The soul is man’s self-consciousness. We are conscious of our own existence. This consciousness is the soul. The soul is the organ of our personality. All of our personality is part of the soul. All of the elements that constitute us as human beings, our intellect, mind, ideas, love, sensations, judgments, will, and so forth, are all part of the soul. Everything that man’s personality encompasses belongs to the soul. The Bible often uses the word heart when referring to our true self. It may be that in the Bible the heart and the soul mean the same thing. The soul is our heart, our true self. The Bible often calls man a soul, as if man is nothing but a soul. For example, Genesis 12:5 uses the word “souls,” and there are numerous other scriptural passages that use soul for man. This means that the soul is the personality, including all the elements of the personality. To understand a man, we have to understand his personality. The existence, characteristics, and life of a man issue from his soul. This is why the Bible calls a man a soul.
However, in addition to the intellect, love, will, and sensations in the soul, there is also the life of the soul. This life is man’s life, the natural life of man. In the Bible, many places use the word soul interchangeably with the word life; many passages translate soul as life. For example, the word translated life in both Leviticus 17:11 and Revelation 12:11 is soul in the corresponding original languages. This is because in the original languages there is no difference between the words soul and soul-life. Hence, the various elements contained in the soul are the elements contained in the soul-life. This soul-life is man’s natural life, which includes the intellect, love, sensations, and so forth.
THE COMBINATION OF THE SOUL AND THE FLESH
Before we go on, we must first understand the relationship between the soul and the flesh. In the Bible, the flesh, as far as the lust of our flesh is concerned, is our sinful nature. The soul is our life. When we speak of our new life and new nature, it is as if life and nature are the same thing, but strictly speaking, there is a difference between life and nature. It seems that life involves something more than nature. Every life has its own nature. The nature is the natural principle of that life; it is the inclination and desire of the life. While we were sinners, our life was the soul and our nature was the flesh. We lived by our soul, and the inclinations and desires of our living were according to the flesh; we walked by the flesh. More simply put, it was the flesh that decided how we walked and the soul that supplied the power to walk according to that decision. The flesh, the sinful nature, gave the suggestions; and the soul, the life, supplied the power. The flesh instigated, and the soul executed. This is the condition of every unbeliever.
At the time a believer receives the grace of the Lord Jesus’ substitutional death on the cross, God puts His life within him and resurrects his spirit. This new life brings with it a new nature. From that point on, there are two lives within the believer, the spirit and the soul-life. There are also two natures within him, God’s nature and the flesh.
These two natures, one new and one old, are mutually exclusive, contradictory, and incompatible one with the other. Daily the new and the old struggle with one another, vying to rule over the whole being. A Christian who is on this level is an infant in Christ; he is fleshly. His experience at this stage is very unstable and painful, repeatedly alternating between victory and defeat. Later, he begins to realize the salvation of the cross and learns that if he believes that his flesh has been crucified with the Lord on the cross, he will overcome his sinful nature, that is, his flesh will be as silent as if it were dead and will no longer harm him. Since his flesh, the sinful nature, is crucified, he will have the power to overcome sin and will realize in his experimenting the promise that says, “Sin will not lord it over you” (Rom. 6:14).
Through this, the believer will enter another realm. Sin will be under his feet. Although there will still be the passions and lusts of the flesh, they will not be able to attract him anymore. The believer will now think that he is completely spiritual. When he looks back, he will see many who believed at the same time that he believed, yet they are still bound by sin. He will be self-flattered, thinking that he has reached perfection, the highest plane of the spiritual life, and that he is fully spiritual. Actually, he is not so, but far from it. He unavoidably remains a soulish Christian.