Man's Relationship to God

Frederick William Grant

One last consideration before we close this section. It is very plain that, as distinguished from the beasts, man is in Scripture recognized as in a place of relationship with God; and this by creation, not redemption merely. Adam, as the work of God's hands, is in some sort, as the genealogy in Luke bears witness, “the son of God.”* The apostle confirms it by quoting from the heathen poet, "we are also His offspring"† (Acts xvii. 28). Now, although sin has so far destroyed the meaning of this as to make it an unavailing plea in the lips of carnal and ungodly men, yet the basis of relationship exists in spite of the fall, as these and other words assure us. And this is a relationship which plainly no beast could have. Its very nature denies it; and this is a distinction of the very greatest importance evidently.

* Luke iii. 38: where it is futile to object, as some do, that "the son" is not in the original. That it must be understood is plain from its being equally left out all through after the first time, and evidently merely to avoid repetition. Its occurrence in the first instance (ver. 23) is a perfect guide to the ellipse afterwards, and people might as well question "Seth" being the "(the son) of Adam," as "Adam" being here "(the son) of God."

† Which Mr. Morris would translate "His product," a sense the word never bears.

Man is fitted for acquaintance and intercourse with God, and in this shows himself; and in this I may say alone, a moral and accountable being. He may "not understand," and so he may become like the beasts that perish, but he is not one. In his manifest degradation even he is a witness of his nobler origin, for a beast cannot degrade itself. And with all this perilous capacity for evil, nay, with all the actuality of evil itself, he has the witness in himself of relationship to the Infinite and Eternal, which, in spite of himself, warns him of his responsibility, and links him by his hopes or by his fears, or both, with that life beyond death, in which, notwithstanding the seeming protest of all his senses, he almost universally believes.

In thus asserting with the inspired historian, and with the apostle, man's distinct place in nature as a "son of God," I do not at all forget the Lord's words to those who made this very thing their plea. When they had put forth their claim, "We be not born of fornication: we have one Father, even God," I perfectly remember that His answer is, "If God were your Father, ye would love me,... ye are of your father the devil" (John viii. 42, 44). But this language is in no wise contradictory of the other, as of course it could not be. For the Lord says the same as to their being Abraham's children, and that certainly they were by natural generation however little morally such. It is of their moral condition then He is speaking. The devil was not their father physically of course. The Lord's words then do not touch the question of their being physically God's offspring, as the apostle asserts.

But we are not only said to be the offspring of God, it is precisely pointed out that He is the Father (in contrast with the flesh) of our spirits. "Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh, who corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live?" (Heb. xii. 9.)

Who can deny with any appearance of success: that we have here the development, by an inspired writer, of what the creation of man, as given in Gen. ii., implies? We have seen the bodily frame formed of the dust of the ground, and though God wrought in a special way to fashion it, as He did not with the beast, yet He does not claim to be the Father of our flesh. But we have seen also that man became a "living soul," not in that way, nor as brought forth of the earth at all, but by the inbreathing of God into him. This is not said of the beast; and, phenomenal as the language is, it is only therefore the more, instead of the less, significant. If God did not want to convey to us an idea of what would be literally expressed by it, He must have intended to convey the thought of some corresponding spiritual reality.

And what can this be, but that the spiritual part which animates and controls the bodily organism is something from Himself and akin to Himself in a way that the body is not?

Here then the apostle develops this thought. He is not the Father, though the Creator, of our flesh. It is not the bare fact of our creaturehood that constitutes us His children. The beasts are His creatures also, but are not His. He is the Father of our spirits, not our flesh; nay, not merely of our spirits, but of spirits, - of all this class of beings. Creatures though these are, they are yet in a relationship to Him that no lower creatures can be. Thus we see why the angels are "Sons of God" (Job i. 6; xxxviii. 7). as "spirits; " and man too, he is a " spirit" and a son."

Note too how careful the language is. Man has a living soul and is one: and this too by the inbreathing of God. Yet is God not said to be the Father of his soul but of his spirit. How this harmonizes with the spirit being the distinct speciality of man alone in all this lower world! Had it said, "Father of souls," or had the beast, as men contend, a spirit, God would have been represented as Father of the beasts of the field. But the language is precise, as all Scripture is, and in harmony with Scripture and with nature.

But this is not the whole of what the Word states. As He is the Father, so is He "the God of the spirits of all flesh" (Numb. xvi. 22, xxvii. 16); "all flesh" being of course here what it is in many other places "all men," but characterized by what in him is only his lowest part. So we find (Gen. vi. 12) that before the flood "all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth," and in Luke iii. 6, "all flesh shall see the salvation of God:" of course in either case all mankind, and only these.

In this expression then, "the God of the spirits of all flesh," we see again God in relationship with the spirit of man. The beast has no God that can be called his God; and man, forgetting God and living to himself, becomes a beast. The outward presentation of this you may find in Nebuchadnezzar finding his portion with the beasts (Dan. iv.); the moral of it is in Psa. xlix., "Man being in honour and understanding not is like the beasts that perish." Their perishing is the fruit of there being no proper link with God, such as man has.

Thus then we have in a very striking way, and as confirming all that has gone before, man's link with God to be his spirit, - relationship, moral character, responsibility, and even his perpetuity of being, all bound up with this.

Let us now gather up the Scripture statements upon the subject we hare been examining: -

1. The body is not the whole man, for he is often said to be in it or absent from it, clothed with it or unclothed. Thus for faith the body is the clothing of the man, and his "tabernacle," which supposes an inhabitant. Paul has a vision of unutterable things, and does not know whether he was in the body or out of the body at the time he saw them.

2. In the language of sense man is identified with the body; for faith, with what dwells in it. The Lord lay in Joseph's tomb, yet confessedly His divine nature did not lie there.

3. Man is spirit and soul and body.

4. Spirit is not an universal principle floating in the atmosphere, but a separate entity in every individual, "spirit of man," "spirits of men." It was formed within him by the Lord, and all his knowledge is ascribed to it This spirit the beast has not.

5. The soul is not the body, but in the body. Beasts have and are living souls, and man is called a soul to distinguish him from the rest of intelligent creatures, who are called "spirits." The soul is the link also between the spirit and the body, the life of the latter while in connection with it; the seat of affection, nay, of appetite, lusts, etc.

6. It thus characterizes the man himself, so as to be identified with him, soul and person being used as the same thing, while in the intermediate disembodied state the general term for him is that he is a spirit.

7. Again the soul is that through which man was seduced and fell, and which characterizes the natural man as led by it. It is thus specially connected in Scripture with will and lust, with sin and with atonement.

8. By the possession of a spirit distinguishing him from beast man is in relationship with God, the Father and God of spirits, and is a moral, responsible being, made for eternity in contrast with the "beasts that perish."

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