Victoria Park Christian Centre
Suite 1, 342 Albany Highway, Victoria Park 6100, Western Australia
There’s a great deal of talk nowadays about the body, soul and spirit in all kinds of areas from food through to health and wellbeing. A Christian may be excused for steering clear of such talk or misunderstanding the biblical definition. However, there is a great deal in scripture about this topic and so we can’t dismiss it. Also sanctification rests on our clear revelation of how God operates through these areas. Paul writing to the Thessalonians identifies these three parts of man – spirit, soul and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The Greeks believed that at the moment of death the psyche, or spirit of the dead, left the body as a little breath or puff of wind – free at last from the confines of the body. The Greeks believed that only the soul survived death and that is a dualistic thought. Paul a Jew of the diaspora (that means the Jews scattered outside Israel) would have known the Greek perspective concerning the psyche but he never conceives of salvation of the soul apart from the body. His thoughts are for the redemption of the person as a body complete with a soul and spirit (Romans 8:23). For the Hebrew a person is a body-soul; a single and indivisible whole. They believe that a person is not a soul or spirit which inhabits and will at death leave the body. On the contrary the Hebrew view of man is that he is an animated body not an incarnated soul.
In scripture whenever you see a verse with the word spirit with a capital “S” then you know it is referring to the Holy Spirit. If it has a small “s” then it is either a person’s spirit or an evil spirit and you have to work this out from the context.
At the beginning of creation God breathed His Spirit into man and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7). Our God is a triune God and it was the third person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit – that was breathed into man. As man was made in God’s image he also has three parts. And it was the spirit of man the third part of his tripartite nature that received this life. It is important that Christians grasp this.
Now before the fall the ‘spirit’ of a person was illuminated from Heaven. We communed with God this way – He was with our spirit and He gave us light and life to live as we were designed in love, peace and harmony with the Holy Spirit lighting our way eternally. With God’s Spirit with us we were free to live for ever as God is eternal and His Spirit supported that life. If we were to draw the body, soul and spirit of the animated man at creation then we would not illustrate them as equal parts but with our spirit elevated by God’s Spirit. Maybe a little like the diagram shown to the left.
God’s Spirit energised them for service. And what was that service? As trustees and stewards of God’s world human beings were to live within it and use it in accord with God’s directions. To build a community under the direction of God’s Holy Spirit in love, peace and harmony and so reflecting the image of God as His children in whom we have been made (Genesis 1:28).
When the human race fell, in Adam, sin closed the window of the Spirit, pulled down the curtain and the chamber of the spirit became a death chamber. This is the state of every human being at birth. Death and decay had set it and the order of the tripartite nature changed. As man had eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and knowledge is in the mind – the soul – then the soul was added to and the spirit was diminished. A great reversal began. If we were to draw the body soul and spirit of the animated man after the fall it would look something like this one.
Even though all people are born into the middle position of this diagram they cannot remain here. If a person is not reached by the gospel then they gradually become driven by the flesh and end up in the end position. This is what Paul talks about in the Bible (Romans 8:5,6): lives being driven to acquiring things for the flesh. We see this all around us people working hard their whole lives solely to provide luxurious houses, top of the range vehicles and comforts for themselves and their families in this world.
When the gospel is preached and a person responds then by grace their sins are forgiven and they are born again. God breathes again life into their spirit which is freed from domination by the soul (Hebrews 4:12). He also abides there by His Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:27). Now, under the direction of the Holy Spirit a work is begun which will take us back to the first position where God’s Holy Spirit directs the person. With the co-operation of the Christian there must be a shrinking of the super-sized soul and a growth in the person’s new spirit. This is called sanctification.
Many Christians do not seem to understand the newness of their spirit and the living of the Holy Spirit in their spirit. It is so important to see this because if you do not then you will take guidance from the soul which is super-sized. We do not look to what is outside but what is inside. The Holy Spirit lives in the deepest recess of our being. There and only there may we expect His working and obtain His guidance. This is one of the most tragic things we see in here – Christians who are deceived into seeking signs, wonders, voices and sensations from outside of that new spirit deep within them. We pray to our Father in heaven but we seek direction from His Holy Spirit deep within us. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we are able to crucify the flesh and allow the Spirit full sway over our soul and our body. All the “I’s” – that’s our very thought, desire, sensation and intent are now governed by the spirit.
Jesus allowed that to happen. He says that he only did what the father does (John 5:19). He took His direction from the Holy Spirit who came upon Him like a dove at baptism. We need to really work on this direction from deep within our spirit as there is an enemy who is working against us. Christians must be ever watchful and daily take up their cross and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). Deny your soul and seek and say yes to the Spirit. Feed your spirit and diet your soul. Your body will fall into sync with it.
Another problem is that Christians become so fixated on finding the God of that other world that they often miss finding the God of heaven and earth. All they can think of is otherworldly things and miss the point that the creator of the world is in the here and now. This is what Paul means in Colossians 3:23. The Hebrews of Bible times looked up to heaven but kept both feet squarely on the ground. Yes, we can see that the earth has been corrupted by the devil and yes, we must not look for betterment outside of the Spirit of Jesus that lives within us. But we cannot just sit around waiting for the apocalypse. We must see that it is on earth and earth alone that human beings highest duty and calling can be performed. Namely, that of bringing glory to our Maker through the praise of our lips and the work of our hands under the direction of God.
This brings me to the final misconception that I want to talk about today: Individualism. Unhappily modern Christianity seems to emphasise the “Lone Ranger Christian.” There are so many Christians who think that they can survive outside of the church which is the body of Christ even though we are told there is only one corporate body (Ephesians 4:4-6). Maybe the church brought this on themselves by stressing the freedom of conscience before God, the individual priesthood of the believer, the importance of personal devotion and the right of each person to interpret the Bible privately. The church must be more than an ad hoc scramble of independent individualists each going their own way.
Human beings were created to be social and God has constituted his people to function within a body. A person’s true meaning derives from relationships with God and with other human beings (Luke 10:27). As a community of believers under the direction of God’s Holy Spirit we are called to come together as a believing body following the example of Jesus. We are meant to make disciples thus multiplying and building a community of God by works that he has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
What are these good works? Jesus came to this earth on a rescue mission to free us from the clutches of sin, self, sickness and oppression that we might be prepared for the age to come. Jesus came to serve, not to be served (Matthew 20:28). He came to reconcile human beings to God and to each other. By his example he taught his followers how to be involved in the lives of people in order to make them whole. His example reminds us that we are to live the life of faith under the conditions of this world. This was the work of Jesus and this is the work of his people to bring salvation down to earth.
If we want our spirit, soul and body to be fit for heaven then there are three things we need to comply with. First, we must learn to take direction from the Holy Spirit within for everything. Second, we must learn to be content in all things so that our mind does not covet (Philippians 4:12). Third, we must be involved with others and do the good works. Oh Lord! Fit us for heaven.
This message is part of a sermon given by Andrea Lock on 28 August, 2016. If you have a prayer request, or would like more information about Perth Healing Ministries, please get in touch using the contact form below.