Approaching the Mystery of Fallen Man
By Thomas Cosmades
Most people are familiar with the word “anthropos” and its numerous appellations in the western languages. As for its etymological meaning in Greek there are several intriguing interpretations. One of its derivations is from the verb ‘throsko’, directed to above, i.e., to God. Christians traditionally have been inclined to find the proper description of man in the Scriptures. Man is God’s only creature looking upward and not down, as other creatures do. According to the Scriptures, man is created in God’s own image and was destined by the Creator to be an upright-walking, upright-thinking, upright-behaving creature. At the intrusion of sin, this sublime creature was pulled down, becoming an earthbound person, dominated by earthly thoughts and notions. This is a clear indication of what man’s fall brought upon our whole race. The basic lack in understanding man’s person in creation and then in his fall and alienation from his Creator is expressed in David’s psalm, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor” (8:4, 5).
Christ’s opponents who were thoroughly puzzled with Jesus’ mysterious
personality, asked him “Who are you?”
(John 8:25). David
describes man in his natural setup by raising the question,
“What is man?”
In one case the confused Pharisees are asking a cynical question
to the sinless
Looking at the Scriptures, we see a number of upsetting descriptions of the fallen mortal, man. “Turn away from man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” (Isaiah 2:22). In this context confer James 4:14b, Isaiah 57:20, 21; Genesis 6:5; Jude 12, 13; Psalm 146:3, 4; Jeremiah 17:5. Jesus Christ humbled himself to ordinary manhood in order to elevate us into the Creator’s true likeness. Once the power of sin is broken and we are redeemed, we have a taste of the perfect Man, with ourselves longing to be dressed with his glorious state. Christ can bring this to realization of looking above ‘throsko’. The Incarnate Christ is entirely able to change sinful humans from their uncleanness to a position of ‘heads-up’ before his father and the angels in heaven (cf. Isaiah 53:6; 64:6; 20:9).
This flawless Person can restore every one he redeems to live for God’s glory in his created purpose. “Every one who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:7). The Apostle Paul emphasizes the same truth with the statement, “to the praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14). To display His holiness (Leviticus , 45; 19:2; 20:7; 26; I Peter ). “Like dew from the womb of the morning” (Psalm 110:3). “Like pillars carved to adorn a palace” (Psalm 144:12). “Like a poem (poiima) to produce good works” (Ephesians ).
The inspired Word carries us through the steps of God’s act, restoring us depraved humans into the position of his genuine intention and purpose in creation:
I. The durable wickedness of the ravaging heart.
Sin in which we found ourselves as we came into the world was once committed federally, then collectively and finally, individually (cf. Romans , 14, 18). The holy Creator warned our fore-parents of the consequences of volitional transgression. The Almighty told our ancestors of the overall effect of sin upon them and the race they were to bring forth. Sin has its historical beginning in one couple (cf. I Corinthians ; 21). The totality of mankind fell under the similar aegis “…the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” (Genesis 8:21b). (Cf. Ecclesiastes 8:11; Jeremiah 17:9). Sin established its acquired reign, consequently leading to the reign of death (cf. Romans , 14, 17; ).
In the book of Ecclesiastes we are confronted with the picture of a poor, but wise youth (cf. -16), who was elevated like a certain foolish king, his predecessor. The foolish king once was wise and would take advice, but a time came when he would no longer listen. Then a young man hailing from humble background rose to become king in the same domain, replacing the older king. Instead of being eager to listen and be taught from the sad experience of his predecessor he turned out to be not wiser than the old man who had lost credibility. People who had their grudges against the old king did not rejoice in this young man either. The distressing cycle continued ever after. Human ineptness to be taught concrete and tangible lessons does not offer benefit to the next generation, who ever continue in the same pattern. They fail to think of the sad experiences of the past and fall into the same trap. Here is a down-to-earth, nevertheless conclusive theological lesson to be taught to be taught to everyone concerning the human heart always in the state of rebellion.
