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Jul 4 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 4, 2021



Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Intro: These verses come at end of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians

He is signing off, leaving them with a benediction – a blessing
– Paul could not give greater force to his thought
• two compound words – both contain the word holos (root of English holistic)
◦ “completely” is holoteles – perfectly complete/whole
◦ “whole” is holokeros – complete in every part
• the blessing is that God would make them sacred through and through
– verse 23 reads like a clear and simple statement
• but hidden within it is a potential for all kinds of confusion
◦ the Bible does not provide precise definitions for soul and spirit
◦ so we have to work our way through a maze of ideas
• we’ve spent three months exploring body parts
◦ today we go inside and look at the life of the body
◦ the hidden energies that enable the parts to function

It would be easy to overlook blood as a vital energy

There is one central statement that explains all other references to blood in the Hebrew Scriptures
– it is attached to a prohibition regarding eating meat with blood in it
For the life of the flesh is in the blood . . . . For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is the life (Lev. 17:11 and 14)
• life translates nephesh, the Hebrew for soul – but we’ll come to that
Hans Wolf, “Everything that is said about breath and blood in the anthropology of the Old Testament is instruction in an ultimate reverence for life. But this reverence is not derived from the manifestations of life itself; it is based on the fact that the breath and the blood belong to Yahweh, and therefore life without a steady bond with him and an ultimate tending towards him is not really life at all.” Israel was “entitled only to the meat that comes from the earth and returns to the earth, while the life belongs to Yahweh alone.”
• the sacred quality of blood gave it potency in sacrificial worship
– the value given to blood had certain ramifications
. . . you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning . . .
Whoever shed the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image
(Ge. 9:4-6)
• there were serious concerns regarding spilled blood
◦ so it’s not surprising that the first mention of blood in scripture is Able’s crying from the soil
• shed blood produces a serious and special kind of guilt
◦ it violated a taboo that unleashed bad juju
◦ this is referred to as “bloodguilt” (Ex. 24:2-3; Lev. 17:4; 2 Sam. 21:1)

When we come to the soul, we find a strange develoment

“Soul” is not the definition for the Hebrew word translated soul
– the Hebrew nephesh is literally the neck (external) and throat (internal)
Joseph’s neck was put in a collar of iron (Ps. 105:18)
Like cold water to a thirsty [throat],
so is good news from a far country (Pr. 25:25)
• we’ve seen that the meaning of a body part is derived from the activity it performs
◦ the eye is sight, the ear is hearing, the hand is power, and so on
• in the same way, the throat came to have multiple meanings
◦ for instance, it can stand for what passes in and out of the throat:
Throat includes the esophagus that receives food and drink
– by extension, it can be translated appetite
The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite,
but the belly of the wicked suffers want (Pr. 13:25; cf. Pr. 23:2; 25:25)
Throat also includes larynx and trachea or windpipe that receives and exhales air
– our breathing is affected by physical exertion and psych stress
And the people became impatient on the way (Nu. 21:4)
• literally, their throat was shortened – brief, shallow breaths
What is my strength that I should wait?
and what is my end, that I should be patient (Job 6:11)
• literally, that my throat should be lengthened?
◦ breathe slowly and evenly
◦ or it could also mean, that my life be prolonged? Many more breaths before I die
Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that [you, your livestock, servants and the stranger] may be refreshed (Ex. 23:12)
• literally, take breath – we would say, “take a breather”

Nephesh sometimes means desire (Pr. 23:2; Mic. 7:1)
– desire for food in Deuteronomy 12:15, and desire for wine in Deuteronomy 14:26
• but also desire for non-edibles, like Israel’s longing to return to land (Jer. 22:27)
– because the throat is essential for eating and breathing, it is life (Ps 141:8)
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Schroer, “Just as the nephesh, as the fundamental life force, comes in with the breath, so at death it disappears in the departing breath . . . .” “Thus the nephesh represents life itself. Where there is no nephesh there is no life.” “Thus in the biblical view of humanity the nephesh represents the center of vitality, the life force, and the lust for life.”
• the nephesh is the life force of the body and all of its parts

Eventually, nephesh became “soul”
– the soul experiences the full range of human emotions
Hans Wolff, in the Psalms the soul “. . . is frightened (6.3), it despairs and is disquieted (42.5f., 11; 43.5), it feels itself weak and despondent (Jonah 2.7), it is exhausted and feels defenseless (Jer. 4.31), it is afflicted (Ps. 31.7; cf. Gen. 42.21) and suffers misery (Isa. 53.11).”
• it knows bitterness, rage, distress, hate, love, grief and joy
Staubli and Schroer, “It can suffer, rejoice, be carried away, or be rescued from death; it thirsts for God’s presence and ultimately can only be utterly at rest with God (cf. Jer 6:16; Pss 62:1; 131:2).
• there is one verse that throws a distinct light on nephesh
◦ it has to do with a person who has taken a vow
All the days that he separates himself to the LORD he shall not go near a dead body [nephesh] (Nu. 6:6)
◦ here nephesh cannot mean life – it refers to the person to whom the corpse belonged
• The English Standard Version translates nephesh as person in Exodus 12:15; Leviticus 17:10 and 19:8, and elsewhere
– the human person is a living soul
then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living [nephesh, soul, person] (Ge. 2:7)
• this verse is critical for understanding what we are
◦ the body is not a shell for the soul or the spirit
◦ it isn’t like a banana peel that gets tossed when we die
• the body is a living soul – one whole, complete person
◦ when the nephesh leaves the body, the person dies
◦ when a psalmist says my soul, he is saying, myself
J. Pedersen (quoted in Robinson), “The body is the soul in its outward form.”

