In order to have some understanding of this difficult problem, it is necessary to place ourselves before the question: what is man as man, irrespective of the influences and changes wrought by sin and grace? These last mentioned changes, we must never forget, are of a spiritual, ethical character. And in and through all these changes man remains man. He is man in the state of rectitude. He remains man when he falls. And he is still man when he is regenerated through the Spirit of Christ. In order, therefore, to gain a clear conception of the relation between the old and new man in the Christian, it is important that we distinguish between the spiritual, ethical and the physico-psychical aspect of man’s nature. The first question, therefore, is: who is man by virtue of his creation?
In distinction from the rest of the living creatures, man was formed by a two-fold act of creation. ‘The Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. This creative act of God must not be conceived as two separate acts. For we read inGen. 2:7: “And the Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” There was, therefore, one creative act of God with two aspects. Thus we can also understand that man is not two beings, but one. But that one being has two different aspects. He is, on the one hand, a material or physical being; and, on the other hand, a psychical being. And these two aspects of his being are most closely connected with each other. The lines of his living nature run through from the periphery of his bodily existence, through which he stands in connection with the material world, to the inmost center of his being, through which he is pneumatic, a personal being; and also from that center to the periphery; The body is adapted to the soul; and the latter is adapted to the former. Hence, we can also distinguish two aspects of the body. On the one hand, that body is related to the material, earthly world. On the other hand, it is also related to the spiritual, internal existence of the human nature. In other words, we can distinguish between a material and a psychological aspect of the body. And again, as we can distinguish between the purely material and physical aspect of the body, through which it is connected with the spirit of man, thus Scripture always distinguishes two aspects of the internal existence of man, namely, his soul and his spirit. It is a well-known fact that Scripture more than once makes this distinction—a fact that induces many to speak of three different substances in man: body, soul, and spirit. Thus we read in I Thessalonians 5:23: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This distinction is made more than once in Scripture. It is noteworthy that the Lord, in the hour when He is reminded of His impending suffering on the cross, says that His soul is troubled, and that also in Gethsemane He says to His disciples that His soul is troubled even unto death. But in the last supper, when He is on the verge of sending away the traitor, we read in John 13:21: “When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.”
Of great importance is also the passage in I Corinthians 15:44 ff.: “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is, of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” When the apostle in these verses speaks of a natural body, we must remember that in the original he uses the term psuchikon. It is therefore a soul body. But when he speaks of the resurrection body, he uses the term “spiritual.” It is raised a spiritual body. And he tells us that the first man Adam was made a living soul; but the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. But what we wish to emphasize is especially that in this passage mention is made literally of a psychical, or soul, body, and that too, in distinction from a spiritual body.
All this gives us sufficient reason indeed not to separate, as if man consisted of three different substances, but nevertheless to distinguish very carefully. This distinction must, first of all, be made in such a way that in the inner spiritual existence of man there are two aspects, a psychical and a spiritual aspect. The same may be said of the physical, or bodily, aspect of man in the midst of the world. Also here we may distinguish between a material, earthly, and a psychical aspect. Through the psychical aspect of his inner nature, connected with the psychical aspect of his bodily existence, man is connected with the earth and lives an earthly life and stands in connection with the things of the earth round about him. Thus he was created, and this is his life in the world—the life that he can lose, the life of seeing and hearing and tasting and touching and smelling, the life with his home and all his possessions, with wife and children and with the entire visible world. For the first man is of the earth, earthy, and lives an earthly, psychical life through the body. All this, however, is not to be separated from the spiritual side of his internal existence. Also in this internal existence of man there may be distinguished two aspects. The one aspect is that of the natural, rational, moral side of man, through which he directs himself as a thinking and willing being to the earthly thing round about him. The other aspect is the spiritual side of man in the highest sense of the word, through which man as a person stands in relation to God. Thus man is an earthly, material, psychical, rational, moral, spiritual being. He is this in connection with the whole of the human race and with the entire earthly creation, and that too, before the face of God. The lines run out of the earthly creation through his body into his soul, and through his soul into his personal spirit, and thus concentrate in his person. And exactly because he is a rational, moral, spiritual being, he is also a personal being, and speaks as soon as he reaches self-consciousness of his I, of his ego. Thus is man as he was created.
The Word of God, however, describes man and views him not only from a purely natural viewpoint, but also in his spiritual, ethical relation to God. And from that point of view, Scripture makes the distinction not of body and soul, or of person and nature, but of the heart and the issues of the heart. And presently, as far as the Christian is concerned, also the distinction is made between spirit and flesh, or between the mind and the flesh. The heart is the center of all the issues of our life from a spiritual, ethical point of view, that is, from the viewpoint of our self-determination in relation to God. From the heart, according to Scripture, are the issues of life. Thus we find this idea, for instance, in Matthew 5:28: “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Again, we find the same thought in Matthew 12:34-37: “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Also in these words the heart is presented as the spiritual, ethical center of man’s life, and that too, in relation to God. Again, in Matt. 15:18-20 we find the same idea concerning the heart of man: “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.” The same thought is expressed in a little different language in Mark 7:19-23: “Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, ‘That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” And once more, in Luke 6:45 we read: “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”
It is evident from all these passages and many more, that the heart is the spiritual center of man’s life. As the heart is, so are our thoughts and our desires, and so is our willing and our thinking, so are our deepest inclinations and the hidden recesses of all our existence, not from a natural, psychological, but from a spiritual, ethical point of view. That heart is moved either by the principle of love or the principle of hatred. It is pure or impure. And as the heart is, so are all the issues of the heart. Here all the lines, according to the teaching of Holy Writ, run indeed always from the center to the periphery, never from the periphery to the center. The entire presentation of the theory of common grace, as if there were an operation of the Spirit upon the periphery, influencing even our willing and our thinking, is directly in conflict with the presentation of Scripture throughout. When the tree is good, the fruit is good; when the tree is evil, the fruit is evil.
Now the Bible teaches that man was created according to the image of God. And it also teaches that this image of God is a thoroughly spiritual, ethical reality. The distinction between the image of God in a wider and in a narrower sense is not only in conflict with Scripture, but it is also dangerous. According to this presentation, the image of God in a wider sense is that which man is as man, his physical-psychological, his rational, moral nature. But according to Scripture, the image of God is not a natural, psychological concept, but a spiritual, ethical reality. It consists in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. This means that the heart of man was originally filled and motivated by the love of God. In the center of his nature, from a spiritual, ethical viewpoint, the love of God-was implanted as the motive-power of all his life, in the midst of the world and in relation to, God. And from the heart this motive-power of the love of God worked throughout his entire nature, in all his spiritual, rational, moral, material, and earthly existence. That motive-power of the love of God worked in all his thinking and willing and desiring, so that he knew God in love, glorified and praised Him, so that he willed the will of God, and was servant of the Lord in connection with the whole creation round about him, so that he was consecrated to God and sought Him with all that was within him. This spiritual, ethical operation of the image of God was pure in him in the state of righteousness in paradise. There was no conflict either in the soul of man or in his body, or even in the world around him. The heart of man had dominion in love over all things. He ruled from the heart over all things in the world. Conflict between flesh and spirit, between the operations of the body and of the mind, between the old and the new man, Adam did not know in the state of rectitude. Hence, also his person was pure from a spiritual, ethical viewpoint. He could say indeed: “I have delight in the law of God with my whole being.”