The War Against the Soul
1 Peter 2:11–12
1 Peter Lesson #063
September 15, 2016
“Our Father, it is a tremendous privilege that we have access to Your throne of grace because You have a perfect plan of salvation—a plan that would completely and totally resolve the sin problem. That it would not be dependent upon anything that we do, but totally dependent upon the Lord Jesus Christ and His work on the Cross; that there He bore, in His own body on the tree, our sin. And Father, by simply trusting in Him, and Him alone, we have eternal life.
Father, we’re thankful that we have the privilege and the freedom still in this country to study your Word. We recognize that there are numerous enemies, both internal and external, who seek to destroy these freedoms, who ultimately have as their goal the elimination of the teaching of Your Word.
Father, we pray that you would continue to raise up leaders in this nation who would alert us to these dangers, who would guide and direct us through these horrible times, and that we might have people who turn back to You and turn to your Word. But if that fails to happen, if we are in a scenario such as the one Peter is addressing, we pray that we might be able to live through the fiery trial, trusting in You, enduring, persevering in our obedience, and that You might be glorified in everything that we do.
Tonight, as we study, may we come to understand some of the essential issues in our own walk with You in our own spiritual life. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to 1 Peter. We are in 1 Peter 2. We are studying about the sin nature and the problems with the sin nature in verses 11 and 12. So we’re talking about the war against the soul—that we are involved in spiritual warfare.
Spiritual warfare is a doctrine that has really been co-opted by a charismatic heresy over the last 40 or 50 years, so that spiritual warfare is distorted into some sort of battle with Satan and battle with demons; and certainly that is one dimension of spiritual warfare.
But what the Bible teaches is that there are three enemies.
- Enemy number one is the flesh. That’s the traitor inside each of us that is also known as the sin nature.
- Enemy number two is Satan. Satan is the archenemy of God.
- The third enemy is Satan’s system of thinking, which is expressed through the biblical term of “the world” or “the KOSMOS” in the Greek “the cosmic system.” We are involved in this war where we have this internal corruption of the sin nature, which is what we’re studying in this verse, that wars against the soul and that we are to fight back.
The problem with a lot of Christians is they have misunderstood the doctrine of grace and they’ve run up a white flag of surrender because, “All I have to do is confess sin and I’m okay.” That is a distortion called licentiousness. That’s one trend of the sin nature, as we’ll see.
The other problem that Christians have is the problem of legalism—that is taking commands of Scripture and also taking them out of context. They get all upset; they hear of some Christian who did something. And then all of a sudden they’re like, “Aha.” Then they start telling somebody, “Do you know what so-and-so did?” Well, they have committed the sin of arrogance and sin of gossip while they are judging some other Christian rather than dealing with their own particular sin and just letting God deal with whatever problems another believer has.
So we’re involved in this war, this spiritual war—or cosmic conflict. We started last time looking at it, which was two weeks ago because we had the conference on Israel last week. So I want to just hit a couple of high points before we move forward in our study.
Peter says, “Beloved,” a common term, as we saw last time, of the writers of Scripture addressing Christians—not because they love them, but because God loves them. That term “beloved” means “beloved of God.” They are beloved of God because they have trusted in Christ as Savior and they have received the imputed righteousness of Christ. The righteous God loves those who are His and in His family who possess righteousness.
“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims.” Those terms also resonate, as I pointed out, with the Jews who were in the Diaspora. As Peter points out at the beginning, he’s talking to Jewish background believers who are scattered in Asia Minor. The word there is “Diaspora,” related to that scattering of the Jews that began with the fifth cycle of discipline in the northern kingdom in 722 BC and the southern kingdom in 586 BC.
So they’re also citizens of Heaven like every believer in the Church Age, and we are living in a world that is not our home. “I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
Now we have been studying this last time, and we needed to look at this term, “the flesh” and how it is used in Scripture.
- It refers to the flesh of the living creature in the terms of flesh and blood.
- It is also used to refer simply to the physical body as a synonym for the Greek word SOMA, which refers to the body.
- It’s also used to refer to the material body in contrast to the immaterial nature. Sometimes the word “spirit” is used, not in the technical sense of a human spirit, which we get at regeneration, but in the sense of the immaterial part of man.
- It is used to refer to the weakness, the corruption of sinful man, his capacity to sin, the nature of sin, the sinful passions and affections.