With the soul we discover the center of our physical and psychological existence
– this is the inner person
• it includes all of the functions of the body, mind, and heart
– you and I are all of this at once

At last we come to spirit

We have seen that the word for soul is derived from a body part – the throat
– but spirit is not derived from a body part, but from the air!
• specifically, air in motion:
◦ the breeze blowing through trees, the breath in our lungs
◦ spirit is derived from breath – and breath comes from God
When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath [ruah], they die
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your Spirit [ruah], they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground (Ps. 104:29-30)
• Hebrew thought is definitely rooted in this world,
◦ and it is oriented to the life we have in this world
◦ but Hebrew thought it is also definitely supernatural
neither the world nor life within it sustains itself
– in Old Testament, spirit and soul are flexible and interchangeable
My soul years for you in the night;
my spirit within me earnestly seeks you (Isa. 26:9)
• the New Testament makes more of a distinction between soul and spirit
◦ especially in Paul’s writings
• human spirit is transcendent – it belongs to an added dimension

In John’s gospel, the ministry of Jesus awakens a person’s spirit
born again is the person’s awakening to the life of God
• only God’s Spirit can produce this
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (Jn. 3:6)
◦ when it happens, the Spirit becomes fountain of life within the person (4:14)
◦ because God is spirit, he looks for people who worship him in spirit and truth (4:24)
◦ the mystery of Jesus’ teaching is that his words are spirit
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life (Jn. 6:63)
◦ Jesus promised the Spirit to anyone who would come to him (7:37-39)
◦ and he gave specific promises to disciples in his final instructions (Jn. chs. 14-16)
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you (Jn. 14:15-17)

I do not have all the time for Paul that I would like to take
– the main ideas I want to stress are as follows:
• everything God does in our lives is by his Spirit
◦ especially God’s love, which is poured into our hearts (Ro 5:5)
◦ and is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22)
• we are God’s children by his Spirit of adoption (Ro. 8:15)
• the Spirit assists us when we pray (Ro. 8:26-27)
– but especially important is the witness of the Spirit
Paul says that we have within ourselves the witness of God’s Spirit
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Ro. 8:16)
Bernard Ramm, refers to this witness by the Latin term testimonium. “It is the touch of the divine Spirit upon the human spirit.” “In its simplest definition, revelation is God making himself known, and this ‘knowing’ is a spiritual knowing. The Eternal Spirit creates a bridge from his infinitude to the finitude of [human persons]; he imparts to [human persons] a knowledge of himself, and through that knowledge creates a fellowship with the creature.”
The witness is “an opening of the eyes resulting in an intuition of seeing; it is the unplugging of the ears resulting in an intuition of hearing. It is the removal of a veil; it is light dissipating darkness. It is illumination granting the powers of spiritual perception. The total inward [person] now sees revelation as revelation; he [or she] intuits truth as truth; he [or she] hears Scripture as the truth of God.”
Walther Eichrodt, “. . . when the reference is to the spirit of [the human person] in the wider sense, it is concerned predominantly with the higher spiritual functions: the spirit searches out God’s ways; (1) it is despondent when divine help is slow in coming (2); David holds the plans for every detail of the Temple building in his spirit.(3) It is therefore understandable that Yahweh’s direct influence on a [human person] is aimed especially at the ruah as the organ of higher [psychological] activity . . . .”
(1) Ps. 77.7; Isa. 26.9
(2) Isa. 57.16; 61.3; 66.2; Ezek. 21.12; Pss. 77.4; 143.4, 7
(3) 1 Chron. 28.12, cf. Ex. 35.21
• the human spirit is where we connect with God
◦ where all our body parts, our whole self connects with God
• I believe that your spirit is your true self
◦ it does not belong to another universe or reality
◦ it is in this world as much as your body, but in an added dimension
– we can learn to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16)
• God’s Spirit moves through life with us in our spirit
• we can pray with our spirit – with or without words
What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also (1 Cor. 14:15)

Conclusion: Relax a little and take a deep breath

Can you imagine God’s Spirit in the atmosphere that surrounds you?
We can move a step back
and position ourselves behind our thoughts, feelings, and actions
To the part of ourselves that does the thinking, feeling, and acting
When we do this, we are not only thinking, feeling, and acting,
we are aware of our thoughts as thoughts,
our feelings as feelings,
and our actions as actions
That aware self is your spirit – your true self

Bring awareness to your body as God’s gift
Bring awareness to your breath as an experience of mercy
Bring awareness to your spirit,
because this is our side of the bridge to God
We enjoy interaction with God spirit to Spirit

We can become more conscious of who we are
And in doing so, become more aware of God’s Spirit
and who he is in himself
and who he is for us

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