Wednesday, December 19, 2018


"What is man, that You do take thought of him?" (Psalm 8:4). We all know that he is "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14), but exactly what is the nature of man?

Mankind has been asking this question, and seeking the answer, almost from the beginning of time.

One of the important truths conveyed in the OT Scriptures, as the nature of man is considered, is that man is a unified whole, rather than a loose fusion of separate and disparate entities. It was much later that the pagans began to influence the thinking of the people of God in the direction of two (dichotomy) or three (trichotomy) distinct parts. This dualistic manner of conceptualizing human beings has persisted throughout most of Christian history, and began in the so-called intertestamental period to influence the Jewish thinking as well.

"A human being is a totality of being, not a combination of various parts and impulses. According to the Old Testament understanding, a person is not a body which happens to possess a soul. Instead, a person is a living soul. ... Because of God's breath of life, the man became 'a living being' (Genesis 2:7). A person, thus, is a complete totality, made up of human flesh, spirit (best understood as 'the life-force'), and nephesh (best understood as 'the total self' but often translated as 'soul')" (Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 61). "The Old Testament truth that people exist as a totality remained firm in New Testament writings" (ibid). "The New Testament illustrates four specific and distinct dimensions of human existence, but the writers of the New Testament affirm with the Old Testament writers that a human being is a totality, a complete whole" (ibid).

"In the Bible, a person is a unity. Body and soul or spirit are not opposite terms, but rather terms which supplement one another to describe aspects of the inseparable whole person. Such a holistic image of a person is maintained also in the New Testament even over against the Greek culture which, since Plato, sharply separated body and soul with an analytic exactness and which saw the soul as the valuable, immortal, undying part of human beings. ... According to the Bible, a human being exists as a whole unit and remains also as a whole person in the hand of God after death. A person is not at any time viewed as a bodyless soul" (ibid, p. 1295-1296).

Dr. Everett Ferguson, a dear brother in Christ, in his book Early Christians Speak: Faith and Life in the First Three Centuries (ACU Press), comments on some statements found in the noted second century work The Epistle to Diognetus (in which are found the statements: "The invisible soul is imprisoned in a visible body" and "The immortal soul dwells in a mortal tent"). Dr. Ferguson observes: "From the standpoint of the Biblical doctrine of man, one can fault the author for his Greek distinction between body and soul. The sharp separation he makes is more in accord with Greek philosophy than it is with the Biblical view of the unity of the whole man" (p. 198). Everett later comments, "The author's anthropology is faulty" (ibid).

"The ancient Hebrews did not approach man dualistically as have the Greeks nor, by implication, the general public of contemporary Western society" (Dr. Arnold De Graaff and Dr. James Olthuis, Toward A Biblical View Of Man, a paper produced for the Institute For Christian Studies, p. 81). "Man is not a soul imprisoned in a body. Both belong together in a psychosomatic unity. ... There is not dualism in the sense of separation, as though there could be full man either as body alone or as soul alone. ...together they make up the one man" (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 134).

"The English translation ... 'soul' has too often been misunderstood as teaching a bipartite (soul and body: dichotomy) or tripartite (body, soul and spirit: trichotomy) anthropology. Equally misleading is the interpretation which too radically separates soul from body as in the Greek view of human nature. Porteous states it well when he says, 'The Hebrew could not conceive of a disembodied soul.' ... As R.B. Laurin has suggested, 'To the Hebrew, man was not a body and a soul, but rather a body-soul, a unity of vital power'" (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 5, p. 496). "What is essential to understanding the Hebrew mind is the recognition that man is a unit: body-soul" (ibid, p. 497).

It is important to note the growing number of scholars who have perceived the doctrine of dualism to be anti-biblical and totally opposed to the true holistic nature of man. This realization is especially vital to our theology, for "what Christians believe about the makeup of their human nature largely determines what they believe about their ultimate destiny" (Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, Immortality or Resurrection? -- A Biblical Study on Human Nature and Destiny, p. 21). "A survey of the studies produced during the last fifty years or so, reveals that the traditional dualistic view of human nature has come under massive attack. Scholars seem to outdo one another in challenging traditional dualism and in affirming Biblical wholism. ... Christianity is coming out of a stupor and is suddenly discovering that for too long it has held to a view of human nature derived from Platonic dualism rather than from Biblical wholism" (ibid).

Thus, as we examine the "parts" of man (body, soul, spirit) we need to keep in mind that these are NOT separate living entities that perhaps can survive apart from one another, and even prosper. Rather, they are integral aspects of the whole man and do not rise to higher, fuller life when freed from one another. Such a concept is pure paganism, and it has no basis in the Scriptures and certainly has no place in the teachings of Christianity.

