Christians seem to mature on quite different time schedules. There are a variety of reasons as to why this is so, but I think the primary stumbling blocks to Christian growth fall into three misunderstandings:


(1)     not understanding the separate elements of oneself

(2)     not understanding the difference between spirit and soul salvation (links to the #1 lack of understanding)

(3)     not understanding fully one's identity in Christ Jesus

This chapter addresses mainly point #1; the remainder of the book covers 2 & 3.

   One school of thought is that humans are bipartite (two parts) in nature: the body representing the physical side and spirit/soul (combined) representing the spiritual side. I presume this thinking is founded on the fact that all life can be reduced to the seen and the unseen (i.e., natural and spiritual).

   But I believe a two-sided presumption is not as helpful, nor as accurate, in understanding our total nature as seeing that a tripartite system is the correct basis of our being. Even physics shows that God created a universe with three aspects of its materiality and other constitution: e.g., liquids, solids and gases; width, height and depth, three basic colors, etc. But actually and more importantly, the Bible clearly presents the picture that people are "three-sided" beings. The following verse illustrates this truth:


"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (My emphasis.) 1 Thes. 5:23.

Thus, reason suggests, and scripture asserts, that humans are triune — spirit, soul and body. Acceptance of this understanding seems not only most rational, but once embraced, we discover that many other passages literally spring open with new life, scriptures which remain somewhat obscure without the concept as a basis for study. The following verse confirms the above verse, and also tells us that our three-sided composition can be divided, including even thoughts and motives:


"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow (i.e., body), and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (My emphasis.) Hebrews 4:12.

   Surely God has designed us so that our spirit, soul and body are integrated into an individual, whole entity. But, according to the above scripture, it is quite appropriate to "dissect" ourselves into these components, probably God’s way of teaching us how to get an accurate view of how it all works, and to learn how God deals with the separate aspects of our being. Now, let's explore a little further into each region of our triune self, keeping in mind that the purpose here is to get a clearer picture of man's pre-salvation, lost state and a Christian's, post-regeneration, saved state.



   I've heard it preached all my life — as I suspect have most of you — that the unsaved are “spiritually dead”. Searching the scriptures to establish the Biblical accuracy of this term, I was surprised by not finding a verse that actually says this. Now I know and agree with what ministers mean when they say this — that when Adam and Eve fell they became separated from God and thus died spiritually, and that all humanity since that time are likewise born spiritually dead. Scriptures like Ephesians 2:1 are used to affirm this position:


"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins...."

Now, just as an exercise in basic logic, let me make two statements and you decide if they mean the same thing:


   1.   All humans are born separated from God and thus are dead in trespasses and sins.


   2.   All humans are born spiritually dead.

It is my strong guess that those who use the “spiritually dead" term are actually thinking what I have written in number 1 when they make their declaration. That is, when they say #2, they mean #1. But actually, there is a big difference between these two statements. Here's why: The first allows the spirit to be alive at natural birth, although separated from God; but the second statement leaves the distinct impression that the spirit itself is dead, or even non-existent, at the natural birth.

   I believe that we should say no more than the Bible does, that all are born into this world "dead in trespasses and sins". The scriptures are clear here, indicating that the separated-from-God spirit is "quickened", not made, at the new birth.

   Please don't misunderstand me. The thrust of all biblical revelation is that everyone is born lost. None seek God without God's call and assistance. (See Romans 3:11&23.) Some would argue here that that's what it means to be spiritually dead. I understand and agree with the concept but just think it should be expressed differently. Why am I harping on this so much? Because every part of us is cut off from the Spirit of God as a result of the Fall — body, soul and spirit, not just the spirit. Therefore, if we use the language that unbelievers are spiritually dead, we must also say they are "soulically" dead and bodily dead. The fact is, prior to salvation, one part of our being is as much cut off from God as the other. Think about it.


   At physical death all seeable activity ceases. This includes the body and the soul. But what happens to the spirit of an unsaved person? The Bible teaches that these spirits go to a certain place to await physical resurrection on Judgment Day. And while there, the spirit hears. Look at 1 Peter 3:19:


" whom also He (i.e., Jesus Christ) went and preached to the spirits in prison,..."

