Body, Soul & Spirit
I am assuming if you have chosen to read this article that you have accepted Christ as your Savior, and you consider yourself to be a born-again Christian. If this is the case, then maybe you are at the place I was spiritually after I had been a Christian for a number of years. I knew God’s requirements for living a Godly Christian life and I wasn’t fooled into thinking that I even came close to meeting those requirements. My heartache was that I desperately wanted to live right, as I called it, and be the kind of person, both inside and out, that I knew God required me to be. No matter how hard I struggled to do this, I missed the mark most of the time.
Is There an Answer?
I thought I had found the answer to my problem the first time I can remember reading Romans 7. I thought, this is me! I am just like Paul in that the very things I wanted to do and knew I ought to do I found impossible to do. And the things I didn’t want to do and knew I shouldn’t do that is what I did continually. And, like Paul, I certainly considered this a wretched way of life! But I thought since the great and beloved Paul has experienced the same failures that I had, maybe this was it and it was the best any of us would ever be able to do this side of heaven. I mistakenly began to consider Romans Seven the normal Christian life.
This conclusion gave me no peace, however. My conscience and the Bible convicted me that my failure to obey God’s commands was sin, and in order to be a right person in His eyes, I had to stop sinning and live a righteous life. But as I have already said, the question that had me in a hopeless state was how to do it. I hope it is your question, too, and if it is, stick with me because I am going to give you the answer. (Isn’t it good news right there that there is an answer?)
We are Not Self-Operated
The answer, as I have come to know and experience it, came in the form of the message that I, along with many others (namely my mentor and teacher Norman Grubb, who first taught me these truths from God’s word), boldly say is the Total Truth–simply meaning that we are total humans who contain a Total God: He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him (1 Cor. 6:17).
The basis of this total truth message is that there is no such thing as an independent self-operating self. The idea of anything or anyone in God’s universe being independent of the creator-God is a lie. This lie began with Satan. I’m sure you know that Satan, originally named Lucifer, was created to be God’s light-bearer. His position in the universe as God’s servant did not suit him. Because of his pride and ambition, he chose to disobey God and reject His authority. Satan defiantly declared himself equal with God as though he had a self-operating nature of his own. Of course, this was his own trumped-up idea. It is obvious, isn’t it, that the creature can never be equal with its Creator. This act of disobedience was the first sin ever committed in God’s glorious universe and this is the Original Sin. As its consequence, Lucifer’s name was changed to Satan, and he and his angels were cast out of Heaven and into Hell.
All mankind has been infected by Satan with this same lie–that we, too, can operate or live independently of God and have a nature of our own. Satan began his sin infiltration into the human race when he convinced Eve that God had lied to her. He talked her into believing that what he, Satan, was telling her was the truth: You will not surely die, the serpent said to the woman. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil (Gen. 3:4,5). Eve gave the fruit to Adam, and he took and ate it, as well.
Thus Adam, like all of us after him, learned the hard way that what God had said was true because, contrary to what Satan had told him, he and Eve suffered the consequences that God had promised him. From the day that Adam fell, the entire human race has been infected by Adam’s sin: Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned (Romans 5:12). So all sins are a product of people believing Satan’s original lie.
Containers of Deity
However, the true revelation of the Bible is that we humans have no nature. We were not created to have a nature, but to be containers of a deity nature, and we can only express the nature of the one within us. All the Bible symbols of our humanity describe us as containers and expressers of one who is not ourselves, but is a god. All that matters is, which god?
The illustrations the Bible uses of us in our humanity are vessels, branches, body members, slaves, and wives. In each of these instances we are the agent by which the occupant operates. The Bible refers to us as either vessels of wrath or vessels of mercy. The vessel of wrath, of course, is a container of the god by whom we experience wrath. And the vessel of mercy is a container that houses the God by whom we experience mercy (Rom. 9:22-23). So it is not the type of vessel that is important but which god it contains.
Every human being is born containing the spirit of error and is thus what the Bible calls lost: And you were dead (or lost) in your trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:1); For the son of Man has come to save that which was lost (Matt. 18:11). The Bible says that we are "children of your father the devil, and tells us that it is his deeds that we do. We remain in this lost state unless or until we accept Christ as our personal Savior and we become, in Biblical terms, saved or born-again: Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). We become cut off from the indwelling spirit of error (Satan) at our new birth, and we become joined to the Holy Spirit. From that time on we are united with Him in an eternal union.
