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Lectures in Biblical Theology
of The New Testament
by C. D. Cole
Lecture 6 of 23
The Teaching of Jesus Christ Concerning Man
What our Lord Jesus Christ taught about man is far removed from the popular conception as well as from what we find in many theologies. Christ did not teach that there is a spark of goodness in every man that needs only to be fanned into a flame. According to His teaching every man needs to be born from above in order to have life and entrance into the kingdom of God. He used many metaphors to illustrate the awful havoc sin has wrought in the human race. Sin is blindness, sickness, bondage, and darkness, and debt. He never talked about men being good at heart. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies,” (Matt. 15:19). He corrected the false notion that man is defiled by something from the outside. The Jews washed their hands to keep morally defiling germs from entering the body through the mouth. But Jesus taught that defilement is of the heart; that human nature has been depraved by sin. What the author of our text book (Dr. W. T. Conner) says about man being a spiritual being made in God's image needs to be amplified, if not corrected. Christian Science, falsely so-called, insists that man is in the image of God and, therefore, cannot be a sinner. But this is to deny the fall of the race in Eden. I would not speak of man as a spiritual being in his fallen state. I would distinguish between natural and moral image. The lost man is in the natural image of God, which means that he is a person with all the attributes of personality. But in the fall man lost the moral image of God as a holy being. Fallen man, like God, is a person, but he is not like God as a holy person. The old man (the unregenerate man) is corrupt, the new man (the regenerate man) is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him. “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness,” (Eph. 4:2224). “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him,” (Col. 3:910). Man in his natural state since the fall is not a child of God, but a child of wrath. “ Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others,” (Eph. 2:3).
I.CHRIST TAUGHT THAT GOD LOVES SINNERS
Christ came to seek and save the lost. He did not come in the interest of good people but to save bad people. In the parable of the Pharisee and Publican, Jesus taught that to be justified one had to take the place of a sinner. The Pharisee, who thought he was good and boasted of it, went home a condemned man, while the publican, conscious of his sinnership, went home justified. Every man is qualified for salvation by being lost, but in conversion he becomes qualified by his realization of his lost condition. “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted,” (Matt. 23:12). Men, do not have to be good to be saved; they have to be consciously bad.
II.CHRIST TEACHES THE WORTH OF MAN
And He does this by way of comparison.
1. He compares man with the material world. The eternal welfare of the human soul is worth more than the whole world. ...”What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). Men are prone to ignore eternal interests for the sake of paltry gain in this life. There is nothing so valuable as the human soul. This stems, not from any moral goodness in man, but from the fact that he is the acme of God's creation and made for fellowship with God, and from the further fact of man's potential in the matter of eternal joy on the one hand, and eternal misery on the other hand. No other creatures, unless it be the angels, have such capacity for joy and misery.
2. Christ compares man with the animal creation as to worth. Man is much better than a sheep. “How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days,” (Matt. 12:12). He says this in answer to His critics who had blamed Him for healing a man on the sabbath. He reminds them of what they would do in rescuing a sheep which might fall into a pit on the sabbath. And if they would do that for a sheep, what should be done for a man who is better than a sheep?
3. He compares man with religious institutions. “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath,” (Mark 2:27). The sabbath was made to be a blessing, and not a burden. But this liberty concerning the sabbath must not be abused. The sabbath was made for rest and worship, and not for fleshly gratification. And it is a blessing only when properly observed. In His teaching on the sabbath Christ said there are three kinds of works permitted on the sabbath: works of mercy in helping the needy; works of necessity relieving hunger as in the case of plucking grain by His disciples; and works of religious instruction.
A look at the Decalogue will reveal a difference between the fourth and the other nine commandments. The fourth gives us our duty towards an institution, while the other nine give us our duty to persons: God and man. The fourth commandment is predominantly ceremonial, while the other nine are wholly moral in their nature. And Christ taught that the ceremonial must give way to human need since it was given for the good of man. The Sabbath as an institution is not on par with the great moral precepts, which are unchangeable. It needs to be observed that while Christ pushed the moral precepts of the Decalogue into the inner realm of thought and desire, thus making them more difficult to keep, He gave a more lenient interpretation of the law of the Sabbath on the ground that it was made for man as a blessing. It should also be observed that the nine moral precepts of the Decalogue are given over and over again in the New Testament, while there is not a single command to keep the seventh day. Moreover, the seventh day Sabbath was given to a specific people in a specific place for a specific purpose. It was given to the nation of Israel, redeemed from Egyptian bondage and brought into the land of Canaan, for a sign between them and God. “And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day,” (Deut. 5:15). “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you,” (Ex. 31:13). Paul taught that the ceremonial aspect of the sabbath was done away with by Christ on the cross. “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days,” (Col. 2:1316).
III.WHAT JESUS TAUGHT ABOUT THE SOUL
He distinguished between soul and body. “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell,” (Matt. 10:28). From this verse one would judge that man is constituted of soul and body. Jesus must have meant the whole man so far as his constitution is concerned. In speaking of man's moral nature He says “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” (Matt. 26:41). He is here speaking of the two natures of the saved man. The nature received in the physical birth and the nature received in the spiritual birth. The regenerate man has two natures: flesh and spirit. We are sometimes challenged to give a specific text that teaches the immortality of the soul. “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell,” (Matt. 10:28). This teaches it by implication, man can kill the body, but not the soul. But God can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. And this will not be destruction of being, but of wellbeing. We might make the counter challenge and ask for a text that says the soul is mortal.
