In Search of the Real You
Considering the soul

By Jon W. Quinn
Sometimes we talk about the soul as if "it" is different than "me"; as if it were a separate entity. Such is not the case. When the Bible talks about your soul, it is talking about you. You simply do not have any identity whatsoever apart from your soul. When you consider how to "save your soul" you are considering how to save yourself, your entire being. If your soul is lost, then you are lost. If your soul rejoices, then you rejoice. Your soul is the real you; and will continue to be forever after your body dies and decays and one day is resurrected and changed.

Though the Bible places some emphasis on the wellbeing of our physical selves (i.e. Matthew 6:25-34), its primary concern is for the wellbeing of our eternal soul. Good thing, too! The physical body is only temporary. There is good reason that the Scripture teaches that losing my soul is far worse than losing my life. But let us consider the soul.

The Origin of the Soul
"Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Genesis 2:7). The Bible affirms that man is distinct among all of earth's other creatures. This uniqueness of man comes from the fact that he, alone, is created "in God's image" (Genesis 1:27). God simply did not impart life to the other creatures in the same way as He gave life to man. Man has a part of God in him and therefore is referred to as "the offspring of God" (Acts 17:26-29). Though all the creatures of the earth are the work of God's hands and God imparted life unto all, only man can be rightly referred to as God's "offspring".

The soul of man is the result of God personally breathing life into the first human being. Your ability to love and hate; to reason between right and wrong; to appreciate beauty and have noble ideals is all due to the nature of your soul which you have from God. It is a horrible thing to sacrifice one's soul!

Body and Soul
"...then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The physical body is only a temporary "house" for the soul and the mechanism through which the soul serves God or rebels against Him while on earth. The brain is probably the physical part of the body most closely associated with the soul, for that is where messages from the physical realm are received though the eyes and ears and the impulses of the soul are formed into thoughts which are in turn translated into actions. But it needs to be noted that even the brain is only a physical tool through which the soul functions in the physical realm; the brain is not the soul and the soul is not the brain. The soul is spiritual and does not occupy physical space.

We can see and study the physical part of man, but we cannot see the soul, or spirit of man. It does not have flesh or bones (Luke 24:39). Though we get our physical traits from our earthly parents, we receive our souls from God at conception. This is easily affirmed by noting the conception of Jesus (Matthew 1:18-20; Luke 1:35). For this reason, God is said to be the "Father of spirits" (Hebrews 12:9) and is the one who "forms the spirit of man within him" (Zechariah 12:1). When the body ceases to be able to sustain physical life, the spirit departs and the body is dead (James 2:26). But the spirit, or soul does not cease to exist apart from the body. And remember, this is the real you!

Biblical Uses of the Words “Soul” and “Spirit”
"...and may your spirit, soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thessalonians 5:23). Just like in our own language, there are many words in both the Hebrew and the Greek that have more than one definition. It therefore must be determined from the context exactly which definition is meant. Such is true with both the words "soul" and "spirit".

Sometimes these two words are used interchangeably, as we have done in this article. In such cases, they refer to the unseen "real" you that we have already described.

Occasionally though, the Bible uses the word "spirit" to refer to breath or life force and even animal have spirits under this definition, but they are not eternal (Revelation 8:9). At other times, the word "soul" is used to refer to the whole of man including the physical body and not just the unseen part (Exodus 1:5). But it would be incorrect to say that these words always only mean "breath" or "lifeforce". Some do so by denying that a person has any existence at all apart from the physical body. We have seen that the Bible teaches otherwise.

The Spirit Apart From the Body
"And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon the Lord and said, 'Lord, Jesus, receive my spirit." (Acts 7:59). Of course, such a request is pointless if the spirit is merely breath and there is no consciousness in death. Again, death is the separation of the body and the spirit; it is not the annihilation of the spirit. Jesus is Lord of "both the living and the dead", which means those still in the body and those whose bodies and spirits are separated (Romans 14:8,9). The Bible speaks of death as the putting aside of our "earthly dwelling" (2 Peter 1:13,14). When this "dwelling" or "tabernacle" (our physical bodies) is dissolved, we continue to exist and look forward to the time when we will receive new, heavenly dwellings (spiritual bodies) (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).

There are many passages that refer to the continuing conscious state of all human beings after death. We will save them for a future study. Suffice it to say that you are a dual being. The part you can see, your body, is only temporary; take good care of it but do not think you can have it forever. It's destiny is with the dust of the ground. However, your soul, the real you, will never cease to exist. Take especially good care of it! Jesus will tell you how to do so in His word.

From The Bradley Banner 1/13/2013
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway
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