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This book answers the big questions that theologians have debated for many centuries in regard to the origin and nature of Christ. We start with the foundational issue of the virgin birth of Christ and the incarnation of Christ and then move on to the idea of the image of God and Christ's pre-existence. All of this leads to the Father-Son relationship and the discussion about the Godhead.
Category - Long Book
The Old Testament writers speak of spirit, soul, and body in various contexts but do not offer any serious commentary on their relationship to each other. They may have assumed that the answer was self-evident, or perhaps the need to know simply never arose. Regardless, the Holy Spirit did not inspire any of the prophets to enlarge on this particular topic.
This is not too surprising, when we note the progressive nature of revelation throughout the Scriptures and how, in the end, Jesus Himself said the Holy Spirit was to “guide you into all the truth” and “disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:13). In other words, Jesus did not reveal all truth to His disciples but left much of that revelation for the Holy Spirit to impart later.
Paul, however, made a clear distinction between soul and spirit, whereas most philosophers were only concerned with the difference between body and spiritual soul. To Paul, the source of godly knowledge (or revelation) was neither from the material world nor the soul. He presented his students with a third option in 1 Cor. 2:9, 10,
9 But just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10 To us God revealed them through the Spirit, for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.
In other words, your physical eyes and ears are not the source of divine knowledge, nor do we know the deep things of God through “the heart of man” (by which he means the soul). Instead, we know these things through the spirit. The translators (above) capitalize Spirit to indicate their bias that he was referring to the Holy Spirit. But the context shows that Paul was referring to one’s own (human) spirit in contrast to the soul or the body.
We understand that the Holy Spirit reveals truth to our own spirit, which in turn shares it as best it can with the soul. The problem is that the soul, the psuchikos man, is largely incapable of comprehending or apprehending spiritual revelation (1 Cor. 2:14). Because of its limited capability, the soul ought not to rule anyone but should remain in submission to the spirit. The ultimate goal is to bring soul and spirit into agreement, as in a New Covenant marriage.
The soul and spirit are two selves which (ideally) should function in a marriage relationship as “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). It is not that they are the same thing, any more than a husband and wife are the same individual. It is rather that they are in unity and agreement, so that the law recognizes them as (or imputes them to be) a single unit by the principle of Identification.
Originally, then, prior to sin, marriage was about a man and a woman working in agreement, with no need for one to overrule the other or to enforce obedience. It was only after sin entered the picture that authority in the family was established (Gen. 3:16). The reason is because at some point imperfect people would inevitably disagree, and someone would have to decide on a course of action.
Once such authority was established, two types of marriage were possible, each characterized by a different Covenant. Husband and wife could have a New Covenant marriage, as at the beginning, or an Old Covenant marriage as a remedy for disunity and disagreement.
This principle applies also to the soul and spirit within each person. The soul is corruptible and has lost the original ability to hear and obey God, so it is handicapped. The spirit knows all things and has access to the God of all knowledge. Hence, the spirit is supposed to be the one in authority over the soul in an Old Covenant marriage relationship until such time that the two come fully into unity and agreement.
Here is where the virgin birth of Christ is important. Jesus’ soul was not begotten by a mortal man passing on mortal, corruptible seed. Hence, His soul was never in a state of disagreement with His spirit. His soul and spirit were in a perfect New Covenant relationship at all times. His soul continued to have normal fleshly desires and needs. Yet in His hunger, He refused to eat, for He was led by the Spirit (Matt. 4:2-4). As He faced the cross, He said, “My soul is deeply grieved… yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:38, 39).
New Covenant marriages work only when both husband and wife hear from God independently and both come to the same conclusions. That is why Jesus’ soul did not simply submit to the leading of His spirit. The soul needed its own revelation in order to bear witness to the revelation of His spirit. Marriage is essentially established on the principle of the double witness, by which all truth is established (Deut. 19:15). One who simply repeats another person’s truth is only setting forth hearsay and is disqualified as a genuine witness.
The fourth-century church postulated a faulty image of the two natures of Christ, thinking that the earthly nature (“Son of Man”) was somehow in disagreement with His heavenly nature (“Son of God”). Perhaps they had no revelation of a New Covenant marriage, so they had no example to give them such revelation. Likewise, they thought of Christ’s “two minds” as the conscious minds of two distinct souls, one earthly and the other heavenly.
“The division of both the Gnostic and orthodox Christs is subterranean. As Irenaeus said of the Valentinians, ‘Certainly they confess with their tongues the one Jesus Christ, but in their minds they divide him.’ In both the orthodox and Valentinian Saviors there are two souls, but only one ego dominates: the divine Person. As Mosheim explains, the Gnostics evidently delegated the psychology of the Savior to the divine out of fear that the dominance of the human mind could have led Christ into temptation and sin.” (The God of Jesus, Kegan A. Chandler, pp. 100, 101)
Apparently, few (if any) recognized that the soul and spirit were to be in a marriage relationship. To marry “two souls” would be patterned after a homosexual relationship. The most common Gnostic view of two natures (heavenly and earthly) was not necessarily patterned after a homosexual marriage, but it was certainly one where the heavenly dominated the earthly in an Old Covenant relationship.
But as I said earlier, an Old Covenant relationship implies disagreement that would require one will to overrule the other. Hence, their view of Christ’s “two natures” was fatally flawed, and even the church itself did not have sufficient revelation to resolve this problem. Apparently, they did not really understand Paul’s commentary in 1 Corinthians 2 about where we obtain divine knowledge. By assuming the Greek view of body and spiritual soul, they did not understand the third option (truth) that Paul had presented.
The fourth century church wrestled with Christ’s relationship to God the Father and to the Trinity without first understanding the tripartite nature of Christ, with which all of us are born. They did not know how to give Him due honor apart from Greek lenses.
The early Gnostics, who taught that matter was evil, struggled to discover how the Holy Spirit could indwell an “evil” earthly body. The later church wrestled to know how a good God could come bodily to the earth in the Person of Jesus Christ. They split hairs in order to proclaim their doctrinal opponents “heretics,” only to discover the need for another council to dissect those hairs even further.
The entire process ended with an authoritarian church that demanded conformity to the latest creed on pain of death. Men lost the right to hear God for themselves and to receive personal revelation from God. Freedom of conscience was lost for more than a thousand years until it was regained (somewhat) in the Protestant Reformation and later institutionalized in the American Constitution.