The biblical view of the nature of man is probably best perceived in Genesis 2:7 -- "Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." One could perhaps present this passage as an equation:

B + B = B
Body + Breath = Being

Let's notice each of these three concepts more closely, especially since some traditionalists see in this verse justification for the doctrine of "immortal soulism."


"Of the thirteen words which refer to the animal or human body, the most frequent is basar, 'flesh.' It can designate the body as a whole, but the form or shape of the body or of its parts is not what is important. The focus is on the function or dynamics" (Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 202). The Greek word most often utilized for the body is "soma."

The body of man was formed from the physical elements that also make up the earth about us. According to one source on the Internet, "A chemical analysis of man's body reveals that it consists of 72 parts oxygen, 13.5 parts carbon, 9.1 parts hydrogen, 2.5 parts nitrogen, 1.3 parts calcium, 1.15 parts phosphorus, and small amounts of potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, magnesium, iron, silicon, iodine, and fluorine. The first six elements listed in this paragraph, therefore, make up more than 99% of man's body."

Although one might want to verify these figures with those better equipped to know than I, nevertheless the point is made that our human bodies consist of common elements found in the physical creation. Phrased more poetically: we are formed from the dust of the ground. In Genesis 3:19 man was informed, "You are dust, and to dust you shall return." Abraham, as he ventured to speak to the Lord, acknowledged, "I am but dust and ashes" (Genesis 18:27). "For He Himself knows our frame (what we are made of); He is mindful that we are but dust" (Psalm 103:14).

Solomon, in speaking of both men and animals, declares, "All came from the dust and all return to the dust" (Eccl. 3:20). He later observes, "Then the dust will return to the earth as it was" (Eccl. 12:7). In Psalm 104, which speaks of the animals, we are informed that the Creator "dost take away their spirit, they expire, and return to their dust" (vs. 29). With regard to the physical composition of man and beast, it is the same. Neither has an advantage over the other in this area (Eccl. 3:19-21). If God should decide to withhold breath/spirit from both, "all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust" (Job 34:15).

"The wordplay between 'adam' and 'adama' (ground, soil) in Gen. 2:7 suggests the relatedness between humanity and the created world" (Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p. 615). "There is a wordplay in the Hebrew text of Genesis 2-3 that indicates an intimate relationship between man (adham) and the ground (adhamah). God formed man of dust from the ground (Gen. 2:7; 3:23), made him to till the ground (2:5; 3:23; cf. 2:15), cursed the ground because he sinned (3:17), and decreed that he should return to the ground from whence he came (3:19). The emphasis throughout Genesis 2-3 seems to be on the frailty and transitoriness of all God's creation, whether vegetable, animal, or man" (John T. Willis, The Living Word Commentary: Genesis, p. 102-103). "Our study of the meaning and use of 'flesh--bashar' in the Old Testament shows that the word generally is used to describe the concrete reality of human existence from the perspective of its frailty and feebleness" (Dr. Samuel Bacchiocchi, Immortality or Resurrection? -- A Biblical Study on Human Nature and Destiny, p. 62).

I imagine there would be little debate between most traditionalists and me over the physical body of man (and by "man" I refer to both male and female -- Gen. 1:27). Our bodies are mortal, and thus subject to death. At some point, unless we are privileged to be alive at the Parousia, we shall die (Heb. 9:27). Thus, our bodies will return to the ground ... dust returning to dust.

The promise of our Lord, however, is that He will awaken us from our "sleep in the dust of the ground" (Daniel 12:2) and we shall be changed, this mortal shall put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:50f), and we shall thus be enabled to forever dwell in the presence of our Lord. The hope of the child of God, therefore, is inextricably linked with the resurrection of the body from the dust of the ground. Without resurrection, either Christ's or our own, we have perished (1 Cor. 15:12-18).


Obviously the physical body is not inherently immortal. Indeed, after the fall, man was barred from the garden and the tree of life (Gen. 3:24) lest he "take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" (Gen. 3:22). Thus, the body itself is destined to die (suffer the loss of life; return to the ground). For some (the redeemed) the hope exists of one day awaking and putting on "everlasting life" (Daniel 12:2), but that is yet future. At the present time there is nothing inherently immortal about our physical bodies.

Thus, the traditionalists (those who believe in man's inherent immortality) must search elsewhere for that special "immortal something" that they believe is part of man's makeup. Some assume it is the "spirit" of man that is immortal. Genesis 2:7 declares, "Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the BREATH of life; and man became a living being." It is this "breath of life," this "spirit of life," that is proclaimed by some to be immortal, and which consciously survives the death of the physical body.

"In the Hebrew there are two words for breath -- neshamah, and more commonly ruach. In general, they are used interchangeably for 'breath' and 'spirit'" (Leroy Edwin Froom, The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers: The Conflict of the Ages Over the Nature and Destiny of Man, Vol. 1, p. 36). The Greek word employed is "pneuma."

