The Nature of Man

by Charles H. Welch




  • We believe that the first man was Adam, and that he was created in the image of God. He was fashioned of the dust of the earth and made, for a little, inferior to angels, and though destined to a spiritual experience of life, yet at his creation was natural, that is, non-spiritual. In view of prevalent tradition we introduce into our declaration a negative.
  • We do NOT believe that man has or is a never-dying or immortal soul, but that immortality is the gift of God in Christ, and entered upon only at resurrection.



‘And 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’ (Gen. 1:26).

‘And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul’ (Gen. 2:7).
‘Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God’ (Luke 3:38).

‘And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven’ (1 Cor. 15:45-47).

‘ … Adam … who is the figure of Him that was to come’ (Rom. 5:14).

‘For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the Son of man, that Thou visitest Him? Thou madest Him (for) a little lower than the angels; Thou crownedst Him with glory and honour, and didst set Him over the works of Thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under His feet. For in that He put all in subjection under Him, He left nothing that is not put under Him. But now we see not yet all things put under Him. But we see Jesus, Who was made (for) a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man’ (Heb. 2:5-9).



The explicit testimony that many parts of the New Testament give to the literal accuracy of the record of the creation of man, makes it impossible for the followers of Christ to accept the many theories which are in circulation that have as common ground a denial of the historic accuracy of Genesis 1 and 2.

One of the most important aspects of the subject we are considering is the realisation of the place man occupies in the purpose of God. When we reach the record of the sixth day in Genesis 1, we read of a transaction that is in marked contrast with the whole of the previous account of creation. The creation of the first heaven and earth, the calling forth of light, the fashioning of the present heavens, the placing of the sun and the moon in their respective spheres, the creation of vegetable and animal life, all go forward at the fiat of the Creator; but the close of the fifth day introduces a marked change. A pause comes in the work. We read of a conference, and the first revelation of the nature of the Godhead is given.

‘And God said, Let us make man in our image’.

The creation of man and the purpose of God are intimately associated. Man is created in the image of God and after His likeness. Christ is the Image of God (Col. 1:15). The creation of man in God’s image does not indicate resemblance in the sense of physical likeness, but in the sense of Romans 5:14, ‘Adam … who is the figure (or type) of Him that was to come’.

The likeness seems to be associated with dominion, and this element of rule for God is given a large place in the typical character of Adam. We have it in Psalm 8, in Hebrews 2, in 1 Corinthians 15, and it is alluded to in other places.

Another matter of importance which we learn from Psalm 8 and Hebrews 2 is that Adam was made, ‘for a little, lower than (inferior to) the angels’. Subsequent revelation shows that the intention of God was that Adam and his seed should at some future time be raised above angels. Luke 3 tells us that Adam was the son of God; at one end of the genealogy is ‘Jesus the beloved Son’, at the other, Adam (Luke 3:22,23 and 38).

Genesis 2:4-25 supplements the account of Genesis 1, giving us fuller details of the formation both of Adam himself and of Eve. ‘And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground’. Man shares with the rest of the animal creation an earthly origin – ‘of the earth, earthy’.

There is however a difference to be observed. ‘And (He) breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’. This expression, a translation of neshamah, occurs 24 times in the Old Testament. These references are set out and examined in The Berean Expositor Vol. 19, pp. 66-69, and the conclusion arrived at from their consideration is that this ‘breath of life’ belongs only to God and to man, and not to the lower orders of creation. Man is separated from the rest of creation. He is, for a little, lower than the angels. He is in possession of the ‘breath of life’, a gift not possessed by any other creature on the earth. He is in the image and likeness of God.

The characteristics in which man is allied to the existing creation are expressed in the third statement – ‘And man became a living soul’ (Gen. 2:7). Tradition has it that this implies the immortality of the soul. Scripture declares that it indicates that Adam, as created, was non-spiritual.

‘ … The first man Adam was made a living soul … that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural’ (1 Cor. 15:45,46).

The point of the argument here is blunted by the translation. Our language possesses the two words, ‘spirit’ and ‘spiritual’, but not the words ‘soul’ and ‘soulish’. Now the word translated ‘natural’ is rightly ‘soulical’ if such a word could be permitted. All that Adam was and could give to his descendants was soulish and earthy; the Lord Jesus alone, as the last Adam and the second Man, can give spiritual and heavenly enduements. The words, ‘man became a living soul’, far from teaching man’s spiritual and immortal nature, actually teach the reverse. The following passages taken from Genesis will prove this without any doubt:

‘The moving creature that hath life (margin soul)’ (Gen. 1:20).
‘Every living creature that moveth (margin living soul)’ (Gen. 1:21).
‘Let the earth bring forth the living creature’ (Gen. 1:24).
‘Every thing … wherein there is life (margin a living soul)’ (Gen. 1:30).

The two words nephesh and psuche, the Hebrew and Greek respectively, for ‘soul’, occur 857 times in the Scriptures. Yet not one reference can be found that speaks of an immortal or never-dying soul. Consequently we reject such teaching as untrue. A reading of Genesis 3:22,23, moreover, shows that the tree of life was such that man by partaking of it could live for ever, but that as a result of sin, God took special precautions to prevent man from living for ever, by banishing him from the garden.

Immortality can only be obtained through Christ, and will be entered upon at resurrection (1 Cor. 15:53,54).

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This article by Charles Welch was original published in “Things Most Surely Believed” (Chapter 5 – The Nature of Man).

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