Naturally, no human being can extricate him/herself from the fallen condition of mankind. This incredible achievement has been accomplished by God who came to our world with the provision of redemption even for the vilest offender. Let alone man’s incapability to disentangle himself from this debased condition, he denies almost universally the fact of his depravity before the holy Creator and his angels. There is no fault in humans. Especially in our time this is the most prevalent preaching. Man is a paragon in the natural order. Generation after generation, even though everyone can clearly see the total bankruptcy and lostness of man, every single offspring of the human family looks at man as the very best example in the natural order. The main distress is that in spite of the authoritative revelation concerning the tragedy of the fall and universal sin which emanated from it the reality of original sin remains unknown to every succeeding human line.
II. The Incurable Imperiousness of the Reign
In human administration dictatorship has been an ugly and cruel phenomenon throughout the ages. At this very moment there are a number of dictators on earth enjoying their forcefully-grabbed position. In spite of knowing the ultimate doom of all dictators, they hold to their position, becoming more obnoxious by the day. The sinful heart knows its stormy turbulence and yet it clings to its domineering despotism. Man’s own heart within his chest is a cruel dictator over his whole being. Just as so many dictators cannot be moved from their dogging reign, our heart under ordinary conditions will never mellow and submit to the authority which seeks justice and righteousness. Every sinner continues his existence under the tyranny of the cruel master which is the heart seeking to possess the whole being en toto. The Apostle Peter describes the lamentable condition with a catching exposure: “They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!” (2 Peter 2:14).
Every sinner is thoroughly aware of the imperiousness of his own heart, but cannot do a thing to slip out of this dictator. He can only cry out like Job, “For you write down bitter things against me and make me inherit the sins of my youth” (Job ). Woe unto us! We inherited such a heart from our forefather Adam. The question is often heard: “What kind of a God is he to hold me responsible for Adam’s sin? “ Even people who pride themselves as being atheists or agnostics still raise a question concerning a God they claim not to believe in. Their question can be answered with another question: “What kind of a God could he be for letting your sins of youth to dog your mind and the scope of your unpleasant storage of memories? What kind of a God could he be who allows hopeless people to be tormented under despotic and despicable rule of arrogant human dictators?”
Until every person recognizes that he/she is controlled by an incurable imperious force within our personal and across-the-spectrum storms cannot be comprehended. The unfolding before our eyes of this dim dictum will reveal the sad condition of our overall outlook. David who came to see the dark condition of his heart prayed for purification: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Our most upsetting encounter ought to be disturbance about the pitiful condition of our inner world. We need to cry with the Apostle Paul who knew the state of his arrogant days, finally coming to the realization of the true condition of his heart: “What a retched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). Such a genuine cry takes us to the next truth.
III. The Immeasurable Effectiveness of the Grace that Rescues
In the epistle to the Romans any reader will inevitably come across the reign of sin, and death, its consequence. The Almighty YAHWEH encountered this tyrannical double reign with the one and triumphant reign which surpasses all forces of distress and darkness combined. This is the reign of grace which can be effective only through the reign of Jesus Christ in the same heart (cf. Romans -21). The word ‘haris’ (grace) is the most beautiful word in any language. What a pity that only a few people have experienced it and know it firsthand. The reign of grace can only be realized through Jesus Christ. It has been verified in his reign over Satan. “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil…” (Hebrews 2:14).
The triumphant reign of the Lord Jesus Christ can only reach out over every sinful heart and body by the way of grace: (cf. Galatians 2:20; 6:14). The evidence of the reign of grace is demonstrated over the crucified flesh: (cf. Romans 6:8; ). All kingdoms on earth are destined to end. To the contrary, Christ’s reign becomes demonstrative with its start and encompasses the whole of our miserable planet. Through him grace ultimately triumphs while religious systems established by mortal humans will fade away.
Thomas Cosmades – 2010