"In the OT Hebrew 'ruah' means first of all wind and breath, but also the human spirit in the sense of life force and even personal energy. ... It is explicit that God is the source of human breath. ... In the NT Greek 'pneuma' can mean wind. It can also have the meaning breath. ... Both 'spirit' and 'mind' are used of the whole person and not simply of component parts" (Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p. 1248).

The body of man is animated and sustains life as long as the "breath" dwells within it. In other words, a breathing body is a living body; a body where the breathing has ceased for an extended period is a dead body. God animated the physical body by placing within it the "breath of life." Life is a gift of the Life-Giver. He can also withdraw it. Psalm 104:29, speaking of animals, declares, "Thou dost take away their spirit/breath, they expire, and return to their dust." When the breath departs from the body, the body returns to the dust. Solomon points out that men and beasts "all have the same breath/spirit" (Eccl. 3:19).

This is an interesting fact, and a troubling one, for those who would suggest the "immortal part of man" is the "spirit." Animals have the same spirit!! Thus, if this is the immortal part of man, why not also of the other living creatures? The simple fact of the matter is, when the breath is withdrawn, men and animals die. God is the Giver of this gift of the breath of life, and thus this life-force returns to Him who gave it. "The dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit/breath will return to God who gave it" (Eccl. 12:7). This passage does not suggest some "immortal spirit" (which is the real us) flies off to heaven to dwell with God. It merely declares the life-force has departed the body (thus rendering it a dead body). Since God is the Giver of this life-force, it is depicted as returning to Him who bestowed it.

Notice Ezekiel 37 (the vision of the valley of dry bones). The prophet was asked, "Can these bones live?" (vs. 3). Ezekiel didn't really commit himself, so the Lord said of the bones, "Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. And I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin, and put breath in you that you may come alive" (vs. 5-6). The prophet watched as the bodies were recreated and reformed. "But there was no breath in them" (vs. 8). Then he was told to prophesy, "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life" (vs. 9). He did so, and "breath came into them, and they came to life, and stood on their feet" (vs. 10). This is almost reminiscent of Gen. 2:7, isn't it? God formed man, and breathed into him the breath of life, and man became a living being! The breath is the life-force of the body. Without it the body is dead. And this gift of the breath of life comes from God. "In Him we live and move and exist (have our being)" (Acts 17:28). "He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25).

It should also be pointed out that "spirit" is not infrequently used in Scripture to represent the less physical aspects of man's being --- personality, emotions, attitude, and the like. Thus, one might be "mean-spirited" or have a broken or contrite spirit (Psalm 51). These terms do not suggest an immortal being trapped inside the body, but merely reflect the mental and emotional aspects of man's nature. "In both the Old and New Testaments, spirit is used of humans and of other beings. When used of humans, spirit is associated with a wide range of functions including thinking and understanding, emotions, attitudes, and intentions. ... Spirit is used extensively with human emotions. ... A variety of attitudes and intentions are associated with spirit" (Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 1300).

Some suggest that Psalm 31:5 ("Into Thy hand I commit my spirit"), which was voiced by Christ on the cross, proves that the "spirit/breath" is the immortal something which survives death, and is that immortal, conscious, personal part of us that lives on with God. However, the "spirit" of both men (good and wicked) and animals is withdrawn unto God. This seems to preclude such dualistic notions (unless you want heaven infested with the "immortal spirits" of rodents!!). All that is suggested by this expression is that the one expiring is entrusting back to God the gift of the breath of life. The confident hope and expectation of such a statement, of course, is that He will raise us back up and bestow the gift of life once again. Paul, as he contemplated his impending death, wrote confidently: "I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until/for that day" (2 Tim. 1:12). I think Paul also knew that his breath of life was in good hands, and would one day be bestowed again when his body was raised from the dust of the ground and reconstituted!

"There is no indication in the Bible that the spirit of life given to man at creation was a conscious entity before it was given. This gives us reason to believe that the spirit of life has no conscious personality when it returns to God. The spirit that returns to God is simply the animating life principle imparted by God to both human beings and animals for the duration of their earthly existence" (Dr. SamueleBacchiocchi: Immortality or Resurrection? -- A Biblical Study on Human Nature and Destiny, p. 74). "Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. His breath/spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish" (Psalm 146:3-4).


Well, if it isn't the spirit/breath which is that "immortal something" within us that survives the death of the body, these traditionalists theorize, then it must be the "soul." This is the one that most traditionalists choose as being the immortal part of man. In fact, the expression "immortal soul" has become very common in Christendom. The readers might be surprised to discover, however, that the phrase "immortal soul" NEVER appears in the Bible ... not even once!!

"Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living SOUL/being" (Genesis 2:7). Some traditionalists virtually equate this last phrase ("living soul") with "immortal soul." But, that is NOT what the passage says. God put breath within this body and the body became a living being. The exact same words are used of animals in Scripture. Further, the text doesn't say man was GIVEN a soul --- it says man BECAME a soul. Big difference!!

A fellow minister once told me: "The one thing which distinguishes man from monkey is his 'living soul.' To my knowledge this expression is used ONLY of man; I don't find it used of bugs or bulls." Thus, according to this minister, that which makes man unique among the living creation of God is: man has a "living soul," and those other life forms DO NOT. Again, we see this phrase "living soul" incorrectly being equated with "IMMORTAL soul."

It would probably shock a great many to know that the phrase "living soul" is actually used more often in Genesis with reference to animals than with reference to man!! Notice some of these other passages where "living soul" IS used of bugs, bulls, birds and beasts.

  • GENESIS 1:20 --- "Then God said, 'Let the waters teem with swarms of LIVING SOULS, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens. '"
  • GENESIS 1:21 --- "And God created the great sea monsters, and every LIVING SOUL that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good."
  • GENESIS 1:24 --- "Then God said, 'Let the earth bring forth LIVING SOULS after their kind: cattle and creeping things (here are the "bugs and bulls") and beasts of the earth after their kind;' and it was so."
  • GENESIS 2:19 --- "And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each LIVING SOUL, that was its name."
  • GENESIS 9:15-16 --- "...and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every LIVING SOUL of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every LIVING SOUL of all flesh that is on the earth."
Lest you think "poor demented, deluded Al" has REALLY lost it here, let me quote from an article by a well-known and respected scholar in the Churches of Christ: Dr. Jack P. Lewis (who was formerly a professor at Harding Graduate School of Religion). In an article entitled "Living Soul," which appeared in the March 16, 1976 issue of Firm Foundation, he began by quoting Gen. 2:7. Then, he wrote the following (I am only quoting a small portion of that article):

  • "It is in particular the line of reasoning premised upon this verse which argues that man has a living soul and that animals do not have souls that I wish us to look. For many people this verse in Genesis describes the one distinctive thing that makes man different from animals.
  • "The phrase at issue in this passage is NEPHESH HAYYAH which occurs in several Old Testament passages and is translated into Greek as PSUCHE ZOSA.
  • "That which has been obscured to us because of variety in our English translation is that the creatures are also NEPHESH HAYYAH. Only in one out of the several passages where NEPHESH HAYYAH occurs is man the exclusive object of discussion.
  • "It would seem that arguments which try to present the distinctiveness of man from the term 'living soul' are actually based on the phenomena of variety in translation of the KJV and have no validity in fact. Had the translators rendered all these occurrences by the same term, we would have been aware of the fact that both men and animals are described by it."
As Dr. Lewis has pointed out, many of the translations (perhaps following the lead of the KJV and its self-proclaimed desire to provide "variety" in translation) have rendered this term "living CREATURE" when it is used of animals, but "living SOUL" when speaking of man. Yet the term is exactly the same for both in the original!!

The word itself simply conveys the concept of "BEING," or "LIFE." When God took this body He had created from the dust of the ground and breathed into it the breath of life, that body then BECAME a living, breathing BEING. This is said of both man and animal.And that is ALL the original text says!!! Nothing is ever said in these passages about either man or beast (or bug or bird) being anything other than "living BEINGS."

"Soul" is not what a living, animate physical body HAS, rather "soul" is what a living, animate physical body IS. They cannot be separated. "Body and soul cannot be observed separate from one another. Body and soul do not form two separate substances. Instead, they comprise the one individual human in inseparable union. ... Also in the New Testament body and soul are two inseparable aspects of the one human being -- Matthew 6:25" (Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 202).

"The Hebrew word nephesh is a key Old Testament term (755 times) referring to human beings. ... A person does not have a soul. A person is a living soul (Gen. 2:7). That means a living being that owes life itself to the Creator just as the animal does (Gen. 2:19). ... The soul does not represent a divine, immortal, undying part of the human being after death as the Greeks often thought" (ibid, p. 1295).

A brother in Christ, John T. Willis, in his commentary on Genesis (Sweet Publishing Company), writes, "The Hebrew expression nephesh chayyah, which some insist on translating 'a living soul,' is used of fish and marine life in Genesis 1:20,21; land animals in 1:24; beasts, birds and reptiles in 1:30; and beasts and birds in 2:19. If 'soul' means the eternal part of man ... in Genesis 2:7, it must mean the eternal part of a fish ... in Genesis 1:20, 21; etc." (p. 103-104). "The word translated 'being' in the RSV (nephesh) means the whole person" (ibid, p. 104).