In the next verse, Peter makes absolutely clear that these were human spirits as he speaks of them, saying:


"...who formerly were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, eight souls, were saved through water."

So, we see that God did not send non-alive spirits to hell. If they were dead, judgment and punishment loses its meaning. The passage demands the conclusion that the spirits of the unsaved remain alive after physical death.

   And as for believers, we know that at physical death, saved spirits go immediately to be with the Lord Jesus: (2 Cor. 5:8)


"We are confident, I say, and well-pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”


   Thinking along these lines of logical, biblical reasoning is partly what led me to take a closer look at the whole concept of salvation. Hence, this book.


   Genesis 2:17 says that "...for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Many expositors say this means Adam and Eve died spiritually the very day they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If we define this as separation from God, then it's true. But, again, we must remember that every part — spirit, soul and body — was severed from God's Spirit when they sinned, thus rendering them altogether cut off from the life of God, as compared to the way it was before the fall. But their spirits did not cease to exist in reality or function any more than their souls and bodies didn't cease to exist.

   Through inheritance we have all received the consequence of Adam and Eve's original sin. From then on, man's spiritual umbilical-cord (if you will) would be subject to all kinds of unseen spiritual forces. As a result of his sin, Adam's future would be motivated by self-will and also influenced by satanic delusions. But, thank God, in spite of man's rebellion, God began immediately His process of saving man.

   After the Fall, mankind would no longer have the intimate relationship with God that Adam and Eve initially knew. From then until now, man's own ego (biblically called the "old man") became the main source which attempts to satisfy the void in his eternal spirit.

I'm not saying that the life which remains in the spirit of the unsaved is inherent-saving-life. It's simply a part of what we are, just as surely as is true of our soul and body. So that I won't be misunderstood, let me emphasize that, to be saved, an unbeliever's spirit must receive God's life which comes through faith in Christ. The point I'm making here is that the expression 'spiritually dead', used in reference to a person who has a live spirit, is confusing language. (This point is being stressed because the spiritually-dead term is so deeply-rooted in our Christian-preaching culture.)

   The word "spiritually" appears only three times in the whole New Testament. And in none of these verses is it used in reference to those "dead in sins and trespasses".

   Also, the word spiritually is the adverb form of spiritual, which Paul used like this in Eph. 6:12:


"...against spiritual wickedness in high places...".

Now if to be spiritual referred only to Godliness, then the term that unbelievers are spiritually dead wouldn't be quite so misleading. But the above scripture won't allow this limitation, because here the word 'spiritual' is used in reference to evil. So, it appears clear that the question is not whether anyone is spiritually dead, but rather to discern who is providing the input to one's spirit, God or Satan. (I think the semantic problem we face here occurs all too frequently in the Church. Highly influential people coin a wrong term and then the error is passed along until nearly everybody thinks it's a biblical expression. The result? An erroneous tradition is born.)


   Christians do not become sinless after the new birth. In Romans 6, believers are admonished to "reckon" themselves as dead to sin but alive to God. Here, Paul is teaching Christians of their new positional relationship to God. He wants those of us who have trusted Christ as our Savior to:


(1)     see our old nature crucified with Jesus at Calvary (therefore rendered effectively dead), and


(2)     realize we are then made alive with a new nature due to, and in association with, Jesus' resurrection.

   Paul knew if believers could grasp these two terrific faith principles, it would be a great motivator for them to allow Christ to live His life in them. It's easier to see the potential of new life coming to the surface in one’s new self if you can first visualize the underlying basis of the sin nature as dead.

   As we've seen, the unsaved are dead in sin and trespasses, from which there is no escape in one's self power. The sinner must be "born from above". But, it is to the live, eternal, human spirit that the Holy Spirit speaks when the true Gospel is heard by the unsaved. Things that are truly dead don't hear! Yes, it is God the Holy Spirit who "turns the switch on" in our spirit when He convicts us of sin so that we can hear. But He is speaking to something that is already there.

