of Elohim, can only be a trinity as well. Accordingly, a complete redemption provided by the triune God must, of necessity, pertain to man as a complete being. Man’s complete redemption must encompass spirit, soul, and body.
1) Past, Present, Future . . . Spirit, Soul, Body
When man sinned in the garden in Eden, the complete being of man — spirit, soul, and body — became in a fallen state. God had commanded Adam concerning the fruit 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” (Genesis 2:17). After Satan had deceived Eve into eating of the fruit of this tree, she then “gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” Immediately following this, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Genesis 3:1-7).
At the time of the fall, Adam and Eve lost something; and it is clearly stated in Scripture that both immediately recognized this fact. That which they lost could only have been a covering of pristine glory that had previously clothed their bodies, for they, following the fall, found themselves in a twofold condition:
2) Separated from God.
God is arrayed in a covering of “light,” connected with “honor and majesty.” And man, created in the “image” and “likeness” of God, could only have been arrayed in a similar manner prior to the fall.
Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, You are very great: You are clothed with [“You have put on”] honor and majesty. (Psalm 104:1)
Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, who stretch out the heavens like a curtain. (Psalm 104:2)
Recognizing the loss of this covering, realizing that they were naked, explains why Adam and Eve immediately sought to clothe themselves following the fall. They tried to replace the covering that had been lost with a work of their own hands, with fig leaf aprons. And then, apparently realizing the utter inadequacy of this covering, they, in their fallen state, sought to hide from God.
God, finding Adam and Eve in this condition, completely rejected the works of their hands. God completely rejected their feeble efforts to atone for their own sin by seeking to replace the covering of pristine glory with fig leaves.
Then, to bring His fallen creature back into a right relationship (although not in complete keeping with their previously un-fallen state — something still future even today), God provided a covering consisting of animal skins (Genesis 3:21). This necessitated death and the shedding of blood; and herein lie basic, unchangeable truths concerning the state of fallen man and the means that are necessary to effect his redemption.
Unredeemed man is a fallen creature, alienated from God; and two things are necessary to effect his redemption:
1) Divine intervention.
2) Death and shed blood.
These truths have forever been set forth in the opening chapters of Genesis and can never change.
(Two different words are used for “naked” in the Hebrew text of Genesis 2:25 [before the fall] and Genesis 3:7 [after the fall]. In the latter [3:7], the word has to do with absolute nakedness, but not so in the former [2:25].
Remaining within the way a person dressed in the East at the time Moses wrote Genesis, and at later times as well, the word used relative to nakedness pertaining to Adam and Eve preceding the fall [2:25] could be used to describe a person clothed in a tunic [inner garment] but lacking the mantle or cloak [outer garment]. In the preceding respect, prior to the fall, Adam and Eve were clothed in the Glory of God but had yet to possess the regal outer garments worn by kings [fulfilling the reason for man’s creation — to rule the earth (Genesis 1:26-28)]. Then, following the fall, no longer clothed in the Glory of God, Adam and Eve were no longer in a position to be further clothed in regal garments, realizing the purpose for their creation. They, apart from the inner garment [the Glory] could not wear the outer garments [royal apparel].
Adam, prior to the fall, never wore regal garments or held the scepter. In this respect, he never moved beyond the description given in Genesis 2:25 — a “naked” condition, “naked” in relation to the reason for his creation [lacking the outer regal garments].
Thus, if man, now separated from the Glory, is to ever fulfill the purpose for his creation, God must act. Redemption has to occur; and this, of necessity, has to include the complete man — spirit, soul, and body — with a view to not only a restoration of the Glory but to regality beyond this restoration.)
Man’s sin in the garden in Eden produced death. Man died the day he ate of the forbidden fruit. Since his body continued to live, revealing that his soul — the life-giving principle in the blood (Leviticus 17:11; cf. Genesis 9:4) — remained unchanged with respect to life (natural life), it is evident that it was his spirit that died.
The spiritual nature is that part of man that links him directly with God. “God is spirit,” and man’s worship of God must be “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24, NASB). The death of Adam’s spirit separated him from God (establishing the primary meaning of “death” in Scripture — separation from God), and this death (this separation from God) “spread to all men” (Romans 5:12).