"While man became a living soul, he did not thereby automatically become an immortal soul, or being. The same Hebrew term, 'living soul,' is applied to the lower animals. In fact, nephesh (soul) is four times applied to the lower animals before it is used of man -- in Genesis 1:20, 21, 24, 30. And out of the first thirteen usages in Genesis, nephesh is nine times used of the lower animals. ... Man BECAME a living soul -- a single entity, an inseparable unit, a unique individual. ... The soul is the living person or being himself, not a separate, independent 'something'" (Leroy Edwin Froom, The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers: The Conflict of the Ages Over the Nature and Destiny of Man, Vol. 1, p. 34-35, 39).
"Far from referring simply to one aspect of a person, 'soul' refers to the whole person" (Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p. 1245). This word, like "spirit," can also be used figuratively to refer to the seat of emotions in place of personal pronouns, or to refer to one's entire self/being. It also can refer to life itself. When Jesus spoke of the destruction of both "soul and body" in Gehenna, He was referring to the fact that only God has the power to destroy not only the body, but also the very BEING of a person. Men can only kill the body, but God can always raise it right back up. Only God can so destroy a person's BEING that nothing exists!! Thus, "soul" conveys the idea of not just a physical body, but the very BEINGNESS of the person!! MAN can end another man's "being" temporarily; GOD can end a man's "being" forever!!!

The "soul" is even said to reside in the blood!! "For the soul of the flesh is in the blood" (Lev. 17:11). In Gen. 9:4 we are told the "soul" IS the blood. This simply means the LIFE of the body. It in no way speaks of some "immortal something" actually living in the blood, or being the blood. Just as life is connected to breath/breathing, so also is life connected to the coursing of blood through one's veins. Without either the body is dead (a dead soul, not a living soul).

"The word translated 'soul' contains no idea of a spiritual existence. ... Really the word refers to the natural life of animals and men, maintained by breathing, or in some way extracting oxygen from the atmospheric air" (Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. 1, p. 19). Brother T. Pierce Brown, in an article entitled "Soul and Spirit" (Gospel Advocate, June 14, 1979), wrote, "A consideration of EVERY (emphasis his) passage in which these terms are used leads us to the conclusion that the term 'soul' is a term that was applied in the Bible to every being that normally has sensory capacities (life), whether or not they have that capacity when the term is applied to them. For example, one might see a body of a dead person and say, 'That poor soul is dead.' The Bible uses the term that way, even as we do, and it has nothing at all to do with the immortality or mortality of the soul. It simply means that the PERSON (the one who HAD life -- soul -- sensory capacity) is dead."

"A doctrine of the immortality of the soul is not stated in the Bible and is not clearly defined in early rabbinical literature" (Encyclopedia of Jewish Religion). "Summing up, we can say that the expression 'man became a living soul -- nephesh hayyah' does not mean that at creation his body was endowed with an immortal soul, a separate entity, distinct from the body. Rather, it means that as a result of the divine inbreathing of the 'breath of life' into the lifeless body, man became a living, breathing being, no more, no less. The heart began to beat, the blood to circulate, the brain to think, and all the vital signs of life were activated. Simply stated, 'a living soul' means 'a living being'" (Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, Immortality or Resurrection? -- A Biblical Study on Human Nature and Destiny, p. 46).

Although the Bible does not teach this doctrine, in 1513 A.D. at the Fifth Lateran Ecumenical Council, the Pope issued a decree (aimed primarily at Luther and his associates) that condemned "all who assert that the intellectual soul is mortal." It was declared that the soul was immortal, and "we declare every assertion contrary to the truth of illumined faith to be altogether false; and, that it may not be permitted to dogmatize otherwise, we strictly forbid it, and we decree that all who adhere to affirmations of this kind of error are to be shunned and punished as detestable and abominable heretics and infidels who disseminate everywhere most damnable heresies and who weaken the Catholic faith."

Brother Curtis Dickinson, a longtime acquaintance, wrote, "The Pope's decree turned many from hope in a resurrection to belief in an immortal soul" (The Witness, Vol. 35, No. 11, November, 1995). Needless to say, this decree brought forth strong opposition from those who sought to teach the truth of the Scriptures. Luther declared it was the Pope, not the Bible, who taught, "the soul is immortal." In his Table Talk Luther declared -- "Now if one should say that Abraham's soul lives with God but his body is dead, this distinction is rubbish. I will attack it. That would be a silly soul if it were in heaven and desired its body!!" William Tyndale (1484-1536), an English Bible translator and martyr, wrote, "And ye, in putting them (the departed souls) in heaven, hell and purgatory, destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection." Tyndale argued that if souls were already in either bliss or misery, "then what cause is there of the resurrection?" And what cause is there even of judgment? In another part of this same writing, Tyndale said -- "The true faith putteth forth the resurrection, which we be warned to look for every hour. The heathen philosophers, denying that, did put that the soul did ever live. And the Pope joineth the spiritual doctrine of Christ and the fleshly doctrine of philosophers together; things so contrary that they cannot agree. And because the fleshly-minded Pope consenteth unto heathen doctrine, therefore he corrupteth the Scripture to stablish it. If the soul be in heaven, tell me what cause is there for the resurrection?"

