WHAT IS THE SOUL?
In I Peter 1:7-10, the apostle informs Christians that the faith they have in Christ is much more precious than gold that perishes, and it will bring them praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, "whom having not seen you love. Though you do not see Him, yet believing , you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith–the salvation of your souls." We learn here that faithful Christians will receive the salvation of their souls at the end of their faith when Christ returns at the day of judgment. The salvation of our souls is the end and aim of God's divine revelation in the Bible. The Bible reveals that the reason Jesus left heaven and appeared on earth was to save the souls of mankind. This necessarily implies that the souls of mankind are in some kind of danger from which they need to be saved. The scriptures declare that the ultimate purpose of the Christian religion is the salvation of souls. Physical bodies cannot enter heaven and thus cannot be saved. The purpose of being religious and becoming Christians is the salvation of your soul. We are not here simply to exist or to support ourselves or to support our families. Whether you know it or not you have a soul to save, as well as a life to live.
As we begin the investigation of this high and fascinating subject, we shall first ask ourselves, "What is the Soul?" The Bible declares that God breathed into nostrils of man and he became a living soul"(Genesis 2:7. The Hebrew word for soul is nephesh, and this word is translated soul 428 times in the Bible. Since the word of God informs us that God our Creator has given every person a soul, how would you define the word soul? Millions of people would answer immediately, " I didn't know I had one. What are you talking about? What do you understand your soul to be? Whatever the soul is or is not one thing is certain; it is not your physical body. The soul is not a physical entity. Napoleon, when exiled on St. Helena, is reported to have said, "Drive a nail into my head, and then where is my soul?" It is quite evident that Napoleon thought of the soul as just an expression of man's brain and physical life. This is the general view of most of the scientific world and modern psychology.
Let us now turn to someone who can speak with authority on the nature the soul. Jesus Christ was an incarnate Deity; one of His names was Immanuel which means, God with us. Knowing His disciples would suffer bitter persecution for being His followers, He made this astounding statement about the soul, "Do not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell"(Matthew 10:28). We learn here that the soul exists separate and independent of the body and continues to exist at the time of death. . If the soul were physical and part of the body, it would be killed when the body is killed. If the soul is physical and a part of the body, the statement of Jesus could not be true. If you reject what Jesus said about the soul, who will you believe? Peter answered this question when he said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life"(John 8:68). Anyone who rejects what Jesus says on any subject does not deserve to be heard for Jesus said, "The heavens and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.". Jesus revealed that the soul is an individual entity separate and apart from the body, but it dwells in the body. Another sobering and disturbing truth Jesus revealed about the soul in Matthew 10:28 is that an individual's soul can be destroyed. Jesus said, "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Jesus said the human race would be wise to fear Him because He can destroy souls as well as bodies. Man cannot destroy our souls, but Christ can. He did not say what was involved in the word "destroy," but do everything in your power to prevent this from happening to you. Furthermore, Jesus has given us a very clear definition of the soul in Mark 8:36, "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"
The soul must be a most valuable and precious possession, for it is worth more to an individual than all worldly possessions put together. Perhaps the clearest definition we have of the soul is given by Jesus in Luke 9:25, "What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and himself is destroyed or lost?"(New King James). The Old King James rendering is, "For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world and lose himself, or be cast away?" Now we know what the soul is. The soul is yourself. Jesus said so, and that settles the question, whatever else science or modern psyc;hology says about it. . The Lord reveals here it is possible for us to lose ourselves. When we lose something we no longer have it; it is gone. Whether this rule applies in regard to the soul I leave to your serious consideration. Whatever this means or involves, it will take place on the day of judgment. This is a most disturbing statement to me. Reach your own conclusion. This then is the soul. It is yourself; it is myself, himself, herself. It is the entity in each one of us that perceives, remembers, reasons, wills, prays, hopes, believes, loves, sins, repents and can be saved. The Christian religion is devoted to the saving of souls. A most amazing statement is made about the human personality in I Thessalonians 5:23, "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." It would appear here that the Holy Spirit gives a psychological definition of human nature. He describes a human being as a trichotomy, a threefold being, dividing man into three parts. However most references in scripture speak of man as a dichotomy, or a division into two parts, flesh and spirit. Nevertheless when two scriptures speak on the same subject, and one says more and one says less, always accept the one that says more. It cannot be disputed that scripture divides human nature into a threefold being, spirit, soul and body. The trichotomy nature of man is further affirmed in Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is discerner of the thoughts and intents of the thoughts and intents of the heart." This passage simply means the word of God can penetrate into man's most innermost being. It does not explain the difference between the soul and spirit. It is clear that man has a spiritual nature and a fleshly nature. Furthermore, the spiritual nature is a combination of the soul and spirit, but the relationship between the two and how they operate one with another is an unrevealed matter.
