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Doctrinal Matters: Bulletin Articles

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“The Man Upstairs”

by  Kyle Butt, M.A.

Maybe you have been in a conversation when a person used the phrase “the Man upstairs.” In fact, it might be the case that you have used it yourself. Most people understand that this phrase is supposed to refer to God. The famous country singer Garth Brooks performed a song, titled “Unanswered Prayers,” in which he referred to God as “the Man upstairs.” Let’s consider some possible implications that this idea may contain.

There seems to be a human tendency to view God as “the Big Man,” or “the Man upstairs,” and attribute to Him human qualities. Most of the time, when a person uses such phrases, that person attributes to God more power than other men, and places God higher (upstairs) than other men, but still views God as some kind of giant, powerful Man. In fact, the Greek and Roman religions took the “Man upstairs” idea to its logical conclusion and attributed to their gods personalities and character flaws that were seen in mere men. The pagan deities lied, cheated, stole, consorted, and murdered like “little” humans, only their dastardly deeds were perceived to be on a cosmic scale.

In truth, the Bible paints a very different picture of God than is contained in the thought of “the Man upstairs.” The Bible repeatedly insists that God is not a man. In Numbers 23:19, in an inspired oracle, Balak stated: “God is not a man, that He should lie.” The prophet Isaiah wrote: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (55:8-9). The true God of heaven is nothing like the ancient pagan deities with their lies and hypocrisy. The God of heaven “cannot lie” (Titus 1: 2), nor can He even be tempted with evil (James 1:13). In fact, God is perfect in every way, “a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4).

While it is true that the Bible sometimes describes God with human traits (called anthropomorphisms), like having hands or eyes, it is not true that God is just a bigger, higher Man. He is altogether perfect, “Whose judgments are unsearchable and Whose ways are past finding out” (Romans 11:33). Let us always bear in mind as we approach our God in worship and prayer, that we are approaching the Perfect God of Heaven “to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11).

[NOTE: Of course we understand that Jesus was called the Son of Man, and became a Man. Unlike other men, however, Jesus lived a perfect life and never sinned. This brief article is solely intended to encourage us not to view God as having the same character flaws, failings, and limitations as men and to refer to him in an accurate, reverent way.]




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