Original Man

Chapter Summary of Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion
Book One, Chapter XV – Discussion of Human Nature as Created, of the Faculties of the Soul, of the Image of God, of Free Will, and of the Original Integrity of Man’s Nature 

In this chapter Calvin again picks up the importance, as in the first chapter of Book I, of man knowing himself if he is to truly know God. Here he expounds on the understanding of man specifically as it relates to his “pre-fall” condition in Adam. At his creation man was “spotless”, body and soul. The fact that man became tarnished owes to his own volition and not that of any defect in his nature as created by God. It cannot rightly be understood from Scripture that the body and soul are one-and-the-same. Neither can it be demonstrated that, while incorporeal, the soul may be understood as without essence, as the Manichaeans suggest. They argue that the soul is “a force divinely infused into bodies” but without essence. For how is it that a non-essential force could apprehend the things of God and even move to penetrate to his judgment seat? Unlike the body, the soul grasps the distinctions of right and wrong. Indeed, Peter specifically speaks of the “salvation of…souls” [1 Pet. 1:9]. Christ himself draws the distinction between the bliss of the soul of Lazarus over-against the torment of the rich man’s soul [Luke 16:22-23]. 

Man was created by God in his “image and likeness” [Gen. 1:27]. The proper seat of this image in man is the soul. Responding to those who would draw a substantive distinction between the terms image and likeness requires little ink. Repetition is common in Hebrew writing for the purpose of emphasis or explanation. Later Moses refers to the “image of God” twice with no mention of likeness whatever. We can also understand by the teaching of Christ that the angels too were created in God’s image [Matt. 22:30].

The image of God was revealed in Adam before the fall and revealed in its fullness in Christ Jesus. His image in man at the fall was certainly decimated, but not totally destroyed, and, by the work of Christ, will be fully restored [Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24; 2 Cor. 3:18]. Even now, in so far as one has been reborn in the spirit the beginning of this restoration is manifest. The Manichaean’s error of the soul’s emanation, that because it is said that God “breathed the breath of life upon man’s face” [Gen. 2:7], that this image consists of some actual portion of the substance of God. This is non-sense on many levels not the least of which is that God is not subject to change that such relinquishing of part of his own substance would require. We are indeed God’s offspring [Acts 17:28], but in quality, not in essence. We are made to conform to God not in “substance but by the grace and power of the Spirit” [2 Cor. 3:18].

The soul itself is incorporeal but housed in the body. It serves to animate man’s actions, rule man’s behavior, arouse man to honor God and bring shame (conscience) when honor is lacking. While the created soul is intended for conformity to the image in which man is made, perversion of this has given man the capacity for anger and inordinate desire. The fundamental faculties of man is the understanding and the will. The understanding distinguishes between what is worthy of approval or disapproval. The will is the conscious outworking of the judgment of the understanding.

Given this groundwork regarding the functioning of the soul in man it is understood that Adam, prior to the fall, had the freedom and power to obey and attain eternal life, or to disobey and deny it. By his own will, on the basis of his own understanding, he violated his covenant. All of his progeny since have inherited his corrupted state. In spite of this “slap” in the face of the creator, God has and will work it for the good of his people [Rom. 8:28] and his own glory.


Sovereign Providence Seen In Creation

Chapter Summary of Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion

Book One, Chapter XIV – Even in the Creation of the Universe and of All Things, Scripture by Unmistakable Marks Distinguishes the True God from False Gods

Through Moses’ account of creation, God provides the reader of Scripture with abundant information regarding his own character. Through one’s interaction and observation of the universe and the instruction of God’s Word he is left with no excuse for boredom of thought or rejection of his Creator as the one true God. Rather than being discontent in our curiosity leading us to press beyond God’s revealed will regarding matters of divinity and the origin of the universe, we should instead be rapt by the immeasurable bounty of answers no man can exhaust which has been provided in God’s kind providence.

It is also clear from Scripture that God is Lord over all, including the angels which he created, thus, as an aside, ascribing to them divinity is patently unbiblical. There are those who have argued against God being the creator of all things. The Manichees, for example, in an effort to distance God from being assumed the creator of evil, taught that while God is the origin of all good, it is the devil who is the eternal, self-existent creator of evil. However, since eternality and self-existence are of necessity attributes of divinity he is essentially ascribing divinity to the devil. Further, their argument is unnecessary. For evil to occur does not require its being created as if it had its own existence apart from good. Rather, evil is the corruption of created good.

