Evolution’s doctrine of man is fundamentally wrong on two counts. That was the diagnosis Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones delivered during an interview in 1970: “I criticize the modern view of man on two grounds. One is that it makes too much of man. Secondly, that it doesn’t make enough of man.”
Jones’ point was in reference to the two biblical truths that evolutionists emphatically deny. They recognize man as “just an animal” and refuse to acknowledge him as being created in the image of God. Conversely, the secular wisdom of our day pronounces man as morally neutral and refuses to acknowledge what is so painfully obvious—that all people are sinners by nature.
Made in God’s Image
The Bible makes it clear that humanity is not merely one type of animal competing in the fight for survival. Scripture testifies that God made man to be the apex of His creation:
God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26–28)
There is nothing pointless or random about human existence. We were originally designed to take dominion over the world God made. Man, as God’s image bearer, carries a divine mission that sets him completely apart from the animal kingdom.
But what exactly does it mean that mankind was created in the image of God?
While the imago Dei is a massive theological subject in its own right, it contains one inherent truth vital for evangelism: Man is a moral creature who is accountable to God. James Montgomery Boice highlighted that critical implication.
An element in being created in the image of God is morality. Morality includes the two further elements of freedom and responsibility. To be sure, the freedom which men and women possess is not absolute. Even in the beginning the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve, were not autonomous. They were creatures and were responsible for acknowledging their status by their obedience.
Realizing that we are created in God’s image brings with it a sense of honor but also the realization of grave accountability. Our inherent morality doesn’t vouch for our morals. Rather, it convicts us of our failure to behave morally. Our knowledge of right and wrong, and the fact that we continually violate that morality, point us back to the historical reality of Adam’s fall.
Are we sinners because we sin, or do we sin because we are sinners? Be careful how you answer that question—it’s not a play on words. Only one answer is biblically true.
When Adam fell in the Garden, his sin was passed on in the natures of all his descendants. It isn’t our sins that make us sinners. Our sins reveal our true sinful natures. John MacArthur elaborates:
All humanity was plunged into this guilty condition because of Adam’s sin. “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19). This is the doctrine of original sin, a truth that is expounded by Paul in Romans 5:12–19. . . . We prove our willing complicity in Adam’s rebellion every time we sin. And since no one other than Jesus has ever lived a sinless life, no one is really in a position to doubt the doctrine of original sin, much less deem it unjust.
Original sin is biblical truth that can be empirically proven. When the Bible tells us that everybody is a sinner (Romans 3:23) it reinforces what the sum of our life experience has already proven. Original sin is why we have everything from global wars to locks on doors. It’s why people get sick and die. It’s why we are dying! There is nowhere to flee from the reality and impact of Adam’s first act of defiance in the Garden. And there is no way to get around our own subsequent crimes of complicity.
Guilty and Without Excuse
Man’s failure to honor and obey his Creator has never been due to ignorance on the part of humanity—or the lack of evidence on God’s part. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so [men] are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
When we proclaim the God of Scripture to sinners, we aren’t ministering to their lack of theological education. We are presenting truth that clearly resonates with what they already instinctively know. God’s Word tells us that sinners are not uninformed about the truth of God, but rather, they suppress that truth “in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). Put simply, man’s primary problem has always been the love of sin, not the lack of education.
“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations” (Romans 1:21). God holds sinful men accountable for their failure to worship Him rightly. And He will call us to account on the Day of Judgment for our failure to do so (Hebrews 9:27).
That judgment will extend to all of our actions (Revelation 20:11–12), words (Matthew 12:36–37), and even thoughts (Matthew 5:27–28; 1 Corinthians 4:5). There will be nowhere to hide and nothing left to conceal on the Day of Judgment.
Warning vs. Wooing
Faithful evangelists never comfort unrepentant sinners. Instead, we are to warn them. We must expose the sheer awfulness and offensiveness of sin by confronting them with an objective standard of righteousness. Since sin is biblically defined as lawlessness (1 John 3:4), John MacArthur advocates for the use of God’s law in the exposure of sin.
Jesus and the apostles did not hesitate to use the law in their evangelism. They knew that law reveals our sin (Romans 3:20) and is a tutor to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). It is the means God uses to make sinners see their own helplessness. Clearly, Paul saw a key place for the law in evangelistic contexts. Yet many today believe the law, with its inflexible demand for holiness and obedience, is contrary to and incompatible with the gospel.
Why should we make such distinctions when Scripture does not? If Scripture cautioned against preaching repentance, obedience, righteousness, or judgment to unbelievers, that would be one thing. But Scripture contains no such warnings. The opposite is true. . . . If we want to follow the biblical model, we cannot ignore sin, righteousness, and judgment because they are the very matters about which the Holy Spirit convicts the unsaved (John 16:8). Can we omit them from the message and still call it the gospel?
Some argue that it’s better to preach about God’s love rather than man’s sin. That may sound like a far more pleasant and palatable idea, but Scripture reveals that the love of God finds its very definition in human sinfulness: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). A failure to preach about sin leaves the love of God meaningless and the cross of Christ purposeless.
If we are to faithfully proclaim the gospel, we need to let the glorious light of Christ’s saving work shine against the dark backdrop of man’s guilt. The cross will never be understood as the solution unless the problem is first explained. And the ultimate problem is most graphically displayed in the stark contrast between God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness. The more we polarize these two truths, the more profound the portrayal of Christ’s redemptive work. We’ll consider that next time.
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