An Overview of Biblical Anthropology: Religious and Cultural History, and the Gospel of Christ

These are my sermon notes for a sermon I preached on the 14th of August 2016 at my church, Cornerstone Baptist Church, in Erskine Park, Sydney. The audio is available at the following link: http://cornerstonebaptist.com.au/sermons/?sermon_id=255

“And [God] has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being…Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” – Acts 17:26-31 (see 17:16-34 for the entire reading)

Anthropology: “the study of man”. Greek: anthropos (“human”), logos (“word” or “study”).

Biblical Anthropology is therefore the study of what God’s word says about man.

You have heard the passage read. Paul, preaching to the Athenians, Greeks. Paul claiming that all men came from one, saying that God overlooks the times of ignorance, saying that God now calls all men everywhere to repent, saying that all men and women everywhere are obligated to turn to God, saying that God will judge all people by Christ, saying that the gospel concerns every inhabitant of the world, saying that all people must hear and believe the gospel message, saying that God will judge all men and women everywhere, past present and future, and saying that all men and women must accept the resurrection of Christ as proof and assurance that God will judge all men and women by Christ.

There is no surprise in what Paul is saying. Since Paul was a student of the Old Testament, this is exactly what we would expect him to say. It is exactly what we would expect him to say about the origin of man, the origin of nations, the blood-relatedness of all humanity, and the dispersion of humanity over the face of the earth.

Let’s survey some various relevant Old Testament texts in order to consider this yet again.

Section 1 – Preliminary Assertions, and Preliminary Conclusions from These Assertions

  1. Preliminary Assertions

The Origin of Humanity

  • Adam – the first man created. (Genesis 2:5,7; 1 Timothy 2:8-15)
  • Eve – the first woman created. – formed out of Adam’s rib. (Genesis 2:18,20-25)
  • All other people on earth are the grandchildren of Adam and Eve – no other first parents. (Genesis 3:20; 6:1, “when men began to multiply on the face of the earth” – there were not a great multitude of men at man’s first creation; only two: Adam and Eve, the first man and woman.) When we look at Adam and Eve, we must see ourselves, and everyone else in the world, in their bodies, we must see that we proceeded from them, that we are their physical descendants by natural generation – that is, by men and women coming together in the way they come together, and producing children. For this is a fact. We are in a long link of this coming together of men and women and producing children.
  • Therefore, all people on the earth are one race – there is no such thing as a genetic Australian, or a genetic Romanian, or a genetic Chinaman, or a genetic Irishman, or a genetic Scotsman, or a genetic Jew, or a genetic African, or a genetic Aboriginal, or a genetic Russian, etc. (Genesis 3:20; Acts 17:26)
  • Adam sinned and all his children inherit his guilt and sin nature – whether Australian, Romanian, Irish, Scottish, Chinese, African, Russian, etc. as we are all Adam and Eve’s grandchildren. (Romans 5:12; 3:21-23; 1:16)

Religious History

  • Adam and Eve had God’s spoken revelation – they taught it to their children.  Or, at least, God revealed the true religion to Cain and Abel, for they were practicing it in this instance. – Cain and Abel made sacrifices to the only true God.(Genesis 4:3-5)
  • The majority of Adam and Eve’s children forsook God’s spoken revelation. This is seen in the fact that (see points 8 through 11):
  • Noah – a physical descendant of Adam and Eve, as all people in the world are, and as all people in his day were – preached God’s spoken revelation to the whole earth. (2 Peter 2:5)
  • None in the whole world but Noah’s wife and sons and sons’ wives believed what Noah preached.
  • Of all of Adam and Eve’s grandchildren in the whole earth in their day, only these were saved; and so God destroyed the rest of Adam and Eve’s grandchildren in the flood. (2 Peter 2:5)
  • Other than these 8 people, God saved two of every animal. (Genesis 7:7-9)
  • These 8 people possessed God’s spoken revelation and taught it to the whole world after them. They had witnessed all these events, all these works of God’s power in destroying the world, had witnessed the truth of God’s spoken revelation.
  • From these 8 people all people now on the earth are descended physically. (Genesis 8:17; 9:18-19) When we look at these 8 people in the ark, we must see every one of ourselves and everyone in the world, in their bodies, as proceeding from them, for this is a fact.
  • Therefore, all people now on the earth have descended from someone who knew the gospel preached by Noah, someone who had God’s spoken revelation.
  • The false religions of all the ancient times, therefore, resulted from the direct apostasy, or else lack of diligent attention, of Noah’s grandchildren against what Noah preached. – Babel is a major example of this. This is comparable to how a person may grow up in a Christian family and be taught the gospel all their lives, but not really have any personal interest in the gospel but only keep up a form of that godliness, and then marry and have children, and raise their children in that indifference towards the gospel, so that their children end up further distorting the gospel, or apostatizing and inventing new religions altogether. One could imagine someone saying, “I’m know someone who can speak to dead people. I will ask them to help me to speak to Noah, so that I can get his message.” And so a person has communion with demons, and has a demonically-induced vision, and starts a new religion based on that vision.