Scripture speaks of an unsaved person as being “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). With an unredeemed, inanimate spirit (spiritually dead), he is alienated from God, separated from God (Ephesians 2:12). But once the person has been born from above, he is then spoken of as having passed “from death into life,” as having been “quickened [NKJV: ‘made us alive’]” (John 5:24; Ephesians 2:5). Possessing an animate spirit, possessing spiritual life (having been made alive spiritually), he is no longer separated from the One who Himself is “Spirit” (John 4:24).
This aspect of salvation is brought to pass by the Spirit of God breathing life into the one having no life, based on Christ’s finished work at Calvary; and once this has been accomplished, everything surrounding the work effecting this aspect of salvation has been completed, with this work existing in a finished state (as previously seen through the use of the perfect tense in Ephesians 2:8.
Thus, the salvation experience that man enters into at the time of the birth from above is a work of the Spirit, based on a previous work of the Son. It is a spiritual birth and has to do with man’s spirit alone: “. . . that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6b).
The salvation of the soul, on the other hand, should never be associated with the past aspect of salvation. Scripture carefully distinguishes between the soul and the spirit, never using the words interchangeably in this respect (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12).
And Scripture also carefully distinguishes between salvation in relation to the spirit and salvation in relation to the soul. Salvation in relation to the spirit is always dealt with in a past sense, but not so with the salvation of the soul. Rather, the salvation of the soul is always dealt with in a future sense:
receiving the end of your faith -- the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:9)
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)
But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe [are faithful] to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:39)
The statements and exhortations in these verses pertain to Christians alone — those whose spirits have already been saved and whose souls are in the process of being saved, with the salvation of the soul being realized only at a future time.
The salvation of the body presents very few problems for the majority of Christians. Very few Christians contend, contrary to Scripture, that the body has either already been redeemed or is in the process of being redeemed. Scripture places the redemption of man’s body entirely in the future (Romans 8:23).
The Christian’s body is presently in a continuous state of deterioration. The body grows old and weakens with time; and the body is subject to sickness, disease, and eventually death. This must ever remain the case as long as the body remains in its present state. The “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and the unredeemed body must pay the price that sin requires.
Within this unredeemed body lie two opposing entities, each seeking dominion — a redeemed spirit, and an unredeemed soul. The unredeemed soul is housed in an unredeemed body, and the two are mutually compatible.
But the redeemed spirit housed alongside an unredeemed soul in an unredeemed body experiences no compatibility with either of the other two at all.
Compatibility is not possible, for “what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
This heterogeneous union is what produced the cry of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:24,
O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?
(For information on the redemption of the body, refer to the appendix — “Adoption, Redemption of the Body” — in the author’s book, God’s Firstborn Sons.)
2) Soulical, Spiritual, Carnal
According to the Word of God, every man can be categorized as being either soulical, spiritual, or carnal. The word “soulical” pertains to all non-Christians, and the words “spiritual” and “carnal” pertain to two classes of Christians.
But the natural man [the “soulical” 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. (1 Corinthians 2:14)
The Greek word translated “soul” throughout the New Testament is psuche. This word has to do with “the natural life” of the individual. The soul is the seat of a person’s emotions, feelings, and desires pertaining to his man-conscious existence.
The Greek word translated “natural” in 1 Corinthians 2:14 is psuchikos, a form of the word psuche. Psuchikos is the “natural” or “soulical” life (self-life) that man has in common with the animal kingdom.
The soulical man is dominated or ruled by his soul, which includes all the experiences, desires, emotions, sensations, likes, and dislikes within the personal, natural life of the individual. Such likes, dislikes, etc. will vary from individual to individual, but all emanate from the soul-life of man. The soulical man is alienated from God and, thus, possesses no way to grasp spiritual truth. A man must be born from above — made alive spiritually — before he can possess spiritual discernment.
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual . . . . (1 Corinthians 3:1a)
The Greek word translated “spirit” throughout the New Testament is pneuma. This word is used in the New Testament referring to the Holy Spirit, man’s spirit, angels (both fallen and un-fallen), a state of mind or disposition, wind, and breath. Examples in Scripture of the last four are Luke 8:55; John 3:8; 1 Corinthians 4:21; 2 Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 1:7; 1 Peter 3:19.
