The passage which is referred to in the title of this article reads as follows: “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth are named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19. This same idea is referred to in several other passages of Scripture. InRomans 7:22 we read, “For, I delight in the law of God after the inward man”: and in the following verse the apostle continues, “But I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” In II Corinthians 4:16 there is found a distinction between the outward man and the inward man: “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” In the Old Testament there are similar references, although the inward man is not directly mentioned. We find, e.g., in Psalm 51:6, “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.”
Man was originally created with a person and a nature. To that nature with which man was created belongs his body and soul, for God created him out of the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. In this man which the Lord God created, man’s soul was the seat of all his inward life—the life of his thinking, of his willing, of his emotions. He was created as a man that could know the Lord his God with a mind and intellect capable of comprehending spiritual truths and seeing the revelation of God in the things that were made. He was a man that was capable of willing, the good and desiring it when he sought fellowship with the Lord God at the foot of the tree of life. He was a man who rejoiced in this blessed and rich covenant fellowship, emotionally aroused to praise and glorify his Maker through his knowledge of Him because God’s glory was displayed on every hand. Yet this inward life of the soul—this life of the mind and the will—was not all the life of Adam, and could not possibly be. He had also a body. He was created with a body in which were found eyes and ears, nose and mouth, fingers and arms, in fact every part of his body with which he lived in the midst of the garden. This body was the means and instrument of his life since he was called to live it in the world. Through the doors of his body, i.e., through senses, there passed into his soul the knowledge of God as he contemplated the things that were made. But this same body was for Adam also the instrument whereby he could give expression to his inward life-the life of the soul. His thoughts and desires, as well as the emotions that arose within him could come to outward expression in his use of the body as he busily went about his work to glorify his God. He could speak and sing God’s praises as he was aroused to adoration. He could fight against evil as it also attacked the garden. He could eat of the Tree of Life and turn his back to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And through his body the inward life of his soul thus came to expression.
In this nature and through this nature including both body and soul was Adam’s person. The subject of all his deeds, his thinking and willing, his doing and acting was his person. No animal nor any other creature in all God’s creation was a person. Only man, created body and soul, rational and moral could be a person. And this person was the conscious subject of all that he did.
Besides this, Adam possessed a heart. This was the very center of his life as he lived his earthly life in relation to God. The condition of Adam’s heart determined that nature of the relationship which he sustained toward his Maker. His heart was perfect. And because his heart was at the very center and pith of all his existence, all that he did was perfect and righteous in the sight of God. The person of Adam functioning through the heart and then and thus through the soul and body of this highest of all God’s creatures did only that which was right and good with the full approval of God.
Now this essential creation of man is not altered by sin. What does happen is that the heart of man is become thoroughly corrupt and depraved. The heart is become polluted and desecrated, a wilderness spiritually, a barren and dry land ethically. It is separated from God who is the fountain of all life and blessing. It is under the heavy hand of the curse and God’s wrath. It is dead and unable to function in any way pleasing to God. It is pointed in the direction of hell and seeks only those things which arise out of hell in the mind and heart of the devil and his hosts of evil spirits. But this depraved heart casts its long shadows on the whole nature of man and corrupts it all. For this reason, man’s mind becomes dark and black capable only of thinking the lie and standing only in contact with all that is of sin and corruption. Nothing good or true, nothing holy or heavenly, no light of God can penetrate the dark labyrinths of this wicked and depraved mind of man. He cannot even see the things of the kingdom of heaven, and stands altogether apart from and in opposition to all that is holy and just and good.
Besides this, the will of man becomes totally perverse and obstinate in all that it does under the influence of this corrupted heart. So depraved is the will that it cannot seek God, nor even have the faintest desire to seek God or the things of God. Such a will delights only in all kinds of unrighteousness and iniquity, having its pleasure in moral corruption and depravity, blaspheming God and mocking Him as it goes its own carnal way.
The body therefore also becomes the slave to sin and the servant of a depraved soul. It is the instrument of unrighteousness. All the filth and corruption that lives within man’s heart and fills his mind and will pours out in a vile torrent in all that he does and speaks. In continual and complete opposition to God, man dances merrily the way to eternal damnation cursing God and his fellow man.
But now the question is, What is the inward man? Some commentators insist that the inward man is the life which goes on in the soul of man in distinction from the life of the body. They maintain that the inward man is present in every man be he elect or reprobate, converted or unconverted. Usually also they maintain that this inward man is not yet so bad. There is an element of good in him which is somewhat suppressed by the evils of the body, but which will come to expression with sufficient effort and concentration. It may perhaps need a little help and even divine assistance, but it will certainly be successful if only it is exercised often enough. This is obviously all wrong and is but an attempt to resurrect the ancient and oft condemned theory of Pelagius. And yet it is the view that is readily and generally adopted today.
The inward man is described in Scripture as being that in us which is once again restored in such a way that it does that which is pleasing in God’s sight. It is that in us which delights in the law of God. It is that which is renewed day by day while the outward man perishes and decays. It is that which has true spiritual wisdom and is strengthened with might by the Spirit of God in order that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, and that we may know the love of Christ and be filled with all the fullness of God.
