The Doctrine of Man
In The Book of Psalms David asks the question; “What is man …” (Psalm 8:4)? It is a question that I am asking also and attempting to answer, in part, in this booklet. Some have thought of man as a mere physical creature that came about as a result of natural selection. However, the Bible tells us that, instead of man being some brutish beast that evolved, man is a valued creation of God. In this booklet, I am using the term “man” to discuss both man and woman – humanity in general – unless stated otherwise. The Bible has much to say about man, about his creation, about his constitution and about his destiny.
The first point which we are studying is that man is a creation of God. The Bible clearly declares that God created man. Man was the last thing that God created in the Genesis account. God formed man (Adam) out of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life (see Genesis 2:7). He made man in His very image and gave them dominion over the other earthly created things (see Genesis 1:26). God then blessed them and told them to multiply, fill the earth, subdue and have dominion over all of its wildlife (see Genesis 1:28).
It is clear from this that all mankind shares a common beginning and a common equality. It is wrong to speak of different races because there is only one human race. The human race includes all people, from every culture, on every continent. The Apostle Paul makes this point by saying; “and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,” (Acts 17:26). The Bible’s claim that mankind has come from an initial, single, pair is also supported by modern sciences. Historically, the tribes and nations of both hemispheres can be traced back to a common ancestry. The European nations have come, by migration, from central Asia and the North American natives have come, by migration, from East Asia. The social science of psychology has confirmed that humans share common mental, emotional and psychological characteristics. People from all cultures have many of the same appetites, emotions, passions, instincts and capacities. Also, the physiological structure of humans is essentially the same. Interracial marriages produce offspring, organs can be transplanted, and blood can be transfused between people from other parts of the world. All of these things point to the truth of a common pair of humans, in the beginning, from whom descended all humanity.
Man was created in the very image, or likeness, of God. Man was created good, but there was still a marked difference between God and man. God is God and man is man. Man did not have the same grandeur or greatness as God, but there was a resemblance between Creator and creature. Man also had fellowship and friendship with God.
God made man a three-part being; man is comprised of spirit, soul and body. Some scholars dispute this and say that man is a two-part being, his only divisions being material and immaterial. Some have even argued that a man’s soul is the totality of man. The reason for the controversy is that the Bible talks about the constitution of man in a progressive way. The earliest account of this in Genesis, in the King James Bible, says that God formed man out of the dust of the earth and breathed into man the breath of life and man “…became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7 KJV). This verse, in the King James translation, does seem to use the term “soul” for the totality of man. However, the Hebrew word for “soul” here is not the same as the Greek word for “soul” used in the New Testament. In fact, many translations don’t even use the term “soul” in Genesis 2:7. The New American Standard version says that man “… became a living [a]being.” (footnote [a] Lit soul) The Genesis passage does not show us a three-part division. Does that mean that man has only two components? No, the Bible does not end with the book of Genesis. It begins with Genesis and then continues on. The Bible is a book of progressive revelation. What do I mean by that? I mean that the Bible will first tell of something in a general way, and then later go into greater detail on the topic in other passages. Some passages of the Bible do talk about man as being divided into two parts (see Matthew 10:28, 1 Corinthians 6:20 and James 2:26). However, other passages talk about that immaterial part of man as having two divisions. This is not a contradiction; it is a case of the later scriptures going into greater detail on the issue. We read further; “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23) and; “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12). If the word of God is sharp and divides between soul and spirit then we should acknowledge a distinction between soul and spirit in our theology, as well. What then are these three parts of a man’s being?
Man has a body. This part of man requires little definition. It is the most self-evident part of his being. A body is simply the physical, corporal part of man. His body has five senses, sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. A man’s body gives him contact with the physical world. Paul calls the body a vessel; “ But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;” (2 Corinthians 4:7). He also calls it a tent which clothes us, and he tells us that one day this clothing will be stripped away by death. He longs to be re-clothed with a resurrected body. Again, Paul says; “ For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.” (2 Corinthians 5:4). Man’s body gives him a world-consciousness. The body is like the outer sheath to the soul and spirit.
