Understanding Soul and Spirit

by Fred Pruitt


Taken from an email letter to a friend:

Yes, we do “discern” soul and body from spirit, as Norman so rightly broke it down for us. It struck me in considering what you said, how the Bible in a sense gives us the “parts,” and then it’s up to the Spirit in us to make it a “whole.” When Norman described for us soul/spirit discernment, it was as if he was an instructor in shop class telling us how the parts of an automobile go together, what does what, and how. Bu like an automobile doesn’t run on pistons alone, or with just a carburetor or a transmission alone, but all the whole machine working together as one whole with each part doing its bit, even so does the human self operate. The “soul” doesn’t go off and do one thing,the body another and the spirit something else.

We are one human person, in this life a makeup of spirit, soul and body, each doing its part as one whole. For educational purposes we dissect the “parts” — i.e. the soul is the seat of the emotions, feelings, intellect, the human psychological makeup, the “spirit” the most inner part, the place of God in us, where we are will, inner knowing, and inner desire or love.

Those are the “parts” which, working together, are the whole working. And even though I almost might seem to some to be opposed to any sort of doctrinal foundation-laying, I am not, but find myself maybe a bit like CT who denied baptism to the African converts for 10 years in the Congo, because they thought that baptism was some sort of magic that in and of itself saved them. I think that in our union fellowship, and especially now that Norman has gone, the “message” itself is dangerous in that same way.

We have already seen how some have taken the “message” and turned it into a thing in itself, as if somehow this “knowledge” was like a sacrament that would be itself the grace that saves. “Here,” they seem to say, “just believe this stuff I tell you, this is the total truth, and you’ll be well and your life will work.”

Like with this soul/spirit stuff. We do spend time studying the “parts.” There is a learning time and we have to practice a bit with it – “Oh yeah, this is just soul, oh, yes, this is spirit.” Of course that’s a right process. But there comes a day when we don’t think about that anymore. We just are. We just “BE”!

But the point to remember is that my soul is no “better” than it was before, though for some that is not an acceptable answer. They think the soul is some wild untamed animal that is left somehow outside of God and must be tamed and reigned in. So we might can accept oneness in the spirit in some sort of nebulous “over yonder” kind of way, but with our human psychical makeup still this wild separate beast that is capable of running amuck any moment we let our guard down. And thus having only a “definition” of soul and spirit in their separate “workings” without knowing, as you said in your question, that they are “one” in the I AM, leaves us still separated beings, with one part opposing the other, in our consciousness, which is madness – insanity!

Any “teaching” therefore that wants to make our spirits perfect, but with much “work” left to be done in the soul realm is just more denial of God and His totality and is really pride of self cloaked as humility. To be “humble” before God is to accept His completeness, His totality, in the midst of our human weakness and condition, just as we are, today, right now. To look for “improvement” or “becoming more spiritual” one day (or any other like phrase or meaning) is simply to deny the Living God in the now, who is NOW whole and complete in us. Certainly God winks at that ignorance in us, and therefore He sees no sin in us, and as HE wills He reveals the more of the total to us.

He makes us WHOLE — new creations! In the new creation the “soul and body” are just as much “living and moving and having their being in God” as all the rest of the universe, and just as much serve Him in newness and resurrection as we do in Spirit.

They are twofold — our window on the world which goes both ways. Soul and body are where we are touched with the infirmities, tensions and weakness of this world, as well as portals of its pleasures and joys. And they are also the expression of the Spirit TO the world. In other words, soul and body are the world coming TO us, to get our attention, to get us into action, and then also soul and body are US going OUT to the world. In each case they are the servants of the Spirit of who I AM. I speak of them as if they are separate “parts” of me, but they are really just “me.” I AM my soul and body as much as I AM my spirit. This is where the Spirit makes the parts into a whole for us …

But then in your question another question I’ve had lately fell into place. I’ve just been through a rereading of the 4 gospels in the past couple of weeks. Jesus continually taught in parables, which for the most part folks didn’t get, even the disciples. and as I read the gospel accounts and the numerous telling of the parables, I wondered why this quote kept popping up, sometimes with a little different wording, but the same nonetheless:

Matt 13:13-15:
Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

Why, I asked, would Jesus not want to tell EVERYBODY the good news? Why the secrecy? It puzzled me. The idea, as some would say, of some being “chosen” to hear the truth and some not, well, that just doesn’t set well with me. Now, it does seem to say that in places, but that’s another of those Bible “parts” that the Spirit puts into wholeness for us.

In another place Jesus says, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. (Matt 11:25).

We’re getting close to the answer here.

It isn’t that Jesus didn’t want everybody to know. Of course he did. He came to seek out and to save that which is lost. He came for the whole world.

So why the secrecy then? Because “no flesh” shall approach God. This is not for the “human” mind. The “human mind” is a wonderful instrument, part of our wondrous human makeup. but it is only vaguely capable of handling spiritual truth, because it can only see in a linear, three-dimensional way. It cannot approach unto God.

Some will throw Satan into the mix here, and be upset with me that I don’t call a spade a spade and call the “human mind” or “human reasoning” Satan. Certainly he has his finger in this pie, and separation is his bailiwick. But he’s another of those “parts” who is working perfectly in this spiritual automobile doing his job. we always have to remember it was GOD who subjected us to separation, or “vanity,” and NOT Satan. He was only the agent of what God Himself wanted to accomplish. He’s the piece of sand in the oyster who causes the agitation necessary to bring forth the pearl. So we only ascribe to him his part, and don’t make too much of him as if he’s running his own show. ONLY GOD is running this show, from start to finish.

