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I am often asked questions by people and
often times the explanation is complex even though the answer is
simple. To acquire an accurate perspective on a simple answer
requires historic, cultural, and other information to help form the
understanding of that simple answer. This is one of those cases.
I was recently asked by a friend to explain the soul and spirit and if they are the same thing? The following is my answer, and yet the answer also is the same for that grand old question, “What is the meaning of life?”
This is tricky because there are a lot of opinions about this. As with everything I do, I look to God’s word, the Bible, to find my answers. I look at it in terms of God and what He said. God said that THEY created MAN in THEIR own image. “Let us create man in our own image.” So to understand who we are, we must look at who God is. So we have GOD the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. God the Father is the core of all things, including the base of the plurality of a singular God, or the singularity in a plural God which is the Godhead. He is the core of the three-in-one. The core of who a man or woman is is their soul. We attribute the heart and the mind as separate things but they are really one and the same. When you feel in your heart, it is a function of physiology in your brain interacting with your heart. Just like when we move a part of our body or feel sick in the stomach. It is our central nervous system interacting with our peripheral nervous system and the receptor cells that make up all of our senses, including internal organs.
Remember that Jesus was a physical man and is a physical man. Now we have our bodily aspect in the creation of Man and in the Godhead, or Trinity. When we look at the account of Adam and Eve and the original sin we see the spiritual death of Mankind, their eternal nature died, which is their spirit. Does that mean they do not have a spirit? No, not at all. Sure they have a spirit, it is just that there spirit is dead, lifeless, not connected to God. I am sorry to use this example, but a dead spirit can be better understood by equating it to a modern portrayal of a vampire. Though not real, in its fiction portrayal a vampire functions but it is dead. No the dead spirit does not go around looking for blood and has fangs, but what it does mean is that a dead spirit is always in search of life and the only people who find that life and make their spirits live again are people who receive Christ as their Lord and Savior and therefore receive the Holy Spirit of God. That is the spiritual rebirth. For others, they continue to search, empty, trying to fill that void with other things, other ideologies, other philosophies and religion, and they never find what they are looking for because they reject what they need, or just never make that connection to God. Francis Bacon called it the “God shaped hole” that is inside each person and Mankind is ever restless because they cannot find anything that fits in their God shaped hole. Only God can fill that God shaped hole.
Jesus states that we must be Born-again, that we must experience a new spiritual birth. This comes from the Holy Spirit of God, which is how we are connected and what connects us to God in terms of communication, guidance, and a relationship. Since the Godhead (Trinity) is three in one, then it can be argued that the Christian therefore is three-in-one in likeness to God, but we are not God. We are complete in our restoration because we are three-in-one, but the rest of Mankind, who has not found salvation in Jesus Christ, or has rejected salvation in Jesus Christ, remains incomplete and always searching for that which completes them.
For those of us who have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, which means we are completed as people in the new birth of receiving the Holy Spirit, though we are now complete, we are still NOT God, or gods. I have models of planes and ships in my office. They look exactly like the real thing, but they are not the real things, they are merely replicas or copies. We may “look” like the Godhead in terms of our creation, but we are not God in position, authority, or power. We do not our own power, we have His power or His authority when He grants it to us; we can only use, or borrow, what He has given us in those respects. In and of ourselves we have nothing. We are reliant on God for everything.
The Godhead (Trinity) has three distinct functions and personas in one person. So we have a soul, which is the essence of who we are in terms of thought and emotion, then there is our physical body which is the encasement or holder of our soul and we will be given a new body at the rapture event. Thank God because I would not want to keep this decrepit sack that I am currently in for all eternity.