Man has a soul. The Bible does not specifically define the soul. However, it speaks much about it. I believe that this part of man is his mind, reasoning, intellect, discernment, emotions, memory and will. The will has been called “the foot of the soul”1 because it carries the soul in the direction that it acts. I believe that man’s personality resides in his soul and that his soul is his very consciousness. The soul would then give man his self-consciousness.
The spirit is the inner-most part of a man. Again, the Bible does not give us a direct definition of the human spirit. I understand it to be that part of man which has communion with God and that all of man’s spiritual capacities reside in his spirit. A man’s spirit operates in both prayer to, and worship of, God. The following verses show us the human spirit in operation. We read; “For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you,” (Romans 1:9) and; “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is [a]spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.’” (John 4:23-24 footnote [a] Or Spirit). I believe that if man’s soul gives him self-consciousness, then his spirit gives him God-consciousness, that is awareness of God.
In the beginning, man began living in harmony with God and with the world around him. What went wrong? Anyone looking at humanity today, or humanity throughout history, will see that man is not the holy and good being that he was created to be. One only has to look at one’s own heart to make this observation. What went wrong? The Bible teaches that God, after putting man in a utopia, made one requirement of him, that he not eat the fruit from a certain fruit tree. This command was made so that man would have an option of obeying God, or rebelling against Him. God wanted man to obey Him, but He wanted it to be by man’s own free will. A choice, to obey God willingly, was more precious to God than forced obedience. God did everything to make obedience easy. Man was created as good. He was placed in an ideal living place. His needs were provided for abundantly. He had activity to participate in. He had fellowship and friendship with God. There was just one regulation to obey. This small stipulation came with a heavy consequence, if not followed. God warned; “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not [a]eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:17 footnote [a] Lit eat from it).
After being tempted and deceived by a serpent, Eve did eat the fruit. She then offered it to Adam. Adam ate as well. Next, Adam and Eve would learn the horrors of death in many of its faceted forms. They both became aware of their nakedness, and they hid. They were hiding from God. God called for them and we read further:
Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.’ And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.’ Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’ The LORD God said to the serpent,
‘Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall [a]bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.’
To the woman He said,
‘I will greatly multiply
Your pain [b]in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.’
Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;
Cursed is the ground because of you;
In [c]toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
‘Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the [d]plants of the field;
By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.’
Genesis 3:9-19 (Footnotes [a] Or crush
[b] Lit and your pregnancy, conception
[c] Or sorrow
[d] Lit plant)
Man now had a new reality to live with. Death was now a part of him. What happened to him when he sinned? The penalty for sin is death. I believe that the first part of him that died was his spirit. That part of man which communed with God died. That sweet communion which Adam and Eve had had previously with God, ended. They were now incapable of it. I believe that the power of death next spread to their souls, affecting their minds, wills, emotions and passions. Their nature was once holy but now it was evil, naturally gravitating towards sin. Lastly, the process of death spread to their bodies. The Hebrew of “…you will surely die.’” in Genesis 2:17 can be translated as “’dying thou shalt die,’” 2 Aging began and, eventually, led to physical death. So, man now experiences three kinds of death; spiritual death is death of the human spirit and the alienation of the soul from God; physical death is the separation of the soul from the body; eternal death is the punishment an unredeemed soul receives after physical death. This is to be dreaded above all other things. Sin and death didn’t affect only Adam and Eve. The sin nature, that was now their reality, was also experienced by their children, and by their children’s children, and so on, by all natural men and women. This sin nature was an inclination towards sin. We read:
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—
So then as through one transgression [a]there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness [b]there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
Romans 5:18, 19 (footnotes [a] Lit to condemnation
[b] Lit to justification)
We also read:
For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in
[a]Christ all will be made alive.