One of the things that I’ve seen seminary students get all wrapped around the axle on is, “Do we have a nature?” I always appreciated what Dr. Ryrie said. The word “nature” has a broad range of meanings and nuances. It simply refers to the human being’s capacity to disobey God, the capacity to sin.
These terms of “fleshly” or “fleshy,” come from the adverb SARKIKOS, which is that which pertains to the sin nature, that which comes out of the sin nature, the desires and the lust patterns of the sin nature.
The Scripture uses the word “flesh” to describe this sinful capacity, the corruption which sin has brought. We are all corrupt. There was a psychological self-help book that came out back in 1969 by Thomas Harris who said that I’m OK—You’re OK. The trouble with that is that the Bible says, “I’m not okay, and neither are you.”
We are all spiritually dead. We are all corrupt. This is so crucial to understand. As we look at world affairs, as we look at leaders this political season—every leader is corrupt. If you are in a church and you’re choosing between two men to be an elder or to be a pastor—they are both corrupt. Even if they are regenerate, they are both corrupt. We are always choosing the lesser of two evils when we’re choosing between two fallen, corrupt human beings—even if they are saved by grace.
We fail to comprehend the profound significance of this doctrine. Theologically, it’s called the doctrine of total depravity. It doesn’t mean that we are as bad as we could be; it means that every aspect of our being—the totality of the human being—has been corrupted by sin. Every aspect of our nature has come under the judgment of sin and corruption so that all of our desires, thoughts, actions, and trends, which orient us away from God and His righteousness, are sin.
Sin—one of the terms that is used in English that accurately reflects the Hebrew usage is the word “trespass.” We’re violating something; the word trespass means you’re violating some law or standard. All sin is a violation of God’s standard. It’s not violating your neighbor’s standard, or your mother’s or father’s standard, or your husband’s or wife’s standard; it’s violating God’s standard. So in that sense, we cannot sin against other human beings, no matter what we do.
David committed the sin of adultery with Bathsheba. Then he tried to cover it up. Part of the way he tried to cover it up was by conspiring with his general to have her husband Uriah put into the thick of the battle so that he would be killed, which is what happened. So he is an accessory to murder; he is a conspirator to commit murder. When he confessed, he said, “I sinned against Bathsheba.” No. “I sinned against Uriah.” No. He said, “Against You, and You only, have I sinned.” So we all can only sin against God. We can’t sin against other people in that sense. Sin is a violation of God’s standards.
Now in this verse we have this combination of terms. We have the adjective SARKIKOS, which modifies the noun EPITHUMIA, for lust. These are lusts, showing that they derive from the flesh. That should be the definition there. Some of these definitions I get are a little off. SARKIKOS means that which is “of the flesh,” that is, “of the sin nature.”
They war against the soul. That’s this word STRATEUO, which is also used in Ephesians 2, describing the strategies—the wiles of the devil. It has to do with these various tactics. So there’s a war, there’s a battle that goes on, and it’s between your ears.
You know, it’s not this idea that the distorted view of spiritual warfare came up with in which we’re doing battle with the devil. In a sense we do, but the battle-—spiritual warfare—takes place between the ears. It’s a matter of living on the basis of truth, walking, as God would have us to walk according to the Holy Spirit.
This is a war against the soul. It is the attempt to destroy your soul. Often people tend to translate certain words in some sort of rigid way—where you see the word “soul,” that has to refer to the soul, the immaterial part of man. It does, but it also is used to refer to life. We’ll see this when we get into some of the Hebrew terms in Genesis 1.
They war against your life. The attempt to destroy the believer’s life is through sin. Sin will destroy your life. We could express that in the idiom.
When we talk about this and we talk about this concept of the soul—the real us—we have to start breaking this down. This is part of the branch of theology, systematic theology, called anthropology.
Now many of you—if you’ve been to college or you’ve studied sociology—know that there is a discipline in sociology that is called anthropology. Often it’s related to archaeology. It is the study of the history of human beings. But it is independent of any divine revelation. It’s all based upon simple empiricism. It often comes to wrong conclusions because there’s not a divine viewpoint framework for understanding the nature of man—and that’s what anthropology is.
It’s from the Greek word ANTHROPOS, meaning man—mankind or human beings—and LOGOS, meaning the study of something. It is the study of human beings. So biblical anthropology is a study of what the Bible says makes a human being a human being. Now that’s the broad category.