Next, we have a living spirit that comes from God. Remember what Jesus said about He and the Father are one, and how the Father was in Him, and He was in the Father. So it is with us when we receive the Holy Spirit at our salvation moment. Jesus said that He would give us the Holy Spirit to be with us, to seal us, to guide us, to comfort us, and so on. The word that Jesus used is Paraklesis which means to come along side, or to comfort, or a penetrating dance, and it can actually be used, and has been used, in terms of sexual intercourse (I could not find my old reference for this information so I am now doubting my word usage, it may actually be the same or a similar Greek word, but the point remains the same). Not to say that God is having sex with Mankind, what it means is that He is within us, connected to us, and that makes us one with God in our interpersonal relationship with Him, and that it is an active endeavor, ongoing. The word Paraklete and Paraklesis is used for the Holy Spirit and to explain its purpose.
Again, let me repeat myself for the purpose of driving home a point. So do people who are not saved not have a spirit? Not at all, what they have is a dead spirit, or perhaps a spirit that has yet to be born, that which has no connection to God and has no life in it. A person is born, but they are born into a lost world so their spirit has no life. They must experience that second birth, that event of being Born-again according to Jesus’ own words. This is why a person feels lost and discontentment no matter what they have done, accomplished, or acquired on this earth, from birth to death. To have a live or living spirit they must have the rebirth of their spirit through their acceptance of Jesus Christ and the provision of the Holy Spirit.
So how do we understand, or explain how we can have something that is three-in-one? I like to use the analogy of an apple. We have the skin, the meat of the apple, and the core (seed). All three are part of the apple but we cannot say that an apple is the seed, or an apple is the skin, or an apple is the meat, because you cannot have an apple without all three parts present, yet each has a distinct function or purpose and it is possible to separate them in identity and purpose. Does that make sense? I actually wrote an article about this on my blog at Rhettman.com called Understanding the Mystery of the Trinity. Click here to read the article.
So God saves our soul, the whole of who we are including our body. If it were not so then Jesus would not have physically ascended into heaven with His body. Enoch and Elijah would not be there presently in their bodies. Angels and Demons would not be able to take on physical forms. And when the rapture comes our bodies would not be recovered from around the world (if we are already dead) and then translated into new bodies. Those that are still alive at the time of the rapture would also not be translated into new bodies during that same event. The reality is that angels and demons can take physical form, Enoch and Elijah were physically taken to heaven and never died (but they will, read Revelations), Jesus did ascend to heaven in bodily form, and we are all given new bodies at the rapture event. Heaven is a spiritual and physical place, just as hell is a spiritual and physical place.
So, who we are is our soul. Our bodies are the carrier of that soul, and our spirit is what is connected to God and makes that interaction possible. God saves our soul by connecting us to the living spirit, the Holy Spirit, and even in the end of all things He saves our bodies as well. Remember that we all, who choose salvation, eventually live on a new earth, in a New Jerusalem, and we are with God forever in body, soul, and spirit. But this will only happen if a person receives Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior in this life, and they live their life in obedience to God in Christ, and the Holy Spirit is given to us to enable us to have the ability to be faithful, obedient, and to be able to endure till the end. And if and when we fail, grace and mercy are there to catch us to keep us safe, to restore us, to help us get back on track, and keep moving along the life journey that comes with the salvation moment where our lives taken on new meaning, a new direction, a new purpose, and a new sense of peace and fulfillment.
Remember what I always say, “Grace is a safety net, not the vehicle in which we travel. Grace is there to help us along, to forgive us when we fall, it is not an excuse to sin and do whatever we want in this life.” We are saved by grace, is what God says, but we are responsible for making the first step, for making the choice to live a life of fulfillment in Christ. We also are responsible for our choice to continue to walk in darkness, ever searching for that which sooths their souls, the rejection of that which brings life to our dead spirits. God wants all men and women to choose to be with Him, but God will not force anyone to do so. If a person goes to hell, it is a choice they make. God dwells in heaven. To reject God and God’s directions to Mankind to be with Him is to choose to go to the place where God is not, and that is Hell. God has done everything but force people to choose to be with Him. That is what this life is for, it is to have the opportunity to choose God, or reject God. Either way, our free-will chooses our destiny of Heaven or Hell. That is the meaning of life.
Are you ready to fulfill your destiny to be with God, to fulfill God's purpose for your life? You can begin by clicking here for the next step.
-Rhettman A. Mullis, Jr.