   The spirit refers to the inner life of a person. This is the real you. The reality of the human spirit is what separates us from lower animal life. Though the spirit is related to and communicates with the body and the soulish, five physical senses, it can function without their presence, as we have seen by the fact that Jesus preached to spirits in prison.

   Pneuma is the root word for spirit. It implies wind. But we must not take this concept too far. The human spirit is like wind in the sense it can't be seen with natural eyes. It's not physical in the natural sense of air, but is nevertheless a real entity, commenced when God created Adam and Eve. The same life has been given to all humans.

   The Spirit of God communicates and exerts His influence through the spirit of man. The power to discern, perceive and grasp Divine things, comes via the spirit. It is the 'house' where faith and God's Word are at home in a Christian. Whereas, until the new birth occurs the unsaved individual remains godless because of the fall, personal sin and unbelief. However, we must realize that the human spirit of the unsaved is also capable of hearing and choosing when under the conviction of sin brought on by the Holy Spirit. This is why preaching of God’s gospel works. It is upon the human spirit that the Holy Spirit places His seal when a person trusts Christ. (See Eph. 1:13.)

"In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,."

   In essence, the seal means one is stamped "APPROVED", or "SET ASIDE". It's a pledge of God's permanent ownership of the new believer. It means that which has become sealed is covered over so completely that nothing ungodly can get to it. Lock this point in your mind and it will help unlock many 'mysteries' about salvation. (To be discussed further later.) The above verse is clear: "...after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,...".

   Now, for sure, God's sovereignty in the matter of salvation is unquestionable. When the Kingdom comes in all its fullness and glory (without even the presence of sin), God will definitely have been behind it all. But in this present age, it is extremely important for us to keep an exact biblical perspective with regards to God's offer of salvation. The agency of human responsibility has got to fit in here some place.

   I believe the Bible teaches that God allows an unsaved person to accept or reject the Gospel when his spirit is under the convicting influence of the Holy Spirit. This being the case — (1), it represents sufficient proof that our spirit is not actually dead, because it can respond, and (2), the understanding also supports the idea that at least to some degree freedom of choice exists during the initial salvation experience, even though sparked by God. To not believe this way, wipes out the Bible's demand that we accept the responsibility for our sinful condition.

   Prior to salvation, regardless of how we define the concept of our will (i.e., totally free or not), God has a plan that works something like this: On man's side of the initial stage of salvation, when the Holy Spirit decides it's time for a decision to be made, He convicts the sinner and sets the platform of choice before him. After all, one of the primary purposes of the Holy Spirit's coming was to make one feel the reality of personal guilt! (See John 16:8.) It is at this point a God-called sinner can perceive the Gospel, and thus, choose. But we must not confuse awareness of guilt with the new birth. They go hand in hand but are not the same thing. Guilt is a function of the spirit. (With no consideration given to the spirit of man is why mere psychological counseling, which limits its role to the mind, falls short of dealing effectively with the problem of guilt.)


   God saves only those He calls, but the Church must be careful how this is presented. If we preached that God's offer of salvation is available to only a select few and not extended to all who are willing to believe would promote fear (which is the exact opposite of faith) rather than instilling the mind with the biblical view of a loving God Who wants to redeem the lost. Now, for a clear and strong biblical proof that God's salvation has been presented to all men, let's look at

Romans 5:18:


"Therefore as by the offence of one (Adam) judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one (Christ) the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life".

The meaning that seems rational here is this:


(1)     God has offered the "free gift" to all mankind. Those willing to believe can receive it.


(2)     Jesus Christ's shed blood is sufficient to remove all sin, but, according to other scriptures, is applied only to those willing to receive the gift.

It seems imperative to see included here both the universal offer and the will to choose, since God's Word says that "justification of life" is laid before "all men".