1 Corinthians 15:21-22 footnote [a] I.e. the Messiah)
What is sin? Sin is a breaking of God’s laws. Sin is not only an action but, also, a nature. The sin nature is a state of being where a man is inclined towards committing sin. Paul says; “But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me [a]coveting of every kind; for apart [b]from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart [c]from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died;” (Romans 7:8-9 footnotes [a] Or lust [b] Or from law [c]Or from law). Those words “… produced in me [a]coveting of every kind; …” read “…produced in me all manner of evil desire. …” in the New King James version. Here, Paul says that sin produced “all manner of evil desire” within him. This is the sin nature at work, an evil desire, or an inclination towards committing sin. Jesus says; “ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, [a]fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.’” (Matthew 15:19,20 footnotes [a] I.e. sexual immorality) The experience of sin touches every natural man; “ Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). We read further; “But the Scripture has shut up [a]everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” (Galatians 3:22 footnote [a] Lit things) and “ If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8).
Actual sins are transgressions of the laws of God. We read that “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.” (1 John 3:4). Sin is a violation of God’s commands. It is a failure to live up to God’s standards “for all [a]have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23 footnote [a] Or sinned). Sin is moral evil. The Bible uses many different names for it, such as, “wickedness” (see Genesis 6:5), “disobedience” (see Romans 5:19), “iniquity” (see Leviticus 26:40), “every lawless deed,” (see Titus 2:14), “trespasses” (see Ephesians 2:1) and “unrighteousness” (see 1 John 1:9). Guilt often accompanies sin, but not necessarily. People may become hardened to sin, to the point where their conscience does not bother them to the same degree as it did earlier in their lives. Our sin pollutes not only our personal life, but affects others who we come into contact with. Sin creates a darkened understanding. The Bible says about unrighteous men that “For even though they knew God, they did not [a]honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans 1:21footnote [a] Lit glorify) and; “ But [a]a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually [b]appraised.” (1 Corinthians 2:14 Footnote [a]Or an unspiritual [b] Or examined). Sin begins expressing itself in evil and futile imaginations. Again, we read in the Scriptures; “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5). Sin expresses itself in degrading passions. We read further; “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is [a]unnatural,” (Romans 1:26 Lit against nature). Sin also produces a defiled mind and conscience. Scripture tells us; “ To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.” (Titus 1:15).
So then, man experiences three forms of death as a penalty for sin.
For the unredeemed man or woman the penalty for sin extends beyond this life. In fact, the greater part of it is after death. The Bible tells us; “And inasmuch as it is [a]appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27 footnote [a] Lit laid up). The Bible teaches further that there will be a resurrection of the just and the unjust. At that time, all humanity will be resurrected and stand before Christ’s throne:
For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.
‘Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is [a]the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
John 5:22-29 (footnote [a] Or a son of man)
Also see Act 24:15.
Jesus will judge each person and separate mankind into two groups, one group for blessing and another group for condemnation. For the believer, the resurrection will be a wonderful experience.
In the plan of God, a way was made for man’s redemption from sin and death. Jesus Christ, God Himself, came to earth in the form of a man. Unlike other men, He was utterly sinless. Man deserved death for his sins. Man was already experiencing spiritual death. After three years of ministry, teaching about the kingdom of God and healing great numbers of people, Jesus Christ stepped forward for crucifixion and took the penalty for sin, which is death, in our place. Then He arose from the dead. Now, a way was opened for man to be forgiven and healed. Man must now repent of his sins and put faith in Christ and Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice. What will happen if he does?
When a man repents of his self-rule and puts faith in Jesus Christ, he experiences spiritual re-birth. He is, as Jesus said, born again. Jesus said; “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born [a]again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” (John 3:3 footnote [a] Or from above). The Apostle Paul said; “When you were dead [a]in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,” (Colossians 2:13 footnote [a] Colossians 2:13 Or by reason of).