But back to this secrecy thing. Ultimately, “spiritual understanding” is denied the human mind, denied “human reasoning” because it is completely beyond it. It comes from beyond, and in only known in the reception of faith, or, in inner “nothingness.”

Jesus said the Father “hid these things from the wise and prudent.” That’s an interesting choice of words. With “wise” we pretty much understand his meaning. He’s talking about those who are “wise in their own sight,” enamored with their own intellect or understanding, and thus being “wise” already, they have no need. They are the “whole” who need no physician, and the Son of Man was not sent for them. (Understand of course, I’m not talking about a permanent condition here, or even particular people, though in the Bible they are all separated into these particular groups of people or individuals, i.e. the Pharisees, the Romans, the Herodians, the rich young ruler, the faithful Centurion, etc., but all of these again, are “parts” which make up a whole. And we find all these “parts” played out in ourselves — but that’s for another time). Back to the point. Paul talks about the “wisdom of this world” and the Cross being foolishness to it. Same thing. Those who see themselves as “wise” either stumble over the Cross or they fall under it and get crushed by it (which sounds like a bad thing but is really a good thing — and we’ll all been there, done that).

But Jesus also adds “prudent” which in my thinking means “careful”. But isn’t being “careful” a virtue? We’ve always been taught so, but Jesus says these things are not only not revealed to the “wise,” but neither are they revealed to the careful. And I think in this sense “careful” or “prudent” indicates a holding back, a fearfulness of letting go, afraid of some bad thing happening, like the man who, knowing the terror of his lord (in his own mind), and went and took the “talent” that had been given him to invest for an increase, and hid it in a napkin and buried it in the ground. He received the rewards of his faith, too, when his lord returned.

But then Jesus said the Father “hast revealed them unto babes” Here it is. What is a “babe”? A pure receiver, an open book, no fear, anything goes.

Now, we ALL at some point are “the wise and prudent” — wise in our own sight, careful to not take a wrong step, however it manifested in us. But something at some point comes along and just breaks that in pieces in us. Cuts us to the quick, and that breaking makes us into babes, because we can go no further in our own imaginations, and we’ve been brought up short to know it. Romans 7 — when we cry, “O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me?” that’s the “babe” crying out. The “wise and prudent man” has been broken, weighed in the balances and found wanting, and that conditioning has made us able to receive the deep things of God, which is the simple truth that He is our very selves, I AM, within us and as us, and we ourselves containers of Him who is All. Our lives from that point no longer center on ourselves and our needs, our wants, our desires, as if separate from Him, but on Him in us, and all those same wants and desires and needs now servants of Him in the propagation of His kingdom.

As I said above, we just are, we just be. Soul goes to and fro, body gets tired and hungry and other things as well, and in the midst Spirit is All in all. The Holy Spirit runs the show. Who are we to deny Him?

Let me bring this to an end with this.

(2 Corinthians 3)
Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart.
And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward:
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

This is a mighty, a wonderful, a DEEP passage here from brother Paul. This is the whole “doctrine/Spirit” thing in a nutshell. If anybody was a “teacher” it was Paul. He’s the guy who wrote Romans, which people have dissected, analyzed, categorized, thematicized, and theorized on, for nearly 2000 years. As well as everything else he wrote, making elaborate “Romans road” systems and all that. I’m not saying any of that stuff is necessarily wrong or bad. All part of the process, all “parts” which are the Spirit’s perfect rendering of the whole. But Paul’s testimony himself about the “letter” is that the “letter” kills. I think he means more than the Law of Moses here. because he says, “Hey, you guys, I have not taught you in fleshly ‘letter’ systems, I have not taught you a new ‘law’ to obey, but in ministering to you by the Spirit, you have become the letter of Christ by the Spirit, so that you live from the inner sufficiency of the Living God, who you have come to know within you as YOUR OWN, and not by any rote memorization of precepts and doctrines and written words, I have taught you to live from the Spirit within you, where we think nothing of ourselves, but KNOW our sufficiency is God, and only God, and NOTHING of ourselves.”

So then, bottom line, it’s always the same answer. God Himself is our life. He has captured us with His love, and won’t let go, and we don’t want him to let us go. He said, “Follow me, and I WILL MAKE YOU fishers of men”. He didn’t say, “Work real hard to become fishers of men” but “I WILL MAKE YOU”.

We live our lives as integrated wholes, and not as separate warring parties striving for mastery within us, because the ONLY ONE INTEGRATED WHOLE has overwhelmed us above and beyond all we could ask or think and so filled us that HE IS the ONE integrated WHOLENESS out of which our life comes every moment in the wholeness of God.

8 thoughts on “Understanding Soul and Spirit

  1. “but in ministering to you by the Spirit, you have become the letter of Christ by the Spirit” This is my favorite part and one of my favorite truths.
    Thank you Fred.

  2. Great article Fred. The Spirit is speaking to me about us being the “walking word” and 2Cor. 3 and you confirm. Wonderful.
    Love to you,

  3. Fred…..
    So many truths in this article….I will have to read again,…I love your description of “babes”……a pure receiver, an open book…..love it….thanks Fred….I look forward to meeting you and the others in Louisville in September….

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