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Man, accord­ing to the scrip­tures, is cre­at­ed “in the like­ness of God” (Gen 1:26–27). To be like God, through the gift of God, is the essence of man’s being and life. In the scrip­tures it says that God breathed into man, the “breath [or spir­it] of life” (Gen 2:7). This divine teach­ing has giv­en rise to the under­stand­ing in the Ortho­dox Church that man can­not be tru­ly human, tru­ly him­self, with­out the Spir­it of God. Thus Saint Ire­naeus (3rd c.) said in his well-known say­ing, often quot­ed by Ortho­dox authors, that “man is body, soul, and Holy Spir­it.” This means that for man to ful­fil him­self as cre­at­ed in the image and like­ness of God—that is, to be like Christ who is the per­fect. divine, and uncre­at­ed Image of God—man must be the tem­ple of God’s Spir­it. If man is not the tem­ple of God’s Spir­it, then the only alter­na­tive is that he is the tem­ple of the evil spir­it. There is no mid­dle way. Man is either in an unend­ing process of life and growth in union with God by the Holy Spir­it, or else he is an unend­ing process of decom­po­si­tion and death by return­ing to the dust of noth­ing­ness out of which he was formed, by the destruc­tive pow­er of the dev­il. This is how the Ortho­dox spir­i­tu­al tra­di­tion inter­prets the “two ways” of the Mosa­ic law:

I call heav­en and earth to wit­ness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, bless­ing and curse, there­fore choose life that you and your descen­dants may live, lov­ing the Lord, obey­ing His voice and cleav­ing to Him, for that means life to you (Dt 30:19–20).

It is this same teach­ing that the Apos­tle Paul gives in his doc­trine of the “two laws” at work in the life of man.

For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my mem­bers anoth­er law at war with the law of my mind and mak­ing me cap­tive to the law of sin which dwells in my mem­bers. […] For the law of the Spir­it of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. […] For those who live accord­ing to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, hut those who live accord­ing to the Spir­it set their minds on the things of the Spir­it. To set the mind on the Spir­it is life and peace (Rom 7:14–8:17).

Every human being is con­front­ed with these two pos­si­bil­i­ties, ulti­mate­ly the only two pos­si­bil­i­ties of human exis­tence. Either a per­son choos­es life by the grace of God and the pow­er of the Spirit—the “abun­dant” and “eter­nal life” giv­en by God in cre­ation and sal­va­tion through Jesus Christ—or the per­son choos­es death. The whole pathos of human exis­tence con­sists in this choice, whether a per­son is aware of it or not. Chris­t­ian spir­i­tu­al life depends on the con­scious choice of the “way of life.” To “choose life” and to walk in the “way of life” is the way that man shows him­self to be in the image and like­ness of God.

For by the hands of the Father, that is by the Son and the Holy Spir­it, man, and not mere­ly a part of man, was made in the like­ness of God… for the per­fect man con­sists in the com­min­gling and the union of the soul receiv­ing the Spir­it of the Father and the flesh­ly nature which was also mould­ed after the image of God… the man becomes spir­i­tu­al and per­fect because of the out­pour­ing of the Spir­it, and this is he who was made in the image and like­ness of God.

If in a man the Spir­it is not unit­ed to the soul, this man is imper­fect. He remains ani­mal and car­nal. He con­tin­ues to have the image of God in his flesh, but he does not receive the divine like­ness through the Holy Spir­it (St Ire­naeus, 2nd C., Against Heresies).