Man was created by God in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). This meant that Adam and Eve were created without sin, though they had the capacity to choose to sin. They had the ability to reason, to enjoy beauty, to converse with God and with one another, to experience emotion, and to be able to tend the garden. Man is the crowning point of God’s creation, the final thing that He made. He called man good, though it was not good for him to be alone. Woman is the complement of man, a helper suitable for him (Genesis 2:18).
Man is not a cosmic accident or merely a bundle of cells and neurons. Man is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Only God could think up three dimensional vision, the supercomputer called the brain, language, and DNA, just to name a few of His fingerprints on this special part of the creation. Yet man is but dust (Genesis 2:7), and to dust he will return. Man is dependent upon the Creator for life and breath (Genesis 2:7).
The original plan of God was for man to live forever. The tree of life was available for them to eat in the garden so that they could live forever. Yet they chose to eat from the one tree that they were told not to eat from, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Perfect bliss was to be ignorant of evil and just be good and do good all the time. God’s plan was for joy and pleasure, but Satan’s was for pain and death. The penalty for man’s disobeying God was that sin came into the world, man would die, childbirth would be painful, and work would be toilsome. Even creation has been marred and stained, thus it cries out for its renewal (Romans 3:22). Things aren’t as they always were, how they ought to be, or how they will be when God creates a new heaven and earth.
Man’s purpose was and still is to enjoy God and bring Him glory, but the first man, Adam, disobeyed God and fell into sin. The consequence of Adam’s sin is that all men, except for Christ who was born of the Spirit, inherit a sinful tendency (Romans 5:14). In addition, all men are subject to physical death and deserving of the wrath of God (Romans 6:23). All mankind is born with a sinful nature and, left to himself, he is unable to please God by making himself holy.
The fall- when man first sinned and brought the curse of God on to the world (Genesis 3)
original sin- man is born with a corrupt nature, bent toward evil and rebellion (1 Corinthians 15:22, Romans 3:23)
Man clearly is in a fallen, problematic state. He, by nature, is more prone to evil than good. As Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” Man’s desires and longings are not for good but for evil. He is helpless to do good consistently or to love as Christ loved. Man by nature is selfish, chasing after the wind by always comparing himself to his neighbor. As Ecclesiastes 4:4 says, “I have seen that every labor and every skill which is done is the result of rivalry between a man and his neighbor. This too is vanity and striving after wind.” Since somebody always has something more or does something better, no one ever arrives or becomes what they want to be. Man falls short of the glory of God because of his sin (Romans 3:23).
Man is part material (since he is made from dust) and part immaterial (since dust cannot live forever). The material will die (the first death) and the immaterial will also be doomed to eternity in hell (the second death described in Revelation 21:8). Man’s hope is not in finding a way to make the material last forever, for that is impossible. His hope is not in trying to get all that he can out of his vain seventy or eighty years on earth. His hope is that his immaterial being will live on in eternity. Yet he is grossly misled about how to live forever and in where to place his hope (the work of his deceitful heart). Man is the master of self-justification, always believing that he is good enough that God will accept him. He is always able to make himself look good by finding somebody worse to whom he can compare himself.
The material part of man is simply his body. The immaterial part of man is made up of soul and spirit. The spirit is the part of man that lives forever, and the soul includes the mind, will, personality, and emotions. Some say that the soul and spirit are separate, while others say that they are the same. I tend to believe that there are three parts: body, soul, and spirit given passages like 1 Thessalonians 5:23 which list all three.
