The Dignity of Man
For twenty-three years I was the wife of a denominational evangelist. During part of those years we were members of a Free Will Baptist Church. My husband and I, by our own independent study, had discovered many things wrong with the doctrine and practice of that group, but had not seen the simplicity of New Testament Christianity until personally taught by one who cared.
Some errors are so close to the truth and may be so closely interwoven with truth that it is very difficult to see exactly what the error is without help. Let me urge you to care enough about some friend whom you may believe to be in error to lovingly share with hem the "faith that once for all was delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
Note some of the doctrine of the denomination to which I once belonged, and how mixed it is with truth.
"Our first parents, in their original state, were upright. They naturally preferred and desired to obey their Creator, and had no preference or desire to transgress His will until they were influenced and inclined by the tempter to disobey God's commands. Previous to this, the only tendency of their nature was to do righteousness. In consequence of the first transgression the state under which the posterity of Adam came into the world is so different from that of Adam that they have not that righteousness and purity which Adam had before the fall; they are not willing to obey God, but are inclined to evil. Hence none, by virtue of any natural goodness and mere work of their own, can become the children of God; but they are all dependent for salvation upon the redemption effected through the blood of Christ, and upon being created anew unto obedience through the operation of the Spirit; both of which are freely provided for every descendent of Adam." (A treatise of the Faith and Practices of the Original Free Will Baptists, 1953, Chapter IV, Section II, pp. 11-12).
If Adam had no preference or desire to transgress God's will, then the tempter must have been stronger than Adam. If the posterity of Adam are not willing to obey God, but are inclined to evil because of Adam's sin, how can they be guilty of the sins they commit when they inherited a nature which was not theirs by choice? Is it any wonder that men become atheists?
Exactly how a person who is by nature totally inclined to evil can be regenerated by the Spirit and made "disposed to serve Him" and do this by his own free will, when his own free will was inclined only to evil, we never did discover! In footnote 3 on page 25 our little "Treatise" quotes John 3:5 this way, "Except a man be born...of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." And in footnote 1 of the article just quoted attempting to prove that Adam had no desire to transgress God's will, Ecclesiastes 7:29 is quoted thus, "God hath made man upright." We were never told why the rest of the verse was not included -- "but he sought out many inventions."
Now let us read what the scriptures say: "Then God said: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (Genesis 1:26-27).
"Ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy" (Leviticus 11:35 and several other places).
God is commanding the descendants of Adam to be holy. Note that the atonement has not yet been made! How could a just God command a man who is by nature a sinner to be holy? Again, is it any wonder that men become atheists?
Just faintly I am beginning to see a new dawn approaching in which the dignity of man is being restored. As yet it is obscured by violence, misfeasance, and even atheism, yet in a distance, beyond the fierce battle of this night, the sunrise of a new day is dawning.
As most people of my age, I have been shocked by some of the things I have seen happening during the last few years. Yet, these very things have brought about a new atmosphere. As a reaction among some, there has come into being a renewed respect for human life and human dignity.
It is only when we realize the dignity of man -- man created in the image and likeness of God -- man that has the ability within himself to make the choice to be holy before he sins, and the choice to be made holy by the blood of Christ after he sins -- that we begin to realize the enormity of sin. That such a man would deliberately separate himself from His God fully knowing the consequences of doing so is amazing. Only when we realize the enormity of sin can we realize the greatness of God's love and mercy.
Let us take advantage of the day as it dawns. Let us help restore the dignity of man. Let us help man realize who he is. People are searching for another day! When man realizes who he is, he will begin to realize the enormity of his sin, and he will be seeking salvation from his sin! And he can find it in Christ.
Sandra F. Cobble
Published in The Old Paths Archive