It is the opinion of the deeper thinkers and students of the word of God that the spirit has slight characteristics the soul does not have. The spirit is thought to be the higher nature of man by which he reaches out to God. The spirit is man's connection with God and was made in the image of God. Job 33:4 says, "God's Spirit made me." Man is a spirit because he is dependant on God for life. It is thought that the soul is more connected with body, and the spirit is more connected with God. Thus the spirit is the most exalted part of man. Jesus said, "Father, into your hands I commend My spirit." Having said this He breathed His last(Luke 23:46). On the other hand the soul, though identical with the spirt, is thought to be more connected with the body and things of earth. It is the possession of the soul that makes the body what it is. The soul stands for the individual. The soul is the life inherent in the body. The soul is man's individual possession, that which distinguishes one person from another. The soul makes you what you are. The soul determines man's personality, his ego, his very self. Each person has his own DNA. No two people are alike. No one else is just like you and me. There are no unimportant people in God's world. Every human being is one of a kind. Every person is unique; each one of us is his own person. Every- body is somebody in God's world. God has greatly honored every human being by making him or her absolutely unique. God wanted us to know that we are all important to him. Of all the billions of people who have lived on this earth since Adam and Eve, not two people were eveer exactly the same. What marvelous power must God have to perform such a wonder. The soul refers to the individual's life with a material organization or body. The brain is the educator of the soul and the soul is instrumental and responsible for controlling and overcoming the sinful desires of the body. However, bodily desires often overpower the soul and leads it into sin. The gospel reveals that the soul, if obedient to God, and guides the individual Christian to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present life, it will be given a spiritual body that will never die and live forever in heaven. Contrariwise, the soul can be punished at the day of judgment for its disobedience to God. What a precious gift the soul is to human beings. The salvation of the soul of our text is to be saved from being lost, destroyed and cast away, and being rewarded with an everlasting existence in heaven.
A new question arises at this point. Is the soul a special creation of God or is it derived from the parents? Let me emphasize that the Bible has not revealed exactly when the body of a newborn child receives its soul or how it receives its soul.. It is an unrevealed matter. The teachings of Christ and His inspired apostles and other writers of the New Testament and Old Testament have shed no light on this question. Opinions have long been divided on this subject. The practice of abortion in America is justified on the opinion that a child is not a human being until it has reached a certain degree of development in the womb. They do not know this, but it is the only justification they have for taking the life of a child in the womb. This view is that taking the child's life is not murder because it is not a human being when the body first appears. All I can says is that these people are risking their own souls, for neither they or we know just when a new born child receives its soul. It is a Bible truth that every child who has a soul, spirit and body is a human being. While the Bible does not state when the child receives its soul, Bible believers have long held two different opinions on this subject, and it may be pertinent in this study to mention those opinions.
Most Bible believers are of the opinion that in every instance where a new individual comes into being a soul is specially created by God to inhabit the new-formed body. Zechariah 12:1 says, "Thus says the Lord who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth and forms the spirit of man within him." Ecclesiastes 12: 7 states, "Then the dust will return to the earth and the spirit will return to God who gave it." Hebrews 12:9 in the New Testament speaks of being "in subjection to the Father of spirits." Moses said to Israel, "Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh set a man over the congregation." Many are of the opinion that these and other scriptures gives merit to the view that the soul is a creation of God.