Thinking out of the Box

November 15, 2011

A seminary professor often said that if we are going to make an impact with the Word of God, we must allow the Spirit of God to move us to think outside the box.  He did not mean that we should think beyond what is written in Scripture but that we should seek through observation and meditation to fully grasp the truth that is revealed from what is written.

I would like to take such a step while thinking of God’s perfect creation and the fall of man.  What we learn about the sinfulness of our sin has tremendous bearing on what we eventually believe about His immeasurable grace. Let’s begin, well, at the beginning.  Believers should recognize that the God who created us became our Savior.  The one who saves us, the Lord Jesus Christ, has all the attributes of deity.  He is eternal, co-existent with God, and co-equal with God, just to name a few.  A life-changing, out-of-the-box glimpse of the miraculous God that we serve is the realization that the second person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the very one who created us. The Bible says that all things were made by Him (John 1:3); by Him were all things created (Colossians 1:16); and God made the worlds by Him (Hebrews 1:2).

Since all things means all things, the words, “In the beginning God created” take on a fresh new meaning.  These words imply that the first works of creation recorded in the Bible – the heavens, the earth, the light, the plants and animals – were accomplished with the direct involvement of the Lord Jesus Christ. It follows, then, that He was also involved in the creation of Adam.

Now we are walking freely out of the box. God’s words, “Let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness” has enormous implications. Catch this glimpse! The “Us” points to our Trinitarian God’s participation in creating man and in particular the involvement of the Creator of all things, the Lord Jesus Christ. It has been assumed by many that when God said, “Let Us make man in our image, according to our likeness,” He was speaking of the invisible likeness of personality. This is because the Bible makes clear that God is spirit, and spirits have no visible characteristics.  While likeness could very well point to unseen spiritual traits, image does make one think of a physical feature. It is possible that the second person of the Trinity appeared in a recognizable preincarnate form in the Old Testament.

Although Jehovah took upon Himself a human body in Bethlehem, that may not have been the first time that He revealed Himself in a recognizable form. Think of the first wedding – when Jehovah walked Eve down the isle to the man, so to speak.  We read that God fashioned Adam’s rib into a woman and “He brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:22). Is it possible that Adam saw a preincarnate form of the Creator? It is hard to imagine a disembodied spirit presenting a woman to a man.

Following their rebellion against God by eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve heard the sound of Jehovah God walking in the garden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). Adam heard someone walking! It is difficult to conceive that a spirit could make walking noises as he approached. The guilt of the fallen couple impelled them to hide from God among the trees in the garden. How could one hope to hide from a spirit?

The first visible act of God in providing grace is recorded for us. Adam and Eve had compensated for their new feeling of guilt before God by stitching for themselves designer clothes made of fig leaves (Genesis 2:7). Their clothing did not meet with God’s approval, however, so He made tunics of skin, and clothed them (Genesis 3:21). Again, it is difficult to imagine a spirit stitching clothes and then putting them on someone.

What conclusions can we draw from God’s work as a tailor? First it was an obvious contrast to the couple’s tailor work. Second, it was God who initiated the gracious act. The couple was not asked whether or not they desired the clothes.  Finally, it was God who did the work.  He obviously killed animals – and this was long before the Mosaic Law was given. The picture given the reader is the very first foreshadowing of God’s future work in Jesus Christ.

Now back to the subject of Jesus Christ being the Creator of all things.  The Bible says that Jehovah Elohim formed man from the dust of the ground and then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being (Genesis 2:7).  There may have been more to this creative act than meets the human eye. God created us as triune beings made of body, soul, and spirit (1Thessalonians 5:23).

God first created the visible part. One can just visualize the Lord Jesus Christ hovering over a large lump of clay like a potter would do and then reaching down and picking up slabs and shaping it. Slowly the clay began to take the shape of man. Then we picture the divine Potter creating the inward, invisible parts, leaning down and exhaling His breath into the nostrils of that clay form. At that moment, Adam awakened as a conscious being.  The lifeless lump of clay received life from God.

Again, out of the box we go! What is the true meaning of the English translation the “breath of life” in Genesis 2:7?  The original text of the Old Testament is the Hebrew language. The Hebrew manuscripts are those writings that are truly God breathed and totally inerrant. While it is true that the translators rendered the phrase “breath of life,” and surely they had reasons to do so, the literal Hebrew says that God breathed into the man the “breath of lives,” plural.

“Breath of lives” in the Hebrew is nephesh chayyim. Chayyim is a plural Hebrew word. In order to make a word plural in English, we simply add and “s” or an “es.” At the risk of sounding exceedingly simple, we could have one pear or two pears; one house or two houses. In order to make a Hebrew word plural, “im” is added. One might think of one cherub (angelic being) or two cherubim (two angelic beings), or one seraph (one angelic being) or two seraphim (two angelic beings).  You get the idea. God actually breathed into Adam the breath of lives.

In contrast, God had earlier created the animals giving to them nephesh chay, the breath of life (Genesis 1:21).  This is the major way that animals differ from humans. True to our triune nature, Jesus Christ created Adam with a body and then breathed into him a soul with an attached human spirit.  The animals do not have this human spirit. The words soul and spirit are often used interchangeably in the scripture, but there is a difference. The writer of Hebrews says that the word of God is living and powerful and sharp enough even to divide the soul from the spirit (Hebrews 4:12). This implies that they are not the same!

Allow me a little speculation. The soul connects human beings to the earth, giving them the ability to know, to feel, and to choose, in the earthly realm. It provides the appetites for securing food, shelter, protection, and the desire to procreate. In man the soul also had the human spirit attached to it. Adam’s soul connected him to the earthy realm, but his human spirit linked him to God.

Before the fall, Adam had ability and the desire to think and to reason accurately, not only about worldly things but also about heavenly things. Said simply, human beings were created to know God. Their living human spirits gave them the ability to appreciate their relationship with God and to choose to continue in it. With this knowledge, Adam understood the reason for God’s creation and in his innocence he knew that he was created to have dominion over the earth.

After his sin – as God had warned – he died! He did not fall over dead physically, but his human spirit died toward God. He no longer had the ability to use his mind, emotion, or will toward God. As a result of their spiritual death, the fallen couple hid themselves from God. The residue left upon them was still the image of godlikeness, but it was a defective image. Adam and Eve continued with their human appetites in tact and their intelligence – the ability to think and to reason, to feel and to choose in a limited earthy realm – but still far beyond that of the animals. Adam and Eve had become natural, soulish human beings. This is the very nature that this fallen couple passed to all generations of the human race (Romans 5:12). All sinned and died in Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22).

We are all born with Adam’s death image upon us. The fallen race has the desire to worship gods, but they worship gods coming from their own corrupt imagination. Paul wrote that the soulish person “cannot understand the things of God (human ability) neither can he know them (human ability) for they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).  In clothing the first couple with the animal skins, God established a prototype. If we want to know how God saves today it would not be a bad idea to go back to His original pattern.

God must initiate salvation. The spiritually dead can do nothing to help.  He does not clothe us with animal skins as an act of His saving grace, but He does clothe us. He clothes us with His special sacrifice. The fall did not catch God by surprise. He prepared a Lamb before He created the world (1 Peter 1:20). He eventually gave that Lamb to die on a Roman cross for us, and then He raised Him from the dead (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 4:25).  He lovingly calls us to Himself as a shepherd does his sheep and gives us the free gift of faith to place in His Lamb (John 6:37-39; John 10:28; Ephesians 2:8-9). He then wraps tightly those believing in His Lamb with the covering of the Lamb. Every believer is said to be “in Christ” (Galatians 3:26-28).  This is thinking out of the box.