   The facts are that the Bible repetitively presents the following general truth: unsaved man is called upon to hear God, consider his own sinful condition, and choose what and whom he will believe. There is no doubt that in His election, God actively seeks, convicts, prompts and urges the sinner, but this alone is not the totality of salvation. God is the author of salvation, but we must keep His actions separate from our responsibilities to His actions. Both God and man are involved in the outcome of the new birth. God gives. Man receives.

   When confronted with 'profound' theological premises, we must never forget the plainness of verses such as John 3:16, Ephesians 1:13 and Romans 5:18, lest we misstate, overstate or misinterpret what God has said. God has reserved many details about salvation for Himself to fully understand. Election is certainly one of these realities.

   Some might say my stand is antagonistic to the biblical fact that "...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". (Romans 3:23) But, realizing that some unsaved people are naturally better than others does not mean I think one doesn't have to possess the indwelling Christ in order to be saved.

   I am agreeable that God alone saves the lost. He also provides the gift of faith to those He calls. But, we must accept the fact that God has designed the Gospel so that it goes forth as if anyone could be saved and then allow the effect it has to be left in God's hands, for we can't know who His called-out ones might be. We must preach "believe and be saved" messages to the lost without discrimination, and leave the saving to God.

   (We shall address some of the ways and steps which God uses to initiate salvation in much greater depth in the next chapter.)


   Speaking of unsaved, depraved people, Paul said,


"...doers of the law will be the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel." (Romans 2:13 & 16. Read all of Romans 1 and 2, especially 2:11-16.)

Is Paul inferring that some will be saved without hearing and responding to the Gospel* in the usual manner? Surely God alone knows the full answer to this difficult passage, but we know He is the ultimate fair Judge of mankind. In any event, if these "will be justified", we must ask the question of "How are some people able to correctly apply God's heart-written laws not having heard or read the Word of God?". Regardless of how this is appraised, at Judgment Day, God will evaluate these people the same way as all believers — "...according to my Gospel” (i.e., Paul’s gospel). It seems that the commonality of these who lack Bible knowledge and those who are fortunate to have it is both having faith in the God who created them.


*You will note that I often capitalize gospel. I do this to emphasize that I am thinking of the one and only true Gospel — God’s gospel — the biblical gospel — the “good news”— not just any gospel.

It would be incorrect for the reader to assume I'm saying that one can gain entry into God's heaven by being good enough. What I've suggested regarding the above scripture provides only a thread of hope for salvation coming to anyone other than those who outwardly profess Christ as Savior. I'm not minimizing the preaching of the Gospel. God forbid! My intent is merely to provide an answer that agrees with what the passage says. Again, Paul seems to be saying that some people will be granted spirit salvation who didn't receive the Gospel in the "normal" manner. Thus, if this is indeed the correct understanding, it means that in these special cases, God exercises His sovereign and omnipotent power and wisdom, knowing that these would have believed the Gospel had it been presented and taught them in the usual way.

    An underlying premise here is that people experience a sense of guilt when they do something wrong. This is present even in children and it extends into adulthood. Guilt presumes inner knowledge of right and wrong and it's seen to some degree in all cultures. Thus, because guilt is present in everyone, we have another reason to deduct that the spirit must be presumed alive.

   Of course, beginning at the physical birth, everyone is on a declining spiritual course. This is displayed by the fact that repeated sinfulness leads to an ever-diminishing sense of guilt. However, the presence of any degree of remorse establishes the truth and reality that the human spirit is alive and, therefore, reachable. It is appropriate and rational to say that, from birth onward, the sensitivity of the unsaved spirit is dulled by sin and its consequences and moves downward as life goes on.

   I'm not saying that the work of the Holy Spirit is merely one of rejuvenating the "old man" in us. But the Comforter does use the same, severed, eternal spirit to plant the "seed" of God in a new believer in Christ. The Bible calls this seed the new man. A brand new thing has happened — spiritual birth given by God occurs at this point. From then on, the eternal spirit of man has the built-in ability to appreciate and to do Godly things. Of course, it is due to access to the Holy Spirit that this can be done. And until God plants this seed into a person, he/she can be considered "spiritually dead", not in the sense that no spirit existed prior to the implanted, new life, but in the sense that the seed of God's new-man was not there beforehand. In terms of eternal destiny, it doesn’t matter whether the initial birth came by human preaching or by God's personal sovereign action. It’s a gift of God in both cases.