Here is an illustration to help show you what I mean. (See PDF version)
As you can see in the first illustration, there is a lower case "s" and a plus mark and "Satan." The small "s" stands for our human spirit, and as you can see from this illustration, it is joined to Satan. But, as we have tried to make clear, this does not mean that we were born evil/sinful in and of ourselves, since we are not independent. But, as the drawing depicts, our human spirit is connected to Satan–and it is his evil, sinful deeds that are expressed in and through us. Until we are born again, Satan is our boss and sin for us is a way of life: Wherein in time past we walked according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2). The Lord Jesus is the only exception. He was born sinless, lived sinless, and died sinless.
Salvation: A Change of Spirit-Operator
In our second illustration, our human spirit ("s") is joined to the Holy Spirit. The exchange of Satan with the Holy Spirit takes place when we accept Christ as our Savior. It is the body death of Jesus that is the means by which our human spirit is freed from the indwelling spirit of error (Satan). The Holy Spirit Himself becomes the new spirit life within us: "He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him (1 Cor. 6:17); He who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you (Rom. 8:11). I think it is necessary to digress for a moment to explain what the Bible means when it talks about our being put to death (crucified) with Christ on the cross and in turn our being dead with Him (Romans 6:6-8): Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin; now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him. I find that there are many interpretations of our being dead with Christ that are not only confusing but inaccurate. We must get it clear that death does not mean dissolution. It is, instead, the process by which spirit is separated from body.
The Bible says that Christ became sin or in other words, took the spirit of sin/Satan on himself (Corinthians 5:21) and took it to the cross. In His death, the Satan/sin spirit was cut off or put out of Him. In our new birth experience (when we accept Jesus as our personal Savior) we are spiritually put to death with Him–"one died for all, therefore all died" (2 Cor. 5:14) and in His death the Satan spirit that we inherited from Adam, is put out of us. In our resurrection (new life) the spirit of Christ joins Himself to us in an eternal union (Romans 6:4,5). Thus, in actual fact, we become new creatures, or what the Bible calls the new man. When this exchange of spirits takes place in us, there no longer exists an "old man" who lurks around waiting to reinvent himself as us. Please don’t begin to think from what I am saying that we reach a state of perfection where it is impossible for us to sin. The explanation of sin in the life of a Christian will come later.
I hope this short account lets you see that when we say that through Jesus’ body death on the cross we become new creatures in Christ, we are stating a literal fact and not some high-sounding spiritual ideal. We are actually converted from having Satan joined to us (Satan/I) to Christ joining Himself to us (Christ /I).
How Does Our Union with Christ Work?
Once I came to accept this biblically validated philosophy as the foundation for my own Christian experience–that I was in union with Christ and was thus one spirit with Him–I was plagued with the following dilemma. (Let me interrupt and say here that it is my experience that most people have these same questions.) Does the Holy Spirit take us over in our union with Him and automatically eclipse our freedom to choose and thus make it impossible for us to sin? Or can we say that because of our oneness, Christ is somehow responsible for our sin? Of course we must say no to both of these suppositions because from Scripture and experience two things are very clear: Christians (union people) do sin, and Christ has never sinned and never will sin.
Another question that plagues us as Christians regarding sin is this: Do we have to go Satan’s anti-God way? As we talked about earlier, Paul expounded this same anguish, which he exposed to the entire world in the famous chapter seven of his letter to the church at Rome. He lamented over his inability to do what he knew to be right and his continuing to do what he knew to be wrong. Paul cried out in anguish to be delivered from this plight he bemoans is worse than death. The Bible promises that God provides a way of escape for us from every temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). I see now what I didn’t see in my Romans Seven experience and that Paul found to be the answer to his life worse than death. At the end of the chapter, we see the light dawn for our brother Paul when he ecstatically bursts forth with the blessed truth that the Lord Jesus Christ is the answer to the bondage in which he (US, TOO) is held. In the great glory Chapter Eight, we are blessed to have recorded for us Paul’s discourse where he expounds how he has been set free to walk not in weak fallen flesh but to walk victoriously in the Spirit of truth and light!
