Which Adam is Asking? Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?
Has anyone ever asked you questions like, “What does the Bible say about abortion?” or “What does the Bible say about homosexuality?” or “Do I ‘have to’ keep the Sabbath?”
While most of these questions seem pretty straight-forward with pretty straight-forward answers, in reality, how we respond when people ask us these questions is much more complex. They are complex not because the answers are difficult to find or determine from Scripture, but because we FIRST have to know “which Adam” is ‘really’ asking the question. What do I mean by this?
As you’ve likely experienced in your own life, as Believers in Messiah we are all living lives that can sometimes feel a bit “Jekyll and Hyde.” If you are not familiar with this book or novella that was written by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson back in 1886, the story is about a London lawyer who investigates strange occurrences between his good old friend Dr. Henry Jekyll and the evil Edward Hyde. The issue the book deals with is a rare mental condition called “split personality” or “dissociative identity disorder” in which a single individual appears to have two very distinct and often opposite personalities. In the case of the book, one of these personalities is good and one is evil. Today, the phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” itself has come to mean “a person who has vastly different moral character from one situation to the next.” It is in this regard that many people were able to identify with the story of Jekyll and Hyde, and why it became so popular. In fact, Paul writes of just such a dynamic in all of us in Romans 7:24–25 when he states, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the Law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”
In other words, the “old Adam” (our flesh that is weak) seems to bow to a law of sin, while the “new Adam” (our spirit that is willing and desires to obey God) happily obeys the Law of God. In this way we could liken Dr. Jekyll to the “new Adam” that desires to obey God, and Mr. Hyde to the “old Adam” that wants to rebel against God and His rule over us.
Having established the background to our Jekyll and Hyde tendencies, if we return to the scenario where someone asks us one of the questions posed at the beginning, we can now see how important it is that we know “which Adam” or “which personality” is asking the question BEFORE we answer.
If Dr. Jekyll is asking, since Dr. Jekyll desires to serve God and obey His laws, our response would be very different than if Mr. Hyde, who desires to rebel against God’s rule, is asking the question. Killing Mr. Hyde (our flesh or “old Adam”) is the primary function of the Law in our lives, because the “old Adam” in us constantly wants to rise up and proclaim himself Lord and Master above God. He is a tricky beast, because he often refuses to stay dead! Thus, you never know which “Adam” you’ll be speaking to at any given moment, so you’ll have to dig deeper to see if you’re talking to Dr. Jekyll (the “new Adam”) or Mr. Hyde (the “old Adam”).
Let’s look at a practical example. Suppose a woman came to you and asked you, “What does God’s Word say about abortion?”
Certainly, you could pick up your Bible and quickly respond to that question by describing exactly what the Law says. You can wield that sword and it will kill the sinner since the Law says we shall not murder, and the wages of sin is death. Or, you can speak the Gospel, or Good News, that says Messiah has fulfilled the Law for us. He loves you and died on your behalf so that what you could not do by keeping the Law, Christ did for you.
Both of those statements are, in fact, true.
Both of those statements are preached today.
But how do you know which response is appropriate for the situation?
It all depends on “which Adam” is asking you the question.
In our example, if a woman asks you about what God’s Word says about abortion, the first thing you need to determine, or find out, is which “Adam” is really asking the question. This requires further investigation before you respond. Ultimately, if you find out the woman had an abortion 5 years earlier, she is suicidal, and hates herself, and is unsure if God could ever forgive her, which of the two messages do you think is appropriate to respond to her original question?
Should you bring her Law (a word of condemnation) or Gospel (Good News)?
Of course, the appropriate response in this case is the Gospel. But had you not first determined which “Adam” was asking the question, the results could have been devastating for that person. Such speaking of the “Law” in this circumstance would not have been considered speaking the “truth” in “love” at all. The Law is, in fact, a word of condemnation to the “old Adam” that we need to wield very carefully and thoughtfully. The Law had, in this case, already been at work in this woman’s heart and accomplished its work in killing the “old Adam,” but the problem was, if left alone with only the Law, and not reminded of the role of the Promise/Gospel as well, a person like this cannot experience the freedom from sin Yeshua died to provide. The weight of guilt and shame had this woman bound in darkness. Thus, in this situation, she needed to hear words of forgiveness, love, acceptance, and resurrection, not further condemnation.