   To clarify further, don't be confused because I said a "spiritual birth" occurs at the time belief is exercised in Jesus. Some might conclude this means that prior to that point one has no spirit. No, what I am saying is that a new believer has a new man in his spirit. This new man is an undefiled, born-of-God, perfect being. From then onward, one has the inward capacity of becoming a God-like man, capable of renewing his own soul.

   The new man in one’s personal spirit hears from God. Someday a new kind of body will be given to match this new person. But, in this world, the new man in one’s spirit is destined to become the teacher to our same body and soul we've always had. The old man (the former teacher) was crucified at the new birth, but, to be fruitful, must be reckoned as dead.

   It is evident that we are eternal beings from the day we were first born, not from the first day we are born again. Remember, the eternal spirit is going somewhere when one dies regardless of whether he/she is saved. Therefore, to repeat, we must be careful how we use the term spiritually dead. Once God gives us life, existence of our spirit being remains forever.


   Angels are spirit beings. Some serve God. Some serve Satan; the latter are called demons. Not even demons, already judged and sentenced to hell, can be considered "spiritually dead" in the non-existent sense. (Are you beginning to see why the term "spiritually dead" can be misleading? We may be discovering why the actual term doesn't appear in the Bible.)


Demons do not have bodies like ours but they can enter and influence humans. And, having entered, in some cases they can then affect the five physical senses much like the human spirit does. And if left unabated, they can reach a level of almost total control of that individual. A demon can sometimes so completely smother a human spirit that the person may take on the attributes of the foreign spirit itself! The best way to describe this situation is to say one is demonized (not possessed). Demonic possession implies ownership and such a phenomenon is foreign to Scripture. Demonization is a more appropriate term when people have yielded themselves to satanic and/or demonic control. [Of course, God's sovereign influence never ceases, regardless of the severity of outside, evil influences. But we must realize that one who practices sin opens the door to supernatural, evil, spiritual activity.]


Although it will probably disturb some readers, and the full explanation goes beyond the scope of this presentation, demonization can also occur in Christians. It is often responsible for keeping some believers in terrible bondage. Sadly, they remain this way due to lack of spiritual understanding and perhaps because they are surrounded by teachers who don't believe these things and/or don't know how to provide the deliverance.

   So, even though it is virtually impossible to keep spirit, soul and body absolutely separate in our thinking, the Bible clearly distinguishes between them. Obviously God's design of that which comprises a person is integration of all the 'parts' into a single entity. However, it is not irrational (nor unbiblical) to make wise distinctions between each aspect of our being. Let's look at the soul.


   Thayer's Lexicon and Strong's Concordance both relate "soul" (psuche-GR) and "spirit" (pneuma-GR) to wind, or breath. But they do make this difference: soul is related to the animal-sentient principle — i.e., having to do with the human senses. Whereas, spirit leans more to the invisible aspect of one’s being. Paul clearly had two different things in mind, because as we saw in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, he used both words in the same sentence. Surely his intent was to convey that soul (the natural, sensory aspect) refers to that part of us which has several attributes such as the mind, human consciousness, will, and emotions — i.e., basically one’s personality.

   The soul can be considered the control center of thought, actions, memory, intelligence, etc. It is our human life. The soul can be affected by a variety of forces: (1) one’s own body, (2) the inner spirit, (3) the world, (4) Satan and demons, (5) God's angels and (6) by the Holy Spirit. It is here that willful decisions are made. These decisions are based upon the information which God initially implanted in us, plus all that has been recorded there through experiences and training.

   The soul is the battle ground where most spiritual conflict occurs between the forces of God, the Holy Spirit, angels, our own spirit — vs — Satan, demons, the world, and sin. For as long as we are in this world, there is no absolute state of perfection in the soul. Soul-life needs renewing. It may be a shocking discovery to some readers, but the soul, in a very real sense, actually needs “saving” after the new birth! This is in addition to, and occurs subsequent to, the perfect creation which happens in the spirit at the new birth.