Yes, the doctrine of "immortal soulism" is a pernicious doctrine of demons, and it undermines some of the basic core doctrines of Christianity. It had its seed in the lie of Satan in the garden and has been perpetuated by pagans and the Catholic hierarchy. Sadly, many even in the Lord's church continue to preach it from the pulpits to precious unsuspecting souls.

In summation, the nature of man is: Body + Breath = Being!! Man is a unified whole, not a conglomeration of distinct, disparate entities. Man IS a living being; man does not POSSESS a living being! Man is entirely mortal in nature; no part of him is inherentlyimmortal, although through God's grace man has the potential and the promise of a conferred immortality in Christ Jesus at the resurrection. The Lord "alone possesses immortality" (1 Tim. 6:16), but if we "seek for immortality" (Rom. 2:7) we shall "put on" immortality (1 Cor. 15:54) after our resurrection from the dust of the ground. For the redeemed of God there is this promise: "God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life" (1 John 5:11-12). Our great Savior Jesus Christ has "brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher" (2 Tim. 1:10-11). May we each be teachers and preachers of the true nature of man, and the true nature of our hope of immortality, which is in HIM ... not in ourselves.

Written by Al maxey

Wednesday, November 28, 2018



1 Unto you, O LORD, do I lift up my soul.
2  O my God, I trust in you: let me not be ashamed, let not my enemies triumph over me.
3  Yea, let none that wait on you be ashamed: let them be ashamed who transgress without cause.
4  Shew me your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.
5  Lead me in your truth, and teach me: for you are the God of my salvation; on you do I wait all the day.
6  Remember, O LORD, your tender mercies and your lovingkindness; for it has ever been of old.
7  Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to your mercy remember me for your goodness’ sake, O LORD.
8 Good and upright is YEHOVAH: therefore will He teach sinners in the way.
9  The meek will He guide in judgment: and the meek will He teach His way.
10  All the paths of YEHOVAH are mercy and truth unto such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.
11  For your name’s sake, YEHOVAH, pardon my iniquity; for it is great.
12  What man is he that fears YEHOVAH? Him shall He teach in the way that he shall choose.
13  His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth.
14  The secret of YEHOVAH is with them that fear - deeply respect Him; and He will show them His covenant.
15 My eyes are ever toward YEHOVAH; for He shall pluck my feet out of the net.
16  Turn you unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.
17  The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring me out of my distresses.
18  Look upon my affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.
19  Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred.
20  O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in you.
21  Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on you.

22  Redeem Israel, O God, out of all it's troubles.

Saturday, November 10, 2018


Beatitudes and the Fruit
of the Spirit

Today we continue our study in the word of God as we study the Beatitudes, that is, the blessings that we read at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. The words which begin “Blessed are...” - all these blessings are called the Beatitudes.

We have now studied all of these nine Beatitudes but we must come to the question as to whether there is some kind of sequence, whether there is some kind of order, whether there is some kind of direction in these Beatitudes. Our purpose is not that we just study them individually and singly, but that we also understand whether there is some internal relationship between these Beatitudes, whether they form some kind of entity; some kind of unified whole. Now many suggestions have been put forward, or maybe at least a number of suggestions have been put forward as to how each beatitude or some of the Beatitudes might relate to each other. Having looked at these suggestions, I must confess that they do not really satisfy me. They do not really answer my questions and I find that they are exegetically inadequate. Now then, what is this internal unity of these Beatitudes?

So I kept pondering over these Beatitudes, meditating about them to see whether there was some internal connection that is not superficial but is exegetically sound. That means it is a correct exposition of the lord’s teaching and yet does not miss out any part. In other words, [it needs to be] an explanation that does not just account for 2 or 3 beatitudes relating to another 2 or 3 of them but does serve as a unified whole. How should we then find, how shall we understand these nine Beatitudes? I must say to you, the more I meditate on the word of God, the more I am amazed at its beauty and structure.

