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"What Does it Mean to Be Human?"

Part Three: The True Nature of Humanity Revealed

Thus far in our series we have considered man's futile search for true humanity and who it is that can accurately provide definition. To uncover this truth we must return to the source of our humanity, God. As our Creator and Sustainer, He alone is qualified to tell us who we are and why we are here. In part three, we will address the question of where to find God's knowledge of true nature of humanity.

God's Revelation

Since God is the only one who truly knows the nature of humanity, any proper understanding must be rooted in such knowledge as comes from Him. However, human beings cannot discover the mind of God on their own (cf. Rom 11:33-34). Man would be forever ignorant of all truth if God had not chosen to reveal Himself to the human race. Historically, Christians have customarily recognized two types of revelation: general and special. General revelation refers to that knowledge of God and the world that is evident to all. These are the things which men may learn of God and the cosmos from the visible universe (cf. Rom 1:18-21). However, general revelation is insufficient to discover such specific knowledge as pertains to the true nature of humanity. Special revelation is the communication of God's divine plan to men. It is in this context that we find God's intended purpose and significance in the creation and redemption of human beings. Special revelation, which finds its zenith in Jesus Christ, the incarnate living Word, refers to the Holy Scripture as God's divine communication. Any true definition of humanity must be consistent with the revelation of God in Christ.

A Brief, Shining Moment of True Humanity

Even though human beings can never know the true nature of humanity on their own, God has graciously given such understanding in His Word. We will return to this issue with the next article in this seriesHowever, in Jesus Christ, the God-Man, our Sovereign God has also granted mankind a glimpse of humanity as He intended.

For the sake of illustration, let us imagine that the marks of sin which defaced human beings were manifested as some physical deformity such as scoliosis. After the fall, Adam and Eve would have become twisted and contorted. Subsequently, everyone born would come into the world twisted and contorted as well. However, after that first generation, the human race would have no way of knowing the difference between what they were originally created to be and their present existence. No matter where they looked, or whom they examined, everyone would be torturously bent and deformed. Therefore, according to man's own assessment, such distortion would seem normal. He would simply take the deformity into account in every proposed definition and description of humanity. Every now and then, when his deformity really seemed as if it were a burden too heavy to bear, he might have some obscure intuition or nagging sense that he was meant to be different than what he is, but he would not know the nature of that difference. However, what men would deem "normal" would not be normal at all. While it may be what is "expected," it would not be what God intended for true humanity.

If we have all come into this world handicapped, how can we ever know true humanity? There has been a single exception. Everyone who has ever lived has been infected by sin except one. Amidst a world of disfigured and crippled people, there was one who walked erect, upright, and without the defacing flaws of sin. The holy, sinless, Son of God came into a world disfigured by iniquity and, for a brief, shining moment, we beheld a perfect human being. There was one who graced this fallen cosmos with His presence, a gleaming witness to true humanity in a world of twisted creatures. However, rather than seeing Him as an expression of true humanity, this disfigured and deformed world crucified Him. But, this glimmering light has not been extinguished for Christ has risen from the dead and become the first fruits of a new humanity.


All around us are examples of degraded humanity. The world of experience insists that this is all there is. This present evil age refuses to recognize the most significant thirty-three years in the history of the universe. But the Word of God remains a witness of integrity to the nature of true humanity and man's purpose in this world. We need only look about us to see evidence of what it means to be less than human. But, this is not all there is. There is more to the story because God has a grand design for a new, restored humanity. This glorious redemption story, the destiny of God's elect, is given to us in the Scriptures.

- Stan McGehee Jr

In the next issue, we will turn our attention to the definition of humanity as given in the Word of God.