Who would you identify as the greatest man in the Bible? For the sake of this discussion, we are excluding Jesus Christ because He was not only a man, but He was also divine (Matt. 3:17; John 10:30). He was God and man at the same time (John 1:1-3,14). Naturally, He was sinlessly perfect and perfect in every way (Heb. 4:15; 5:8,9). Furthermore, the question here is not the question which the apostles raised as to who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Luke 9:46). Theirs was a selfish and materialistic question. Simply, who is the greatest man mentioned in the Bible?
Some might say that Adam was the greatest man in the Bible because he was the very first man and, as such, he was initially sinless and created by God in the image of God. He was likely a genetically perfect human being, undoubtedly extremely intelligent (he classified all the animals) and was in perfect communion with God. He was the progenitor of all that followed. And yet Adam violated God’s perfect law and became responsible for bringing sin into this world and all death by sin (Rom. 5:12-17).
Others might point to Noah as the greatest man in the Bible. Noah lived in a very wicked generation, when “every imagination of the thought of man’s heart was only evil continually,” and yet he was of such a sterling character that God chose him to deliver the world from extermination. Noah was described as “a just man and perfect in his generations.” He “walked with God” and “found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Gen. 6:8,9). Noah labored continually until he had finished the ark which God gave him to build, and he did “according to all that God commanded him” (Gen. 6:22). But Noah also had sin in his life. On at least one occasion he was drunk with wine and was uncovered in his tent (Gen. 9:21,22).
Perhaps Abraham could be said to be the greatest man because he is throughout God’s word held up as a great example of faith (i.e., Gen. 15:6; Gal. 3:8, etc.). God called him to leave his homeland and to travel to a land unknown to him and he went, trusting in God all the way (Gen. 12:1-5; Heb. 11:8,9). Abraham exhibited the greatest faith when, according to God’s test of his faith, he took his only son and was willing to offer him as a sacrifice to God (Heb. 11:17-19). And yet there were instances in Abraham’s life where he, too, sinned. He lied about his wife to Pharaoh (Gen. 12:14ff) and Abimelech (Gen. 20) because he was afraid. He tried, along with Sarai, his wife, to give God’s promise unneeded aid by taking Hagar, the Egyptian, as his wife. Abraham’s life, though a wonderful example of faith, is also spotted with blemishes of sin.
Then, there is Moses. Moses was certainly a great leader. He was the right man at the right time to lead God’s people. He was seen as special in his birth, for his parents hid him from the destroying Egyptians (Ex. 2:1-4). He faced Pharaoh, the most powerful man on the earth at the time and, through God’s power, led his people from Egyptian bondage. He led the children of Israel across the Red Sea upon dry ground and the pursuing Egyptian army was destroyed in the engulfing flood. He, by God’s hand, gave the world the greatest moral code it had ever seen (Ex. 20). And yet, because of Moses’ sin, he was forbidden to enter into the promised land.
What about king David? He was at first just a simple shepherd boy but God chose him to be a leader of His people and bring them to the pinnacle of their historical power. He faced down the giant Goliath with nothing but a sling, five smooth stones and his trust in God. He wrote wonderful poetry which has blessed the world since its writing and is recognized as perhaps the greatest the world has ever known. He was described as a man after God’s own heart (I Sam. 13:14). But David committed great sin in the matter of Bathsheba (II Sam. 11)–unfaithfulness, deception, and ultimately murder–and in numbering God’s people (II Sam. 24).
Then there is David’s son, Solomon. David servants prayed that God would make him even greater than was their lord (I Kings 1:47). Solomon is best known for his great wisdom, wisdom which even in his own time was known the world over (II Chron. 9:22). The Queen of Sheba heard of the wealth, wisdom and fame of Solomon and came to prove him with hard questions but admitted in the end that the half had not been told her (I Kings 10:1-7). Solomon was also responsible for the construction of the glorious Temple in Jerusalem (I kings 8). But even in all this, Jesus said the lilies of the field were far more glorious than all the glories of Solomon (Matt. 6:28,29). The Lord, also, was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned from the Lord and the kingdom was rent from him (I Kings 11:1-12)
Is there anyone greater than any one of these great men of the past, or others which could be mentioned, found in the pages of God’s Holy Word? Listen to Jesus. “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matt. 11:11). Jesus said of those that are born of women–that is, all human beings–no one, not Adam, not Noah, not Abraham, not Moses, not David, not Solomon, nor any other is greater than John but one person. That one person is the person who is in the kingdom of heaven. That means you, if you are a Christian, a member of the Lord’s church, a citizen of the Kingdom of Christ. Being even least in the kingdom of heaven means being greater than all of these great men. What a privilege it is to be a member of the Lord’s church!
Are we living up to that greatness?
Eric L. Padgett