07 May 2009

Systematic Theology--Lesson 6, the doctrine of man

Over the last few weeks we have been studying some of the major doctrines found in the Bible. Today we are going to talk about a doctrine that if we miss this—we miss the gospel. Completely. Not a matter of “maybe” or “perhaps.” If we do not have a correct view of who we are—in Christ, and apart from Christ—then the gospel is not gospel. Because in so many churches these days, the message of the cross has been lost, and most people look at church as a way to get a weekly fix of feel-good psychology. The “gospel” in many churches today sounds something like this: “You're a good person. God loves you and accepts you just the way you are. And He has wonderful things planned for you!” That, my friends, is rubbish! The gospel is not about God’s “wonderful plan for your life.” Because let’s face it—if a person is in rebellion against God, if a person does not know they are a sinner, and that they must repent of their sins; if they are never told WHY Jesus had to die—God may have a plan for them. But is it very wonderful? How will they know they need to be saved if no one tells them? Today we are going to discuss the doctrine of man. Our beliefs about God and who He is are of utmost importance. Our beliefs about who we are need to line up with Scripture also. If we don’t understand that we are sinners in need of a Savior, we may never call on him, and we may die in our sins.

What should be the number one goal of our lives? What is the chief end of man? Romans 11:36For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. Colossians 1:16All things were created through Him and for Him. Mark 12:30-31“The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” That’s what we are here for. To love God and to love one another—these are the things we are commanded to do. Do we do them the way we should? Yeah, right. We’re going to see why today. First, let’s look at The Creation of Man. And to do that we start with The Distinctiveness of Man’s Creation. God gave us consciousness of three things. First, A Consciousness of Deity. Genesis 1:26-27Then 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 in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Did Adam know that God was God? Genesis 2:16And the God YHVH 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.” Adam knew that God was God. That is something every person has. Romans 1:20-21For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God. Every person is born knowing there is a God. Some choose to believe He does not exist. But just because they choose to not retain Him in their thoughts, that does not mean He is any less real.

Even the most primitive tribes in Africa or South America—those people know they're not the top rung of the ladder. They know there is One greater than themselves. No one has to tell them—they know. Time out—they do need to be told who that One is. Knowing there is a God is different than worshipping the TRUE God. There are people who say, “Well, at least they believe in something. Everybody needs a higher power. My higher power is this little wooden doll or this little brass statue of a fat guy sitting on the floor smiling.” Just because someone has a consciousness of deity does not mean they know God. Even Satan knows God is God.

Next we have A Consciousness of Depravity. These same tribes, they may have never heard of Christ, never heard the words, “Thou shalt not kill”—do those people know that murder is a bad thing? Did Adam know that if he ate of that tree He would be disobeying God? Romans 2:14-15, one of the few times you will hear me quote from a paraphrase, but I like how the New Living Translation puts it--Even when Gentiles, who do not have God's written law, instinctively follow what the law says, they show that in their hearts they know right from wrong. They demonstrate that God's law is written within them… Third, we have A Consciousness of Destiny. Ecclesiastes 3:10-11 (NASB)He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. In other words, man has a set, definite period. Then he will die. But, man knows that he is eternal, man knows that God is eternal, and we cannot see God’s work from eternity to eternity. We know that there is more after we die.

What we call death is simply this body falling asleep. We are all guaranteed an eternal existence. But eternal life only comes through Christ. That’s the distinctiveness of man’s creation. Next we look at The Details of Man’s Creation. We have A Body. How did the first man get that body? “Ooh! I know! Billions of years ago…there were monkeys! And later on they evolved into human beings!” And those same people call the Bible a fairy tale! Genesis 2:7And God made man from the dust of the ground. We have A Soul, which is made of Mind, Will, and Emotions. And we have A Spirit. There is a difference between the soul and the spirit. The soul is what we use to relate to the world around us. It is through our spirit that we relate to God. 1st Thessalonians 5:23Now 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. Spirit, soul, body--three separate distinct parts that make up one person. Hebrews 4:12the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit. Soul and spirit, again, separate and distinct from one another. It is our spirit that must be renewed by the Holy Spirit in order to know Christ.

Which brings us to The Fall of Man. All Adam had to do was keep his grubby paws off that one tree. And he couldn’t even do that. Genesis 3:1-2 (KJV)Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the God YHVH had made. And he said unto the woman, “Hath God indeed said, ‘Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’” And the woman said unto the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, ‘Ye shall not eat of it.’” Eve, Stop right there! All she would have had to say was "God hath said." But she didn’t. She tried to debate Satan. When Satan was tempting Christ in the wilderness, did He debate Satan? No. what did He do? Time after time, He came back with, “It is written…” If God says it’s sin—there’s no discussion—it’s sin! Don’t do it! But Eve didn’t stop. And the woman said unto the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, ‘Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.’” And what did she do there? She added to the word of God. And don't we see that all around us. The Mormons, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Papists. They all take what God has said very clearly in His word, and they add to it, thinking they are being more spiritual, and that God's word isn't enough, and they add their vile words to it. And Satan laughs.