The Tough Task of Conveying What Is Perceived

My only regret often is that I am not always equal to the task of conveying to you or describing to you what I might perceive myself. In other words, seeing something is quite different from being able to put into words what you see. That is why when you come to, for example, the Apocalypse - the Revelation - and see John trying to describe his heavenly vision, you can see that John is really struggling. He is having a very hard time trying to describe what he actually sees. So the reader looks at it and all he can see is strange beasts and animals who climb out of the sea or go into the sea and doing all kinds of strange things. The more you read it, the more you wonder what John is trying to say. This seems almost like some kind of supernatural zoo with all kinds of strange beasts crawling in and out of the water and over the earth and the like. But then, when you ponder it, you realize that John is trying to describe something that is most difficult to put into words in the human language, or to convey the spiritual vision that he has seen.

Now I do not at all claim to have reached anywhere near the spiritual heights of John. Whereas he is way up there, I am hovering somewhere much nearer the ground (and I pray that perhaps in God’s grace I shall progress more and more as time proceeds). But I still also feel the same problem that many times though you perceive something - you see it - it is nevertheless very hard to put across clearly and easily, in a way that is easily understood. So God helping me, I will try to see if there is some means by which we can get a panoramic view, as it were, a kind of spiritual vision of the contents of these Beatitudes. I say again as I confess, many times when I, even in the last few weeks when I preached on the Beatitudes, I went away feeling discouraged in the sense that I felt that I have not really succeeded in conveying to you what I saw. That is where the problem is. But I pray that you may not therefore depend entirely upon my words to get the vision, but that the Spirit of God will help you as you listen to the expositions of God’s word to see what it is that the Lord wants to say directly to you. Thus, perhaps the Spirit will make up, indeed more than make up, any shortfalls or limitations of expression or utterance on my part.

The Nine Beatitudes and the Nine-fold Fruit of the Spirit

Here are nine Beatitudes. I am sure you have already observed that there are nine of them. What is the internal unity of these nine? I have many times mentioned to you the important principle that Paul is the commentator par excellence, the commentator extraordinaire of the teaching of the lord Jesus. In other words, what we have in the NT is the text which is the teaching of the lord Jesus, and the commentary which is Paul’s exposition and application of the words of the lord Jesus. I have found time and again when you are somewhat in difficulty about understanding precisely the meaning of what the lord Jesus is saying, you will find somewhere in the teaching of Paul the matter well expounded and much more clearly set forth than we could do ourselves. Now there are nine Beatitudes and so I looked around to see whether Paul had expounded elsewhere something that had a nine-fold application. I am sure that when I say nine-fold, something immediately springs to your mind. So by the leading question, I have more or less given you the answer. Immediately many of you will be aware that the fruit of the Spirit is also nine-fold in Galatians 5:22-23. Is this a coincidence that there are nine Beatitudes? Nowhere else that I know of in Paul’s writing is there a nine-fold order such as there is in the fruit of the Spirit.

When you put the Beatitudes, nine of them on this side, and the fruit of the Spirit, nine on the other side, you will immediately be inclined to say, “No, I don’t see any correspondence. One starts ‘blessed are the poor in spirit’ and the other says ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love’.” Well, not so fast, not so fast, because Paul, of course, is a commentator. Remember he does not simply repeat the Beatitudes. He is going to describe their content. That is a very different matter altogether.

Is the Correspondence Coincidental?

First, let us consider the question whether this matter of nine in each case is purely coincidental. We do not have very far to go to look for a confirmatory answer because in Galatians 5, in the same chapter, a few verses earlier, the apostle Paul speaks of the works of the flesh. Perhaps we turn to Galatians 5 for a moment. Galatians 5:19 reads like this: “Now the works of the flesh are plain”. What are they? They are these: “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, [party spirit, envy, drunkenness,] carousing” and things in this kind of category. He goes on to say, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” No matter what kind of Christianity they profess, no matter how often they go to church, no matter how big a Bible they lug around, this kind of person, the apostle Paul says, will not inherit the kingdom of God, that is, they will not inherit eternal life. Now I would like you to notice that the subject here is the kingdom of God, exactly as in the Beatitudes. The first beatitude begins, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God” and the eighth beatitude also says, “Blessed are” you when you “are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”, for then, these people shall inherit the kingdom of God.

While I was reading just now the works of the flesh, I wonder whether you gave it a count. How many does Paul mention? He mentions 15 categories of this kind. 15 categories! Now again I was interested to see whether Paul has simply, more or less, made up these 15 categories, simply from his mind or whether these 15 categories were also based somewhere on the lord’s teaching. Immediately, of course the lord’s words in Matthew and Mark come to my mind and so I look at the lord’s teaching in Mark 7:21-22 where you will see a list there which says, “For from within, out of the heart of man come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” How many did you count? 13. “Aha!” you say, “13! Paul got 15. 2 are missing!”