The subcategory here is hamartiology from the Greek word HAMARTIOS, meaning sin. It’s the study of sin. So we’re just going to get a little survey tonight on some things related to biblical anthropology and hamartiology.
The first point is that:
- The human being is comprised of three components: a physical body made from the chemicals of the soil, a soul, and a human spirit.
There are a couple things going on here that we have to understand. One is that when you talk about soul, and the way I’ll talk about soul, is you have this critique that comes along and says, “Well, that’s a platonic concept.” The early church imbibed of this, and that’s not correct.
There are elements of that that are correct historically. But this comes from the Scripture. The Scripture clearly makes certain distinctions about something called soul and something called spirit. We have to investigate what the Scripture says about this.
- Now a second thing that we need to understand to correct some misconceptions, is that there are basically two views of understanding the makeup of the human being. There are only two views. One of these is the view that man has three parts, and those three parts are body, soul, and spirit; and that’s called trichotomy. That’s the technical term for it, which is just a word that means three parts—trichotomy.
There’s another view that’s called dichotomy. This is a lesson I give everybody who goes to seminary. I have to beat it into their head, because so many of the people that I work with were taught wrongly and then they start reading systematic theologies, they get the right definition, and all of a sudden they’re very confused.
Trichotomy means three components: body, soul, and spirit. Even if you’re spiritually dead, you still have three parts—you are just missing one. That’s not dichotomy. Dichotomy does not refer to a spiritually dead person who only has a body and a soul. That is never how the term has been used in the history of theology.
Dichotomy refers to a categorically different position than trichotomy—that man is only composed of a material part and an immaterial part. All of the terms that you see, such as KARDIA for heart, PNEUMA for spirit, PSUCHE for soul, “kidneys” for emotions—all these other terms—they are roughly synonymous. You can’t categorize as simply body, soul, and spirit.
You can read Lewis Sperry Chafer, you can read Charles Ryrie, you can read Benjamin Warfield, you can read John Calvin, you can read Augustine going back to the early fifth century BC, and they all use these terms the same way. Trichotomy does not mean only the three parts once you’re regenerated; it refers to the position that when Adam was created, he had three components—body soul, and spirit. Even when he lost the spirit when he died spiritually, we still believe there are only three parts—only one is missing.
Now probably you are confused just like every seminary student I’ve taught for the last 30 years who was misinformed, ill-informed, and got the wrong definitions. But we have to be educated in terms of real theology and not something else.
So the human being is comprised of these three components, and the Scripture makes it very clear. But we have to be careful how we understand the term. So let’s look at one verse.
Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of the soul and the spirit.” Now without going into the details of what this verse is talking about in other areas, it clearly indicates that the Word of God can make a distinction between soul and spirit. That can’t be disputed here. The word there for “division” is the word MERISMOS, which means a division or a partition, clearly showing that at some level there is a distinction between the human soul and the human spirit.
In 1 Corinthians 5:23, Paul writes, “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.” There he clearly identifies three specific components that make up a regenerate human being. Because he’s regenerate, he’s spiritually alive, so he has a human spirit.
Now the way language works, the way we all use language, is that when we use words like “soul” and “spirit,” they’re not always used as technical terms. Dr. Ryrie took the view that man is only made up of a material part and an immaterial part. All these various terms are basically synonyms for the same thing that describe the immaterial part. I don’t agree with that because these two verses can’t be dealt with by that position. They clearly distinguish these three components that are there.
For example, sometimes we talk about the “spirit” as the human spirit. We will see this in a little while—that which is lost when Adam sinned, and that which is reacquired in the new birth, in regeneration. But then you get into places in the Old Testament where you have passages that talk about the “spirit” of Pharaoh. Well, that’s not talking about the human spirit—that’s using the word “spirit” in a non-technical sense as just the immaterial part. So sometimes the words “spirit” and “soul” are used synonymously in Scripture.
When Dr. Ryrie looks at the text and he sees all these places where they’re used synonymously or interchangeably, he says, “See, you can’t make them technical.” And my response is, “Well, they’re not technical in those passages. They are technical in Hebrews 4:12 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23.”
