April 17 - 23
Spirit, Soul, Body
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Gen. 2:7; Matt. 10:28; 1 Thess. 5:23.
MEMORY TEXT: "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 Thessalonians 5:23, NKJV).
KEY QUESTIONS: What does it mean that humans are composed of spirit, soul, and body? How do these parts function as a whole? How do they function in terms of our relationship with God and our fellow humans?
ONE INDIVISIBLE WHOLE. "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" (Gen. 2:7, NKJV).
Scripture gives us a simple equation for understanding the nature of humans:
Body (dust of the ground; the earth's elements) plus
Breath of life ("spirit" of life from God) equals
A living person (a soul).
Nowhere does the Bible speak of the soul as an immortal entity capable of living apart from our body. Neither does it speak of the spirit as an entity which can exist independent of our physical nature. We are not made of independent parts temporarily connected, but of body, soul, and spirit in one indivisible whole.
As you study this week's lesson, develop an outline that will help you answer the Key Questions listed above.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word ruach occurs 377 times and is translated "wind ... .. breath," or "spirit" (Gen. 8: 1), "life principle" (Gen. 6:17; 7:22), "courage" (Josh. 2:11), "vitality" or "strength" (Judg. 15:19), "disposition" (Isa. 54:6), and "moral character" (Ezek. 11:19).
The "spirit" or "breath" of a person is identical with the "spirit" or "breath" of animals (Eccles. 3:19). This "spirit" or "breath" of a person returns to God at the time of death, and the body returns to the dust where it came from (Job 34:14; Eccles. 12:7). It is also translated "Spirit of God" (Isa. 63:10). In the New Testament the Greek word pneuma is similarly translated as "spirit" or "to breathe." It is also translated as ,"mood," "attitude," or "state of feeling" (Rom. 8:15; 1 Cor. 4:21; 2 Tim. 1:7; 1 John 4:6). Like ruach, it is sometimes translated "Spirit of God" (1 Cor. 2:11, 14; Eph. 4:30; Heb. 2:4; 1 Pet. 1:12; 2 Pet. 1:21).
Neither in the Old Testament nor the New Testament does ruach or pneuma refer to an intelligent entity capable of existence apart from the body. (See SDA Bible Dictionary, p. 1040.)
How does your Bible translate the words ruach and pneuma in the following passages?
Judges 15:19 _________________________________________________________
Job 34:14 ____________________________________________________________
Ecclesiastes 12:7 ______________________________________________________
Romans 8:15 _________________________________________________________
2 Timothy 1:7 _________________________________________________________
It is helpful when trying to understand what happens to a person at death to study Genesis 2:7 and Ecclesiastes 12:7 together. In as much as Genesis 2:7 describes the making of a human at Creation, Ecclesiastes 12:7 describes the un-making of a human at death. Death is the reversal of the creation act: the dust returns to the earth where it came from, and the breath of life returns to God who gave it.
"And the spirit will return to God who gave it" (Eccles. 12:7, NKJV). How does it make you feel about God to know that He gave you the breath of life?
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word nephesh occurs 755 times and is translated in various ways depending on the context. It is most frequently translated "life" (Gen. 9:4, 5; 1 Sam. 19:5; Job 2:4, 6; Ps. 31:13) and "person" (Gen. 14:21; Num. 5:6; Deut. 14:22). It is also translated "dead body" (Num. 9:6) and "appetite" (Eccles. 6:7). In numerous places it is translated as personal pronouns (Gen. 12:13; Lev. 11:43, 44; Ps. 3:2; Jer. 37:9). In the New Testament, the Greek word psuche is similar to the Hebrew word nephesh and is translated "life" or "lives" over forty times.
In the following verses, the King James Version translate phesh and psuche as "soul." How does your Bible translate them?
Gen. 2:7; 12:5 _______________________________________________________
Ezek. 18:4 __________________________________________________________
Matt. 26:38 _________________________________________________________
Rev. 16:3 ___________________________________________________________
"A living soul" (Gen. 2:7). "When the lifeless form of man was infused with this divine 'breath,' neshamah, of life, man became a living ,soul,' nephesh. The word nephesh has a variety of meanings [see above]. . . . [None of these meanings] applies to the spirit, ruach, indicating clearly the great difference between the two terms. It is obvious from [these meanings] that the translation "soul" given by the KJV to the nephesh of ch. 2:7 is not appropriate, if the commonly used expression "immortal soul" be implied. Although popular, this concept is completely foreign to the Bible. This passage may rightly be translated: 'Man became a living being' (RSV). When 'soul' is considered synonymous with 'being,' we gain the Scriptural meaning of nephesh in this text."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 223.