To gain clarity on the above questions, we must understand our humanity and how it functions. To do that I personally think we must first gain an understanding of the difference between body, soul, and spirit. Each of these are aspects of every individual with distinct and separate functions, but all work together to make us the glorious creatures that we are. Following are some simple drawings that have helped me and many others understand the inner workings of the human self. Of course, these diagrams can only give an idea of what we as persons look like and how we function because no human explanation can adequately portray spirit truth. It is my experience that the real meaning of these truths only comes to the honest seeker by means of Holy Spirit revelation.
(See illustration in pdf version)
The outer circle represents the body, the middle circle our soul, and the inner circle the spirit. The body is the outer clothing or the outer expression of the soul and spirit. The soul is the seat of our emotions (feelings) and reason (thoughts). We will go into a detailed discussion on soul later.
Human Spirit–Our Real Self
Spirit is our real self, and it has three basic faculties–will/choice, mind/knowledge and desire/love. Desire or love is at the center of the human spirit. Sad to say, in our lost state we are self-love, with Satan expressing his self-for-self love through us. But as we touched on earlier, when we become born again, the glorious exchange takes place whereby our sinful operator, Satan, is cut off from our human spirit through the body death of Christ, and in turn, He (Jesus Christ) joins Himself to our human spirit and we become one Spirit with Him (1Cor. 6:17). We are thus vessels through which He expresses His selfless agape love.
Mind is our second spirit faculty, the means by which we know things. Not what we think about things (that is a soul function) but where we know them. Ideas belong to the soul realm; knowledge belongs to the spirit. For example, we may know a lot about God and Jesus on a soul level, but we can only know them and things of the spirit by means of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Again, in our Holy Spirit union, He is the "Knower" in and through us.
The third faculty of the spirit is the will, and that is where our spirit choices are made. Our love and knowledge (the other spirit faculties) both help shape these choices, which are in turn expressed through our soul and body. The will is the arbitrator of our destiny because it is here that we have the God-ordained freedom to choose for God or against God. (I am assuming that your choice to accept Christ as personal savior has already been made.) If in our lives as believers we choose to trust God, His will takes us over in our human spirits and He thus works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). If, on the other hand, we do not choose God and we fall for Satan’s lie that we or another person is independent of God–another way of saying we commit the sin of unbelief–the usurper (Satan) gains external control and produces his deeds (sins) through our members–our soul and body. This is a very subtle thing and can look quite innocent. Here is an example: for me to say something like I am just a shy person is what I am talking about. No, I am not an independent I that has the power within myself to be anything but a container for spirit. The truth is that Christ who lives my life is not shy. I am Christ/I. I may feel shy, but that is merely a soul feeling and not who I am.
Soul: Our Thoughts and Feelings
We will move on now and attempt to explore soul, which is represented by the second circle in the diagram. Soul is where emotions and reasoning take place–where we feel and think. I am sure you know what I mean when I bring up feelings. I think the best way for me to talk about feelings is to list several: hate–fear–jealousy–sadness–happiness–unhappiness–uselessness–loneliness–superiority. It is obvious that the list could go on and on. It is important to know that all feelings are necessary components of the human personality. But they are a huge problem for us because until we know differently, we believe our feelings are not only how we are but who we are, and we operate (make our choices) based on this misconception. The simple truth is that we are who we are in our spirit. All feelings are just that–feelings–and are morally neutral.
Nonetheless, because of this erroneous believing, we are overcome with guilt and defeat at not being able to change or improve either our thoughts or feelings. The truth is that neither needs to be changed nor will they change by effort on our part to change them. The reason that neither needs to change is that both originate in our soul and do not affect our inner spirit reality. Thoughts and feelings do become a problem when we believe them and act upon them. We sin in a moment of unbelief when Satan entices us to agree with him that we are independent, self-operating selves. In this state of unbelief, Satan gains the power to boss us from outside and take us into any sin he chooses. Our union with Christ is not broken, however, and the way out of this Satan trap is simple but not widely understood and, even sadder, not always practiced by those who do understand it. Paul uses the marriage analogy in Romans 7 to help clarify the issue. He is saying in this passage that we must consciously enter into the reality of not only our cut-off from our old husband Satan, but also our marriage to our new husband Jesus Christ. Until we do this, we will remain under the illusion that we are independent. This puts us, unknowingly, under the outer control of our old husband Satan. And as a result defeat and guilt are our lot.
