Human Limits and Boundaries, WHY?
It has been an established precept that man has a choice between “good or evil”; the way that leads to life or death”. And, the instruction was to “choose life”, to do “good”, as in:
Deut. 30:15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil,
Deut. 30:19 “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;”
Blast from the Past:
Throughout the history of Israel, direct communication with her leaders or indirectly through prophets or angelic beings, the admonition against evil and to follow the Decalogue(Ten Commandments) are etched in their minds from generation to generation. Yet, was anyone consistent with following the Law? Not even Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, all the way through the prophets, until the human Jesus came to the scene . The Ten Commandments were given to be followed consistently, yet humanity has failed. As Romans 3:10-18King James Version (KJV) states:
“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:Their feet are swift to shed blood:Destruction and misery are in their ways:And the way of peace have they not known:There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Rom. 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God“.
And, looking through the lens of history, humanity has done a lot of choosing, summarized as a coalescence of good and evil. Even before the murder of Abel by Cain, the Great Flood at Noah’s time as in: Gen. 6:5
“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” and Nimrod’s Tower of Babel, wickedness, death and destruction were perennial, intermixed with good deeds, protracted and continuing through antiquities.
Afterwards, what comes to mind are the successive empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greco-Macedonia and Rome, with their glory marked in cruelty and rapaciousness, now gone. Then, came the modern experience on dictatorship, monarchy, autocracy, socialism, communism, Greek democracies and Constitutional democracy establishing a Republic. The USA and Europe exemplify the latest political system, immersed and challenged since WW II, through the Cold War and currently Radical Jihad.
Extent of Human Experience and Why:
Along this “wrinkle of time”, were progress and retrogress, up and down and sideways, either subsequently or simultaneously in every corner of the world. Elation and jubilation soon replaced by depression and sorrow, then interspersed with a lull of peace. Even good health and recovery from disease do not guarantee against eventual sickness or death. Truly, everyone gets experience in success and failure, exposure to positive-negative, ying-and-yang, victory and defeat.
And the pendulum continues to swing back and forth, ever so slowly, yet always within its boundary. The circle of life begins and ends where it started. Indeed, while each epoch is uniquely different in details, there is nothing new under the sun. As written in Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NLT):
“History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.”
But why all this human experience of stretching its reach, pushing the envelop, doing our very best only to find out that we can only go so far? Somehow, no matter what we do or don’t do, it comes to no avail? We are still found wanting. It appears that what is palpably clear is to inculcate in us the reality of our limits and boundaries.
As celestial bodies cannot go beyond their orbits, terrestrials also have capabilities that are limited. Everything created by God and even by humans, have limits. Our brain has capacity and our brawn has finite ATP that needs regenerating. Car, airplanes and satellites can only go so far. Even “gizmos” need update in operating systems and type of phones e.g., iPhone 5 to iPhone 6, to 6s, otherwise functionality suffers. Consider the Apostle Paul, well-educated under teacher Gamaliel and supposed to be at the peak of his apostleship, exposed human inadequacy when he writes, in: Romans 7: 15
“What is wrong with me? How come? The very good that I want to do, I do not do. That which I don’t want to do, is precisely what I do.”
Not that Paul did not follow the Law, because he did, although not perfectly. He was referring to dilemma in decision-making between two equally compelling choices beyond and unrelated to the Law. This verse should not be used to justify violating the Law. Rather, he found himself inadequate in many respect, having a body of flesh, thereby emphasizing the need for a change to immortal body.
With the limits and boundaries already set in all creation, it is obvious that we are not “empowered” to go farther than our physical limits. Somehow, we are made to realize by the vast human experience, that humans are lacking in capabilities. Undoubtedly, everything can only be done by someone or something within endowed abilities. Mechanical power is needed to drive engines for transport, as electrical power is needed to bring light to the world or energize machines. But, all “physical power” can only affect the physical milieu.
Atheists, Agnostics and Job?