Now, Eve didn't do this because she was stupid or ignorant—it’s because Satan is that powerful. When she said this, Satan responded in the same way he responds to anyone who claims to be a Christian when they pray about whether they should sin or not. They pray about whether they should leave their spouse for another person, or, as in the case of the Episcopal bishop who opened the most recent presidential inauguration, divorcing his wife and moving in with his boyfriend. Eve tells the serpent, “God hath said, ‘Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.’” And the serpent said........

"Ye shalt not surely die!"

"God just knows that when you eat it you'll be like Him! And He doesn’t want that!Genesis 3:6-7And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. Eve committed the first sin—but it was because of Adam taking and eating that sin entered the world. Romans 5:12Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. And here we begin The Consequences of the Fall of Man. First we find Death in Spirit. It is Inherited. Psalm 51:5--Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Adam ate of the fruit. And because of that one act of disobedience sin entered the world, and because sin entered the world, it brought death with it.

That sin of Adam was passed along to each and every single human being. It is in our spiritual DNA. There’s nothing we can do about it. Just like physical DNA gets passed along—we are all born with 2 arms, two legs, and so on. One other thing that gets passed on to every child that had a human father is sin and death. Science has come a long way in treating and preventing physical birth defects. They can even do surgery on a child while he is still in the womb. But guess what. Sin and death is a spiritual defect science can never get rid of. James 1:14-15But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. And guess how many people have NEVER sinned? One. Romans 3:23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That is why Christ had to be born of a virgin—so He would not receive the stain of sin we inherit from our fathers.

That is one doctrine that has come under attack more brutally and more forcefully than ever before. The virgin birth of Christ is not a doctrine we can compromise on. If someone has learned about the virgin birth, had learned the reason for the virgin birth, and ultimately denies the virgin birth, then I do not believe that we cannot call them a brother in Christ. If Christ was not born of a virgin, He was not who He said He was. He would have inherited sin, He would have been a sinner, and He would have needed to have been saved before He could have saved anybody else. Hebrews 7:26-27We have a High Priest who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s. In the OT, the high priest had to offer sacrifices for his own sins, then and only then could he offer up sacrifices for the people’s sins. But we have a high priest who does not need to offer sacrifices for His own sins because HE NEVER HAD ANY SINS! And if He did not give up His life, He would still be alive today. We die because of sin. Christ had no sin. No one took His life—He gave it up.

When we are born we begin to die because of the sin we inherit—and because we have a Depraved Nature. We are born selfish creatures. Question--What do we have to do in order to be lost? Answer--Be born. We are born in sin. We are born with a spirit that says, “I don’t want anything to do with God. I am God!” Does a mother or father have to teach their children how to be selfish? Imagine this for a moment: take two infants. Put them in an empty room. They’ll be OK for a few minutes. Then walk back in, and put one toy in between them. What’s gonna happen? “That’s MY toy!” “No, it’s MY toy!” Ephesians 2:1-3And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. If you ever want to read a passage that shows us just how fallen and sinful and depraved we human beings are, read Romans 3. The whole thing. Here's a sample:

Romans 3:9-20What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: there is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

We’ll see next week how people who say, “I'm saved because I keep the Ten Commandments,” are actually condemning themselves. When some people look at all the things going on in the world—war and famine and death and violence—what is the usual question they ask? “If God is a loving God, why doesn’t He do something about…” Sickness, or disease or poverty or starving children, etc etc etc. That is the entirely wrong question. God is not sitting back twiddling His thumbs, fretting about “Oh no! What am I going to do about all the bad things in the world?” He is not sitting by passively while all these things take place. God is, right now, holding back the evil hearts of men from doing what they want to do more than anything. If God were not holding back these evil hearts, mankind would have ceased to exist thousands of years ago.

Think about it—murder isn't something that just started a couple weeks ago. When did the first murder take place? Another question they ask is: “Why does God allow so much suffering?” No, no, no, no no. That’s not the question. The real question is, “Why doesn’t God allow MORE suffering than He does?” First of all, how much suffering do we deserve? That’s the heart of the question—“We don’t deserve to suffer this much!” Oh friend, we deserve every ounce of suffering we go through. Every time something bad happens in our life—we deserve it. Because we are born with a spirit that spits in the face of God and tramples His Son underfoot. We are all capable of the most horrific acts of hatred and violence imagineable. But try telling that to a mother.

Try telling her, “Your child could grow up to be the next Hitler.” What kind of a response will you get? “You’re horrible! You're awful! You're a monster! My little boy—my innocent little boy—the next Hitler?? Are you out of your mind??” Listen friends. Every single person who exits the womb has the full capability to be the most horrific monster that has ever walked the face of the earth. We are not “good people.” We are gross, we are sick, we are sinful, and we are haters of God. And it is only by His grace we are not who we really long to be in our heart of hearts. Can you imagine if someone had told a certain set of parents who were raising a little boy in Austria back in the 1920's that by the time their “innocent little Adolf” would die, he would make the name Hitler synonymous with genocide? If you had told them “innocent little Adolf” would be one of the most gruesome men to ever live? There was a first “Hitler.” And it’s only by the grace of God that there hasn’t been a second one—yet.

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