Discerning Between Soul and Spirit
Because soul and spirit are so closely linked together, it takes a revelation of the Spirit for us to know the difference between them. Hebrews 4:12 gives us an illustration of their closeness: For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. The writer to the Hebrews is saying that the two are as intimately connected as the marrow is to the bone. Like the marrow, spirit is the life of the body. The soul, like the joint, is the vessel for the marrow and is the means by which the inner spirit life expresses itself.
The good news is that we can avoid the Satan sin trap. We do that by simply remembering and if necessary stating the truth that thoughts and feelings are not the real us. They are factual but not real in the eternal Spirit sense. This is the way the Bible says it. "The things that are seen are temporal (fleeting) and the things that are not seen are eternal (everlasting)"–2 Cor. 4:18.
I am not saying that we are to ignore our thoughts and feelings. It is very important that we look at them honestly, and if necessary, talk about them to someone, but as quickly as possible move past them and begin to reflect on who we are in our spirit center–we joined to Christ rather than how we feel.
Living from Who We Really Are
Here is a simple example of what I am talking about. We become aware of a negative feeling. For example, we feel afraid; we accept it as a fact about ourselves, and we say something like this: "Oh, I’m just a fearful person. That’s the way I am. I’ve always been fearful." The feeling could be anything; make your own list: hate, jealousy, anger, shyness, pride, inferiority, etc. As we’ve said, all feelings are soul and not spirit, and spirit is who we are. Our feelings tell us how we feel but not who we are. The correct way to express our feelings is to for us to say "I feel very fearful," as opposed to "I am so afraid." The first is a statement of feelings; the second is a statement of who we are.
God’s greatest desire for us is for us to live life by putting our faith in the fact that it’s He living despite what we are feeling. He expects us to march into the battles of life, feeling terrified and with sweat on our brow. That was Jesus, wasn’t it? He sweated blood in the garden of Gethsemane even though He knew from the foundation of the world that He was going to go to the Cross. Nevertheless, when the time came for His crucifixion, His plea was, "Let this cup pass." His feeling was fear. His feeling was pain. The whole point is that whatever the human Jesus was feeling, His feelings were swallowed up in His choice to do the will of His Father. This was who He was and what He came to do. You and I can do the same thing. To do so is a life-changing experience.
Now I want to give a more comprehensive explanation of how our understanding the Total Truth message enables us to live the victorious life God created us to live. In other words, What difference does it make in our everyday life for us to know that we are not independent self-operating selves but as Christians we are in union with Jesus Christ? We will also include more discussion on soul and spirit.
It is crucial that we understand that sin never begins with a deed; consequently, our root problem is never our deeds. Deeds are merely the symptoms of a deeper hidden problem. But Satan has done an excellent job of tricking us and keeping us from getting to the root of sin. Because of his deception we always concentrate on the symptom. This keeps our attention off the source of sin, which is believing Satan’s lie that I am just me and that I can and do operate independently of God.
A Personal Example
Here is a personal example of what I am talking about. I feel very inadequate to write as I am now doing. And not to be left out, my thoughts go hand in hand with my feelings and I think over and over, "I am not good at writing; this is too hard; I am just inadequate to be doing this, so I will just quit and leave the writing to those who are good at it."
Now let’s look at all this more closely. Is the problem what I am thinking and feeling? (I am incapable of getting my thoughts organized and written down.) Look at my sentence for a minute and, as you do, keep in mind that the key is who is doing the organizing and writing. Is it good old "I" or "just me"? It can’t be, can it, because there is no independent "I" or "just me" in the universe, and when I believe there is, sin/Satan has moved in on the flesh level and he is blocking Christ from getting this job done.