Arguably, some atheists and agnostics have not committed adultery, murder and the like, i.e., follow the Law to some extent although not perfectly as in…Rom. 2:14,
“Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it.“(NLT)
Still, their acts were a confluence of “good and evil”, and were not up to the level of execution God has planned. How about Job, isn’t he perfect? Notice, Job 2:3
“And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and eschews evil?(KJV)
The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.”
God defined the acts of Job as “perfect and blameless” and He ruined him “without cause”. Yet, Mark 10:18 states that no man is good, but God:
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone”(NIV).
How can one reconcile what appears to be a discrepancy in these verses? This can only mean that while the action of Job was “blameless”, his good work did not come from God but from Job himself, much like good action to some extent comes from “atheists” themselves. It was not good enough to a level that fulfills his requirement. Undoubtedly, progressive revelation then teaches us that, more than consistency of “good work”, is how it comes about as determined by the “decision-maker”, God. He wanted good actions of humans to be coming from Him as planned. Those actions have to originate from Him so that no human can “boast” as in Eph. 2:8-9,
“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by (your own) works, so that no one can boast.”
Humans are created “from the ground”, earthy and flesh-composed. A “new creation” is being made that comes ” from above”, heavenly. And the Father has started it through Jesus, as in,
“The kingdom of God is at hand“.(Mark 1:15).
Need of What and What it takes to get it?:
What is it then that is needed? Why is man incapable of fulfilling His requirement regarding following the Law? Rom. 7:14 may help us understand why. It states,
King James Bible:”For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal,(Greek sarkikos or flesh),..
Holman Christian Standard Bible:”For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am made out of flesh, ..”
The preceding verse is critical to our understanding of our deficiency. It maintains that since the Law is spiritual, it can only be discerned and followed spiritually. And, man(of flesh) cannot use physical or “flesh” power to follow what is spiritual. Being material, not spirit-composed, man can only use physical sense to appreciate material things.
Even the only spirit-component of man, the “spirit of man”, can only “will” but cannot actually perform all what it wants. This teaching among religions that, with our own material and “earthy” power, we can fulfill the expectation about following the Law, maybe misguided. Paul continues:
Rom. 7:18 “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not”.
Eph. 8:8 states, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”(ESV)
Notice that Paul acknowledged the “weakness ” or deficiency of his “flesh-body” and “to will” (to do good) is present in him. For Paul to say, like Job, that he can follow the Law by himself or by his own power, will not be congruent with what is required as planned by the Father. More than Paul, it was Jesus who originally emphasized this, as in,
Matt.26:41 “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”.(NIV)
After Christ realized this, he made a final decision to accept the will of the Father to go through the most horrible death by crucifixion, so we can have this “power” to do God’s will.
Matt. 36:42 “A second time He went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cup cannot pass unless I drink it, may Your will be done.”…
Jesus knew about the “weakness of the flesh” and the need for “spirit-power” that can only be given “from above”. That was why Jesus decided to “take the cup” in the garden of Gethsemane, be crucified and was resurrected to obtain from the Father the gift of the Holy Spirit to be given subsequently to humans. No wonder then that Paul in Romans 7:25 writes:
“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.“(NIV).
Why Thank God the Father for Jesus Christ?
It is because there is no other “name given” (Jesus) as in Acts 4:12:
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved“(NIV).
Were it not for Jesus’ death as a Passover to reconcile us to the Father and after 3 days and 3 nights his resurrection, the Holy Spirit would not have been given to Jesus to be sent to us. If he was not resurrected and did not go back to the Father, he would not have been given the Holy Spirit for us, as in:
John 6:7 “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
This promised spirit-power from the Father was first sent by him at Pentecost, 50 days from Jesus’ resurrection(Acts2:1-4). The disciples have to wait to receive this power as in Luke 24:49
“And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven”(NLT)
What is the Holy Spirit for?
At the outset, we have seen that human experience teaches man of his own limits and boundaries. Whatever “good” he does that comes from himself, is not good enough for God. As Isa. 64:6 states,
“…and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags...”