Part of being “approved workers” who are “unashamed” we should not be timid in our conviction to follow Christ’s prescription for understanding God’s creation, vis, God’s word. This includes our understanding of the angels – their origin, number, role and activities. It is unprofitable, and I dare say a betrayal of our unbelief to permit our curiosity to press us into inquiry beyond that which God has deigned to make clear from Scripture. There are things then that we may know of the angels from God’s word. We know that God uses angels to carry out things he has decreed [e.g., Ps. 102:20-21]. They are called “hosts” [Luke 2:13], principalities [ Col. 1:16], powers [Eph. 1:21], dominions [1 Cor. 15:24], thrones [Col. 1:16], and even gods [e.g., Ps. 138:1] in that they in some respects exhibit God’s divinity to us. Of note however, when in the Old Testament we see the phrase “the angel of God” or “the angel of the Lord”, this we must interpret as a theophany of the pre-incarnate Christ, or a “Christophany” [e.g., Gen. 18:1; 32:2, 28; Josh. 5:14; Judg. 6:14; 13:10, 22].

While we also see many evidences of angels being employed as protectors, helpers and guides of believers [Ps. 90:11-12; 34:7; Gen. 16:9; 24:7; Ex. 14:19; 23:20; Matt. 4:11; 28:5 to name a few], we have no solid biblical grounds on which to assume that each believer has his own assigned, personal guardian angel. We do see however that there are those assigned to the watch-care of kingdoms and provinces [Dan. 10:12, 20; 12:1] and “children” generally [Matt. 18:10]. This issues has been somewhat confused by the statement after Peter’s “jail break” when the gathered brethren said “[i]t is his angel” [Acts 12:15] at the gate. First, they were mistaken, it was in fact Peter himself. Secondly, as to the understanding that would lead them to even have a foundation for such conclusion does not necessarily indicate that they assumed there to be a single angel perpetually assigned to one individual.

As to the number of angels, there are at least “many legions” [Matt. 26:53]. As to form, they are quite real, though spirits without bodily form who, for the benefit of man appear in visible form at times in the accomplishment of their duties as “ministering spirits” [Heb. 1:14]. Though, as stated, they do not contain in themselves divinity. Christ is superior to the angels and indeed is the author of all good things that they have [Col. 1:16, 20]. As such, angels are not to be worshipped as God. John recounts his own rebuke by an angel for such a mistake [Rev. 19:10; 22:8-9]. While they are not to be worshipped, they are provided to give comfort and not for God’s benefit, as if he needed assistance to accomplish anything, but as an additional assurance to a weak-minded people of weak faith. Rather than leading us to worship the angels, it is ever their role to point our worship Godward.

The “fallen angels”, quite to the contrary, are bent on distracting man from God. Because of this Scripture calls the believer to take precautions and struggle against the “powers of darkness, and spiritual wickedness” [Eph. 6:12] that are numerous [Mark 16:9; Luke 8:30]. At their head is Satan who “from the beginning…was a murderer…and a liar” [John 8:44]. He is a good creation of God who in malice perverted his nature. For “he abode not in the truth” and he is “the father of lies” who, with his minions are instruments of ruin for others [see 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6; 1 Tim. 5:21]. Despite their willful opposition to God they are held fast by God’s will. That is to say, while their wills are contrary to God’s, the resulting effects of their actions, by God’s divine providence and decrees, are and will remain aligned with God’s own will [e.g., Job 1;6; 2:1; 1:12; 2:6; 1 Kings 22:20-22; Ps. 78:49; 2 Thess. 2:9, 11; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2]. Through God’s use of innumerable means the result is that the believer is assured victory [e.g., Eph. 4:27; 1 Pet. 5:8-9; 2 Cor. 12:7; Gen. 3:15; Rom. 16:20; Luke 10:18]. Also, as with the righteous angel, the “devils” are not thoughts or good inspirations, they are actualities as evidenced by numerous passages which cannot be understood to be spoken of regarding non-real thoughts or ideas [e.g., Jude 6, 9; Matt. 12:43; John 8:44; 1 John 3:8,10; Job 1:6; 2:1; Matt. 8:29; 25:41; 2 Pet. 2:4].

Considering all of these things – from the wonders of creations, the work of the angels and the providential conscription of the devils for his purposes – we should be compelled to unashamed, grateful, trusting love, praise, and service to our God.