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Sunday, December 08, 2013

Dividing the Dross

SpiritA lot of things that are being spoken of today as the ministry of the Holy Spirit, it´s just emotional exuberance. Because people don´t know what is soul and what is spirit... Young people are so often taken up with that exuberance and say, `Oh, this is Holy Spirit.´ It´s not, if it were Holy Spirit it would bring holiness. Zac Poonen

I disagree with Zac Poonen.

It is not only young people who confuse an emotional experience with the touch of God's Spirit. They are being brought up in a church where the generation of leaders had already been sucked into this delusion.

The problem is that there is such a close relationship that many Christians do not even recognise there is a difference between soul and spirit - they think of these as the same entity but with different names. Consequently they don't even consider it might be possible to distinguish between experiences of the soul and those of the spirit.

However, the Bible is clear on the matter.

May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23

Just as God is Trinity, we too are tripartite beings. As one preacher puts it, I am a spirit, I have a soul and I live in a body. That may be oversimplifying the situation but it is perhaps a helpful starting point for considering the nature of human beings. But it still does not explain the difference between soul and spirit.  

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

Soul and spirit may be so closely knit together that it is difficult to determine where one ends and the other begins, but there is a difference, just as there is between joints and marrow and Scripture can reveal it.

Romans 8:16 makes it clear that the human spirit is the part of us which is designed to enable us to communicate with God.

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

As Poonen's words suggest, the soul is a different thing altogether. In the psalms we discover that the soul can be in anguish and experience grief (Ps 31:7-9) or rejoice (Ps 35:9). David speaks to his soul, asking why it is downcast (Ps 42) and calling it to wake up (Ps 57:8). The soul is also instructed to praise God (Ps 103:1). From these passages we can glean the understanding that the soul is the seat of the emotions.

The problem arises when we don't recognise the distinction between soul and spirit and begin to believe that our emotions are telling us something about our relationship with God, or even that our emotions are a message from God. Our emotions tend to be stormy but the voice of God to the human spirit is a gentle whisper (1 Kng 19:9-13).

Above all, the Spirit of God is holy and the measure of His activity in 0ur lives, as Poonen points out, is not in the depth of our emotional response but whether or not we become more holy. As part of a generation of people who measure the value of everything according to how it makes us feel we need to be especially careful to discern between feelings and the touch of God. His ultimate goal is not to make us feel good but to be good.