People who have held the trichotomy view have too often tried to make the word “spirit” always mean “human spirit” and the word “soul” always mean “human soul.” They don’t. It’s really clear that in a lot of passages they’re used interchangeably—but not every one. It’s the exceptions that are important, and these are the two exceptions in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and in Hebrews 4:12.
The Word of God makes a distinction—and a partition—between the soul and spirit according to Hebrews 4:12, so we can’t just pass by that as if it’s not there. So that’s the foundation. The Bible clearly, in some places, makes this distinction; in other places it doesn’t. So we have to always take each verse as it comes in context.
The second point is that the physical human body is vitally important and significant as the home for the soul, but also as necessary to the soul and part of the image of God. The Latin term is imago dei.
This is another one of those important things. Platonism had the idea that the material world was somehow inherently corrupt. He didn’t have a time when it was perfect and then became corrupt because of sin, but it always was corrupt because of the nature of the material; it’s inherently corrupt. But the ideal is what’s perfect. So the ideal is more perfect than the material, so the material is overlooked. The material is insignificant; and, in fact, in its worst forms, the material was inherently sinful. This led to a lot of asceticism and other problems as well.
So, what the Bible teaches is that the body is important and it’s not insignificant. There is no example anywhere in the Scripture of a soul existing apart from the body. But see, in Platonism you had the preexistence of the souls; so the body really isn’t important to the expression of the soul. But in the Bible we have a completely different view.
A few weeks ago, on Sunday morning, I went through Luke 16 dealing with Lazarus and the rich man and the story there. And just a reminder, we have the story that Jesus taught that when this beggar, this homeless man, Lazarus, who begs outside the gates of this wealthy man’s home, that when he died his soul is escorted to Abraham’s Bosom. And we wonder, “He’s separated from his physical body, so does he have some sort of body? Or is he sort of like Casper the ghost, or is he some sort of glowing protoplasm like you have in Ghostbusters, or something like that?” No. There is some sort of body there.
The rich man later dies and shows up in Torments. First of all, the text says that the rich man can see Lazarus. So that means he’s got some sort of body, some sort of temporary interim body that allows the soul to interact with what’s around him. He can remember what his life was before. He can see Lazarus. You’ve got to have some sort of body, whether it’s immaterial. And it’s temporary; it’s not the resurrection body yet. But he can have a finger that he can put in the water and put it on the rich man’s tongue.
So there’s some sort of interim body. My point is that the soul never exists without a body. Because the soul can’t see, hear, taste, touch, or feel without a body. The body is not insignificant—that’s paganism. That was a platonic doctrine. So the emphasis in Scripture is that God shapes and forms this body, and it’s intentional. It’s designed to be the highest form of expression for the human soul.
We see the formation of the body as the first sub-point on point 2 in Genesis 2:7. And this is a tremendous picture. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Now we have to look at this a little bit in detail because there’s some great stuff here in the in the language.
First of all, we’re told that God formed man of the dust of the ground, and this is the Hebrew verb yatzar.
There are three different verbs that are used for “create,” or “making something” in the Bible. There is the word bara, which we will run into. Only God is ever the subject of the word bara. It’s a distinct verb indicating something God creates. Only God is ever a Someone who baras.
Another word is asah, which means to make something, usually with already preexisting materials. Whereas bara is usually, but not always, related to creation out of nothing—ex nihilo creation.
So “the Lord God formed man.” This is the third word, the word yatzar, which means to form or shape or fashion something. You’re working with something—like an artist. Or actually, like a potter works with clay, because it’s the noun form of this word that is the Hebrew word for a potter.
He is a yatzar. He is one who shapes things. The image here is of God as a sculptor and He is working with this clay and this soil and mixing it up, and He is working it, and He’s shaping, and He is forming the physical body of man.
Now what’s important is later on in the Psalms. The Messiah is speaking and says, to God, “A body you have made for me.” So that tells us that God the Father is doing the shaping and He’s making this body and He’s thinking that one day the Second Person of the Trinity is going to be incarnated in this body, and so this body has got to be the best possible body that can be used to express the fullness of God.
Think about all the very interesting creatures that these Hollywood writers have developed in all of these different science fiction movies. Everything from Alien. The Time Machine movie had the warlocks. And then you have all the different Star Wars and Star Trek creatures—the Klingons, Romulans, and Vulcans—and all these different types of creatures. Some are humanoid looking; many of them are not.