The Bible talks about three kinds of life. In Greek, these words are “bios,” “psuche” and “zoe.” Bios life is natural, physical life. Psuche life is psychological life or soulish life. Lastly, zoe life is spiritual life. I believe that this zoe life is imparted to man at new birth. 3 A man receives life when he receives Jesus because Jesus is life. Jesus repeatedly taught that He was life. He used metaphors, such as, “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:48). He also said to a Samaritan woman that He gives “living water” (see John 4:10,13-14). These are both metaphorical ways of saying that Jesus gives spiritual life to those who receive Him. The Apostle John says of Jesus that “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” (John 1:4). Jesus’ life comes to, and resides in, men and women and transforms them from natural people to spiritual people. There is no zoe life apart from Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus is key to experiencing spiritual life. He says; “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”(John 5:24). John tells us; “And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” (1 John 5:11-12).
Because he has Jesus and Jesus’ life in him, Paul can say that “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and [a]the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20 footnote [a] Or insofar as I). He and other born-again believers now labour with Christ’s energy. He also says; “For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His [a]power, which [b]mightily works within me.” (Colossians 1:29 footnotes [a] Lit working [b] Lit in power). Again, Paul testifies of the power of God working through him when he refers to the Gospel “of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.” (Ephesians 3:7). He further says; “ Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,” (Ephesians 3: 20). The Christian man is like a vine branch which is attached to Jesus, the Vine. Just as sap flows through a natural vine into its branches so, too, spiritual life flows from Christ into the spiritual man.
The born-again, spiritual man is also made into a son of God. The Bible tells us; “ For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery [a]leading to fear again, but you have received [b]a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,” (Romans 8:14-16 footnotes [a] Lit for fear again [b] Or the Spirit). This sonship is by adoption. Life is now very different for the spiritual man. He now has fellowship and communion with God restored to him and he now fellowships with God. The spiritual man is a son of God with communion capabilities. Through conversion, God is restoring the image of God in man.
What is the image of God, which is restored through redemption? Although it may be more than this, I believe that it is primarily the moral attributes of God, reflected in man. These are characteristics, such as, God’s holiness (see Psalm 111:9), His righteousness (see Jeremiah 9:24), His goodness (see Psalm 107:8), His love (see 1 John 4:8-9), His truthfulness (see Psalm 119:151), and so on. These are attributes or qualities of God. They are also similar to the things which become the fruit of God’s Spirit in His children. The Bible tells us; “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23). Love is birthed in spiritual men and they begin seeing others through Christ’s eyes. For Paul, in his own experience as a spiritual man, love is a “… more excellent way.” (1 Corinthians12:31) which he knows and wants to show others. The fruit of joy blossoms in the spiritual man. Joy is different from pleasure. Pleasure can be sinful, but joy is always clean and is on a much deeper level than pleasure. It is an inner gladness. Joy comes from having peace with God and life in your spirit. Peace is a fruit of God’s Spirit and is a tranquil resting of a Christian’s soul and spirit in God. It is an awareness of Jesus in you, no matter what you face. Longsuffering is that patience which endures provocation. It is a very noticeable fruit when it is in action. Kindness is a further dimension of love. It is a graciousness towards others. Goodness is a fruit which can be is so broadly defined as anything good or right. It is doing what Jesus would do in any situation. Faithfulness is a loyalty which grows as it is expressed in real-life relationships. Gentleness is a special meekness in our treatment of others. It is a genuine caring for others. Self-control is a restraint of the self-will in favour of doing the will of God. These are the fruit of the Spirit. When they are seen in a spiritual man, I believe that they are the very image of God in him.