The Dispersion of Humanity Over the Face of the Whole Earth

  • The Tower of Babel incident resulted in the people of the earth speaking different languages. (Genesis 11:1,6-10) This also resulted in the dispersion of humanity over the face of the earth as we now see it. – Though dispersed all over the face of the earth, we are all physical descendants of Noah and his wife, and his sons, and his sons’ wives.
  • Though Adam and Eve’s children differ in physical appearance, this says nothing but that Adam and Eve have lots of different coloured children and grandchildren, just as all children in one family look different to each other.

God’s Continuing Self-Revelation

  • God revealed the true faith to Abraham. (Genesis 12:1-3) Remember: Abraham was one of the grandchildren of Adam and Eve, as we are.
  • It was through Abraham that all the grandchildren of Adam and Eve were to be blessed, through the faith which God revealed to Abraham. (Genesis 12:3)
  • This revelation which God gave to Abraham was not a complete revelation of God’s salvation. (1 Peter 1:10-12)
  • Even though this revelation was not a complete revelation, it was preached by Abraham to his sons, and all who believed it were reconciled to God. (Galatians 3:5-9; Romans 4:1-12)
  • God later formed into a nation those who were associated with Abraham and with God’s revelation to Abraham. This was the nation Israel. (Galatians 3:19-29)
  • Jesus was to come as a physical descendant of Abraham, though he would have no earthly father, being miraculously conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary. (Galatians 3:19; 4:4)
  • God continued to speak through men in Israel, giving more and more complete revelation. (Hebrews 1:1)
  • In Abraham, by God’s revelation, all people of the earth are blessed – that is, the whole human race is blessed that one of its members possessed God’s revelation.
  • Abraham’s nephew Lot was also blessed in being a believer in God’s revelation through Abraham – as the Scripture calls him “righteous Lot.” (2 Peter 2:7) Abraham’s wife Sarah was also blessed in having the same faith. (Hebrews 11:11)
  • The whole world was also blessed that one of the nations into which humanity was distributed should receive revelation from God.
  • Israel had an advantage beyond other nations, that they possessed this verbal revelation from God. “What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.” (Romans 3:1-2)
  • Revelation from God was restricted to the nation of Israel, inasmuch as God gave revelation through no one else but such as were born in that nation. (Romans 3:1-2)
  • However, through Israel God’s revelation was given to the whole world, and revelation was, in this sense, always intended to be given to all humanity. (Genesis 12:1-3) “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
  • This universality of the scope of gospel witness in the Old Testament is reflected in a lively manner in the Psalms. (Psalm 49; 65:2,5,8; 66:4-7; 67:2,4,7)
  • Israel are nothing naturally but descendants of Adam. There is nothing special about them genetically, and nothing about them that distinguishes them from the rest of the world by nature. There is nothing natural to them that makes them more easily accept God’s revelation in a saving way. The doctrine of Total Moral Inability applies to them just as truly and fully as it applies to any Gentile, and if they are not made alive by God’s Spirit through the hearing of the gospel, they will go to Hell for all eternity just like anyone else who is not made alive by God’s Spirit, “for there is no difference.” (see Romans 3:1-4)

The Gospel Mandate

  • God’s complete revelation in Christ, witnessed in public, and recorded in God’s word in the complete Bible, is intended to be given to all humanity. (“go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”)
  • All people who know the gospel are obligated to tell it to those who do not know it. – 1. Out of general love to mankind and desire for their salvation, and 2. Out of love to God as the only Lord of the universe, and out of desire that all should obey Him. (Acts 17:26-31)
  • All humanity are obligated to receive Christ. All humanity are blameworthy if they reject Christ. They have no obligation to anything else. They are obligated to forsake all that keeps them from Christ. (Luke 14:26-27)
  • All who receive Christ will be saved.
  1. Preliminary exhortation

