The Truth Concerning the Nature of Man
The material on this page was written in the 1970s to respond to the criticisms of Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and the original “Bible Answer Man.” CRI has since withdrawn those criticisms and reversed its earlier conclusions (see “A Brief History of the Relationship between the Local Churches and the Christian Research Institute”). The text of this article is published here for the historical record, for the important points of truth it addresses, and because CRI’s criticisms, although withdrawn, are still repeated by others.
From: Answers to the Bible Answer Man (Vol. 1)
12. THE TRUTH CONCERNING THE NATURE OF MAN
The body of man was created pure and good (Gen. 1:31); there was nothing inherently evil or sinful about it. But according to the Bible, the body is different from the flesh, which in the Scriptures has at least three meanings: the flesh of our physical body (John 6:55); the fallen, corrupted body contaminated by sin (Rom. 7:18); and the fallen man (Rom. 3:20). God did not create fallen flesh; He created a body of flesh, blood, and bones. When man fell, sin, the evil nature of Satan, came into man’s body, transmuting it into the flesh. This flesh is called “the flesh of sin” (Rom. 8:3, Gk. ), and the fallen body is called “the body of sin” (Rom. 6:6) and “the body of this death” (Rom. 7:24). Because the God-created body has been corrupted and ruined by sin and transmuted into the flesh, all kinds of lusts are now in the members of our body (Gal. 5:24; Col. 3:5).
First John 3:10 speaks of “the children of the devil.” To be a child of the devil means to be begotten of the devil and hence to have the devil’s life and nature. A child of the devil has his source in the devil. Cain was of the evil one, the devil, Satan; so is everyone who commits sin (1 John 3:12, 8). In John 8:44 the Lord Jesus said, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.” The fact that the devil is the father of fallen man must mean that in some way fallen man has been begotten of the devil. Both John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus called the religious ones a “generation of vipers” (Matt. 3:7; 23:33), that is, the offspring of vipers. All these verses indicate that fallen men are children of Satan, possessing Satan’s life and nature.
Now we must ask this question: In what part of their being are fallen people begotten the children of the devil with the satanic life and nature? The answer is found in the book of Romans. Romans 7:5 says that “the motions of sins…work in our members,” referring, of course, to the members of our physical body. Verse 23 says, “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 verse 18 Paul declared that in his flesh was “no good thing,” and in verse 20 he said that sin dwelt in him. When we examine the verbs used by Paul to portray the action of sin, we see that the sin which is in us behaves exactly like a person. This sin enters (5:12), reigns (6:12), lords it over us (6:14), revives (7:9), takes occasion, deceives, kills (7:11), dwells in us (7:17), and does things in us (7:20). All these are the activities of a person. Hence, we may infer that the sin that dwells in us is the personification of Satan and that it is in the flesh, the corrupted body, that fallen men are begotten of the devil. Sin is the evil nature of Satan. We may even say that sin is Satan. Because sin dwells in our body and because sin is the nature of Satan, it is not too much to say that Satan as sin dwells in our fallen body. This does not mean that Satan has no objective existence apart from man’s flesh. It simply means that the sin dwelling in our fallen bodies is the personification of Satan himself and that, in this sense, Satan dwells in our flesh.
Two further points! First, the above statements regarding the presence of Satan in the flesh have absolutely nothing to do with gnosticism. According to gnosticism, matter is inherently evil. For the gnostic, man’s physical body, being material, is intrinsically evil; and salvation consists in the emancipation of the spirit from the body. Taking our stand with the Scriptures, we have always condemned the teachings of gnosticism. Man’s physical body is not inherently evil, but it has been defiled through the sin that dwells in it.
Second, the fact that a believer’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19) does not mean that sin as the personification of Satan and the lusts of the flesh are no longer in our flesh. In the same book where Paul says that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, he also speaks of fornication being among the members of the church (1 Cor. 5:1, 9-11). Surely this indicates that the element of sin, the personification of Satan, is still in the flesh of the believers. The body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit is the created body which has been recovered. But in this body there are still the lusts, which have their origin in the devil. For this reason, Paul admonished the churches in Galatia, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).
Copyright © 1994 Living Stream, Anaheim, CA, USA. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission.