The Nature of Man

The thought that the body is a vehicle for our soul is not a biblical view. This is a pagan view on the nature of man. A view that looks for an escape from the body and focusses on the escalation of the soul. Man was not a created as a house to be inhabited by a previously prepared soul

“then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (Genesis 2:7 ESV)

In regard to the creation and nature of man we hold:
1. The body was created good. In creation the body is made and there is nothing inherently sinful making it a source of sin. Sin begins in the spirit of man. There is a distinction in humanity from everything, and that is that we are fashioned in the image of God the Creator.
2. Death is not natural for man. Human death is the consequence of sin.
3. Body and spirit are not in conflict. The human person is the unity of the two and is the image of God.

To hold the position that the body was created intrinsically good does not mean that the created body had the qualities that it would have if Adam had succeeded in his probationary period. Just because there was no evil in the body, doesn’t mean that additional qualities could be added to it.

This understanding has implications to how we understand other parts of Scripture:
1. Sin. The body is not the seat of sin. The body does become depraved in the Fall and then it becomes the agent of sin and our members instruments of unrighteousness leading to sin.

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” (Romans 6:6 ESV)

The significance of this is in the tendency to think of the body as not part of the person. Therefore when we incorrectly think the body is not part of our person the body is exempt in our strive to holiness. However this is simply not the case. Humanity is body and therefore sin of the body are just as grievous as the sin of the spirit.

2. Death. In death the body of the dead person is buried and not simply “a body”. When we bury a body we bury a person. Jesus was buried. Jesus was raised from the dead. The angel says

“He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”(Matthew 2:9; 28:6 ESV)

Christ tells us that the dead will hear him

“Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice” (John 5:28 ESV)

And of course there is Lazarus that Jesus calls forth and the daughter of Jairus he commands to rise. Believers are dead in Jesus. And when a person dies they are still identified with the body that disintegrates into dust.

3. The Incarnation of the Son of God. Jesus’ human nature was body and spirit. Taking human nature into his person he is human and therefore body and spirit, for this is what it is to be human. He is begotten in a supernatural way but in the incarnation he is not other than human. He is from woman and the seed of David.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,” (Galatians 4:4 ESV)

This point is so important to the Apostles that they bind the confession to include the bodily identity of Jesus. If one were to deny the bodily life, death, or resurrection of Jesus they deny the faith as a whole.

4. The Resurrection. If we deny that the resurrection of Jesus was bodily then we deny the resurrection as a whole. Jesus resurrected and ascended in body to heaven where he is now. The resurrection of Jesus gives believers something to look forward to.

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11 ESV)
“who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:21 ESV)

Christ in his second coming is seen and experienced with the senses.

“so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”  (Hebrews 9:28 ESV)

This communicates something significant to us. That the physical is important in the final event of salvation and in the state of glorification. It isn’t a realm of spirits we look forward to, but a real of bodily persons.

5 The Judgment. We are judged for those things we have done through our bodies.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”  (2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV)

What we do in our life time matters with regard to the final judgment and our eternal state. There is not other sphere we live (such as purgatory) that can serve to influence the decision of our judgment.

“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27 ESV)

The biblical doctrine of human nature demonstrates there are two aspects of humanity. Murray accurately says one from the earth that is material, corporeal, and divisible and the other is by a distinct action of God and is not material, not corporeal, indivisible and indestructible. Together they form the organic unit of a person. They are sophisticatedly integrated to depend on each other in ways that are beyond our comprehension. Some helpful resources for this topic are: John Murray’s essay on the Nature of Man is in his Collected Writings Vol. 2, Horton’s The Christian Faith chapter 12, Berkhof Systematic Theology p191-195, and Calvin’s Institutes I.XV.2