   Most evangelical Christians believe in sanctification, but it seems that few see the distinction between spirit and soul salvation. When the new man is alive in the spirit, one has the potential of elevating the soul to a higher performance level. This is where soteria begins, which gets into the whole matter of salvation as a process in the soul, rather than a single incident that occurs at only one point in time as in spirit salvation.


   Not a lot needs to be said to prove the body's existence. It is natural, visible, and everybody accepts its reality. Quite obviously we still have the same body after the new birth. The Bible sometimes calls it the “temple”. The body houses both spirit and soul. It is the tangible, physical structure which provides a place for the main, five human senses to exist — i.e., touch, see, hear, smell and taste. The body comprises the *brain and other organs, bones, ligaments, muscles, blood and flesh. It is the 'factory' where physical and chemical actions happen, partly automatic, partly self-induced. [You can't control your heart beat or the production of insulin in your pancreas. But you can increase your heart-rate by running around the track and you can affect the amount of available insulin in your body by the way you eat.]


* {We must differentiate between the mind and the brain. The brain is a physical organ which the spirit and soul use to express inner thoughts and to operate all the body parts. But we've already learned that spirits have rationale without the body. So, the spirit has a mind of its own, which, before salvation, was dominated by the old nature, and after salvation can be controlled by (and is actually under the authority of) the new-man nature.}


   Although I've sort of dissected our parts, we must think and act in a sensible way, realizing we are unitized-creatures and that God holds us accountable for the whole 'house'. Even though only the spirit is eternally sealed at the time of the new birth, we Christians are responsible for the activities which occur in our total being — spirit, soul and body. However, understanding the separate aspects of that which comprises a human being, especially a saved person, should help expand our thinking relative to certain 'mysteries' in the Holy scriptures, and, aid our maturation in Christ in the here-and-now.

   Some teach that when Paul used the terms "spirit and soul and body", he was merely referring to the Church as a whole at Thessalonica. (See 1 Thes. 5:23.) But surely the prayer applies equally to the individual. Such dual-application passages are common in scripture, often referred to as the law, or principle, of double reference. Viewing the Church as a whole, the scripture would infer that the congregation should...


(1)     ...maintain their physical togetherness. This is congregational body-life.


(2) holy lives as a group before God and man. This is soul-life. It could be called 'congregational soteria'.


(3) motivated by co-dependency upon the Holy Spirit's involvement and direction He gives them as a group. This is the spiritual-life of the total congregation.

   But, also, every saved person has spirit-life, soul-life and body-life, and each part in a way parallels that of the Church. Like the bonding that should be evident among the brethren in a congregation, an individual is responsible to completely maintain the unity of the separate aspects of his or her God-designed makeup. For maximum benefit, this must be done accurately and diligently [i.e., to biblical standards] until we meet the Lord, which will be at our physical death or His second coming, whichever occurs first.

   There’s a great difference between spirit and soul salvation. To explain further, spirit salvation is realized by unmerited-favor grace which God extends through one's faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:13 & 2:8-10). All such believers will go to heaven and there is no chance of this salvation being lost (Eph. 1:14). Soul salvation (or sanctification) is attained by works of the believer and is progressive after spirit salvation (Phil. 2:12&13). Seeing this distinction leads to the understanding that soul salvation (not spirit salvation) can in a sense actually be "lost"!!!

   To clearly grasp this, it helps to realize that God’s grace works in two ways in the lives of believers:

(1) One form of grace is the favor of God that is bestowed when the spirit is saved and God extends the gift of faith to a believer. God does all the work here. (Eph.2:8-10 & Jn. 6:29)

(2) The second form of grace is the desire and power to do God's will (Phil. 2:12,13). This is works-based, Holy Spirit-empowered, soul salvation, which establishes the rewards (or lack thereof) that will be received at the Judgment Seat of Christ. (See 1 Cor.3:11-17.) Both forms of grace are unmerited.