Any view of humanity that does not accord with these assertions is un-Biblical, and therefore false and also blasphemous, and also utterly unsupportable by right reason; it is incongruous with reality; it is fictional; it is fantasy; it is a fairy tale; it is false. If your attitude towards any human being, or towards any people group, or towards humanity at large, at any moment in time, requires you to virtually dismiss any of the above points, then it requires you to sin against God’s word, and it requires you to rebel against the clear testimony of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures. If you observe such an attitude in yourself, you must repent and mourn before God and plead for His mercy in Christ as for any other sin. All sin deserves death. All sin is offensive in the sight of God. There is no forgiveness for any sin, including this, except in Christ’s substitutionary atonement for our sins on the cross, bearing the wrath of God due to us. And except from Christ’s work, you would be nothing but deserving of the fierceness and indignation of God’s wrath forever, even if you only ever committed this sin – and this applies for any sin. But today we focus on this sin.

Section 2 – Historical Facts Prove that All Humanity Are Alike in Their Corruptions

No European or non-European should view Europeans as more naturally Christian or godly than anyone else. There is reason to emphasize this, because of the prevailing influence of at least a kind of Christianity in Europe for some time. Just as there needed to be emphatically no distinction between Jews and Gentiles in the early church, so there needs to be no distinction now between Europeans and non-Europeans in the church.

The ancient inhabitants of the European lands were just as much given to absurd notions and demonic practices and worship – witchcraft, clairvoyance, etc. – as the inhabitants of Arabia, India, Asia and East Asia, etc. are in the present day. Europe was steeped in these things before the gospel went to them and God saved many among them. All of these wicked practices will be crushed on the Judgment Day. In God’s sight they must be. His soul is most dreadfully provoked by them. He will rejoice in their destruction when he finally and eternally brings it to pass, as will all of His good and redeemed creatures.

  1. Nothing but the gospel suppressed these wickednesses among European people.

1.a. Nothing else had the power to suppress these things among them.

  • Not their skin colour.
  • Not their culture.
  • Not their history.
  • Not their languages.
  • Not their customs.
  • Not their dressing styles.
  • Not their literature.
  • Not their geographical locations.

1.b. Nothing else has the power to suppress these things now.

  • Evidenced in the present growing popularity of occult practices, witchcraft, sorcery, demonic worship and ancient European paganism, in Europe in the present day.
  • Evidenced in the present popularity of atheism.
  • Evidenced in the growing hostility to the gospel in the present day in European nations.

*Again, their skin colour, culture, history, languages, customs, dressing styles, literature, geographical locations, etc. do nothing to suppress these wicked things now – these evil things abound without any respect to, or hindrance from, their skin colour, culture, history, language, customs, dressing style, literature, geographical location, etc.

Their wicked practices and absurd notions have no respect to them, and are not hindered in the slightest by their lineage, heritage, or physical appearance.

1.c. Nothing but the gospel – by God’s Spirit – has the power to change the present trend in European nations towards absurd notions and demonic practices and demonic worship.

1.d. God, if He wished, could give all Europe back over entirely to these practices, sorceries, religions and philosophies, and their skin colour, history, culture, heritage, literature, geographical location, customs, dressing style, etc. could not do anything to prevent it, or to change it once it is the case.

  • Their skin colour, history, culture, heritage, literature, geographical location, customs, dressing styles, languages, etc. did not prevent these practices from being practiced by everyone in the first place, and they are not preventing them from reverting back to those practices now.

Corollary: Europeans are in no way whatsoever superior by nature to other people – besides to distinguish European people from others except by their geographical location is artificial and un-Biblical – and other people are in no way whatsoever inferior by nature to them.

1.e. If God would stretch forth His mighty arm, by His Holy Spirit, through the gospel, upon India, Persia, Iraq, China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, etc. he could cause them all to turn away from their idolatry, witchcraft, demon worship, clairvoyance, blasphemy, etc. and make them receive the gospel of Christ, receive Christ, and make them the most zealous and doctrinally correct Christians in the world, and the most loving and active evangelists, and the most closely communing with God, and the most loving to all of God’s people, and the most zealous for good works, the most charitable to the poor, the most heavenly-minded, the most Christ-like, the most humble, the most serious, the most joyful, the most obedient to Christ in all things, the most loving husbands, the most submissive wives, the most loving and dutiful parents, and the most obedient and diligent children; and this would have nothing whatsoever to do with their culture, history, skin colour, literature, dressing style, geographical location, customs, languages, etc. and these things would not hinder or help them – these things would play no essential part in either helping or hindering them in any of these things.

