Seeing Man in Every Text:
While every text is ultimately about God’s character, activity, and concerns, every text is also about mankind. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” The inspired word, therefore, is given for the purpose of equipping God’s children to carry out the work that He has given them to do. Ephesians 2:8-9 informs us that God saved us by His grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, so that we might do good works. It is this knowledge of Him that gives us everything that we need for this pursuit of life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). Psalm 119 provides an incredible list of the ways that God sufficiently provides for us through His word.
So, with this being the case, how does God’s word reveal information about mankind? Well, we find that it does so through revealing our origin and original innocence as those created in the image of God, it reveals our utter depravity and rebellion as a result of the fall (i.e., our fallen condition), and it reveals our remaining sinful tendencies (i.e., sinful heart conditions and idolatry) that continue to plague us this side of glory. God’s word is intended to make us what we cannot be on our own, since we are spiritually incomplete apart from Christ (Eph. 2:1-10; Col. 1:28-2:15). Every text has a central burden of God providing the solution to man’s fallen condition. For the very purpose of God’s word is to reveal Himself as the ultimate solution to our sinful predicament.
The Holy Spirit inspired each passage of Scripture so that God would be “more properly glorified through His people,” and the best way for us to determine the Holy Spirit’s intended purpose is to consider what was the universally-sinful human condition that necessitated it. Bryan Chapell in Christ Centered Preaching (Baker Academic: 2005, 51) defines the Fallen Condition Focus as “the mutual human condition that contemporary believers share with those to or about whom the text was written that requires the grace of the passage for God’s people to glorify and enjoy him.” God’s word provides the grace for us to deal with human brokenness that has been a barrier to the full experience and expression of His glory in and through us.
Some helpful questions to ask when discovering how the text reveals mankind are:
1. What aspects of the image of God (longings, desires, interests, values) are reflected in this passage?
2. What fallen conditions (desires, attitudes, actions, beliefs, etc) are stated, described, or implied in the passage?
3. What struggles, challenges, temptations, and realities to walking with God are stated, described, or implied in this passage?
An example from Ephesians 2:1-10:
1. Aspects of Mankind in the Image of God: God has given mankind appetites/desires, and a capacity for worship (though sin has distorted both). God has given us a longing for purpose and a desire to work. God has given us an interest in exerting our passions, energies, and strength toward that which brings satisfaction (though once again, sin has distorted the object of our satisfaction). God has given us eternal value, and as a result, He won’t leave every one of us entirely dead for all of eternity.
2. Man’s Fallen Condition: Sin has caused us to be spiritually dead (v.1) as a result of transgressing God’s law. Our tendency is to walk according to the ways of this world, following in the footsteps of Satan, and living in open disobedience. We are unable to do otherwise, except that God intervene (v.4). While created as sons and daughters of God, we became sons and daughters of disobedience (v.2). We live satisfy the perverted passions of our flesh by carrying out the selfish desires of our minds and bodies. Like all of sinful humanity, God’s wrath was being stored up for us (v.3). Apart from grace, we tend to boast in ourselves and our works (v.9), and we tend to serve ourselves rather than the good that God prepared for us to do (v.10).
3. Man’s Struggles & Tendencies: We struggle, at times, with the futile patterns of our former ignorance (cf. 1 Peter 1:14-23) by pursuing the passions of our flesh despite the fact that we’ve been redeemed by the blood of Christ. There is a tendency toward idolatry–seeking satisfaction outside of intimacy with God. We tend to boast in ourselves rather than giving full glory to God for our salvation, sanctification, and the good work of our hands that He alone provides (v.6-10).
These are just a few examples of how we see our fallen condition displayed in the passage. In the next post, we’ll consider how God’s grace provides the “gospel solution” to our fallen condition. He provides the very power and deliverance that we need to overcome our greatest degrees of sinfulness.
Upon reflection of our sinful condition apart from grace, might we praise Him that He did not leave us there for eternity.