Old man- the essence of our being before knowing Christ; it is corrupt, fallen, sin-stained, and prone to evil
New man- that which is a new spiritual creation; includes a heart that is not fundamentally evil, has a heart indwelt by Christ, and is able to progressively take dominion over sin and the flesh
“Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him-- a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”
Flesh- anything that is of ourselves and not of faith or by the work of Christ in us; that which makes us still vulnerable to sin; we can walk either after the flesh or after the Spirit (see Galatians 5)
Heart- the center of our being; the real us; the seat of our deepest loves and affections (Proverbs 4:23, Psalm 37:4)
Man is born with a sinful self and nature. Upon being saved, the old nature (old man) is put to death. As Romans 6:6 says, “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, confirming this truth, that “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” The old man had a heart that was set on sin and desperately sick, deceitful, and wicked. God gives us a new heart by creating within us a new man with a new nature that has the capacity to love God and others fully as Christ does. The new man is not enslaved to sin. The Christian has the ability by the grace of God to resist the devil and to choose not to give into temptation. Yet there are hidden sins that we don’t even know about that the Holy Spirit must reveal to us so that we can repent of them (Psalm 90:8). Fortunately, the sacrifice of Christ has justified us so that we don’t have to pay the penalty for sin that we are unaware of. We can trust God to show us how we ought to change and to reveal secret sins to us so that we can grow up into maturity in Christ. The goal is that we do not continue sinning despite our imperfection. As 1 Peter 4:1-2 says, “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” When we sin, we are to repent of it immediately.
The Christian is not part old man and part new man. He is all new man which is still in a sanctifying process to be made into total conformity to Christ. When the Scripture tells us to put off the old man and put on the new man, this is simply referring to a reckoning of what has already been done to actually be true in our present time, circumstance, and situation. The old man is dead, and we must believe that and act accordingly, putting on Christ, Who is our life (Colossians 3:4).
The new man still has flesh, which means that even believers have the capacity to sin (not a novel revelation). The Christian still has areas that need to be brought into subjection to Christ. His mind needs to be transformed to be like Christ (Romans 12:1-2). The Holy Spirit needs to be more and more at home in our hearts as He conforms all of our wants and desires to His own (Ephesians 3:17). The Christian is not perfect, though He will be one day be perfect in heaven.
The objective for the Christian is to daily deny the passions of the flesh and any selfish desires and lusts. He must remember that he has crucified the flesh with all of its passions and desires when He was saved (Galatians 5:24). The old man is dead, but the flesh still hangs on. Operating after the flesh is anything that we do to feed ourselves rather than drawing from the resources of Christ. We walk after the flesh when we sin and when we don’t trust Christ. Whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23). Only when we are taken to be with Christ will the flesh be removed. It is a reminder of whom we used to be. Yet, because of Christ in us, we do not have to go on letting sin and the flesh tell us how we ought to live (Romans 6:12). We do not have to give into its lusts. Romans 13:14 tells us “to make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” We aren’t forced to yield to the flesh, but we are able to make a choice to go against the Spirit, grieving Him, and choosing to give in to temptation. Sadly, we can and do sometimes choose to give in to temptation, feeding the flesh, which otherwise would have had no power over us. We sin when we are carried away by our own lust (James 1:14). Each day we can choose to live for self or for Christ. We can let Him reign in our mortal bodies, or we can let sin reign in our members. 1 Peter 2:11 tells us that we need to abstain from fleshly lusts “which wage war against the soul.” Sin mars our ability to think right, to make right choices, and to feel the proper feelings. Giving into lust will corrupt the soul and keep us from bearing fruit for the kingdom and being made like Christ. Fortunately, we can have victory through Christ (Romans 5:17), who provides a way out of temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).
The unbeliever indulges the flesh by promoting self, loving self, and protecting self. The Christian is concerned about promoting Christ, loving Christ, and looking out for the welfare of others, even at the expense of self. If this isn’t the case, one needs to evaluate the status of his relationship with Christ. There ought to be at least some fruit (Matthew 7:20) which gives evidence of being born again and being made a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Man is made for relationship with God and without it, He can never find fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). He can have feelings of happiness and pleasure, but the deepest longings of his heart and soul can never be met outside of Christ. In heaven, man will be doing what he was made to do, praising God without any sin nature or flesh holding him back. Our mortal bodies which are perishable will be exchanged and transformed into that which is imperishable, so that we can be with our Lord and worship Him forever (1 Corinthians 15:52-54).