Man’s spirit is the seat of the higher divine life pertaining to his God-conscious existence. The Greek word translated “spiritual” in 1 Corinthians 3:1a is pneumatikos, a form of the word pneuma. The spiritual man is one who is controlled by the Spirit of God acting through his own spirit (through a spirit made alive by the birth from above).
The spiritual man, unlike the soulical man, controls his emotions, feelings, and desires pertaining to his still-present, man-conscious existence. He brings his unredeemed body under subjection and exerts control over the soulical man. This, of course, is not performed within his own power, but within the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is an experience open to redeemed man alone, to an individual who has been made alive spiritually.
Unredeemed man, on the other hand, although a trichotomous being, fails to rise above the dichotomous animal kingdom in his natural or soulical existence. He lacks a redeemed spirit with the accompanying, indwelling Holy Spirit. He, with an inanimate spirit, is spiritually dead. And, consequently, he remains alienated from God. Thus, an existence outside the soulical (natural) for unredeemed man is not possible.
. . . but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:1b)
The Greek word translated “carnal” is sarkikos. This is a form of the word sarx, which means “flesh.” Sarkikos (fleshly) is the opposite of pneumatikos (spiritual). The carnal Christian is, thus, “fleshly” as opposed to “spiritual.” He is one who allows himself to be controlled by his soul rather than by the indwelling Holy Spirit. He, as the soulical man (the unsaved man), follows his personal emotions, feelings, and desires.
He, however, unlike the soulical man, has been born from above and is capable of grasping spiritual truth. But, unlike the spiritual man, this truth is not being received. Thus, the carnal Christian, without an impartation of spiritual truth flowing into his saved human spirit, remains immature and fleshly, following the fleshly impulses of the soul.
(The use of “flesh” or “fleshly” in the preceding respect would be a direct allusion back to that which occurred in Eden at the time of the fall. Man, following his fall, possessed a body that was no longer enswathed in a covering of Glory, with the exposed flesh openly demonstrating this fact. This is what is meant by Christ coming “in the likeness of sinful flesh” [Romans 8:3]. Christ came to earth in a body not enswathed in the Glory of God.
This was the crux of the ignominy and shame surrounding the events of Calvary. Not only was Christ’s body of flesh [apart from the covering of Glory] arrayed in a mock regal manner [with a robe and a crown of thorns], but He hung on the cross without even His Own garments to cover His body, for all to behold that which had been wrought by sin 4,000 years earlier — nakedness, and death [Matthew 27:27-36].
There though is nothing wrong with “flesh” per se. Man was created in a body of flesh, Christ presently has a body of flesh, and both God’s Son and man will live in bodies of flesh forever.
But, though there is nothing wrong with a body of “flesh,” there is something wrong with a body of flesh that is not enswathed in the Glory of God.)
Within the scope of that which God reveals about the impartation of spiritual truth to redeemed man alone lies the great lesson concerning unredeemed man’s relationship to the Word of God. It is utterly futile for unredeemed man to either himself attempt to understand the Word of God or for redeemed man to attempt to teach him the Word of God. Scripture is “spiritually discerned,” and a man must be born from above — be made alive spiritually, which places him in a position where he can exercise spiritual discernment — before he can understand the things of the Spirit of God. The soulical (unredeemed) man, completely alienated from God — spiritually dead and in no position to exercise spiritual discernment — cannot understand spiritual things, and they appear to him as no more than “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
(Unredeemed man can understand the letter of Scripture [i.e., the stories or accounts of events in Scripture, viewing them as he would a secular book]. But to take these stories or accounts of events and see the spiritual content that God has built into them is completely beyond his ability [cf. 2 Corinthians 3:6ff]. He simply cannot understand the things of the Spirit, for, spiritually, he is dead; he is alienated from God.)
Thus, herein also lies the reason why the things of the Spirit have been hidden from the “wise and prudent,” but revealed unto “babes” (cf. Matthew 11:25). Certain Christian intelligentsia of the present dispensation, even though saved and in a position to understand the Word of God, too often seek spiritual discernment in the light of worldly wisdom rather than through comparing Scripture with Scripture and looking to the indwelling Spirit to lead them “into all truth” (John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:9-13).