  • God seems to be doing such a work in some parts of Asia already. – There are some Christians in Pakistan who are more sacrificial with their possessions and more zealous in outreach than we are. – There are some groups of Christians throughout East Asia generally who study the Bible with more appetite than we do, and are more attentive when they hear God’s word preached than we are.
  • God did such things in Bible times – see Nineveh in the days of Jonah (Jonah 3-4:11) and the records in the book of Acts – people burning their magic books, etc. (Acts 19:11-19)

There is nothing more plainly un-Biblical than that any group of people should suppose themselves to be better than any other group of people because of anything in themselves, or their literature, customs, languages, history, philosophy, skin colours, etc. All humanity are one fraternity by blood, and all deserve to die, and Christ died that anyone at all who believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

There is no such thing as “Asian blood”, or “Scottish blood”, or “Romanian blood”, or “English blood”, or “Russian blood”, or “Indian blood”, or “Scottish blood”; or “Priestly blood”, or “Royal blood”; or, for that matter, “Protestant blood”, or “Catholic blood”, or “Baptist blood”, or “Buddhist blood”, etc.

*This is not to say that there is any spiritual fraternity between Christians and idolaters. Only those who receive Christ as He is presented in the gospel will be saved. But it is to say that the differences between us are not blood differences. As far as human nature is concerned, he’s your brother, she’s your sister, and you ought to desire them to be saved.

We all have in our veins the blood of Adam, our grandparents, the grandparents shared by all of us, by all people who are now on the earth.

Section 3 – Prejudice

Not all people are the same physically. Some people have more energy naturally, and some people have less. Some people are naturally stronger physically, and some people are naturally weaker.

A hypothetical instance of two different people who may both be acting rightly:

A physically stronger person, who is also smart, may, under certain influences, form strong resolutions quickly and aim to carry them out with vigor. “To whom much is given, much shall be required.”

A physically weaker person, who may also be smart, may form resolutions less quickly, and may also carry them out with less strength. Again, “To whom much is given, much shall be required.”

Now, it is possible that each of these could be and act in the ways described above, and yet be entirely without sin. These two things could have existed as described before the Fall.

However, because of the Fall, the stronger and smart person may, because he is now a sinner, act with pride in his strength and wisdom, and esteem other people to be of less importance than himself. Because of this pride, he may also think his judgment and sensibility and taste to be infallible in all things, and think all people who differ at all from him to be hideously more sinful and idiotic than he is. He may basically affirm in his actions that he is absolutely perfect in knowledge, and shall never learn anything more, since there is nothing at all left for him to learn. He may think that all people who do not think and act as quickly as he does are lazy and move slowly because they are too mindful of their own ease – whereas they may merely not be as strong and smart as he is. So, a stronger person may even judge the comparative slowness of a weaker person, which is good, as being evil.

Now, conversely, the weaker and perhaps not as smart person, may indeed need to think and act comparatively more slowly than the other person. But, because of the Fall, because he is now a sinner, he may work too slow, and may indeed work with a degree of laziness. Furthermore, he may be offended by anyone who works more quickly than he does, speaks more quickly than he does, etc. because he finds it hard to sympathize with a person who has so much strength. So, a weaker person may even judge the quickness and vigor of a stronger person, which is good, as being evil.

Doing what is according to our strength, is good. Working underneath our strength is bad. But we have differing degrees of strength, and so working according to our strength will look different for each individual,  because no two people are exactly the same.

Now, we know that we are sinful and we have these tendencies to judge one another. It is also true that these sins can result from nature, through sin. Now, since we know that we all have a tendency to sin because we are fallen, and know that we ourselves sin, we must be quick to forgive each other whenever we see each other sin, because we also need others to be quick to forgive us.

Now, this can apply to other things:

We, as a church, as not accustomed to the literal “raising of hands” in worship. We do not literally lift up our hands when we sing, or when we pray. That is due to custom. But there is lots of evidence in Scripture that raising our hands in worship is not sinful. Therefore, we cannot legitimately condemn someone who does lift their hands in worship.

Now, we know that we are all sinners, and we know that anyone who lifts up their hands in worship is a sinner. But we also have to remember that some people are accustomed to raising their hands in worship. The movement of our hands is a natural part of human expression. If we see a baby, we might naturally move our hands in a cuddly way and say, “Oh look how cute.” Or if we see someone we love, we might naturally move our arms as though to embrace them. Is it possible for us to sometimes have sinful thoughts when we do these things? Yes. But it is possible for us to have sinful thoughts when we do anything else as well.