Dr. Conner says that Jesus seems to assume or take for granted that man lives after death. He speaks of the resurrection of the righteous to a new kind of existence. It will not be a flesh and blood existence, involving marriage and propagation of mankind. There will be no increase of the human race in the eternal state. Our Lord's answer to the Sadducees proves that He believed in a continuation of human existence in a resurrection life. He quotes the words of God to Moses at the burning bush: “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living,” (Matt. 22:32). The Sadducees insisted that physical death ended conscious existence; hence there could be no resurrection.
Moreover, Christ speaks of the punishment of the wicked in a future state of existence. He speaks of Gehenna as, “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched,” (Mk. 9:44).
IV.WHAT JESUS TAUGHT ABOUT SIN
1. He describes sin as a debt, a defaulting in one's obligation to God. He taught His disciples to pray to be forgiven their debts. “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” (Matt. 6:12). In the parable of the creditor and debtors, He taught that men cannot pay their moral debt to God. “There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty,” (Luke 7:41). And here He taught degrees in guilt, one man owed 500 pence while the other owed only 50 pence. They differed in the amount they owed, but were alike in that they had nothing with which to pay. The parable also teaches that one's gratitude is measured by his conception of salvation. The sinful woman in the case thought of herself as a great sinner who had been forgiven much. She expressed her gratitude by washing Christ's feet with her tears, drying them with the hairs of her head, kissing his feet and anointing them with ointment. She loved much because she realized she had been forgiven much. Most Christians are shallow in their feeling of guilt and gratitude. It is little sin, little salvation, and little service. We must realize that we are great sinners, if we are to be grateful for a great salvation.
2. Christ warned against the unpardonable sin. “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come,” (Matt. 12:31-32). “Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation. Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit,” (Mark 3:2830). “And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven,” (Luke 12:10). In these three passages we have all that is directly said about the sin that hath no forgiveness. And here we have this particular sin defined and described; we are told what it is and how it is committed. And in the context we have a case given: certain Jews had attributed the work of Christ in healing one possessed with a demon, to the power of Beelzebub, the prince of the demons. They blasphemed the Holy Spirit by Whom Christ cast out the demon, by calling Him an unclean spirit. They were blaspheming both Christ and the Holy Spirit, but it was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit for which there was no forgiveness.
We must distinguish between the one unpardonable sin and an unpardoned sin. All sins of the impenitent are unpardoned, but they are not all unpardonable. The sin that hath no forgiveness is plainly said to be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Any and every sin against Christ may be pardoned on repentance and faith. And all sins against the decalogue may be pardoned inasmuch as Christ died to redeem from the curse of the law. And many sins against the Holy Spirit may be pardoned, such as grieving Him, resisting Him, and quenching Him. There is only one kind of sin that cannot be pardoned, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This is a sin for which Christ did not die, and a sin for which the Holy Spirit will not convict, and this is because God will not forgive it. According to the popular view, the unpardonable sin is unbelief or the rejection of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. We cannot adopt this view for several reasons. First, this makes it a sin against Christ, whereas we are plainly told that it is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. And we do not see how unbelief can be equated, with blasphemy of the Spirit. However, none but an unbeliever will blaspheme against the Spirit. Moreover, it is a sin for which there is no forgiveness, either in this world or in the world to come. But all of us were unbelievers at one time, and being convicted of this sin by the Holy Spirit, repented and put our faith in Jesus as the Christ. Of course, nobody can be saved as long as be rejects Christ as Saviour, but all lost people have not committed the unpardonable sin. Another view held by many makes the unpardonable sin the resisting of the Holy Spirit. According to this view the Holy Spirit strives with sinners in an effort to regenerate them, and is overcome by the sinner's resistance, and gives up the effort. In other words, there are some sinners who are so bad that the Holy Spirit cannot regenerate or convert them. We cannot subscribe to this theory for the simple reason that it makes a sinner mightier than the Holy Spirit, thus making man mightier than God. In Acts seven Stephen charges some Jews with resisting the Holy Spirit, just as their fathers had in olden times. And he tells how they resisted the Spirit. They resisted the Spirit by rejecting the message of the prophets and persecuting them. There is an objective ministry of the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the gospel of Christ, and when the gospel is rejected and the messengers mistreated, the Holy Spirit is resisted. But this is not the same as overcoming His subjective ministry in the work of regeneration or a new creation. When the Holy Spirit comes to grips with a human soul for the purposes of regeneration, He does not try in vain, He suffers no failure, for He gives understanding of the gospel and overcomes the natural enmity of the heart. We can pray for the worst of men with the assurance that the Holy Spirit is able to convert them to faith in Christ. It is our bounden duty and blessed privilege to preach Christ to all men: it is the prerogative of the Holy Spirit to make our preaching effective by removing from the human soul that which causes the rejection of the gospel. A church covenant adopted by many Baptist churches begins with these words: “Having been led, as we believe, by the Spirit of God, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour...”. Paul gives us the same truth when he says, “Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought,” (1 Cor. 2:6). And may one and all, give the Lord Jesus all credit for providing salvation, and the Holy Spirit credit for making us Christians, remembering that we are but ministers through whom men believe, even as the Lord gives to every man. “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God,” (1 Cor. 2:5).
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