What or who is man?

What or who is man?

Question

I’m confused by Gen 1-3 and Genesis 5:2. Is Adam one person or many?

Answer

Depending upon the context, the word “man” in Scripture refers to one male human or simply human beings, both male and female, in general (Gen. 1:26-27). The Hebrew word adam means “man” or “Adam,” and in certain settings it may include women also. For example, Genesis 5:2 states: “Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man [adam] when they were created.” Today we use terms such as humanity, humankind, and mankind as mutual designations for all human beings — those made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26; Jas. 3:9).

In Scripture God purposely distinguished human beings (Gen. 1:26-27) from all other life forms (Gen. 1:20-25) by creating man on a different day, giving him dominion over all the earth and its other life forms (Gen. 1:28-30; 2:20; Psa. 8:3-8), and communicating with him in a special loving, covenantal way (Gen. 2:4-25; Hos. 6:7). He didn’t evolve from another lower form of life or species. He didn’t develop gradually through some chemical process or from some explosive "big bang". He was created directly by the Trinity (let “us” make man in “our” own image) in the image of God (Gen. 1:26).

Man is fearfully and wonderfully made (cf. Psa. 139:14). Mankind was/is God’s crowning achievement. Even God’s own Son took to himself a body! (cf. Rom. 8:3; Gal. 4:4). God bestowed upon mankind “glory and honor” (Psa. 8:5) and “splendor and majesty” (Psa. 21:5). God bestows upon his chosen children (Rom. 8:29-30; 9:11, 15-16, 18, 21) his “steadfast love” (Psa. 21:7) and their glory is great through his salvation (Psa. 21:5). And God makes his elect (Acts 16:14; Col. 3:12; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Pet. 2:9) most blessed forever and glad with the joy of their Creator’s presence (cf. Psa. 21:6).

All humanity is made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26; Jas. 3:9). Regardless of race, color, national origin or social standing, all mankind is created by God (cf. Prov. 22:2; Matt. 20:25-28; Gal. 3:28). All humankind descended from Adam; we all have the same red blood. Even Jesus’ blood is red. As Luke wrote in Acts 17:26, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.” So, “in God’s image” includes every nation, tribe, language and people, including both men, women, children, and even the unborn (cf. Rev. 7:9; cf. Rev. 5:9).

God made mankind to be at peace and live in harmony with one another. In the beginning, all was “very good” (Gen. 1:31).

However, in a single heartbeat mankind gave up all that was good when Adam rebelled against God (Gen. 3; cf. Rom. 5:15, 18-19). As Paul writes in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”

In this fall from a state of grace, mankind became more than just corrupt, he was now utterly and totally depraved. While God restrains man from being as sinful and evil as he could be (cf. Psa. 76:10; 2 Thess. 2:6), he is now a naturally sinful, detestable evil being (Eccl. 9:3; Jer. 17:9; Matt. 15:19). As Moses wrote, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). Jesus said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23). Now as slaves to sin (John 8:34; Rom. 6:6, 16-17, 19-20; 7:14; Gal. 4:8-9; 2 Tim. 2:25-26; Tit. 3:3; 2 Pet. 2:19) humanity is spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1).

But wait, there's more. This means man is “alienated from the life of God” (Eph. 4:18). Mankind is spiritually blind (cf. Matt. 15:14) and cannot truly see God's will. He is deaf (cf. Matt. 13:15; 2 Tim. 4:4) and cannot hear his word or Spirit. Like idols, we are spiritually mute (cf. Psa. 115:4-6; 1 Cor. 12:2) and can't recognize or confess Christ. And even if we could, we wouldn't and couldn't do it from a truly pure heart (Rom. 8:7-8). We have withered hands (cf. Mark 3:1) and cannot accept the gifts of God which include faith and repentance (Eph. 2:8; 2 Tim. 2:24-25). We are lame (cf. Acts 3:2) and cannot walk in the ways of the Lord. Like spiritual lepers (cf. Luke 17:12), we are total outcasts. In this horrible condition we cannot choose to make ourselves righteous (Jer. 13:23; 17:9; cf. Prov. 27:22; Isa. 1:5; Jer. 2:22; 4:22). We don't even desire to (Rom. 8:7-8) and humanity just goes on and on finding pleasure in its sin (cf. Mark 7:20-23; Heb. 11:25; Jas. 1:14-15). There’s nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9);

Ultimate peace and harmony, what are these? Now there are wars between nations and cultures and races, hatred, conflict, murder, rape, child abuse, theft, envy, lust, divorce, vile speech, illness, pain, and suffering. Some even abort — murder — their own children! We have reduced God down to little trinkets, wooden images, Christmas toys, and the like. Our hearts are now but mere idol factories manufacturing our own worthlessness. We possess nothing like the goodness in the Garden before the Fall. It's no wonder God cried out, “Adam, where are you?” (cf. Gen. 3:9).

Great was man’s fall. Now all mankind is subject to physical death and eternal judgment (Matt. 25:46; Rom. 5:17-19; Heb. 9:27).

However, the all-knowing God knew in advance that Adam would throw it all away for a mere taste of that which was forbidden. From before the foundation of the world, God ordained the very death of his only begotten Son. As Peter writes, “He [Jesus] was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you” (1 Pet. 1:20; cf. Acts 2:23; 4:27-28). “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given” (Isa. 9:6; cf. Matt. 1:18, 21, 23; Luke 2:7). The second and last man Adam (1 Cor. 15:45, 47), Jesus came as a man in the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4). As the writer of Hebrews says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil," (Heb. 2:14). Jesus Christ was and still is God clothed in the flesh (John 1:1, 14). The God-Man, The Christ. The Lord!

So, in his great mercy, love, and the immeasurable riches of his grace, God did not abandon his chosen children (Eph. 1:4, 11) to death, doom, and destruction. Rather, he provided for them the way (John 14:6) of redemption through faith in Jesus Christ alone. As Paul writes in Ephesians 4:4-8:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

All mankind, humankind, humanity, men and women are fallen. The question, human reader, is are you redeemed? God still asks, “Where are you?”

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Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).