There are more experiences in store for the spiritual man. It was God’s intention to endue him with power from on high. The term for this is the Baptism of The Holy Spirit. John, the Baptist, prophesied; “…‘As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you [a]with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16 footnote [a] The Gr here can be translated in, with or by). It is Jesus Christ who baptizes His followers with the Holy Spirit. John, the Baptist, explained that he was given revelation that “… ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes [a]in the Holy Spirit.’” (John 1:33footnote [a] The Gr here can be translated in, with or by). It was Jesus whom John saw the Holy Spirit descending upon. After His resurrection, we see Jesus interacting with His disciples and giving them instructions on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We read in the Book of Acts of Jesus instructing His disciples; “[a]Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for [b]what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized [c]with the Holy Spirit [d]not many days from now.’” (Acts 1:4-5 Footnotes [a] Or eating with; or lodging with [b] Lit the promise of the Father [c] Or in [d] Lit not long after these many days). After Jesus’ ascension His followers waited in Jerusalem, as they were told to do, and the bestowment of this awesome experience came upon them. There was the sound of a mighty rushing wind and divided tongues of fire were seen over them. Miraculously, they began speaking in tongues as God’s Spirit gave them utterance. Most significantly, they were filled with boldness and power to proclaim the Gospel. This experience did not cease, but has been available for God’s children to experience since the day of Pentecost, recorded in the Book of Acts.
Why was this experience called a “baptism”? Baptism is understood to be an “immersion” or an “overwhelming” or an “enveloping on all sides.” 4 This then, becomes the experience of the Spirit-filled man. He is immersed or enveloped in God’s power. The rapture of such an experience is not quickly forgotten. The man or woman who has this experience is marked by this experience and the energized spirituality that accompanies it.
God’s purpose is not only to baptize man in the Holy Spirit as an end in itself, but He wants to both empower and equip him for spiritual service. One important way in which He equips man for service is by giving him “gifts” of the Spirit. Paul introduces us to this teaching in 1 Corinthians, where he says:
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.
I Corinthians 12:1
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith [a]by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of [b]healing [c]by the one Spirit, and to another the [d]effecting of [e]miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (Footnotes[a] 12:9 Or in [b] Lit healings [b] Or in
[c] Lit effects
[d] Or works of power
[e] Lit distinguishings
What are spiritual gifts? In this passage nine are listed. These gifts overlap each other considerably but we will discuss them as separate gifts at this time. The first of these is the word of wisdom. This is a supernatural wisdom which comes to the believer’s mind at important times of decision or when understanding is needed. It is good judgment which becomes clear in the mind of a man, even in confusing situations. It has been called a “holy quick-wittedness” 5
Similar to the word of wisdom is the word of knowledge. This is a supernatural knowledge of specific facts that God reveals. A word of knowledge is not arrived at by natural senses but comes only from God’s Spirit. It is a supernatural revelation of specific information for a specific purpose.
Not only is a word of knowledge a spiritual gift, but so is faith. The Bible speaks much about faith, but in most places it does not specifically speak of it as a spiritual gift. For that reason, theologians often refer to faith in this passage as “special faith” or “charismatic faith.”6 This kind of faith is a special endowment of unshakable belief which fills the soul and spirit of a man to believe God and His word and to trust Him in specific situations.
Closely related to faith are gifts of healing. These are miraculous gifts given for the purpose of restoring health and wholeness to sick and ailing people. God’s healing power can mend both body and mind. Thomas Holdcroft describes the operation of this gift in this way; “The human channel receives a package of healing remedies to be shared as gifts with others.”7 The man or “human channel” is given these gifts to go and minister them to those in need.
Similar to gifts of healing, yet more general, is the effecting of miracles. Healing is a specific miracle benefitting the body and the mind. However, there are other kinds of miracles which God also wants to perform, either as a testimony of His power or for the changing of situations. These supernatural interventions into the affairs of earth are miracles and can come about through the special operation of gifts such as these.
Just as miraculous as the gift of working of miracles is, so miraculous also is the gift of prophecy. This gift is simply of man receiving a specific word from the Lord and then speaking that message to other people. The Bible is very clear; “‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says,‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all [a]mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…” (Acts 2:17 footnote [a] Lit flesh). This gift is needed in many situations for God to give specific information, or specific direction, to His Church.
