The Nature of Man
Man is a created being, the product of an omnipotent and omniscient God who by His loving nature formed us out of the dust of the ground and breathed us into existence. We are by design exactly what God intended us to be. Therefore, everything about us is capable of demonstrating something about the nature of God. For instance, God even uses our sin to demonstrate His love and mercy or His righteous judgment.
As you might expect in the creation account of Genesis, we find that we were created in the image of God. Quite naturally, that is assumed to mean something other than our physical resemblance to God. We can know this because the Bible tells us that God is Spirit. Therefore, our physical traits cannot be the means by which we "look like" God.
It is my belief that the phrase "created in the image of God" suggests that we are designed to reflect or portray the likeness or character of God. This is critically important when we understand that we cannot see God and live; yet, we are commanded to be like God (Holy). God, therefore, has designed us so that we have the potential of demonstrating the character of God. This potential is just that -- a potential. In reality we are born showing the character of man. But by God’s design we can demonstrate something else entirely -- the divine character of God. That is another subject called sanctification, which we will discuss later.
In the beginning God created man as a trinity with body, soul, and spirit. As we would expect, this reflects something of the nature of God, for He is a trinity -- the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Originally, man was able to fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden where he communicated directly with his Creator. Since God is Spirit (John 4:24) and He communicates with man Spirit to spirit (1 Corinthians 2:12-14), we can understand that in the beginning God, through His Spirit, indwelled man’s spirit. That allowed fellowship and communication directly with God. That is, in fact, a succinct description of spiritual life (to be "joined to", fellowship with, or communicate directly with God).
Since God is Love (John 4:8), we might also expect that God would have designed us so that we could demonstrate this aspect of His nature; for Love is a divine characteristic and not something that man is innately capable of generating himself (1 John 4:7). If man is to demonstrate this characteristic of God (and God Himself is Love), then man must love God. In order for man to demonstrate love, God gave man a free will. This was necessary because non-volitional or preprogrammed behavior cannot indicate love. As a means of expressing volition, God gave man a simple choice. In the creation setting man could do anything except eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. To disobey this command, God forewarned, would result in death that very day. When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, they died. They were cast out of the Garden of Eden and from the presence of God. This separation from God is spiritual death. Contrary to the presumption of some, spiritual death does not indicate the cessation of the existence of our spirit. Our spirit will exist eternally one way or the other. Existence with God is spiritual life while separation from God is spiritual death.
Once Adam died spiritually, he could no longer father children who were spiritually alive because he was spiritually dead. His children, therefore, were born in his image -- not in the image of God (Genesis 5:3-5). This means as children of Adam we are all born into this world with physical life but without spiritual life (that is, we are separated from God). We must be born again to receive spiritual life. The following diagram demonstrates the nature of unregenerate man. The practical application of this model will be demonstrated in our discussion of sanctification.
In its simplest form the trinity of man can be graphically represented at right as three concentric circles representing the body, soul and spirit of man. The next step in understanding how we function is to view the integral parts of each of these divisions of man.
The body of man is composed of twelve systems depicted in the outer red circle. The soul of man is composed of four separate parts noted in the blue middle circle. The inner yellow circle represents the spirit of unregenerate man. It has no "identity". It is simply a void. The basic "command center" of unregenerate man is the soul. From here decisions are made and instructions are passed on to the body. But the interesting part comes when we look at the graphic depiction of regenerated man. We will do that when we look at salvation and later sanctification.