For instance, we can have sinful thoughts when we sing. We can think that a certain tone of voice in singing in worship sounds particularly reverent, or particularly submitted to God, or particularly enjoying God, and we can think to ourselves, “Oh, my worship is so much more pleasing to God than the person who doesn’t sing like me.” So, a person who raises their hands in worship might think, “Oh, my worship is so much more pleasing to God than the person who doesn’t raise their hands in worship.” But the mere fact that they are raising their hands does not mean that they are thinking these thoughts. And so we cannot judge them for doing it, as if it is in itself a self-righteous act, especially since there are clear passages in Scripture which confirm that raising hands can be a thing that is pleasing to God. (see Psalm 63:3-4; 134:2; 1 Timothy 2:8) Also, if we are sure they are sinning, it is nothing different from if we were sure of this of someone’s singing – we have to be quick to forgive them immediately in our hearts in either case.

Think also that it would be a blessing if some such people would join our church if they love Christ, and help us with the ministry here, and the outreach here. Would this really be so big an issue for us as to make us turn them away and shun and reject them?

There is perhaps more that could be said about hand-raising in worship. But we can’t dwell on it anymore today.

(Think also that we do bow our heads and close our eyes as a matter of mere form. Think also that it is not always natural for us to do it, but we feel slightly as though we were forcing it, and sometimes we might choose not to do it. The same thing can apply to the raising of hands.)

Now, the same kind of argument can be presented for styles of dress, architecture, music, etc. It will require a separate sermon to make more applications of this reasoning to other areas of life.

Application

1.There is no obligation to preserve any culture unchanged.

  • Therefore there is no obligation to preserve Australian culture unchanged, or to preserve this church’s culture unchanged – allowing for the fact that there are moral things which must always be maintained. But there are also some things that are adiaphora: neither condemned nor required, and therefore we must be careful about these things.
  • There is therefore no obligation to discourage foreign customs from being practiced in Australia or in our church.
  • Unless something is sinful, you have no reason to rebuke it and require it to change merely because it is different to you, or different to what you’re used to. – This also applies to music. Some of the young seem not to like the music which the older people like, and some of the older people seem not to like the music of the young. Those who prefer the “younger” music are in sin if they treat the “older” music prejudicially, and those who prefer the “older” music are in sin if they treat the “younger” music prejudicially also.
  • If you feel less obligation to love and honour a “foreigner” then you are in sin. You are obligated to love and honour a foreigner as yourself. He is your neighbour.
  • There is only one race – the race of Adam, and all people are of that one race, all people you have ever seen. All people in the world are “Adamites”, if you like.
  • You are in sin if you treat a foreigner or their customs with prejudice, and they are in sin if they treat you or your customs with prejudice. Our mutual relationship is equal.
  • All sins are abominable in the sight of God, and those who commit any sin are deserving of death and eternal hell, and can only be redeemed by the work of Christ – regardless of culture. Therefore your sins are not to be laughed at as cultural, or tolerated because they predominate in your culture. If you tolerate the sins of your nation as being less offensive in the sight of God than the sins of Japan, or Rio De Janeiro, or Sodom, etc. then you do not judge as God judges. He requires all men everywhere to repent of all their sins.
  • The gospel is the only standard. God’s word is the only standard. All else is adiaphora (that is, “neither commanded nor forbidden”). And if it is adiaphora, then you cannot condemn it as sin, nor praise it as uniquely virtuous.

2. Our church meets in Erskine Park. Are we seeking to take the gospel to the people of this suburb? Do we have a preference that people from some ethnic groups would be saved, but not people from other ethnic groups? Do we desire Indians, Philipinos, Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese, Arabs, to be saved?

Are we afraid of people being saved and coming to our church because they will disturb and change the “culture” or “style” of our church? If people are saved and brought to our church, will we teach them the absolute authority of Christ and the absolute meaninglessness of everything else? Or do we, alternatively, wish to teach them the unsearchable riches of European culture? or of Greco-Roman culture? or of Anglo-Saxon culture? If people come into our church, are we going to place Christ alone in the place of Lawgiver for our conduct? or will we alternatively place our cultural sensibilities on the throne of God? If we do the latter, that is nothing short of plain and abominable idolatry.

We must take the gospel to all people in this neighbourhood, with the Lord’s help. We must go into all the world and preach the gospel, preach it to every creature. They only need be human. We must preach the gospel to human beings, and we must preach it to every human being. May God bless our efforts, and save all we preach to, by His Spirit.

Amen and Amen.

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