John VanGelderen of Revival Focus Ministries just published an excellent small volume titled, Experiencing Jesus. He accurately clarifies the soul/spirit distinction in explaining God’s provision for sanctification by faith. “Would you like to go from being regularly defeated and surprised by occasional victory to being regularly victorious and surprised by a rare defeat? Discover the possibility of experiencing Jesus–the reality of the Christ life, the Spirit-filled life–in a new way. This truly is life again–revival on the personal level. Watch a profound 3 minute video introduction here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrPZSH3BVIw&feature=youtu.be
In a sermon posted on February 13, 2018 Pastor Cymbala uses four scriptures as a starting point for this challenging message about experiencing real change in the Christian life (John 8:28-29; Romans 6:5; Romans 8:5; Galatians 2:19-20). The audio message, Your Source, can be heard online or downloaded here: https://www.brooklyntabernacle.org
Additional clarity is included when pastor Cymbala makes the biblical distinction between mind (soul) and the believer’s spirit (1 Cor. 6:17),
Not only do Bible commentators and evangelical theologians endorse man as spirit/soul/body, but many leading Bible studies have this perspective. One prominent example is Nancy Missler’s study, The Way of Agape. (“Agape” is the New Testament Greek word for unconditional love.) These truths are not only gleaned from Scripture; they were confirmed in her personal journey and public ministry.
After God healed Nancy Missler’s marriage, she prayed for three years, asking the Lord to show her from Scripture what He had done. She not only wanted to understand what had happened, but also needed be able to explain it to others. The Way of Agape details that answer. In short, Nancy learned:
1. What God’s Love is and how it differs from human love. Most of us, even as Christians, are still functioning only on human love and this is why so many of us have become confused and disheartened.
2. What it means to love God with all our heart, will and soul and learning the difference between each of these terms. Learning what quenches God’s Love in our hearts and how practically to yield these things over to Him.
3. And, finally, what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves and how to put their will and desires above our own.
The only way we can do this is to love God first; to totally give ourselves over to Him. The Way of Agape is a completely new way of loving. It’s a way of loving that is opposite from the way the world teaches and probably very different from the way you have been used to showing love, even as a Christian.
Our human love is based on what we think and what we feel, what our circumstances are, and how that other person responds to us. God’s Agape Love, on the other hand, is an unconditional, two-sided, freeing and other-centered Love. If we are Christians, we have this type of Love in our hearts. The key is learning how to cleanse our hearts moment by moment so that we see that Love flow freely.
In essence, The Way of Agape shows us how we can transform the failures of human love into the victories of God’s Agape Love.
from Ray Comfort’s blog
Sinners walk around on God’s earth, breathing God’s air and seeing God’s flowers, His birds, His trees, His sun—and yet they not aware of Him. There’s a reason for this. It’s because they are spiritually dead. The world is like an appliance with the plug pulled out. We are made up of three main parts: body, soul, and spirit. The body is the machine we walk around in. The soul is the self-conscious part—the area of the emotions, the will, and the conscience. But the spirit is our God-conscious part. If people are not aware of God, it is because their receivers are dead. They are, as the Bible says, “without understanding.” Yet from the moment they are plugged in through the new birth, they become aware that “in Him we live and move and have our being.”
A. The Call for Sanctification “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely…,” (cf. 4:7)
B. The Call for Preservation “…may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Cf. Rom. 8:28-31
The word “preserved” is a term which means “to guard, watch over, or protect.” Four times we find this same word in Christ’s High Priestly prayer from John 17. It was used of the disciples in verse 6 saying they had “kept” God’s word. Next, in verse 11 Jesus asks the Father to “keep” these men in His name. Jesus, in verse 12 declares He was “keeping” them in the Father’s name. Finally, in verse 15, Jesus does not ask the Father to take them out of the world, but to “keep” them from the evil one. We see two characteristics of this preservation.
The word “complete” speaks of the wholeness of this protection. This term is used in connection with three components of man. Some say we are only made up of two parts, material and immaterial. Some combine spirit and soul to come to this conclusion. However, a rule of hermeneutics tells us that “and” used with each word singles out each term and emphasizes the significance of each. The spirit is the part of man which separates him from the animal kingdom. Animals have a body and soul but are governed by instinct. Man is a spiritual being who can have a relationship with God. Animals do not have that capacity. Man, when spiritually dead, is void of the life of God in his spirit. Regeneration makes a dead man alive in his spirit. The soul is the mind, emotions and will or the personality. Finally, we all can agree we have a body which relates to the physical world by our five senses. Notice all are included in this protection. The plea is that God will protect the spirit, the soul and the body completely or entirely.