If I keep my focus on these thoughts and feelings, I put myself in danger of crossing the line from being tempted to believe I am independent to actually believing I am. The course of action I must take to avoid the trap is very simple, but not easy, to do because it takes my giving up my idea of the situation and saying that I am wrong. Next I stop saying all the negative things to myself that I have been saying, and instead I say the truth about myself–and that is, "If I am Jesus Christ in my particular form and He is my operator, then what I am thinking and believing about my inability to organize and write down my thoughts cannot be true." What I am thinking and believing may be the way things appear to my human senses, but they are merely appearances, and we are admonished in Scripture not to judge by appearances. I must look through appearances to what is true in the realm of spirit. This is how Jesus lived. He saw past the outer human need to His Father, the total supply, though invisible to the human eye, right in the midst of the negative circumstance.
Next, I begin to say by faith (none of it will be fact at this stage) what I know to be real in the realm of the Spirit. "The truth is that Jesus Christ through me can write anything that He wants to write as long as He is the one in control of my life." As we discussed earlier, Christ regains His rightful place as Lord (Boss) of my life when I confess my sin of unbelief and then confess and stand in the truth.
Now, let’s apply the same spiritual reasoning to my situation: "I am totally inadequate to get my thoughts organized and written down." For my statement of faith to be true, I must say, "I can get this article written." Of course we know the secret that makes this statement true; it is Jesus Christ who is my Spirit operator that can and will do it through me. My responsibility is simply to trust Him to do it.
It is important to remember that it is okay for me to say, "I feel like I can’t get my thoughts organized and written down. Here I am expressing a soul feeling and not a spirit fact. As we have already established, Satan takes over when I move from expressing soul feelings and thoughts to stating Spirit facts.
Here are more examples that I hope will help you deal with your thoughts and feelings. We say that we are shy or fearful or smart or ugly (use your own example). Let’s pick "shy" again and write it out. "I am a shy person. I have all the traits that portray someone who is shy. I have always been this way. I have been told I was shy since I was a small child." All this is true on the body-soul level, and Satan has been free to live out shyness because my wrong believing about myself has given him the freedom to do so. But (and it is a big but), the truth is that I know that my operator is Jesus Christ and the shy label that I have put on myself is a lie. The truth is that Christ is not shy. If He is sometimes quiet in me, that is His business. I am wrong to call myself shy because of His quietness. At the same time, I may be feeling shy, but you now know that is just a soul feeling and it has no reality on the Spirit level. I speak the truth when I say, "I am feeling shy, or afraid, lonely, or superior, or smarter, but these are all feelings and they are not who and what Jesus Christ, who is my operator, is. We must not think we are off-course when the feelings continue, which in all likelihood they will. We simply focus on who we are and pay as little attention to our feelings as possible.
Same Temptation–Same Solution
Satan tried to use his same way of deception on Jesus. Do you remember His temptation experience in the wilderness? (John 4:1-11) Satan began his discourse with Jesus, not as we would expect–tempting Him with food, (Jesus was hungry because he had fasted for forty days) or with power. He tempted Him with pride. Satan preceded all these specifics with his piercing statement, "If you are who you say you are, you can turn these stones into bread or you can throw yourself off the temple and God will send angels to save you."
Jesus could have come back with, "Of course "I" am who "I" say "I" am; "I" am the Christ, the Son of the living God"–the "I" meaning that He had what it took in and of Himself to do what Satan tempted Him to do, and go Satan’s self-for-self way. The truth, and He made it quite clear, is that He and His Father are One, and He does only what He sees His Father do (John 14:10). His strengths and His abilities are operated only in love for others just as are those of His Father. The words of the glorious hymn say it very clearly. "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."
I am now finished with this article, but the task of writing it never became easy. I sat at the computer, putting myself at the disposal of the Holy Spirit, and simply recorded thoughts as He brought them to my mind. No matter how impossible the task felt, I continually reminded myself of the truth–which is, "Christ is perfectly capable of getting the writing done that He wants." My responsibility is to remain faithful by making myself available to Him to use to get the job done.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 24 No 3
- Body, Soul & Spirit
- Words to Live By
- How Does Soul Differ from Spirit?
- Editor’s Note
- Book Review: Alphabet Soup
- Rejoice in the Lord Always…
- Further Soul/Spirit Clarification
- Christ in the Driver’s Seat
- Alphabet Soup
- Moments With Meryl
- There is Another Dimension
- Tape Talk–and More, Body, Soul & Spirit
- Free from the law of sin and death…
- The Soul-Spirit Understanding