So you have all these strange creatures. God had an infinite array of shapes that He could have chosen, and He chose this shape because it was the best way to express who He was. He could not have chosen a better way. So He chose that.
That’s why David says, “We are fearfully and wonderfully made.” The physical body is significant and it’s important as the expression of the immaterial part of man, which is the image and likeness of God.
So God is forming man out of the dust of the ground. Now we have various ways in which this word yatzar is used. In Isaiah 43:1, “But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,” bara. It’s talking about something only God can do. Now who’s being created here? Jacob. Is that talking about Jacob, the individual, or is this talking about Israel as personified by the progenitor, Jacob, the patriarch, Jacob. It’s talking about Israel. It’s talking about God forming the nation Israel.
So He says God created them. “And He who formed you.” So God is the one who shapes Israel—that’s how it’s used here.
Now this is interesting. The reason I point this out is because in Jeremiah 18 you have the potter and clay analogy. A lot of times that is abused by people, especially Calvinists, who say that, “See the Potter can make the clay however, He wants to.” But it’s not a picture of an individual being shaped for salvation or for destruction. It’s a picture of God shaping the nation Israel. The Potter is God and the clay in Jeremiah 18 is the nation Israel. It is not talking about individual salvation. It’s not talking about predestination to Heaven or predestination to eternal judgment. It’s talking about God shaping the nation Israel for His own purposes. It’s not talking about salvation or soteriology.
The most uses of this verb are in Isaiah. Jeremiah 18 doesn’t use this verb; it just uses the noun for the potter. Isaiah 29:16, “Surely, you have things turned around! Shall the potter [yatzar] be esteemed as the clay; for shall the thing made say of him who made [asah] it, ‘He did not make me’? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?” Again, he’s really talking about Israel here.
So the body is formed, and it is formed from the dust of the ground. This is the word apar in the Hebrew, which means dust or earth. It can mean ground. It can mean some other things. But God is taking working with the chemicals of the soil. At different times people have said, “Well, the body is worth about $0.65 if you break down the chemicals. With inflation, it’s probably worth $65 now.
God is shaping the physical body from already existing materials. Our bodies come from the soil, so it’s going to break down that way. From ashes to ashes and dust to dust. We see this reference many times later in Scripture. As we go from Genesis and Job—the oldest book in the Bible—all the way through the New Testament, each book reaffirms the fact that our physical human body is just a temporary home for our soul and it’s made from the soil.
Job 4:19, “How much more those who dwell in houses of clay.” That’s our physical body. It’s interesting to see how this is used through the Scripture. There he references our bodies as houses of clay.
Job 10:9, “Remember, I pray, that You have made me like clay.” Job is talking to God. “Because I’m made of clay, I’m not eternal, I’m finite.” And then he says, “And will you turn me into dust again?” So dust and clay are used as synonyms.
In Isaiah 45:9, “Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it.” Again, using that potter/clay analogy.
Then we get into one of my favorite passages, 2 Corinthians 4 and 2 Corinthians 5. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,” and so this is talking about our physical body. 2 Corinthians 5, is one of my favorite passages. I often read it at funeral services, and it borrows from this same imagery.
Paul says, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent.” There he describes the house as being that from the earth or from the soil. “We know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God.” So, if this physical body is destroyed, then it’s replaced immediately with a building from God. The soul is not left without a house. It’s just going to change up the kind of house.
“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this—that is, in this earthy house—we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.” 2 Corinthians 5:1–4
Our body is in this temporary house, but just because it is temporary doesn’t mean it’s insignificant. It’s important. And you can really use that to develop a lot of things related to understanding who we are as people—that our physical body is important. Doesn’t matter what you look like, what your physical limitations may be, how tall you are, short you are, how round you are, how thin you are. It is a body that is prepared by God and is significant for each of us. And so we shouldn’t insult it or abuse it.
Now the next thing we see in this verse is that there’s an immaterial part that is created. So you have the physical part that is formed or fashioned from already existing materials.
Now one thing I didn’t bring out, but I want to point out—when God is messing around there, as it were, anthropomorphically, getting His fingers dirty in the soil as He’s making, and shaping, and forming that first body, where did that material come from?