Jesus is coming back and the protection will insure our blamelessness before Him. How good is that?! We cannot insure a blameless life apart from asking Him to protect us. Who is doing the protection and producing a blameless life? It is the Lord Himself.
In this short video, pastor Dos Carter describes the “not I, but Christ” reality and opportunity through a trichotomous model of man.
Grace discipleship is simply profound and profoundly simple. Here is a practical four lesson booklet, Discipleship Basics, by Dr. Phil Jones. These lessons are not intended to be comprehensive, but are foundational and user-friendly. Here is a free copy of the PDF notebook: Discipleship Basics – All Lessons Booket Format
Here is a four message downloadable audio series that corresponds with the lessons. They are at Grace Fellowship Internationals’ Sermon.net audio channel here. These were produced and preached at First Baptist Church of Powell in Tennessee.
These lessons have added clarity through Dr. Jones teaching a spirit/soul/body model of man.
This excerpt from Watchman nee’s devotional classic, The Normal Christian Life, includes the spirit/soul/body distinction:
[Let us] go back … to Genesis and consider what it was that God sought to have in man at the beginning and how His purpose was frustrated. In this way we shall be able to grasp the principles by which we can come again to live in line with that purpose.
If we have even a little revelation of the plan of God we shall always think much of the word ‘man’. We shall say with the Psalmist, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” The Bible makes it clear that what God desires above all things is a man—a man who will be after His own heart.
So God created a man. In Genesis 2:7 we learn that Adam was created a living soul, with a spirit inside to commune with God and with a body outside to have contact with the material world. (Such New Testament verses as 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12 confirm this threefold character of man’s being.) With his spirit Adam was in touch with the spiritual world of God; with his body he was in touch with the physical world of material things. He gathered up these two sides of God’s creative act into himself to become a personality, an entity living in the world, moving by itself and having powers of free choice. Viewed thus as a whole, he was found to be a self-conscious and self-expressing being, “a living soul”.
We saw earlier that Adam was created perfect—by which we mean that he was without imperfections because created by God—but that he was not yet perfected. He needed a finishing touch somewhere. God had not yet done all that He intended to do in Adam. There was more in view, but it was as yet in abeyance. God was moving towards the fulfillment of His purpose in creating man, a purpose which went beyond man himself, for it had in view the securing to God of all His rights in the universe through man’s instrumentality. But how could man be instrumental in this? Only by a co-operation that sprang from living union with God. God was seeking to have not merely a race of men of one blood upon the earth, but a race which had, in addition, His life resident within its members. Such a race will eventually compass the downfall of Satan and bring to fulfillment all that God has set His heart upon. It is that that was in view with the creation of man.
Then again, we saw that Adam was created neutral. He had a spirit which enabled him to hold communion with God; but as man he was not yet, so to speak, finally orientated; he had powers of choice and he could, if he liked, turn the opposite way. God’s goal in man was ‘sonship’, or, in other words, the expression of His life in human beings. That Divine life was represented in the garden by the tree of life, bearing a fruit that could be accepted, received, taken in. If Adam, created neutral, were voluntarily to turn that way and, choosing dependence upon God, were to receive of the tree of life (representing God’s own life), God would then have that life in union with men; He would have realized ‘sonship’. But if instead Adam should turn to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would as a result be ‘free’ to develop himself on his own lines apart from God. Because, however, this latter choice involved complicity with Satan, Adam would thereby put beyond his reach the attaining of his God-appointed goal.
Now we know the course that Adam chose. Standing between the two trees, he yielded to Satan and took of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. This determined the lines of his development. From then on he could command a knowledge; he ‘knew’. But—and here we come to the point—the fruit of the tree of knowledge made the first man over-developed in his soul. The emotion was touched, because the fruit was pleasant to the eyes, making him ‘desire’; the mind with its reasoning power was developed, for he was ‘made wise’; and the will was strengthened, so that in future he could always decide which way he would go. The whole fruit ministered to the expansion and full development of the soul, so that not only was the man a living soul, but from henceforth man will live by the soul. It is not merely that man has a soul, but that from that day on the soul, with its independent powers of free choice, takes the place of the spirit as the animating power of man.
We have to distinguish here between two things, for the difference is most important. God does not mind—in fact He intends—that we should have a soul such as He gave to Adam. But what God has set Himself to do is to reverse something. There is something in man today which is not just the fact of having a soul, but which constitutes a living by the soul. It was this that Satan brought about in the Fall. He trapped man into taking a course by which he could develop his soul so as to derive his very life from it.