Just as the gift of prophecy is needful for the Church, so is the gift of the distinguishing of spirits. This gift is needful because God’s Spirit is not the only spirit that is active in the visible Church. Human spirits, and even demonic spirits, operate among believers and often go undetected. The gift of the discerning of spirits is divine revelation given to men to identify God’s Spirit from foreign spirits. No one likes to acknowledge that, at times, foreign spirits operate in the visible Church and, therefore, this gift is controversial to many.
Even more controversial than the gift of the discerning of spirits is the gift of tongues.
The literal definition of this gift is “varieties of languages.” 8 These are languages given to man which he has never learned naturally. They are divinely given. Pentecostal believers generally distinguish between the tongues that are accompanying the baptism in the Holy Spirit, such as were given to the disciples on the day of Pentecost, and the gift of tongues which were used prophetically in the Early Church. This same distinguishing of different kinds of tongues is made of tongues today. However, any difference in varieties of tongues is one of function and not of kind. It will suffice for our study here to define tongues as divinely given utterances in languages given to a person, which that person has never learned naturally.
A gift closely related to the gift of tongues is the gift of the interpretation of tongues. When a message from God is spoken through a person, this message sometimes is prophetically delivered in tongues. When this occurs, it is needful for someone to interpret the message so that it can be understood by other people. The gift of the interpretation of tongues is precisely this. It is revelation into the meanings of divine tongues.
The story of man and the story of God will forever be intertwined. David the Psalmist asked; “What is man …”? (Psalm 8:4). His search was more limited than ours because he did not have as much of the sacred Scriptures as we do today. From searching the Scriptures, and seeking an answer, we can see that man is a creation of God, made in His image. He is a three-part being, comprised of a spirit, a soul and a body. He was created good and lived in harmony with God. However, this harmony did not last. Man sinned and lost his fellowship with God. Spiritual death was now a reality for him, followed by natural death. Unless redemption was made for him, eternal death would be his dreaded fate. God, in His grace, did provide a substitute for guilty man and that substitute was His Son, Jesus Christ. Through the sacrifice of Christ, and only through the sacrifice of Christ, can a man be redeemed and forgiven for his sins. This is God’s grand purpose for man, redemption, and when it is appropriated, through faith, a man enters a whole new state of existence. He is born again, spiritually reborn. The image of God is re-established in him. God would then take him further and baptize him in the Holy Spirit. He is then filled with divine power. Next, the redeemed and Spirit-baptized man begins seeing the beautiful fruit of God’s Spirit develop within him. He also starts to notice new spiritual gifts at work through him. This is the will of God, to fill the earth with redeemed men and women who are re-created in His image, who are baptized in His Spirit, who bear His fruit and who walk and serve in His spiritual giftings.
1. John Bunyan, The Greatness Of The Soul (Swengel: Reiner Pub., 1974), 12.
2. Robert Jamieson, A Commentary : Critical, Experimental, And Practical On The Old And New Testments, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., Reprint 1993), 42.
3. Albert Zehr, Experiencing Christ As Our Life (Milner: A-Z Life Publications), 7.
4. L. Thomas Holdcroft, The Holy Spirit (Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 1979), 107.
6. Ibid, 156.
7. Ibid, 154.
8. Ibid, 160.
Bunyan, John. The Greatness Of The Soul. Swengel: Reiner Pub., 1974.
Fitzwater, P.B. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1953.
Holdcroft, L. Thomas. The Holy Spirit. Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 1979.
Jamieson, Robert. A Commentary : Critical, Experimental, And Practical On The Old And New Testaments, Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., Reprint 1993.
Nee, Watchman. The Spiritual Man. New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1977.
Theissen, Henry Clarence. Lectures In Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989.
Zehr, Albert. Experiencing Christ As Our Life. Milner: A-Z Life Publications.
“Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,
1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission.” (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture quotations also taken from the King James Bible.
Scripture quotations also taken from The New King James.Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.