Today Derek looks at two very important words concerning the human condition: is it spiritual or soulish? Man cannot be both at the same time. There is a divine order in each area of personality. As this order is attained, that person will become wholly sanctified, being preserved complete and blameless when Jesus comes.
I’ve been sharing with you God’s program for regenerated man—how man’s spirit, soul and body should function both in relationship to God Himself and to each other. Let me briefly review what I’ve said.
God rules man through his spirit. Human personality is not a democracy. The spirit is directly united to God and through the spirit of man, God rules man. God rules man’s spirit. Man’s spirit should rule man’s soul, and man’s soul should rule man’s body. In other words, there’s a chain of authority in human personality that comes down from God through the Holy Spirit, to the human spirit, to the human soul, to the human body.
And I spoke about the particular appropriate functions of each element of man. The responsibility of the spirit is unbroken communion and worship. As long as the spirit remains in relationship with God, man is safe. The function of the soul is submission and self denial. And the function of the body is to provide the spirit with a pure temple and with yielded members.
Today I’m going to share more fully about the relationship between the spirit and the soul.
In many years of teaching the Bible to many different groups of people in many different countries, I’ve seen that there is often a kind of cloudiness in the minds of Christians about the interrelationship of spirit and soul and I find that this leads to serious problems in some cases, so I am going to deal a little more fully with this today.
Let me reemphasize the main problem area is always the soul. The soul is the area of original rebellion. It’s the soul that sets the direction for the life. The soul says, “I want,” “I don’t want”; “I will,” “I won’t.” If the soul says, “I won’t,” when God says, “You should,” that’s rebellion and that’s the root cause of all human problems. Also, the soul is the area of ongoing temptation. Because there’s a principle of disobedience in the soul of unregenerate man, so man no longer has to be tempted from outside but temptation finds its source within him and responds to the evil that’s outside. And temptation occurs in the three areas of the soul—in the will, the mind and the emotions. If you analyze your problems as a Christian, you find that that’s where they all start—in the will, the mind, and the emotions. The human soul is really the battleground of tremendous spiritual forces. When you see that, you will not feel condemned if at times you find yourself in a battle. All of us find ourselves in a battle. What we need to do is understand the nature of the battle and God’s provision for victory. Safety and victory lie in maintaining a God appointed relationship, that is, the soul is subject to the spirit of man and the spirit of man is subject to the Spirit of God. As long as that relationship is maintained, we may have pressures, we may have temptations, but we’ll ultimately always have safety and victory. But, if the soul returns to selfwill and rebellion, then it becomes exposed to sin and to Satan. In this connection there are two very important words used in New Testament Greek which are not normally translated literally in most of the translations, and I want to take a few moments just to explain these words because they’re the key to understanding something tremendously important.
The two Greek words are pneumatikos which comes from the word pneuma for spirit, and pneumatikos means spiritual. The other word is psuchekos which comes from the Greek word, psuche for soul, and really the only correct translation of psuchekos is soulish. It corresponds exactly to the word “spiritual.” Pneumatikos—spiritual, psuchekos—soulish, but the word is almost never translated soulish.
Here are some of the translations that you’ll find: natural, sensual, carnal, or worldly, but unfortunately those translations obscure the fact the same word is being used in different places. They also obscure the fact that the real problem is in the soul.
Let me give you three examples from the New Testament where this word psuchekos, “soulish,” is used, but it’s always translated some other way. For instance, in Jude 19, the New American Standard Bible says:
“There are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the spirit.” (NASB)
But “worldly-minded” in Greek is “soulish.” So you see, the source of divisions amongst Christians lies in the realm of the soul. When man is soulish, when he’s not any longer subject to his spirit, and the Holy Spirit, then that’s where division, strife, quarreling, heresy, and all sorts of evils come in. The soul that’s not submitted to the spirit is unprotected, uncovered, and it’s exposed to evil influences, both in the flesh and demonic influences.
Again, in James, chapter 3, verses 14 and 15, I’m reading the New American Standard Translation.
“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, and demonic.” (NASB)
“Natural” is literally “soulish.” So, you see, there are two kinds of wisdom. There’s one that comes down from above—from the Holy Spirit, through man’s spirit, to the soul—that’s pure wisdom. That’s divine wisdom. But there’s another kind, when man’s soul is not in submission to man’s spirit which is earthly, soulish, demonic. The word “earthly” indicates that it’s come down from the plane of direct relationship with God and there’s a degeneration. It gets worse and worse. First, it’s earthly, then it’s soulish, and then it’s demonic. When we get into the soulish realm, when the soul is not submitted to the spirit but is still in pride and rebellion and selfassertion, it’s exposed to demonic influences. And the kind of wisdom that results is not pure, it’s not holy, but it’s evil.
The third passage is in 1 Corinthians, chapter 2, verses 12 through 15. Again, I’m reading the New American Standard Translation.
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. [Now, listen carefully.] But a natural man [but the Greek says “soulish,” a “soulish man”] does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. [So when man is in his soulish realm and not related through his spirit to God, no longer can he understand spiritual things. They can only be understood through the spirit. But then Paul goes on to say:] But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man.” (NASB)
So there’s a direct contrast there between the one who is soulish and the one who is spiritual. The one who is soulish cannot receive revelation from God. The one who is spiritual naturally receives revelation from God. The one who is soulish is the man who is operating in his soulish faculty and that soulish faculty is not submitted to the spirit and the spirit in turn is not united to God. So you see, the essence of what I am saying is, that the only safety for human personality is for the soul to be in continual submission and self-denial, yielded to the spirit, and the spirit in turn related to God and there, there is safety.
In the light of what I have been saying, I want to turn back now to the prayer of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 from which we started this whole series of studies, and this prayer expresses God’s highest will for total man. This is what Paul says:
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NASB)
I pointed out before the two words, “entirely” and “complete” indicate man’s total personality and it’s analyzed in the three elements, spirit, soul and body. And God has a program by which each element of man and his total personality can be wholly sanctified and preserved blameless. What does this mean? I believe it means that there must be divine order in each area of man’s personality. First, the spirit must be in continuing union with God through the Holy Spirit. Second, the soul must be in continuing submission to the spirit, continuing self-denial. You remember Jesus said, “You’ve got to deny yourself daily.” Every day the soul has to say, “No, I will not assert myself; I will yield to the Spirit.” And then thirdly, the body is set apart as God’s temple and its members as yielded instruments for the service of the Holy Spirit. That is, I believe, the program which makes the prayer of Paul a possibility. Let me repeat it again, briefly.
The spirit must be in continuing union with God through the Holy Spirit. The soul must be in continuing submission to the spirit in continuing self-denial. And the body must be set apart as the temple of God, the Holy Spirit and its members yielded instruments.
Now, let me offer you a final word of encouragement in the words of Paul in the very next verse.
“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” (NASB)
It’s in connection with this provision of God for complete holiness, for a complete and perfect functioning of our personality that Paul says, “God, who called you, is faithful and He will bring it to pass.”
So let me sum it up in this concluding phrase, “If you do your part, you can be sure that God will do His.”