And, although those Christians who seek spiritual discernment in this manner may often be looked upon as great spiritual leaders, theologians, expositors, etc.; they, in the final analysis, cannot understand these things. Such individuals can only be sadly lacking in the very realm where they are held in high esteem.
While at the same time, “babes” (Greek: nepios, those who are still on the milk of the Word and have not grown enough to even partake of solid food), by the leadership of the Spirit of God — as they compare Scripture with Scripture and look to the Spirit to lead them “into all truth” — can invariably be brought into an understanding of these things. They, by turning to the Word and looking to the Spirit for discernment and leadership, can understand more about these same spiritual truths than the “wise and prudent” who turn to places other than the Word and either ignore or reject the Spirit’s discernment and leadership.
Redeemed man, through a past and finished work of the Spirit, based on a past and finished work of Christ, has been brought from a dead to a living state spiritually. He has passed “from death into life.” And in this living state, he is now in a position to realize the purpose for his salvation — the salvation of his soul.
One aspect of salvation is past. The individual presently possesses eternal life, and nothing can ever change or nullify this fact. But the individual has been saved for a purpose, which will be brought to pass only within the framework of his realizing present and future aspects of salvation.
And this complete panorama of the salvation message, with a purpose in view, must be recognized. Redeemed man must recognize that there is not only a past aspect to salvation but present and future aspects as well. And the present and future aspects of salvation are inseparably connected with man one day being brought into a realization of the purpose for which he was created in the beginning — “. . . let them have dominion” (Genesis 1:26-28). Present and future aspects of salvation have to do with man occupying regal positions following the time when he, in that coming day, is brought into a realization of the salvation of his soul.
1) The Complete Salvation Issue
In order to effect man’s eternal redemption, the Spirit of God deals with unsaved man on one basis alone. The Spirit deals with unsaved man solely on the basis of Christ’s finished work at Calvary.
But once an individual has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and has been dealt with on the basis of Christ’s finished work, realizing the birth from above — the salvation of his spirit — the salvation issue then shifts from the salvation of his spirit, to the salvation of his soul. The salvation of the spirit becomes a past, completed work and is never dealt with as an issue beyond this point.
The Spirit of God, from this point forward, deals with the individual solely on the basis of present and future aspects of salvation. The individual, from this point forward, is dealt with in relation to the salvation of his soul.
Thus, all Scriptures dealing with carnality or unfaithfulness of Christians, resulting in forfeiture or loss, MUST pertain to issues surrounding the salvation of the soul, NEVER to issues surrounding the salvation of the spirit.
Once the salvation of the spirit has been effected, making it possible for the indwelling Spirit of God to impart spiritual truth into and control an individual’s life through his own spirit, then man’s unredeemed soul occupies the center of attention. And salvation now (in relation to the soul, not the spirit) becomes dependent on the actions of the individual.
Salvation now becomes dependent on the life one lives after his spirit has been saved. Salvation now becomes dependent on the individual allowing the Spirit of God to impart spiritual truth into and control his life through his own spirit.
An individual allowing the Spirit of God to impart spiritual truth into and control his life through his own spirit progressively grows from immaturity to maturity. He progressively grows into a spiritually mature Christian. Growing in this manner, he exerts control over his emotions, feelings, and desires pertaining to his man-conscious (soulical) existence. And, by this means, he will ultimately come into a realization of the salvation of his soul (life).
On the other hand, an individual who refuses to allow the Spirit of God to impart spiritual truth into and control his life in the preceding manner can only remain a carnally immature Christian. Apart from the assimilation of spiritual truth, resulting in spiritual growth, he cannot help but be controlled by his emotions, feelings, and desires pertaining to his man-conscious (soulical) existence.
And, accordingly, such a person will ultimately suffer the loss of his soul (life), which can have no bearing whatsoever on his eternal salvation (for that is a past, finished matter which has already been dealt with).