The “good” that man does, has to come from God, not from the man himself. Indeed, a “tall order” for humans. Goodness has to be the “fruits of the Holy Spirit” which is given by the Father as a gift. The Law being spiritual has to be followed “in spirit and in truth”. The flesh-composition is “weak” and from the beginning was created deficient to follow what is spiritual. The spirit of man can only “will” but “how to perform what is good”, as expected of God, humans cannot. As it is written I Rom. 3:10-17(NIV)
“There is no one righteous, not even one;there is no one who understand, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless, there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.The poison of vipers is on their lips.Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways,and the way of peace they do not know.”
Humans are in need of the Holy Spirit from the Father. And even the human-Jesus (Acts 17:31; I Tim. 2:5; Rom. 5:15) needed it and was given for the first time to him (being the first of the firstfruits) after water-baptism at the river Jordan(Matt. 3:16). It became available to others, as “firstfruits”, on that particular Pentecost(Acts2:1-4).
What then is the Holy Spirit for?
The following Bible quotes give us the function of the Holy Spirit:
In John 14:26, it states “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
Romans 8:6-9English Standard Version (ESV)“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”
2Cor1:22 New Living Translation:”..and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us.”
Gal. 5:21-22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
I Cor. 7:7, “I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that“.(NIV)
I Cor 12:7-11,”But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.”
Rom. 8:15-17 “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
Humans were created from the beginning with limits and boundaries. We are composed of flesh from the “dust of the ground” and made alive only by the “breath of life” given by the Creator (see Genesis Chapters 1 and 2). As such, we have the “spirit of man + flesh” to become a “living soul”. As flesh, we can not fathom nor discern unadulterated spiritual things unless revealed to us from Him. Other spirit-beings like the Devil and his demons can plant spiritual things that are false or partly true to deceive us. Even Peter, on his own, did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah without this truth revealed to him by the Father(Matt.16:13-17). On our own, we can do good things and appreciate what is spiritual to a certain extent, but God wants to have all of these to be pure, truthful and to come from him as a gift, so that “no one can boast”. We are blind and deaf to what is spiritual as in,
Romans 11:8 – (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day
But the Holy Spirit was promised to be given to us as in, Isaiah 43:8 – Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears
This Holy Spirit will guide our “spirit of man” to “hear and see” at our appointed time, as in:John 9:39 – And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
Notice those who received the Holy Spirit ,Matthew 13:16 – But blessed [are] your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
We need the Holy Spirit of the Father to empower us with this capacity to understand spiritual things. If we think we can by ourselves, without His Holy Spirit, we are misled. This Holy Spirit can interact with the “spirit of man” for guidance and learning the wisdom of God and to be “one” with Him.
The ability for goodness that God requires for man to do has to come from Him as a gift. That is why, “by grace we are saved”. Jesus had to die as a consequence of humanity’s sin, to reconcile us to the Father, be resurrected by the Father, go back to heaven to receive this gift of the Holy Spirit and subsequently be given to us. As the Law was originally written in “tables of stone”, i.e., our stony heart, but with the Holy Spirit in us, the Law will be written in our heart and mind to fulfill the prophecy in:
Ezekiel 36:26,”I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.(NIV)
This “spirit-infusion” fulfills the prophecy in:Jeremiah 31:33 “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
Heb. 8:10 “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
The Holy Spirit in us is the key that opens the door to our capacity to follow the Law. The presence of this Holy Spirit in us will secure our adoption as children and heirs of the. Father to “bear fruits”. This is the strategic plan of God, with impeccable execution to create a “new creation” as in 2 Cor. 5:17,”Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!
Once we are changed at resurrection from “flesh” to immortal body, Paul’s wish in Romans 7: 15 will be a reality.
Understanding our limits and boundaries leads us to the gospel and destiny of humanity, to be members of the God-Kingdom, all spirit-composed beings, one with Jesus and one with the Father.