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Christian Biblical Studies
SPIRIT, SOUL AND BODY
All Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version unless stated otherwise.
Question: 1 Thessalonians 5: 23:
[T]he very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What is meant by ‘spirit and soul and body’?
Answer: The Apostle Paul’s prayer here is for the local church (Greek, ekklesia) at Thessalonica as a combined unit, not as individuals. On a larger scale, however, the group stands for the Church at large, which existed throughout the Gospel Age – down to and including those living at Christ’s Second Coming (Greek, parousia, ‘presence’).
The following points favour this view:
1. The words spirit, soul and body are comprehended in the ‘whole’, or the ‘entire person’.
2. Regardless of the varying beliefs held by a wide spectrum of Christians on the matter of ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’, and preservation of the same, all will agree that at least the individual ‘body’ has not been preserved, but has returned to the dust, in common with all humanity. It follows from this, then, that ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’ do not pertain to individuals.
A few comparative texts will put this into context.
In Ephesians 4: 3, St. Paul exhorts the general Church to maintain its unity, or oneness of spirit, especially the spirit of love, which would enable the individual members to be at peace with one another and prevent divisions. ‘Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’
In Acts 4: 32, the word soul is used in the sense of the Church’s oneness of thought, mind, and action. This was evident in her witnessing to the Gospel, particularly as centred around the doctrine of the Ransom-sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. ‘[T]he multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul.’
Ephesians 4: 4 refers to the unity of the Church as ‘one body’. Christ’s Church, like the human anatomy, has always comprised many members with differing functions, though each member was under the one Head, Christ Jesus. Collectively, the Church has functioned as a unified whole: ‘One Lord, one faith, one baptism’ (Ephesians 4: 5; see also 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27).
The Christian religion invariably consisted of both the superficial and true believer. Paul’s sincere desire, addressed to the truly consecrated, was that the local church – and thus the Gospel-Age Church – might be esteemed praiseworthy on Christ’s return. So in 1 Thessalonians 5: 24 the Apostle expresses his full assurance that the God who called the whole Church would faithfully carry out all His promises on its behalf.
Copyright September 2011 ukbiblestudents.co.uk
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