What is man?
Question: "What is man / mankind / humanity?"
Answer: The term man in the Bible sometimes refers to one male human, but more commonly means “human beings,” both male and female. Mankind, humankind, and humanity are collective designations for all humans—creatures who are made in God’s image, a characteristic that distinguishes men and women from the animals and from the Creator God Himself.
Genesis 1—2 describes the formation of the world, including the creation of humanity: “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 birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26–27, ESV). Here the ESV makes it clear that the term translated “man” speaks of “human begins,” both male and female created beings. Other Bible translations use mankind (NIV) and human beings (NLT) in place of man.
Mankind did not evolve from other lower forms of life but was created directly by God and in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–31; James 3:9). The Creator made human beings to be His representatives on the earth, and He gave them dominion over creation: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas” (Psalm 8:3–8).
The truth that mankind is created in the image of God forms the basis for the sanctity of human life: “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind” (Genesis 9:6). Being made in His image expresses God’s ownership or possession of mankind, like a stamp or imprint (Mark 12:13–17). And since God created men and women in His own image, both sexes share equal standing before God. Likewise, because all humanity is made in God’s image, all human beings are equal before God, regardless of race, ethnicity, and social or economic standing (Proverbs 22:2; Matthew 20:25–28; Galatians 3:28). Perhaps only in the context of every nation, tribe, and people group, including men and women in cooperation, can we lay hold of the truest likeness of the image of God.
God created man, that is mankind, with a body and a soul. The body is the material, whereas the soul is immaterial and endures beyond physical death (Genesis 2:7; 2 Corinthians 5:1–8). After the fall of man, humanity continued as body and soul and retained God’s image, but his whole nature and being were deeply impacted by sin (Genesis 4; 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Ephesians 4:17–19). Humans became darkened in mind (Ephesians 4:17–19), dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1), and subject to physical death and eternal judgment (Romans 5:12–21; 8:10; 14:12; Hebrews 9:27).
God, in His love, grace, and mercy, did not abandon humanity to death and destruction but provided the way of redemption and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:4–8, ESV).
Humans were made to worship God and enjoy His presence for all eternity (Isaiah 43:7; Revelation 4:11). But it’s only through Jesus Christ that humanity can know God personally and enter into an eternal relationship with Him (Romans 3:21–26). The full manifestation of our salvation will be accomplished at the end of the age with a resurrection when we enter into the eternal, immortal state (1 Corinthians 15:49–57). Of course, not all of humanity will be saved. Only those who put their faith in Christ are made right with God (Romans 3:22). In Jesus Christ, man becomes all that God created him to be—a true reflection of the image of God (2 Corinthians 3:10; 5:17; Ephesians 4:24).
Recommended Resource: Created in God’s Image by Anthony Hoekema
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Questions about Humanity
What is man / mankind / humanity?