What Is A Human Being?

BFLW Devotional
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What’s An iPad?  When iPad & Tablets were somewhat new I saw a video where the people were speaking in German, but you could understand what was said by what was happening.  A daughter was visiting her father.  They were fixing supper.  As they spoke he was cutting up something on a cutting board while she was cooking up something in a pot.  

The word iPad was recognizable so you knew she had asked him how he like the new iPad she had sent him.  He nodded and said something that obviously meant, “It’s great.” He then turned around to the pot and with his knife scraped off the contents of the cutting board into the pot.  But the cutting board was the iPad.  

As his daughter stood there with a horrified expression, he turned to the sink, rinsed off the iPad and stuck it in the dish rack.  He turned to her and saw her expression, and said, “WHAT?” to her look of horror.

The problem was, he had no idea what an iPad was.  To him it looked like a cutting board so that is what he used it for.  If we don’t know what something is for, it’s possible we will either see it as useless or use it for something it was not intended.

Applied to human beings, if we don’t know what a human is for, how will we know what it’s supposed to do?  How will we know if what we do with it will not damage it?  

Root Problems.  In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus warned of false prophets.  Repeatedly He said, “you shall know them by their fruits.”  The fruits are the evidence of the “them”—“by their fruits you shall know them.”  The fruits evidence the kind of root or tree.  So often we make the mistake in our culture and see the problem is the fruit, when in reality, it’s the root.  We address the symptoms, which we still must do, but we ignore the real cause.

The “fruits” of the root problem in our culture include abortion.  After 47 years of legalized abortion in this country, the numbers of abortions which have been performed are staggering.  We are now seeing legislators making allowances for infanticide.  Chemical abortions mean we don’t even really know how many abortions are being performed.  But these are fruit problems, not root.  

Another fruit problem is euthanasia.  Ten US states allow for legal assisted suicide.  Outside of this country in some places parents can decide to euthanize their children down to age 12 (Netherlands).  

Gender identity & homosexuality are also fruit problems.  Was the gender you were assigned at birth wrong?  Did someone make a mistake just because you have the physical parts associated with male or female?  Don’t you have the right to determine what you really are—whether that changes today or tomorrow?  Don’t you have the right to just say you’re non-binary?  “Maybe I’m female today but tomorrow I might be a male?”  “Or maybe just don’t call me one or the other—I’m just ‘they’.” But again, this is only a symptom – a fruit – of a root problem.

So what is the root?   What is the real problem—the tree that produces this fruit?  It is the lack of understanding of what it means to be human.   

Human beings, unlike any other creature on this planet, ask questions.  They ponder.  They consider things that amount to, “What is the meaning of life?”  Other creatures eat.  Humans ask, “What should I eat?  Where shall I eat it?  Does it look good to eat?”  Other creatures find the food they were designed to eat.  They sleep.  They mate.  Humans do much more.  They think about what’s good and true.  They wonder, “What happens after I die?”  

Our western culture made a major shift in the 19th-20th centuries.  Prior to this there was a general understanding of what it means to be human because of the Judeo-Christian influence.  But in the 19th Century, Darwin’s book, The Origin of Species (1859), gave rise to the notion that God is not needed because we now know where we came from.  We evolved.  That gradually moved from an “O wow, really?”  to a “Yes, it’s true.  This is just fact.”  

Then we move into the later 20th-21st centuries where technology has added the idea that God is not needed.  We can do anything we put our minds to.  What does it mean to be human?  Science has shown us we didn’t have a Creator.  Are there problems in the world?  Yes, but we can solve them.  Technology has made it possible.

The consequences are a new way of thinking.  

  • Life is just matter.
  • You must create your own value system.
  • There are no absolutes—truth is what you make it.

If we are just a biopsychosocial species that has evolved to what we do, and are still evolving, what meaning is there in life except what we make it for the brief time we are here.  And if life is not pleasant, why live any longer?  Worse yet, with this thinking is the loss of reality.  We think we are what we are not.  Or we think we can be what we cannot.  We don’t know what it means to be human.  That is the root problem.  Our culture does not know what it means to be human. If we don’t know what a human is for, how will we know what it’s supposed to do?  How will we know if what we do with it will not damage it?

Image Bearers.  Humans are made in the image of God.  The question is, What does that mean?  The Bible says we were made in God’s image in several places, including: Genesis 1:26-28; Gen 5:1; Gen 9:6.  You will note the last reference is said of man after the Fall.  Sin did not mean “image-bearing” was lost.  So what does image-bearing mean?  To develop the answer fully would take more space than we have available.  But there are four primary ways we see the meaning of image-bearing in Scripture.

First, in man’s creation.  In Genesis 1-2 the creation of man was unique from the rest of creation.  Every day God said, “Let there be…” and it was done.  But on Day 6 the language changes.  There He says, 

Genesis 1:26  And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

God gave special attention to man’s creation in His likeness.  One of the particulars about man’s creation was in God’s purpose: “to have dominion over the rest of creation.  Like God, man is rational, creative, and social. But especially what God points to is his role of being a “sub-ruler” over creation.

A second way we see the meaning of being an image bearer is seen in how God handles man in the Fall to sin.  God deals with man from a moral perspective.  He exposes man’s ability to distinguish right and wrong.  In the end, we see sin has brought both physical and moral corruption to God’s creation.  There is a sense that “things are not right.”  Our world is broken.

A third way we see the meaning of being an image bearer is in God’s provision of Redemption.  In Genesis 3:15 there is a promise made that the “seed of the woman” would crush the head of the serpent—Satan, who led man to disobey God.  We see from Genesis 3 throughout the rest of Scripture the unfolding of God’s Exchange where Jesus Christ’s Righteousness is given to man in exchange for his sin.  He died so the believer can have eternal life.  One of the most telling acts to show the value of humanity, made in God’s image, is that Jesus became human in order to provide this exchange.  

Finally, the meaning of being an image bearer is also seen the Restoration.  The salvation provided by Christ means God begins a work of restoration in the believer as He transforms him into the image of Christ.  

Romans 8:28-29  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  (29)  For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Furthermore, Scripture shows us that not only is the individual restored but even creation itself.

Revelation 21:1-5  And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.  (2)  And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  (3)  And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.  (4)  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.  (5)  And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

Conclusion.  Often the view of outsiders is that Christianity somehow is about “thinning out” human life.  It’s about a lot of “you can’ts” and “you have tos”—do’s and don’ts.  But Jesus did not come to bind us.  He came to set us free.  

When people try to live their lives as self-autonomous, truth-is-what-I-make-it, and life is just what we see and feel, they are not free. They are bound.  They are bound by fear, loss of purpose, broken relationships, and the conflict between reality and delusion.  The revelation of God frees us because it tells us who we are and what we are here for.   It reveals why we struggle with those things.  And it give the answers—the hope—for these struggles.  Sin is the problem.  Jesus came to die for sin.

Christians, more than anyone, should have the answers to what is wrong in the world and in the individual lives of the people we know.  We also have the answers for what is needed.  As CS Lewis once said, “There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal.” (Weight of Glory)  Every person is made in the image of God and will live forever somewhere either under salvation or under God’s judgment for sin.  

While we must tend to the fruits of the misunderstanding of what it means to be human, more than that, we must proclaim the root problem.  Man is an “image bearer” which has been marred by sin.  God provides forgiveness through the redeeming work of Christ.  Ultimately, there will be a restoration to what we are intended to be.  If you want to know what humans are for, see what God has said.  

Article By Daniel Stertz
Pastor of Bible Baptist Church, Hudson, WI
Treasurer for Baptists For Life of WI