A Chinese Christian who was martyred for his faith wrote several books that have blessed me. From Scripture, he determined that humanity was body, soul, and spirit. He further defined these with body being the physical part, soul consisting of intellect, emotions, and volition, and the spirit being the deep place where we become aware of our sin and of the righteousness of God, and where communication with God begins. For those who have not been given spiritual life, the human spirit is “dead in sin” and blind to spiritual truth. It is not functional.
Christians are aware that living by the human qualities of intellect, emotions, and will can run us into trouble if those faculties are not governed by an “alive and well” spirit that is in tune with God and yielded to Him. When given the governing place, my soul can create a facsimile of Christianity, but it is a mere façade if it is not energized by my spirit and the Holy Spirit.
This happened to some New Testament believers. They were convinced they must mark themselves as God’s people using the Old Testament ritual of circumcision and keep the laws also given in the OT. Paul warned the believers in the NT not to fall into that trap. Our life in Christ is not based on those things but on the fact that our spirits have been made alive in Christ; I am a new creation with a new life from Him . . .
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The Galatians had life from Christ but they slid into self-effort because of the false teaching about circumcision and their need to keep the OT laws. Paul told them:
“For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:13–16)
The human soul plays an important part in my Christian life. It reveals with is happening in my spirit, or at least it should. God tells me to live by a renewed mind, not trusting my own understanding, but seeking His wisdom. My will ought to be yielded to His will also. The Bible says:.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5–7)
As for emotions, the Holy Spirit gives joy that overrides even trials. He produces sorrow for sin, righteous indignation instead of human anger, and a host of other feelings that I would not otherwise experience as He works through my spirit to govern my soul and body.
These truths point to Jesus and the Cross. There He died to sin — putting His body and soul on the line in my place. He gave up His Spirit so that I might live as He lived — by the power of the Holy Spirit and not by the dictates of my body and my soul.
This is why Paul boasted in the Cross. He was not crucified to sin or the world, nor made a new creature, by an act of his will. It happened because Jesus died. God placed him ‘in Christ’ so he died with Christ. Then Christ confronted him and he became a new creation. This was not Paul’s doing but the work of Jesus Christ just as Jesus said . . .
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide . . . .” (John 15:16)
Chambers says, “Every now and again, Our Lord lets us see what we would be like if it were not for Himself; it is a justification of what He said—‘Without Me ye can do nothing.’”
And to that I say, Amen.