One of my favorite creation jokes is about this scientist who’s finally created life in the laboratory. He is so full of himself, and so full of his arrogance and how great he is. He challenges God, and says, “God, we don’t need You anymore. We can we can make life. I’ll challenge You to a contest to prove just how great we are.” And God says, “Okay, well, You challenged Me, but I’ll be gracious; I’ll let you go first. So you create life first.” And so he bends over and the scientist gets some dirt, and God says, “No, no, no, no, no. You have to make your own dirt.”
That’s what’s going on here. God has already made the dirt.
So when God made the dirt, God is thinking I’m going to be using this dirt to make a body and I am going to be using that body to incarnate the Second Person of the Trinity. Now you just figured that out, but God knew it all from eternity past. He’s smart like that.
He figures most things out—most everything out—quicker than we do. I’d say over 95% of the time God figures things out quicker than we do. 100% is more than 95% just for those of you who are slow.
So God forms the man from the dust of the ground, and then we have these two words “breathed” and “breath.” “Breathed” is the word nafach, and it is a verb. God is breathing something.
That is so interesting. Because if God is immaterial and He’s not an oxygen-based creature, what is He breathing? How does this happen? I think it’s related to the Spirit of God. It’s probably an anthropomorphic image, but I think it’s more than that because of the way this word is used a lot.
He breathed, nafach. And He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” That is the word neshamah, which means “breath.” That’s the noun. So He’s breathing “breath,” and it has to do with air.
So, in some way God is pushing air into the lungs, which initiates life. There’s no life there until that breath occurs. I think that’s when real human life begins—full human life begins—when that breath comes. It’s described as a “breath of life.”
This is the whole phrase “neshamah chai.” The word there is “life,” and it’s in the plural. I’ve underlined the word that’s plural in the chart because it’s translated as a singular. You may have heard somebody say, “This should be translated, ‘breath of lives.’ ” No.
If you look this up in any standard Hebrew grammar, you will learn that plural nouns in Hebrew do not always mean plural entities. Often in Hebrew, because they’re expressing something in an intensified or amplified state, or stressing its significance, it will put a word in the plural, not because there’s more than one of them, but because it’s emphasizing it’s significance. It’s called a plural of amplification, or plural of intensification.
Now we have a parallel type of statement in Job 33:4 where Job says, “the breath”—the neshamah—same word. “The neshamah of the Almighty gives me life.” But it’s a singular noun. It’s the same noun, but it’s singular.
Some people try to say, “Well that’s talking about spiritual life versus soul life.” That’s so foreign to the concept. Because when Job says this in Job 33:4, he’s a believer, he’s regenerate; so he would have soul life and spiritual life if there are two lives. The point I’m making is this is the nuance, the idiom of Hebrew and how Hebrew works. Just because it’s in the plural doesn’t mean there’s more than one thing. There are a lot of languages that have similar types of things.
So this is the dynamic. First of all, God is creating the material part of man from the material creation. Then He creates—from Himself—the immaterial part of man. And the immaterial part, as we’ll see, is composed of something called “soul” and something called “spirit.”
The “soul” is that which allows a human being to interact with God’s creation, and the “spirit” is that which allows the soul to interact with God. That’s the distinction between the two.
When a person dies spiritually and that human spirit either disappears or is no longer functional, and then he can’t relate to God, he can only relate to creation. When we trust in Christ and God gives us new life, we’re regenerated, or born again.
“Born again” means something that wasn’t there is now coming into existence. The reason I make that point is because in a lot of forms of Reformed Theology, and reformed sanctification, they get messed up—that’s Calvinism. They get messed up into thinking that when you get saved you don’t get anything new.
What regeneration does is it limits your sin nature; which means that if you’re really saved, you won’t be quite as sinful as you would have been otherwise. That leads to errors and heresies like Lordship salvation, which says that the way you can tell if you’re truly saved is if you don’t sin like you would’ve if you were unsaved. That’s the problem.
So they have a very shallow view of what regeneration is. Regeneration doesn’t mean something was limited. It means something is given birth to that wasn’t there before. There’s something new that is acquired. That’s that human spirit.
So Genesis 2:7 says that God “breathed into his nostrils [neshamah] the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Now this is another interesting and important idiom. It’s nephesh hayah, which literally means, “a living soul.” Nephesh is “soul.” Hayah is “living.”
Soul is often used in Scripture as a synonym for “life.” Because it’s the presence of that immaterial part that is in man that gives him life, that makes him alive. When the soul departs, he is no longer physically alive.