The fact that the words nephesh and psuche are translated "soul," plus so many other different ways, shows they cannot refer to a specific conscious entity capable of surviving after death. The idea that the "soul" can exist apart from the body is wholly foreign to the Bible. Such a concept originated in the ancient pagan religious and philosophical systems of Egypt and Greece then made its way into Christian theology. In Scripture, the word soul generally means the whole person as when Adam started living or when Jesus said that His "soul," or His whole person, was sorrowful.
|Probably most of the people you know who are not member's your church believe Christians go to heaven when they die. Based on today's lesson, how would you explain to them otherwise?|
In the Old Testament, the word flesh is translated from the Hebrew basar and in the New Testament from the Greek sarx. Basar and sarx describe: (1) the body or physical parts of humans and animals (Gen. 9:4; 29:14; Luke 24:39; 1 Cor. 15:39); (2) living things in general (Gen. 6:13; 1 Pet. 1:24); (3) material things contrasted with spiritual things (Jer. 17:5; Zech. 2:13; Matt. 16:17; Mark 14:38; Luke 24:39); (4) the carnal nature of humankind, which is contrary to spiritual things or the Holy Spirit (Rom. 7:18; 8:3; Gal. 5:16-21); (5) an obedient spirit, "a heart of flesh" (Ezek. 11:19; 36:26); men and women's mortal nature (1 Cor. 15:50-52). (See SDA Bible Dictionary, p. 354.)
Both the Old and New Testaments view humans holistically, not as independent parts labeled spirit, soul, and body. As the three Persons of the Godhead function as One, so our spirit, soul, and body function as one. The thinking part of humans-the mind-is usually translated from the Hebrew leb and from the Greek nous, but also from numerous other words such as ruach and pneuma. So Paul's prayer that the God of peace would sanctify our spirit, soul, and body (1 Thess. 5:23) is a prayer for God to sanctify the entire person.
|Match the expressions to the following texts:|
|1. Jer. 17:5||____ A. Flesh is mortal and corruptible|
|2. Ezek. 11:19||____ B. Carnal nature is against the Spirit|
|3. Ezek. 36:26||____ C. Flesh is not a source of strength|
|4. 1 Cor. 15:50-52||____ D. Heart of flesh means willing obedience|
|5. Gal. 5:17||____ E. God will give us united hearts|
All human beings are born in sin. And their entire nature has been adversely affected by the virus of sin (Ps. 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:9-18).
|Explain the conflict between flesh and Spirit (Gal. 5:16-26) and the solution to the problem (Rom. 7:22-8:1-4).|
The word immortality comes from one Greek word meaning "death-lessness" and from another Greek word meaning "incorruptibility." The Bible describes God only as being immortal (1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16), while it describes the Christians as seeking for immortality (Rom 2:7), which they receive at His second coming (1 Cor. 15:53, 54).
How do the following verses describe God and humans in terms of mortality and immortality?
Job 4:1 _____________________________________________________________
Rom. 2:5-7 __________________________________________________________
Rom. 6:12 ___________________________________________________________
Rom. 8:11 ___________________________________________________________
1 Cor. 15:53, 54 ______________________________________________________
2 Cor. 4:11 __________________________________________________________
1 Tim. 6:13-16 _______________________________________________________
2 Tim. 1:10 __________________________________________________________
When Scripture speaks of God having immortality, it means that in Him there is no decay and death and that He is the only and eternal Source of life. If only God has immortality, we may gain it only as His gracious gift to us. We are potentially immortal on account of Creation and redemption. But we become immortal only through God's grace in accepting the gift of His Son. Immortality is conditional because there is no eternal life except through Jesus Christ and the eternal life He offers us. It is something we receive potentially when we accept Christ as our personal Saviour and are "remade" by the Holy Spirit. Immortality becomes our actual possession only at the second coming of Christ. In this sense, immortality for the Christian is both a present reality and a future gain.
|"And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:11, 12, NKJV). What is your personal testimony regarding eternal life?|
The Greek word for spiritual or spirituality is used in a variety of ways: (1) to designate that which exists, including "spirit" such as devils and angels (Eph. 6:12); (2) typologically to give spiritual meaning to symbols (1 Cor. 10:1-4); (3) most commonly for that which is attuned to God's redemptive plan through Christ and to the presence of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:1-9). (See The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Edgar W. Smith Jr., ed. [Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988], vol. 4, p. 601.)
Describe what being spiritual means in the following texts:
Rom. 7:14 __________________________________________________________
Rom. 8:6 ___________________________________________________________
1 Cor. 2:13, 14 ______________________________________________________
1 Cor. 10:1-3 _______________________________________________________
Col. 3:16 __________________________________________________________
What does it mean to be "spiritual" or to "grow spiritually"? It means to become more and more like Jesus. We cleave to Him by recognizing our helplessness then focusing on His character (Gal. 5:22, 23). By doing so, we become changed into His image. It also means to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:15-28). Spirituality then is the fruit of our lives, as we have committed them to God, who loves us with an everlasting love.
