Our first text, Genesis 1:1-5
, consisted in a general, explicit statement of the nature and work of God, then, in the second text, Genesis 1: 26-2:3, an account of the work ordered according to days - six days of work leading up to the peak moment of the creation of man followed by a day of rest. Now we have a more specific account of the creation of man singled out from among all elements of creation for a special relationship with God.
This relationship had already started in the previous text when "let there be", used of all elements, becomes "let us make", in the creation of man. God also speaks to man and warns him of mortal danger. In this text we see more clearly the establishment of that personal relationship and this goes hand in hand with the central truth of the universal lordship of God.
The text begins with the title "Lord", "Lord God". The name translated "Lord" is actually the sacred name of God "Yahweh", revealed to Moses (Exodus 3:14). 1
In Genesis 1:26 we read “let us make man in our image, after our likeness”. Here we see God doing precisely this. The verb "formed" recalls the expression "let us make", indicating a different, more personal approach in the creative activity of God. He "spoke" other elements into existence but in the creation of man he is more personally involved.
Here we have the two essential dimensions of man, the physical – formed from the earth, and which connects him to the material world, and the spiritual or divine breath of God. It is here that God communicates his image and likeness. God is not a physical being so his image lies not in the physical form made from the earth. God is Spirit and it is this intangible breath of God that creates the spiritual principle in man, his spirit. This recalls a similar passage in John 20:22:
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. (John 20:22)
There is a fundamental difference in that in this passage the Holy Spirit of God himself is given whereas in our Genesis text it is the spirit of man which brought into being and which, in the new covenant, makes possible the reception of the Holy Spirit, the very life and power of God in fulfilment of the promise in Ezekiel:
A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. (Ezekiel 36:26, 27)
The spirit / Spirit is often associated with wind or breath. It is the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives that restores the original image and likeness of God in us.
When the breath of God creates the spirit of man, and only then, does he become a living soul, or being. Often the Hebrew word nephesh
) is translated "being", “life” or soul because the soul is what constitutes the individuality or natural life of a person. In this text, when the divine and the physical combine, then you have life, the soul or individuality of a person. In the New Testament man is composed of spirit, soul and body:
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thess. 5:23)
The soul is clearly distinct from the spirit:
Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; (Hebrews 4:12)
There is no duality of soul. Spirit and soul are different and distinct. The soul is composed of the intellect, emotions and will, the individual self and the spirit is the seat of conscience and intuition. The breath of God, by creating the spirit of man, creates the vital principle of life, which is in the image and likeness of God. It follows from this that the spirit of man is that which is God orientated, and that it is essentially on the level of the spirit that God communicates with man:
When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God. (Romans 8:15, 16)
Although this is an over simplification it does serve our purpose. 2
It also follows from this that the spirit of man is his most important component or dimension and it is the spirit of man, led by the Holy Spirit of God, that should prevail or rule:
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. (Romans 8:14)
Hence, the soul or individuality of man, his self, must decrease in importance to leave room for the Holy Spirit to lead him unimpeded along the ways of God as expressed in the Word of God and as revealed to each one personally.
No one has the monopoly of the Holy Spirit and each one of us has the sacred duty and privilege to submit one to another. In this way the danger of confusing self with the leading of the Holy Spirit can be more easily avoided. Self-assertion and factions have no place in a Christian community. This is why we must earnestly learn to live by the spirit / Spirit. It is God's way not ours that must prevail. This is true for all, both for those exercising authority and for those subject to authority. Self-assertion is not an option.
The sacred name of God in the Judeo-Christian tradition is “Yahweh” and not any other name such as “Allah”. This constitutes but one of numerous elements that locate Islam well outside the Judeo-Christian tradition and undermines the fundamental claim that Muhammad was the seal of the prophets. It is Jesus Christ who is the seal of the prophets.
There is a certain overlapping of spirit and soul but a detailed discussion would be out of place here