THE SALVATION OF THE SOUL (2)
A man cannot be killed with a gun, by sickness or by the affliction of the body.
When a man sins against God, he does not realise he is also sinning against his own soul. He is actually condemning his own soul to death. God says: “He who sins against me wrongs his own soul; all those who hate me love death.” (Proverbs 8:36).
Therefore, Peter pleads with the believer: “Dear brothers, you are only visitors here. Since your real home is in heaven, I beg you to keep away from the evil pleasures of this world; they are not for you, for they fight against your very souls.” (1 Peter 2:11).
The life of a man is in his soul. When God formed man from dust, he breathed into his nostrils and he became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7). If you see a dead body, you realise the person is no longer there. This is because it is the soul of a man that is the man and not his body. The body is simply his temporary house or habitation.
While the body is of the earth, the soul is not of this world. Solomon says: “ All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?” (Ecclesiastes 3:20-21).
Accordingly, the soul is called to a higher preoccupation than earthly things. The life that God has breathed into man, man is required to breathe after God. Jesus says the first and great commandment is: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37-38). The heart that inherits eternal life is the circumcised heart; the heart that is affectionate towards God; the heart into which the Holy Spirit has shed the love of God.
Your body or your soul? Which do you prefer? The devil would like us to believe that the affliction of the body is the greatest evil, and the preservation of the body the greatest good. But the scriptures teach that the preservation of the soul is what matters. Esau chose his body and lived to regret it. A man cannot be killed with a gun, by sickness or by the affliction of the body. Only the destruction of the soul kills.
Blessing of God
The Psalmist says: “ Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1-5).
When God is really good to a man, he is not good to his body but to his soul. The psalmist does not say bless the Lord O my body. He does not say bless the Lord O my stomach. He does not say bless the Lord O my wallet. He says bless the Lord O my soul. Therefore, we should recognise that true blessings are those that have a salutary effect on the soul.
While God’s workings on the soul might be unpleasant and uncomfortable to the flesh, it does not mean he is not good to us. God is not that interested in our flesh. He condemned sin in the flesh. His primary interest is in our spirit and in our soul. So God often seems to disregard the body. Jesus is the bishop and shepherd of our soul. He is not the bishop and shepherd of our body. The devil is the bishop and shepherd of the body.
Bless the Lord O my soul! What exactly did the Lord do? In the first place, he forgave all our iniquities. That is the most fundamental thing, and it is that which then ushered us into other blessings. When Jesus finished that assignment, he said: “It is finished.”
Remember, the most important thing is salvation. It is not wealth, possessions, or even good health, but salvation. Good health, however good, will end in death. Wealth, no matter the magnitude, will end in poverty. Wealth, possessions, good health are all “bodily exercise;” they profit little. But godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of this life and that which is to come. (1 Timothy 4:8).
John says: “Beloved, I wish above all things that you prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.” (3 John 1:2). God allows unbelievers to prosper without qualification. But he would have believers prosper only to the extent that their soul prospers; otherwise we would reach the wrong conclusions and be easily deceived.
Moreover, anything that makes our soul prosper is good for us as far as God is concerned. Therefore infirmities, reproaches, necessities, persecutions and distresses may actually be blessings from the Lord, to the extent that they have a salutary effect on the soul and are conducive to the renewing of the mind to the ways and values of the kingdom of God.
Everywhere the message is the same. It is the soul that is the priority. Whatever a man gets will do him no good if he loses his soul, for he can only enjoy the gains for a limited period. That is why Christ came all the way from heaven to earth to redeem our souls. No earthly mortgage could be found for this; no counter-price could be paid or accepted for it.
It is the soul that sins and it is the soul that comes into judgement. God says: “The soul who sins shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:4). It is the soul, and not the body, that Christ saves. The psalmist says to God: “Great is your mercy toward me, and you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.” (Psalm 86:13). Thanks to God, believers have been delivered from the devil’s captivity: “Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped.” (Psalm 124:7).
It is the soul of man that is of primary concern to God. The psalmist identifies that God satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness. (Psalm 107:9). However, he promises to bring adversity upon all flesh. (Jeremiah 45:5). It is the soul of man that the devil is after and not his body or his property. Observe that David only sought God’s protection for his soul. He said: “Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul: let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt.” (Psalm 35:4).
In the wilderness, God fed the body of the children of Israel with the meat they demanded grumbling and mumbling, “but sent leanness into their soul.” (Psalm 106:15). Perilous times will come not because men will suffer, but because they will not be spiritually-minded. No man ever died spiritually because he suffered. But most die spiritually because they attend to the body and neglect the soul.