"When Christ took human nature upon Him, He bound humanity to Himself by a tie of love that can never be broken by any power save the choice of man himself. Satan will constantly present allurements to induce us to break that tie-to choose to separate ourselves from Christ.... But let us keep our eyes fixed upon Christ, and He will preserve us. Looking unto Jesus, we are safe. Nothing can pluck us out of His hand. In constantly beholding Him, we 'are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.' 2 Corinthians 3:18."Steps to Christ, p. 72.
|Let the following be your daily prayer: " 'Take me, O Lord, as wholly Thine, I lay all my plans at Thy feet.' "-Steps to Christ, p. 70.|
FURTHER STUDY: Review this week's Memory Text, 1 Thessalonians 5:23. What significance do you see in Paul's sequence of first the spirit, then the soul, then the body?
For more on what it means to be spiritual, read Steps to Christ, "Growing Up Into Christ," pp. 67-75.
Many Christians believe that the soul is an entity capable of existing without a body. Others are beginning to believe in the transmigration of the soul.
One denomination teaches that we all existed in heaven as souls in the presence of the Father and Son. We came to earth as humans to experience sin and mortality, but again as souls we will go back to heaven. The earthly experience is necessary for our future in heaven, where we can advance to a higher level of being gods.
Eastern religions, which are becoming more and more acceptable in industrialized countries, often color their belief in the transmigration of souls with hopes for self-development. According to the Law of Karma, men and women are compelled to come back and relive their lives according to cosmic justice, which dictates either a higher or lower existence, depending on the life they lived. After repeatedly working out their problems in previous lives, they finally become self-redeemed.
For further information regarding the above subjects, see Douglas R. Groothuis, Unmasking the New Age (Downer's Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1968), pp. 150, 151 and Ed Decker and Dave Hunt, The God Makers (Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House Publishers, 1984), pp. 22-48.
SUMMARY: Humans were created by God to have a soul, body, and spirit. No entity is capable of living on its own. All three work together, and not one of them is excluded from the process of spiritual growth.
Kohila (KO-he-la) was just 8 years old when her mother became ill with cancer. A pastor from a local Christian congregation met the family and learned of Mother's illness. He offered to pray for Mother. The family, grasping at any straw of hope, began attending the Christian church. But when Mother died, Kohila's father reverted to Hinduism and resumed smoking and other bad habits that he had once enjoyed.
A young Adventist pastor came to town and met Kohila's father. He invited him to study the Bible and attend evangelistic meetings nearby. Father agreed, and after five months, he accepted Jesus Christ into his life and prepared for baptism.
The pastor suggested that Kohila and her sister Jothi should not remain at home without a mother. He helped Father enroll them in Thomas Higher Secondary School, a boarding school in southern India.
The community members were upset that Kohila's father had become an Adventist. They beat him up and excommunicated him from the village. He was not allowed to take water from the public well, buy from the village shops, or work on the farms belonging to villagers. Father faced starvation.
A Muslim man gave him rice and hired him to work on his land so he could provide food for his family. Kohila's two older sisters and their husbands also helped their father with food and a little money. For six years the villagers ostracized him.
When another Adventist pastor came to the village, the villagers beat him. They complained to the police that the Adventists were disturbing the people. But after the police investigated, they told the villagers, "You have your Hindu temple; let these people have their religious faith. Leave them alone." The persecution finally relaxed, and now Kohila's father can work and buy in the village.
Kohila's faith has grown as she has seen how God preserved her family during difficult times. She plans to be baptized at the end of this year.
Kohila (KO-he-la) Ramayah is 17 years old and will soon complete her secondary school studies. She would like to study at Spicer Memorial College.
Join the SSNET moderated email discussion group. You are also warmly invited to join a group discussion of this lesson Sabbath morning with your local Seventh-Day Adventist congregation.
Editorial Office: 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver
Spring, MD 20904.
Principal Contributor: Jack J. Blanco
Editor: Philip G. Samaan
Associate Editor: Lyndelle Brower Chiomenti
Editorial Assistant: Soraya Homayouni Parish
Art and Design: Lars Justinen
Pacific Press Coordinator: Glen Robinson
Copyright © 1999 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. All Rights Reserved.
This page is Netscape
SSNET Web Site Home page.
Directory of adult SS quarterly Bible Study guides.
Prepared for the Internet by the SSNET
Last updated April 7, 1999.