We don’t hear it so much anymore, but I have a headline from the Isle of Wight County Press online that talks about an incident of a ship going down just as World War I was ending, and the headline was, “The foggy night when 649 souls were lost.” So you often would hear this.
You go into old newspaper accounts of the Titanic, and it talks about how many souls were lost that night. What it’s saying is how many lives were lost that night. See the words “soul” and “life” are used interchangeably. This often happens in Scripture.
Thus, “living soul” isn’t just emphasizing the living soul—it means being alive. So God breathed into Adam and he became alive. He was truly alive. He was fully alive. He had everything positive. There was no sin, so he’s fully and totally alive and no corruption whatsoever.
We see this summarized in Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let Us—referring to all three Members of the Trinity—make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ ”
We see two things. First of all, the whole Trinity is involved. Second, we see that he’s created in something called “the image and likeness of God,” which is related to his ability to rule over creation.
“The image and likeness of God” is talking about his ability to rule as God’s representative, and ultimately that’s because of his immaterial capacities—his self-consciousness, his mentality, his volition, and his conscious. He’s able to rule over God’s creation as God’s representative.
“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female.” There’s a distinction made. Both are equally in the image of God. But there is this distinction that’s made—even at the soul level—between male and female.
Now that is so important today because all of us Christians are living in a world today where you are the most egregious criminal if you don’t believe that male and female are interchangeable. That is impacting every aspect of society.
You can’t work for most companies—you would be fired if they knew that you believe that male and female are not interchangeable. Now think about that, because that has great significance for how believers can learn to live in the world on the basis of wisdom like Daniel.
Daniel is the great example from the Old Testament of how a believer operating on divine viewpoint has to live in a pagan environment that completely rejects everything that he believes. He’s not always butting his head against Nebuchadnezzar. He learns to work in wisdom, and that’s what we need to do.
I’ve seen politicians that are Christians just absolutely destroy themselves because they don’t understand how to be a Daniel; how they can go to Washington, D.C. and hold onto their biblical principles and not compromise them, but not bash their head against everybody else.
If you are a Christian and you’re working for Exxon or you’re working in a school district or you’re working in Washington, D.C., you have to learn to be a Daniel. If you try to operate where you’re constantly butting up against the human viewpoint and paganism of those around you, all you’re going to do is cause trouble and destroy your career. We have to learn to be Daniels.
This is one area of them. We believe that men and women are inherently different. It’s not just physiological. It is also psychological—biblical psychology.
Now here is how we’re made up—just to put it in a graphic and visualize it. We have the human body that God forms from already existing materials that He created. Then He breathes into Adam a soul that is composed of self-consciousness, which is where we can look in the mirror and say, “Oh, I know who that is. That’s my mother. Oops, no, wait a minute, that’s somebody else. That’s my father.” We see our parent as we get older. Isn’t that funny? We look in the mirror and we see one or the other of our parents looking back at us.
But when your dog looks in the mirror he doesn’t see himself, he sees another dog. Or a bird, or animals, they don’t have self-consciousness. We think. Animals have a measure of thinking, but they don’t think critically or analytically or abstractly, like human beings do, because that’s a function of the imago dei.
We have a conscience. We know what’s right or wrong at a metaphysical level. Dogs know what’s right or wrong because they’re trained that way through discipline and through training—not to do some things and to do other things.
We’ve all had dogs that know they’re disobeying us. They look at us, and you can see that they know exactly what’s going on. They look at you to make sure, “See. I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it,” but they don’t have a conscience like we do. They just know that if they do certain things, they are going to get paddled or they’re going to get disciplined in some other way. A human conscience is based on eternal categories of right and wrong that are embedded in the human soul.
Then we have personal responsibility—our volition—we make choices. But there was another dimension to this that Adam had, what we call the human spirit, which is that immaterial element that intersected and interfaced with the different elements of the soul to enable the human soul to relate to God, so that his thinking was oriented to God. His self-consciousness was related to his God consciousness; his conscience was related to eternal absolutes; and his volition was oriented to doing what God wanted him to do.
But what happened is that when Adam sinned, he died spiritually. He lost something. Whether it just became nonfunctional or whether it actually left him—we don’t know. I think his descendants were born without it. But one way or the other, it’s nonfunctional. He acquires a sin nature that corrupts the entire soul, and he is spiritually dead because he cannot relate to God. He is spiritually separated from God.