The inward man is first of all the regenerated heart. God regenerates the hearts of his own elect people. He gives them a new heart and creates within them a clean and holy heart in which can no longer be found any of the defilement and corruption of sin. This very center and pith of man is recreated and reformed by the almighty hand of God through the Spirit of Jesus Christ so that instead of it being dead, it is filled with the life of Christ; instead of it being twisted and distorted by sin, it is made holy and pure; instead of it being the fountain of corruption and defilement, it is the source of all that is holy and good and sweet. Thus the inward man is the principle of regeneration planted in the heart of the elect by the sovereign might of God through the power of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. God creates the inward man, and He alone without even the will and knowledge of the elect sinner. This inward man is therefore completely freed from the power of sin and renewed so entirely that it is impossible for it to sin any longer. Of this perfect and holy inward man living in covenant fellowship of life with God the apostle John speaks when he says, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” I John 3:10.
Yet there is more to it than this. It is important to remember that as long as we live on this earth, only the inward heart of man is regenerated and made alive and new. The nature of man is not regenerated. This must wait until the final return of our Savior upon the clouds of the heavens. Certainly the soul is not made alive and new, nor is the body made perfect. It is only the heart that is restored by this altogether amazing wonder of grace which is comparable to creation in power and efficacy. But nevertheless the soul does come under the influence of this regenerated heart. The light and life that is implanted within us sends its rays of strength throughout the soul of man. It influences his mind and will and emotions to a certain extent. It is for this reason that Paul can speak of the transforming and renewing of our minds in Romans 12:1, and of the mind which serves the law of God in Romans 7:25. This whole idea is very beautifully expressed in the Canons of Dordrecht, III and IV, 11: “But when God accomplishes his good pleasure in the elect, or works in them true conversion, he not only causes the gospel to be externally preached to them, and powerfully illuminates their minds by his Holy Spirit, that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God; but by the efficacy of the same regenerating Spirit, pervades the inmost recesses of the man; he opens the closed, and softens the hardened heart, and circumcises that which was uncircumcised, infuses new qualities into the will, which though heretofore dead, he quickens; from being evil, disobedient, and refractory, he renders it good, obedient, and pliable; actuates and strengthens it, that like a good tree, it may bring forth the fruits of good actions.”
Yet even this power in the heart of man comes to expression through the body of man as he begins at least to walk in the way of God’s commandments and do that which is pleasing in God’s sight. Even the body comes under the influence and dominion of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. So also Paul admonishes the church, “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” Romans 6:13.
But nevertheless, this old nature including both the soul and the body is still depraved and corrupt. And it is this depraved and corrupt nature which is called in Scripture the outward man, or the old man of sin, or the flesh. The nature is not regenerated either in the mind and will or the body. The ruts and groves of sin are still present and deeply worn through generations of sinning in the human race. And when the new principle of life tries to come to expression through the old corrupt nature, the lines of life and holiness as they proceed from the heart are still twisted and distorted by sin so that after all we have only a small beginning of the new obedience and even our best works are corrupted and polluted by sin.
But the person of man functions through both the old and the new man. It is the subject of all that is holy and good, but it is also the subject of all that is corrupt and bad. It is the subject of the good deeds that arise in the heart, but it is also the subject of the evil thoughts and desires which are still present within us. Nor do we dare to say that we do not sin, but that our nature sins. It will not do to hold out our natures at arm’s length when we sin and say, “It is no more I that sin, but only this wicked flesh which I must carry about with me. I am perfect!”
To sum it all up therefore, the new man is the person of the elect child of God functioning through the regenerated heart as this heart influences the mind and will and even the body to do that which is good. The old man is that same person functioning through his depraved nature, his darkened mind and will and his body which is still the instrument to perform all kinds of evil.
It is exactly this strange and yet very real phenomenon which makes the life of the believer such a bitter struggle in all his earthly sojourn. This is why Paul says in Romans 7:15-23, “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For, I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform, that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”
Thus our whole being while on this earth becomes the battlefield of the fiercest struggle imaginable. The spirit wars against the flesh, and the flesh against the spirit, for they are contrary to each other. And the fierce and bitter battle does not come to its end until we lay down our lives in death. For although indeed it is true that I do that which is pleasing in God’s sight according to the inner man, it is still true I that sin also and that I must confess with David, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.” Or, again, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O Lord, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.”
And so the battle wages on growing hotter and hotter as our weary life progresses. And in the agony of it all, as the struggle taxes our strength and all but makes us faint we cry out in bitter agony, “O, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
Yet just because the new man, the inner man, is the creation of our God, there is the victory principally even now over all the sin which I still commit; for, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
It is this inner man that is finally delivered when our old man decaying day by day is laid way in the grave and the new man in Christ is snatched away by the angels to be carried into Abraham’s bosom to rest eternally with God. It must indeed wait for a time until also the outward man is regenerated from the dust of death, for final perfection, but then indeed the distinction will be no more between inner and outer man, for in body and soul we shall be perfect forever more.