THE HUMAN HEART
A Bible Study
The word “heart” is used some 765 times in our English Bibles--nearly 900 times, if you count all the compound words like “hardhearted.” A few of these refer to the actual physical organ. (The Greek word for “heart” is kardia, from which we get words like cardiac and cardiology.) But by far the most times the word is used it is speaking of something different.
In the Bible, the word HEART refers most often to: the conscious self, the whole inner person, including the mind, will and emotions. Our heart, in this sense, is the very centre and core of our being.
The symbolism is appropriate. Our physical heart is a vital organ, absolutely essential to our physical lives. In a way it is the centre of our physical being, because it pumps life-sustaining blood throughout all of the body. As The Bible says, “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Lev. 17:11), and that life flows from the heart. So it is fitting that the Bible also uses the word heart of that which is at the very centre of our spiritual lives.
It should be noted further that God’s Word places a priority on spiritual matters, over those of our physical being. “The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Sam. 16:7). So Peter says, “Do not let your adornment be merely outward...rather let it be the hidden person of the heart” (I Pet. 3:3-4). The whole “Hollywood” approach that glorifies outward beauty and attractiveness--seemingly above all--has it wrong. God is first of all concerned with what’s inside us. Our priority in life must be on beautifying that!
NOTE: The references in this study are based on the King James Version and New King James Version. Sometimes, other translations do not use the actual word “heart.” Though it is definitely found in the original Hebrew and Greek, you may need to compare one version with another to find the word in English.
1) It was noted above that our “heart” includes: our mind (the thinking part of us), our emotions (the feeling part of us), and our will (the choosing and deciding part of us). Check the following Scriptures, and see if you can detect which of the three is meant in each case: the mind, the will, the emotions. (Sometimes it may be more than one.)
a) Matt. 5:28; b) Matt. 9:3-4; c) Lk. 24:32; d) Lk. 24:38; e) Acts 2:37; f) Acts 11:23; g) Acts 21:13; h) Rom. 6:17; i) II Cor. 9:7; j) Heb. 4:12.
INSIGHT: The Bible states that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). That suggests the character of the heart of the unsaved person will be a direct contrast to the perfect righteousness and purity of God. In the following passages, see how the Word of God describes the unregenerate human heart.
2) What is it about the heart of the unsaved that God detests (Prov. 16:5)?
3) According to Jeremiah, what are some serious problems with the heart of man (Jer. 17:9; 49:19)?
4) What is another serious problem in the heart of man (Jer. 5:23)?
4b) And what is an associated condition to this that makes the problem uncorrectable (Rom. 2:5)?
5) When a human being defiantly sets his course against the will of God, and utterly refuses to change, what does God do (Rom. 1:21-32--especially vs. 21, 24, 26, 28)?
6) What is another serious condition of the heart of man (Eph. 4:18)?
7) What kind of behaviour originates in the heart (Matt. 12:34; Mk. 7:21-23)?
INSIGHT: Other passages emphasize that the heart of the unsaved person by its basic nature and tendency is: hateful (Lev. 19:17; lustful (Prov. 6:25); and covetous (II Pet. 2:14). It is not a pretty picture. Though his behaviour often appears charitable, cultured, clever--and even religious--these things lurk in the sin nature of man, seeking an opportunity to break forth. But God, in grace, has provided a remedy for our “heart trouble.”
8) What fact about God is both fearful and reassuring (Ps. 44:20-21; also spoken of in I Chron. 28:9; Jer. 12:3)?
9) In answer to a condition described in Question #6, what does God do for the heart (Acts 16:14; II Cor. 4:6)?
INSIGHT: When a person puts his faith in Christ as Saviour, he is born again, spiritually (Jn. 1:12-13). This is a work of the Spirit of God. And the Holy Spirit also takes residence within the individual (I Cor. 6:19).
10) What else does God promise to do for the heart (Ezek. 36:26-27)?
INSIGHT: This is Ezekiel’s statement of the New Covenant, a covenant of grace made with the nation of Israel (Jer. 31:31), that includes the inward spiritual transformation of the Jewish people (Ezek. 36:26-27; cf. Jer. 31:31-34), and their restoration to the Promised Land in the last days (Ezek. 36:28-38; cf. Jer. 31:35-40). The national aspects of the covenant will not come into effect until Christ returns (Rom. 11:26-27). But more than Israel is affected by it--as with the Abrahamic Covenant, by which not only Israel but “all the families of the earth” are blessed (Gen. 12:3). The New Covenant rests upon the redemptive work of Christ (I Cor. 11:25). Through Him, by faith, individuals today may receive spiritual benefits described in the covenant (II Cor. 3:6; Heb. 9:15).
10b) What new ability and capacity does the heart have, through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5; Gal. 5:22)?
11) What else does the presence of the Holy Spirit within mean to us (II Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13-14)?
12) What does the Lord promise the one who trusts in Him (Ps. 27:14)?
INSIGHT: The Lord is also able to “establish” (strengthen and stabilize) our hearts (I Thess. 3:12-13), and “enlarge” them (Ps. 119:32), giving us a greater capacity to know and love Him. But there is in each of the above a certain responsibility placed upon the individual as well, both to receive the work of God, by faith, and cooperate with Him in what He is doing.
13) What is one thing God expects us to do with our hearts (Prov. 4:23)?
14) What can happen to hinder God’s work in us (Ps. 66:18)?
14b) Of what are we to be cautious (Heb. 3:12)?
15) What kind of heart does God commend (II Kgs. 22:19; Ps. 51:17)?
16) What does “the Great Commandment” tell us to do (Mk. 12:30)?
INSIGHT: In a related passage, Peter exhorts us to “sanctify the Lord God in [our] hearts” (I Pet. 3:15). He means we should reverence Him, and give Him His rightful place in our hearts and lives. Hannah’s testimony was, “My heart rejoices in the Lord” (I Sam. 2:1). Her lifelong desire to have a child had just been fulfilled. But her greatest joy was found not in God’s gift, but in knowing and serving the Giver Himself.
17) What else are we to do wholeheartedly (Prov. 3:5)?
18) And what else are we to do (Eph. 6:6)?
19) What is another thing that should characterize the believer’s heart (Rom. 10:1)?
INSIGHT: This brief study cannot cover all that the Bible has to say on this fascinating subject. But it is hoped that what is included will enable each of us to aspire effectively to the kind of heart described by Charles Wesley in his hymn: “O for a heart to praise my God, / A heart from sin set free, / A heart that always feels Thy blood / So freely shed for me! A heart resigned, submissive, meek, / My great Redeemer’s throne; / Where only Christ is heard to speak, / Where Jesus reigns alone. A heart in every thought renewed, / And full of love divine; / Perfect, and right, and pure, and good, / A copy, Lord, of Thine!”