We must however be careful. To remedy this does not mean that we are going to cross out the soul altogether. You cannot do that. When today the Cross is really working in us, we do not become inert, insensate, characterless. No, we still possess a soul, and whenever we receive something from God the soul will still be used in relation to it, as an instrument, a faculty, in a true subjection to Him. But the point is, Are we keeping within God’s appointed limit—within the bounds set by Him in the Garden at the beginning—with regard to the soul, or are we getting outside those bounds?
What God is now doing is the pruning work of the vinedresser. In our souls there is an uncontrolled development, an untimely growth, that has to be checked and dealt with. God must cut that off. So now there are two things before us to which our eyes must be opened. On the one hand God is seeking to bring us to the place where we live by the life of His Son. On the other hand He is doing a direct work in our hearts to undo that other natural resource that is the result of the fruit of knowledge. Every day we are learning these two lessons: a rising up of the life of this One, and a checking and a handing over to death of that other soul-life. These two processes go on all the time, for God is seeking the fully developed life of His Son in us in order to manifest Himself, and to that end He is bringing us back, as to our soul, to Adam’s starting-point. So Paul says: “We which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:11).
What does this mean? It simply means that I will not take any action without relying on God. I will find no sufficiency in myself. I will not take any step just because I have the power to do so. Even though I have that inherited power within me, I will not use it; I will put no reliance in myself. By taking the fruit, Adam became possessed of an inherent power to act, but a power which played right into Satan’s hands. You lose that power to act when you come to know the Lord. The Lord cuts it off and you find you can no longer act on your own initiative. You have to live by the life of Another; you have to draw everything from Him.
Oh, friends, I think we all know ourselves in measure, but many a time we do not truly tremble at ourselves. We may, in a manner of courtesy to God, say: ‘If the Lord does not want it, I cannot do it’, but in reality our subconscious thought is that really we can do it quite well ourselves, even if God does not ask us to do it nor empower us for it. Too often we have been caused to act, to think, to decide, to have power, apart from Him. Many of us Christians today are men with over-developed souls. We have grown too big in ourselves. We have become ‘big-souled’. When we are in that condition, the life of the Son of God in us is confined and almost crowded out of action.
The Normal Christian Life, chapter 12: “The Cross and the Soul Life” (bold added for emphasis)
An Apple: Three Parts in One Fruit
The familiar apple presents another three-in-one illustration. An apple can be summarized and divided into three primary parts. 1. The outer part/skin is protective and external. 2. The flesh of the fruit is inner and edible. 3. The seed area is central and reproductive. In this comparison, the skin represents the human body, the fruit’s flesh represents the soul, and the apple seed(s) represent the spirit.
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23).
In some sense all these parts are necessary to make a complete apple. Similarly, man comprises body/soul/spirit. (Thus, we speak of the “holistic trichotomy” of man.) Yet, the skin is ontologically distinct from the inner part. Peeling an apple is an obvious and common practice. The skin is protective and usually temporary. The flesh of the apple is designed to have the primary volume and nutrition. Even so, the human body and soul are separable and distinct. The core of this fruit houses the apple seeds. Like the flesh of the apple, the seed area is separate and distinct from the apple’s skin. While having this similarity with the apple’s flesh, the apple seed is ontologically distinct from the fruit’s flesh. If the apple’s flesh is planted, it disintegrates. (This was a big deal to Johnny Appleseed!) However, if the seed is planted, it can reproduce an apple tree. (Also, nutritionists discourage the eating of apple seeds.)
Invariably, when an apple is peeled, the flesh of the fruit will contain the seeds. Similarly, man’s soul contains his spirit; they are always connected. Yet, the soul and spirit are ontologically distinct.
As in the multifaceted view of man, although the three parts listed above can be identified as fundamental, they can be further differentiated and detailed. For example, the outer part has a temporary stem and leaves. The core of the apple has five carpels, or seed pockets, etc. Similarly the Bible identifies additional aspects of man’s inner makeup: mind, will, emotions, intuition, conscience, communion, etc.
By the way, the the core of the apple may be a useful illustration in considering man’s (spiritual) “heart”. Technically, the heart is not a fourth “part” of man. Yet, as the core holds the apple seeds, the heart relates to man’s spirit. (See a study on the heart in the context of the spirit/soul/body model of man.)
Hopefully, this comparison will be a fruitful endeavor!
– John Woodward
BibleStudyTools.com has added a classic volume to their digital library. One of the most influential, scholarly treatments of man as spirit, soul and body is A System of Biblical Psychology, by Franz Delitzsch. (Trans. Robert E. Wallis. 2nd, English ed. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1885.) The clarifications to the doctrine of sanctification in Delitzsch have enriched many, including Evan Hopkins who wrote The Law of Liberty in the Spiritual Life (which represented the essential message of the early Keswick Convention in England). Sign up for a free account and access A System of Biblical Psychology and other resources at BibleStudyTools.com