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Spirit, Soul and Body

I’m having trouble with part of Chambers’ discussion about the soul. First he says that both men and animals have souls but the Bible verses he uses to support that don’t use the word “soul.” In fact, Genesis 2:7 says that God breathed into man and he became a living soul. God did not breathe into animals. It is God's breath in us (his Spirit in us--the Hebrew for "breath" and "spirit" is the same?) that makes us a soul. Body + Spirit = Soul. We are souls. We became souls.

Chambers says that the “soul is the holder of spirit and body together.” Using 1 Corinthians 2:11 (“For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”), he distinguishes between fallen (sensual) man and spiritual man.

The spirit in a fallen or sensual man is his mind, which has a vast capacity for God, to Whom, however, he is dead, and the spirit of a fallen man is imprisoned in his soul and degraded by the body. ...a fallen man’s intelligence severs his intellectual life more and more from his bodily life and produces inner hypocrisy.
He uses as an example Oscar Wilde who had a brilliant mind but lived a life of “unthinkable immorality.”

In contrast, God’s Spirit in us aims to keep our
...soul and body in perfect harmony with God...Holy Spirit has “life in itself,” and immediately that life is manifested in our souls, it wars against what we have been describing. Slowly and surely if we “mind” [pay attention to and obey] the Holy Spirit Who fills our spirit and re-energises it, we shall find that He will lift our soul, and with our soul our body, into a totally new unity.... When we receive the Holy Spirit, He so energises our spirit that we are able to detect the things that are wrong, and we are enabled to rectify them if we “mind” the Holy Spirit.
I like the way Chambers describes this. The Holy Spirit is God’s life in us and when he enters us he begins to war against the death in us, the inner hypocrisy, the degradation of our bodies and the imprisonment of our souls. The key, however, is that we need to hear him speaking to us and then obey what he says. It is a slow process. And it is war. As much as I want the life that God’s Spirit brings me, the disunity within rebels and continues to pull me toward death (Romans 7:7-23). “Thanks be to God...through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set[s] me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 7:25; 8:2).

God, I am so grateful for your Spirit and for the life you bring to me through both Son and Spirit. Jesus poured out his life so that I could live and you sent your Spirit to be that life within me. Help me to keep hearing you and obeying you so that I may be in perfect harmony with you.

*All non-biblical quotes from “Soul: The Essence, Existence and Expression” in “Biblical Psychology” in The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers, pages 150-153


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I'm married (35 years in December 2008) with four grown sons. I love my city (Winnipeg) and my country (Canada) and promote them both to whoever will listen. God (through Jesus Christ) is the biggest part of my life. I am learning to let him take control of all areas--though I do better at this some times more than others.

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If you have read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts on it. You may e-mail me at or post them in the comments section below.

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