The moment we repent, and accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, our spirits become justified. They are fully redeemed in the eyes of God. There is no further judgement of the spirit due to Christ’s atonement on the cross. In fact, we are told in Ephesians 2 that Christians are seated with Christ in heavenly places! That means right now. This is an awesome thing for which we should be eternally grateful. However, far too many Christians think that the justification of their spirit is enough…singing about being redeemed and dreaming about heaven and the rooms prepared for them in the mansions of heaven. But we need to remember that just as God is a 3 part being, so are we who are created in His image. Our spirit is justified and redeemed, but we still have 2 other parts of our being…body and soul.
Our bodies are the decaying shell that will eventually return to dust. While we can, and should, steward our bodies well while we still have them, they will not be carried over into eternity because we will receive new, heavenly bodies (see 2 Corinthians 5:1-10). Scripture has a lot to say about the use, and misuse, of our bodies and we would do well to read and study these scriptures as there is yet a judgement to come regarding body and soul. Still of more importance, than the mortal bodies we currently reside in, are our immortal souls.
The soul is the part of us that we really need to be most concerned about. Our soul consists of our mind, will, and emotions. Unlike the instant redemption and justification of our spirit, our soul must go through a transformational process. The deeds we do in this body will ultimately be judged at the Judgement Seat of Christ (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10), based on how redeemed or unredeemed our souls were while we were living in our mortal bodies.
The Lord gave me a great analogy to illustrate the differences between spirit and soul. Let’s say the Christian life is like going to college. You first have to be accepted to the college. Being accepted into college IS a cause for celebration, but at some point, the first day of school comes along and you have to get to work by going to classes, taking tests, studying, etc. All of this takes dedication, sacrifices, focused intent and time. If you are a good student, you graduate with a degree, in a specialized area, and go on to work in that field to make some sort of difference in the world.
Well, in Christianity there are a lot of people who get accepted to “college” (Family of God), but then never go on to study, pass tests or gain the knowledge necessary to not only be better versions of themselves, but to also go out and share their gained knowledge and wisdom to help others. Or perhaps they started, but it became too difficult, or a ministry or church offended them, so they quit putting in the effort…reasoning that just being accepted is enough. This is not how it’s supposed to be in our Christian walk. We are not meant to stop with a redeemed spirit. In fact, the new testament is FULL of instruction on HOW to redeem your soul and not misuse your body. We are instructed to renew our minds; taught by Jesus himself that we are to pray God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven (this includes our personal will, by the way); and to consider all things (including difficult, sad, hard things) joy. We are commanded to work out our salvation with fear and trembling…well, that refers to our soul’s redemption/salvation that has to be worked out because our spirit is already saved. Those of us who have professed to be Christians for any length of time should be producing fruits of the Spirit, indicating redemption of the soul is in progress. We should have a goal of purifying our souls to such a degree that the only words our Lord and Savior can say to us on Judgement Day is, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Sadly, it seems that many American Christians need to be admonished, much like Paul admonished the Corinthian church for their lack of growth. He called them infants because they could not move past the milk of the word and onto the meat. He called them “fleshly” because of their jealousy and strife. Where do jealousy and strife originate? The soul. Jesus referred to the Pharisees as “white-washed tombs” because they had a form of religion that made them look good on the outside, but inside (their souls) were like tombs…full of death.
If we hope to “graduate”, and have our souls redeemed, we need to get to the place where we are able to take the knowledge gained, (from putting focused effort into change, growth, discipline and becoming holy…as He is holy), and use that to effect change in our families, churches and culture. We MUST partner with the Holy Spirit so that the joint effort produces much fruit. The world is starving for this fruit! Many people are extremely hungry, but have no idea what for, so they try to quench that hunger with things that will never satisfy. The world desperately needs the church to grow up, through personal redemption of the soul, so that we can effectively show others the way to live a life of peace, joy, purity, love and grace that comes from allowing Jesus to take His rightful place as Lord of our lives and not just as Savior.