2) The Complete Salvation Message
The shift of the salvation issue from the spirit to the soul at the time of the birth from above necessitates a corresponding shift from the salvation message that is to be proclaimed to the unsaved (which concerns the salvation of the spirit) to the salvation message that is to be proclaimed to the saved (which concerns the salvation of the soul). This must ever be the case, for that which is past ceases to be the issue, and that which is present and future becomes the issue.
The only message to be carried to the unsaved is the gospel of grace. This is the good news that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” This message alone forms the basis upon which the Spirit can breathe life into the one having no life (1 Corinthians 15:3; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:1, 2).
But once the unsaved individual has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, experiencing the birth from above, the message must then change, for the goal of the message will have been realized. The Spirit must then deal with the individual on an entirely different plane, with the issue at the forefront no longer being the salvation of the spirit, but the salvation of the soul.
Thus, a minister with a congregation placed under his care has been charged with a tremendous responsibility. His central ministry is among the saved, among those capable of grasping spiritual truth; and he is to disseminate spiritual truth to these individuals as it relates to things surrounding present and future aspects of salvation, not to things surrounding the past aspect of salvation. He, in this manner, is to “feed the flock of God,” looking ahead to Christ’s appearance in all His glory (1 Peter 5:2-4).
This individual is responsible, under the leadership of the Spirit of God, to provide proper spiritual nourishment for those Christians placed under his care. And the only thing that God has provided for him to use as he feeds the flock of God is the Word of God.
As a minister in charge of a flock, he is to expound this Word under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. And Christians placed under his care are to receive this proclaimed Word into their saved human spirits. Then the Spirit of God can take this “implanted Word” and effect spiritual growth to maturity, with the end result being the salvation of their souls (James 1:21).
The tragedy in Christian circles today is the light regard that pastors of churches have for fulfilling the very purpose for their ministry. And, the end result of pastors failing to properly “feed the flock” entrusted to their care will be the entrance of innumerable carnal, immature Christians into the Lord’s presence at the end of the present dispensation with redeemed spirits, changed bodies, but wasted and thus unredeemed souls — forfeited lives. Their eternal salvation will remain unaffected; but, with the forfeiture or loss of their souls, they will be unable to realize the inheritance presently “reserved in heaven” for the faithful. Consequently, they will occupy no position among the “many sons” who will be brought to glory.
(The subject surrounding pastor-teachers and each having been entrusted with a flock, with a view to the salvation of not only the souls of the pastor-teachers but the souls of those in their flocks as well, is developed more fully in Chapter 8 of this book.)
Failure to understand and distinguish between the salvation that we presently possess and the salvation to be revealed when our Lord returns has wrought untold confusion in Christian circles.
Many Christians take Scriptures dealing with the salvation to be revealed and seek to apply them to the salvation that we presently possess. And misapplying Scripture in this manner, these individuals arrive at the erroneous conclusion that it is possible for a saved person to be lost, which not only casts reproach upon the sufficiency of the finished work of Christ at Calvary, but also does violence to numerous portions of the Word of God.
Then, on the other hand, there are those Christians who recognize that the loss of one’s eternal salvation is not possible, but still fail to understand distinctions between the salvation of the spirit and the salvation of the soul. Most from this group take many of these same verses and seek to either apply them to the nation of Israel or to unregenerate individuals, whether Jew or Gentile. And applications of this nature not only remove the Spirit’s exhortations and warnings to redeemed individuals, but erroneous interpretations in one area of Scripture will often, for the sake of consistency, lead to erroneous interpretations in other areas. Thus, the importance of understanding distinctions between the salvation of the spirit and the salvation of the soul becomes self-evident.
Let it be forever stated: Redeemed man has come into a position from which he can never be removed. But this same redeemed man, in this position, is directly responsible to his Creator; and, at a future date, he will either inherit as a joint-heir with his Lord or suffer loss in the presence of his Lord. The former will be realized through the salvation of his soul, or the latter will, instead, be realized through the loss of his soul.
This concluding section embodies two of the most encouraging passages of Scripture for Christians who endeavor to live for Jesus Christ. They indeed reflect the inspirational promise of the final image they will forever possess.
1 Corinthians 15:49-54, 58
And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” . . . Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
1 John 3:2, 3
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He [Jesus Christ] is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.