So we have a human body, but there’s no human spirit anymore. It’s gone. So he’s spiritually dead. He still moves around as if he’s alive, but he’s not. He’s the walking dead.
Every human being is a spiritual zombie. We are born spiritual zombies, we’re spiritually dead, and were involved in a zombie war. I think that we could work with that little bit—maybe come up with a new illustration.
The instant we trust in Christ as Savior, that human spirit is restored and we become spiritually alive so that we can think God’s thoughts after Him, we can renew our mind, we can think in terms of God’s absolutes and know what is eternally right and eternally wrong. So that’s the second point—what the image of God relates to.
It involves both, not because our physical body is shaped like some shape that God has, but because our physical body is shaped the way it is to be the highest and best expression of the immaterial part of man that reflects, in a finite way, the attributes of God.
Third point. In the fall man’s nature becomes corrupt; yet the imago dei though corrupt, defaced, deformed, was not eradicated. Some people teach that—that we lost the image of God. But that’s not true.
Genesis 9:6. This is in the covenant with Noah, the Noahic Covenant. God gives authorization to have capital punishment to execute murderers. He says, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed.” Why so extreme? “Well, because it will discourage others from committing murder.” No. That’s not what it says. It’s not preventative.
“Do it because you need to have vengeance.” No—that’s not what it says. It’s not about vengeance. You often hear people say that. And you know I just go ballistic. Whenever there’s a capital punishment issue, and you hear it on the news, you always hear these people come out— on either side. One person says, “Well, we have to have vengeance.” And others say, “Well it’s not about vengeance.” No. It’s about justice.
It’s not about vengeance; it’s about justice. It’s never about revenge, biblically. Capital punishment is about justice—that somebody has forfeited the right to life. Why? Because they have attacked a representative of God. One of the highest forms of blasphemy is to commit murder, because you’re not just killing a human being, you are killing someone who is in the image of God.
When God explains why you do this, He says, “for in the image of God He made man.” Even after the fall. Even though the image has been corrupted and defaced and deformed, it’s still there. He’s still a representative of God, even if he is spiritually dead, and even if he is a horrible criminal. He still has value because he is in the image of God; but he’s killed an image bearer, so therefore he’s sacrificed, forfeited, his right to live.
This idea is even stated in the New Testament, the idea that man is still in the image of God, I mean. In 1 Corinthians 11:7, talking about the head coverings and hair in those things. “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God.” So this is talking about corrupt fallen man, even in the New Testament, even though fallen, he’s still in the image and glory of God.
I’ll just wrap up at the end of this point. This is a quote I ran across from Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, volume 2, page 169. He says, “Two exceedingly important truths emerge from the vast array of theological writings regarding that image in which man was created, namely, (a) that fallen man bears the inalienable image of God, and (b) that man is injured by the fall to the extent that only redeeming grace can rescue him. Both of these truths are deeply embedded in the Scriptures regardless of any seeming contradictions they may present. Neither truth may be modified or surrendered. It would be easy for uninstructed minds to declare this whole discussion concerning the image a mere battle of words and quite void of practical value; but it is here that the true ground is discovered for Anthropology, Soteriology, and Eschatology.”
You can’t understand what the Bible says about man if you don’t understand these two things. You can’t understand what the Bible teaches about salvation if you don’t understand these two things. And you can’t understand what the Bible teaches about last things or future things unless you understand these things. So biblical anthropology and hamartiology are critical.
Those are the first three points on the nature of man and this war of the sin nature against the soul, and we’ll continue with this under point four next Thursday night.
“Father, thank You for this time that we can come to understand who we are a little bit better as creatures created in Your image and likeness in order to carry out a mission and to glorify You. Father, yet sin has entered into human history and corrupted us. We can do nothing to reverse this on our own, but You gave a perfect solution through Jesus Christ. Through regeneration we can begin that process of recovery that is only completed in ultimate sanctification when we’re absent from the body, face-to-face with You, without a sin nature.
Now Father we pray that as we continue this study, that we may recognize that we are in a war with our own sin nature and that we are not to give up, give in. We are to abstain from fleshly lusts, but we can only do that through the power of God the Holy Spirit. Help us to understand these things as we go through these lessons. In Christ’s name. Amen.”