Editor’s Note: This is a two-part series based on the diagram above. The first part centers on Interpretation, while the second focuses on Implementation.
1. The outer circle represents the human body. The arrows are the countless impressions that we receive (good and bad) from our environment (people, food, books, etc.) and our responses to them, both positive and negative.
2. The middle circle represents the human soul, comprising (popularly) the mind, emotions, and will. This circle is demarked from the body by a broken line because the body and soul are an inseparable unity in which they influence each other so much (psychosomatic) that it is hard to tell where one begins and the other lets off. (Cf. brain/mind) Our environment, which includes Satan, reaches our soul through our body, which is one reason, amongst others, that the Bible speaks of our soul as well as our body as “flesh” (see Rms 7:18; Gal. 5:16).
3. The innermost circle represents the redeemed human spirit, which is nothing less than God, or Christ himself, in his Spirit. This is the plain meaning of the expression, “Christ in you” or we “in Christ” (150 times in the New Testament) and I Cor. 6:17. The size of the circle is not significant; our spirit not only fills our entire body but reaches far outside of it (by means of telescopes, TV, memory, imagination, and prayer). The arrows indicate that the sprit influences both the soul and thus the body and our environment – other people, etc.
The distinction between soul and body is not as clear in the Old Testament as in the New Testament (and more than the Trinity – in whose likeness man is triad) for the same reason, namely, the Holy Spirit had not yet in those days “been given” (John 7:39), that is, made his home in human “hearts”. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit was very active, but always on the outside of human beings, coming and going. In the New Testament the Holy Spirit became “the Spirit of Christ”, indwelt Christ fully, who pours him(self) into us like a funnel, permanently. (Acts 2:33) That there is a distinction between soul and spirit is evident from I Thess. 5:23 and Hebs 4:12. (Note contrast too between thoughts and attitudes.) This latter text demonstrates two important facts; many “good” deeds are not spiritual (emanating from faith), but are simply soulish, destined for destruction. On the other hand, the sins of a Christian can be disowned (Romans 7:17,20) as “motions of the flesh”, knee jerks of our old, dead-an-buried “nature” and not the products of our new self, the fruit of the Spirit, Christ in us.
A scriptural theology of regeneration (new birth) and sanctification is impossible without a distinction between soul and spirit. The Bible says plainly that a Christian is not just simply a converted, changed, forgiven person, but a brand new one (II Cor. 5:17) twice-born (John 3:3). We know that his soul is not replaced; he sins in thought, word, and deed, and yet the Bible speaks of him as actually perfect (not just theoretically), a partaker of the divine nature. In short, at conversion we receive a heart-transplant, a brand-new spirit (Ezek 36:26,27) which, in turn, sanctifies gradually our soul (Jeremiah and Hebs 8:10; 10:16). At the same time, we must not think of a Christian as having two selves, two egos; he is but a single (new) person. His old self was crucified with Christ, and “pronounced dead” at his conversion. The “civil war” that Paul describes in Romans 7 is between a person’s head, which tells him one thing, and his will, which does something different. The solution to that terrible fix, as Paul says, is to have a new, perfect, permanent, victorious Spirit who rules and controls both body and soul, our thinking as well as our feelings and doing. Any “struggle” or warfare that a Christian has is not intra-soul (which can drive to suicide) but between his powerful Spirit (who is God, remember?) and the left-overs, grave-clothes of sin in his soul. In such an unequal contest, there is no “game”, no real battle. “If God be for us…” – no opposition! All this is represented in the sketch above by the arrows that emanate from the spirit, while none (repeat, none) invade it from without. Only God has access to it. It is immune, impregnable, invulnerable to all else, (It is God/Christ, who can neither sin nor be tempted – nor tempts anybody else; “the Evil One ‘has nothing’ (no point of contact) in me”, said Jesus. “He that is born of God cannot sin.”
The “spirit” of an unbeliever is a “God-shaped” vacuum. It is dead, empty. Satan occupies it in varying degree (cf. Judas and Legion) and times (Matt 12:43-45). For the rest, he is like a ship without a rudder, his deeds determined alternately by his head, then his feelings (mostly), external circumstances and other people. An illustration of this is the Old Testament tabernacle, in which the Holy of Holies (representing God) was off-limits even to his chosen people (until Jesus tore the barrier and escorted us in), and for the last 500 years of the Old Testament was EMPTY! The countless laws of the Old Testament, not the “believers” hearts, are what kept them in line, until Christ. The unbeliever is in a class with the animals (who are said to have “souls” as well as man).
*The cross represents the fact that victory, self-rule by the Spirit, is only through the cross, just as Christ “ruled” himself and destroyed Satan via the cross, and we become victors by dying to self. (The Bible uses the word “cross” more often us to us than it does to Christ!) (Cf Mark 8:34; Gal 6:14)