The above heading may be a little startling, but it will be as well for us at an early stage to realize that we are dealing with a matter of the most serious character. It is not merely that at some point man had a lapse, took a wrong turning, or became a delinquent an offender. Neither is it only that he became a sinner, or even a sinful creature. All of these may be true, but they are not the whole truth. Man is not just on the wrong road and needing to be re-directed or put on to the right one. Neither is man just the victim of an evil mood, or a fugitive from law running free, sowing wild oats, and estranged from his better self. The restoration of man to God and to His Divinely purposed vocation and destiny is not merely the transference of his interests and energies from one direction - self, sin, the world - to another - God, good and heaven. When Christ, in speaking of the prodigal, used the words, "When he came to himself," He did not mean just that he recollected and reverted to another course. There is overwhelming evidence in Scripture that salvation is something infinitely more radical than all this.
It is here that there lies the fatal flaw in so much evangelical effort, and even in convention ministry. Surrender, consecration, yielding, and such-like words or terms, are used as though they meant far more than just a first, initial step which represents an attitude taken. God does not want, and the Bible does not teach, that the "old man" should be consecrated to Him. The "old man" has to be crucified, not consecrated! So often the young are exhorted to consecrate to the Lord their talents, their energies, their abilities, their enthusiasm, as
'Young, strong, and free;
To be the best that I can be,
For God, for righteousness, and Thee ...'
But in the long run they discover a fatal lack, an inadequacy and a breakdown, the greatest proof of which is the convention movement itself. This movement is ever growing, and year by year, in all parts of the world, hundreds of thousands of disappointed Christians are found together with a view to finding the solution to the problem of non-victorious life, or non-effective service. Those of us who have anything to do with convention or conference work cannot smile upon these great audiences and speak about them as though they represented a great success instead of declaring the greatest and most heart-breaking of tragedies. If the messages given are to be taken as the induction as to what conventions are for, then there is no questioning what we have just said. [Of course, we recognize another side of Christian conventions, that of happy fellowship. But we are referring to the original and still advertised object of such conventions.]
But this is the negative side of the question, and we must come to the positive. It is not a change of sides, or interests, or direction, nor a reviving of energy and zeal that is called for. Nothing less than a constitutional change in the being will answer the question and meet the need. To carry over "natural" abilities (inherited or acquired) or energies to the things of God, and to make them the basis or means of doing His work, is most certainly and inevitably to put the worker and the work into a false position, with sooner or later any one or more of the many possible seriously compromising and disastrous results.
Before we can move back to the beginning and see what had happened as to man, there is one thing to bear in mind. It is always important that matters of Divine truth should never be taken up just in themselves, as isolated subjects, but that their full range and relatedness should be recognized. Truth is a whole. There is no plural in Scripture as to truth, that is "truths," but there are aspects of the truth, and no one of these can stand alone. It is essential to observe the beginning, occasion and ultimate issue of every phase of the truth.
Then it must be definitely remembered that truth in the Scriptures is progressive. In the early parts, matters are not stated in completeness and preciseness, but there is much in the nature of inference. Only as we get well on toward the end do we get more complete statements, in the light of which all that has gone before has to be considered. For instance, take the doctrine of the Divine Trinity. It is not really until Christ's time that we have this definitely and fully revealed, as in John's Gospel (chapters 14-16); and not until the advent of the Holy Spirit was this known experimentally. So it is with the matter before us. Man's nature or being as spirit, soul and body, is not definitely stated thus until we are well on in the New Testament. But there are plenty of inferences as well as frequent fragmentary statements to this effect much earlier. The explanation of this delay is a very part of our whole subject, for it means that not until the era of the Holy Spirit as an indwelling reality - with all that that implies - is it possible for man to know the things of God in any adequate or vital way. Hence the futility of making the Bible a text-book or manual of subjects to be studied as such. So now, with all the fuller revelation of the New Testament before us, we can work back to the beginning.
Man As Created and Constituted
When we really see with enlightened eyes the Man Christ Jesus, and when we see what a child of God really is as in the New Testament, then we see two things; one, what God's man is as from the beginning, and what a fundamental change is represented by a man being truly born anew. As to his constituting, we shall see that he was, and is, spirit, soul and body. But to say this is only one half of the matter. That is the fact as to man's components. The other half is that that represents order and function. It was in the upsetting of this order that function was affected fatally and man became other than God intended him to be.
We have already said, in a word, what the function of the human spirit is, but more is needed.
(continued with # 2 - "The Function of the Human Spirit")