Proof-Text in Context, Part 3: What it Means to be Human

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Proof-Text in Context, Part 3: What it Means to be Human

The third installment of our Proof-texts in Context series will focus on SDA Fundamental #7—The Nature of Humanity. For those who would like a more detailed synopsis of why we are publishing this series, please refer to the introduction to the first installment. Without further ado, let’s proceed to our study.


Related Article: The Idol of God?


Genesis 1:26–27 — “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” How can we not start here? In evaluating the creation week, it is reasonable to deduce that humanity was the crown jewel of it.

The phrase “after its/their kind” (NASB) occurs ten times in chapter 1. Apples replicate other apples; dolphins replicate other dolphins; ocelots replicate other ocelots; etc. Additionally, they all came forth from the Creator’s voice. Our first parents replicated the triune God Himself, and they came forth from His hands. Of course, in this contextual approach that we’re taking, extending our attention to chapter 2 is prudent, as it offers a zoomed-in lens on Adam and Eve’s origins.

Genesis 18:27 — “And Abraham replied, ‘Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am but dust and ashes.’” This is the scene where Abraham interceded with God on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah. He knew of the wickedness in these twin cities but pleaded for mercy. The Lord was willing to withhold punishment for the sake of ten righteous people. Earlier, He visited Abraham and Sarah in the form of three guests and promised a son a year later.

Psalm 8:4–5 — “What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!” David’s praise stemmed from his amazement of the Creator’s handiwork. His amazement spiked with the realization of how the Lord held humanity to such lofty regard. Verses 6–8 confirm what we concluded in Genesis 1—our race supersedes all of this planet’s other species.

In most versions, the clause in verse 5 is “a little lower than the angels.” That’s fine practically since angels do have advantages over us, and Paul stuck with this Septuagint angle in Hebrews 2. Nevertheless, the Hebrew word is Elohim, so the NASB got it right in this case.

Psalm 51:5, 10 — “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. … Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Most of us know this psalm as David’s confession and repentance after his sin with Bathsheba. He understood that only God can cleanse us and repair our wicked natures.

As an aside, some may have been confused by verse 4. I’ll submit to you the notion that the second half of verse 4 is a result of verse 2, with verse 3 and the first half of verse 4 being parenthetical. In other words, God is justified and blameless because He washes His children, not because they commit transgression and evil.

Jeremiah 17:9 — “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” The Jews’ sins were recorded, and they suffered the consequences for them. The default condition of the heart is always seed for this vicious cycle. However, hope is not all lost. On the flip side, trust in the Lord is always seed for becoming the mighty, vibrant cedars that He wants us to be.

Matthew 10:30–31 — “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” This passage clearly asserts that we can be confident in God’s meticulous care for us. It provides some rays of light in an otherwise cloudy section. Jesus warned the disciples of the cost of following Him. Because He, the Master, faced violent hatred, they would too. We all need to be willing to make Christ our highest priority, more so than our families, comforts, and even lives.

Romans 5:12 — “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Paul contrasted Adam and Christ. It was the rebellion of the former that set the current stage of our degradation and mortal destinies. Thankfully, our Savior succeeded where the first man failed. His gracious sacrifice makes it possible for us to find the life and righteousness He originally intended.

Going back a little further, it is through this justifying grace that we may have peace, hope, and characters proven by perseverance through tribulations. Jesus bestowed this gift to us while we were still His enemies.

Ephesians 2:3 — “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” This is one of the more striking expressions of our de facto dispositions. This passage resonates with me in a particular way, since I recently wrote a series on Romans 6–8. Paul crossed over some themes here, such as shifting from death to life through vicarious participation in Christ’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

As difficult as it is to comprehend the dichotomy of human existence, the closer we get to relative equilibrium, with the Lord’s help, the better off we’ll be. Then again, maybe the comprehension is less of an issue than is the practical assimilation thereof. To express this dichotomy succinctly, we are microscopic specks of dirt and priceless treasures at the same time.

If these two contrasting labels were on the opposite sides of a dial, like one would see on a stove, I would, without hesitation, encourage everyone to turn the knob closer to the priceless treasures side. What’s the point of striving for eternal life—what’s the point of living at all—if we don’t embrace God’s embrace of us? Our attempts to prepare for heaven and the new earth, keep His commandments, and any other related exercise are shallow and useless if not motivated by the reality that He jeopardized His own welfare because He considers us more than worth it.

With that said, an acknowledgment of the other side of the dial is healthy and frankly required for our salvation’s sake. The next article will survey SDA Fundamental #8—The Great Controversy. In this war between two governments—selflessness and selfishness—we are still prone to let our egos swell to the level that, if not kept in check, we could be featured in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.


Related Article: What does the Bible Say About Origins?


Only by receiving the Lord’s love and letting it transform us will we be restored to His image and fit for the new Eden. If we retain the notion that the sun revolves around us, we will not recognize our need for transformation. We must revolve around the Son and submit our wills to Him.

Click here to read the rest of this series on the Fundamental Beliefs!

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About the author

John Simon

John Simon, an almost lifelong Michigander, is a freelance editor and writer. He previously spent a decade working with Adventist Frontier Missions in an accounting role. Though finance wasn't exactly a hand-in-glove fit—more of a hand-in-toaster fit, frankly—it was a privilege to help advance the cause of reaching the unreached. John enjoys spectating and participating in various sports (hockey being on top of both lists), driving/road tripping, visiting his feisty yet loving and supportive family on the other side of the Mitten, and spending time with friends.