However, on the other hand, let’s say you find out the woman is two months pregnant, her boyfriend wants her to keep the baby and is willing to help her raise the child, even get married, but she doesn’t want to have to interrupt “her life” to have a baby. She doesn’t want the “responsibility of parenthood,” and she isn’t sure she wants to get married either and be responsible to a husband. Which word would most likely be appropriate to bring to bear in this situation?
Clearly, the appropriate response is to first speak the Law of God (in love) to the situation and let the Law go to work to kill the “old Adam” (or Mr. Hyde) because the “old Adam” is still very much demonstrating that he is alive and kicking. The Law was designed to specifically kill the “old Adam” and continually, daily, make sure that “old Adam” stays dead.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we need to speak Law to our flesh (old Adam), but sometimes we simply need to hear the Gospel and remember that “keeping the Law perfectly” is not the end game, and is not even up to us. For only Christ in us can help us submit to His will. The “old Adam” tends to try to make the Law “doable enough” that the “old Adam” begins to feel pretty good about himself. He wants a ‘pat on the back’ when he, for example, keeps the Sabbath according to his own definition of ‘perfectly’ keeping the Sabbath. But in the end, even if we could keep the entire Law as “perfectly” as we could ever understand it, that is not the end game or ultimate function of the Law. The Law’s primary function is to lead us to the realization that we desperately, daily, and continually need Yeshua our Messiah. We cannot stand any straighter or higher before God’s throne of Grace whether we “perfectly” keep Sabbath or any other commandment or not. In the end, our condition before a holy God is the same: we are sinners saved by grace. For Messiah will always be able to find something we failed to do perfectly saying, “Still one thing you lack…follow me.” (Mk 10:21; Lk 18:22)
Does this mean we do not ‘try’ to obey God’s commandments? Or that we teach His commandments as somehow void? God forbid! As believers, we do “preach the Law,” because it is holy, righteous, and good. We pray for the ability to keep it and understand how to keep it better for the purposes of reflecting the love of God in our lives. But in the end, our perfection in keeping the Law is not the end goal in itself, nor is it the source of our being declared “righteous” before God. That source remains in Christ alone.
The Law of God cuts right through our superficial, external, visible persona in order to penetrate our heart, awaken faith, and help us recognize that YHVH is God and we are not. It is a process of killing the “old Adam” by preaching the Law, and raising him from the dead because of and through the power of the Gospel of Christ.
Does this mean we should never preach the “truth” in “love,” as it is often couched? No, but how we do it is very important, because there has been, particularly in Messianic and Hebrew Roots groups, a tendency to allow the “old man” to rise up just enough to condemn everyone around him or her that doesn’t “attempt to keep” the Law perfectly. They go around speaking death rather than life, and they appear to others as arrogant and self-righteous as the non-believing Pharisees and Sadducees of Messiah’s day.
Yes, we desire that people would begin to keep the Sabbath and Appointed Times, etc. along with us, and share in the joy and blessing we have discovered in keeping these times. We long for greater obedience and unity within the body of Messiah, but guess what? The reality is, we have this little problem called the “flesh” or “old man” that is alive and well in all of us.
Until we truly understand the reality that we who keep the Sabbath and the Appointed Times, eat biblically clean, and follow a few more laws than other Christian brothers, are just as guilty before God as the Christians who keep easter and xmas, then we are never going see them the way God sees them, and we are never going to see true transformation within the greater body of Messiah. We will simply be raising-up a new Messianic “style of Christianity” full of self-righteous religious people.
When we let the Law be spoken for the purpose of killing the “old Adam,” and we let the Gospel go forth to bring life to the dead, and we do it all with incredible discernment and humble hearts, not condemning our brothers, but leading them gently to the truth just as Messiah did through indirect means (i.e. stories and parables, etc.), we can effect great change in our world and among God’s people.
Remember, to the measure that we use in judgment toward others it will be measured to us. Personally, I’m willing to be really patient with others because I want that same consideration for myself. The reality is, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). “There is none righteous, not even one,” (Rom 3:10).
When we are tempted to look down our noses at the “sinners” and hold them in contempt, we had better beware that this is a clear cut sign that the “old Adam” (Mr. Hyde) has already sought to reassert himself in our lives and needs another good dose of God’s Law to bring him back down to the grave where he belongs.
In the end, it’s all about which “Adam” one is talking to, and which “Adam” one is acting like—Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. Recognizing the distinction in ourselves and others is half the battle.