Not so fast because, of course, we have what is known as synoptic parallels. This same message is also recorded in Matthew but interestingly enough with 2 - notice 2 - differences, and if you add these two differentiations from the parallel passage in Matthew, what do you get? You get a list of 15. Oh! Was I ever surprised when I compared the two lists and counted them! Paul was a very thorough man. He missed nothing. What are the two things in Matthew that are not mentioned in Mark? Well, in the Matthew list (in Matthew 15:18-19), which is shorter than Mark’s, you will find two things that are not mentioned in Mark. One of these is in v.19, which is ‘false witness,’ the term ‘false witness’ does not occur in Mark’s list.

There is a second distinction here which, if you depend on an English translation, you will miss. That is why I say to the training team time and again, “you have got to learn to work in the Greek” and they are working very hard in the Greek right now. If you depend on an English translation, you will have completely missed that. The English translation has obliterated an important difference by their translation. You see, in Matthew 15:18 the word there is evil thoughts and here you have “dialogismoi poneroi”, that is, their thoughts are evil, but in Mark the word is quite different in Greek. The word is not “poneros” but “kakos”. It is a different word. Yet, if you look at the RSV, you will find both translated as evil thoughts as though the original had exactly the same word. That is why no commentator, no Bible expositor, can depend upon the English to expound the Bible because important distinctions are obliterated, with no regard for the difference in the words.

The difference is not only that there is a different word there; the difference extends to the fact that one has the article and the other does not have the definite article. That is, in Matthew the word is anarthrous, that is, it occurs without the definite article, whereas in Mark you have the definite article occurring in that section. So there are two important distinctions and yet you would not gather from the English that there was any distinction at all. Anyone with some degree of familiarity of Greek will know that there is a distinction between evil and bad in Greek, i.e., that these words are not at all the same. The words are used differently and advisedly differently.

Let me put to you as Archbishop Trent puts it in his study of the synonyms of the NT. He said the distinction between the word “kakos” in Mark and the word “poneros” in Matthew can be summed up like this: the word “kakos” means ‘bad’ [but the word “poneros” means evil]. The bad person (i.e. the one used in Mark) may be content to perish in his own corruption, but the evil person (i.e. the one used in Matthew) is not content unless he is corrupting others as well and drawing them into the same destruction with himself. So what you have in Mark is the word that somebody is bad. He is content just to corrupt himself or let himself be corrupted. But in Matthew the word is ‘evil’, that is, somebody evil is distinct from somebody who is bad in that he wants not only to be corrupt himself but he wants to corrupt somebody else. He wants to drag somebody else into sin. That is a big distinction there. You cannot, like the RSV, translate the 2 different terms simply both equally with the same words - “evil thoughts”. That will not do.
From this we see that both lists have the same number of items. Paul’s list has 15 items. Mark and Matthew put together (because they are parallels and belong together) in fact also have a net total of 15 items. Could that be a coincidence? So, the fruit of the Spirit [and the Beatitudes] both have 9 items and the works of the flesh have 15 items in each case. I think you must begin to realize there cannot be a mere coincidence there. Of course as we have already noticed, the reference in Galatians and in the Beatitudes is to the kingdom of God. This is all the more significant when you realize that the term ‘kingdom of God’ is not that frequent in Paul, occurring only 14x in Paul. Now having established this, let us return to the matter of the Beatitudes to search for an internal unity, an internal spiritual element that connects together all of these 9 Beatitudes. What might it be? What could it be?

Works of the Flesh Are the Consequences of the 
Thoughts of the Heart

Well, we have already noticed that if you put these two lists of 9 side by side, you will see that, of course, they do not correspond to each other. Why? It is very important. When you study the Bible, look very carefully at the words. These two lists are distinct from each other; that is the teaching of the lord Jesus and Paul have an internal connection but are distinct from each other in a very important way. What way? Well, if you looked at the lists of evil, what did you see? Did you read carefully there? The lord Jesus said, “Out of the heart - out of your heart, as a natural man, proceed all these 15 kinds of evil things.” These are not just 15 evil things; these are just categories. There are 15 categories which include all kinds of different evils under those same names. Now out of the heart - the lord Jesus is talking about the heart attitude - that is not what Paul is speaking about. Paul said, “The works of the flesh are”, and 15 categories follow. Now do you follow what happens? You see what the lord Jesus is talking about is the inward thoughts, but Paul as an expositor is explaining what will be the consequences of those evil thoughts. Therefore, of course, you do not expect the two lists to correspond exactly because one is speaking about what you think, that is, it is concerned with your inner attitude when you are unregenerate, when God has not come into your life to change you; whereas Paul is talking about what happens when these thoughts bear fruit in action, when the thoughts become works of the flesh. Bear this important distinction in mind. [The fruit (9 aspects) of the Spirit does correspond numerically and otherwise to the nine beatitudes. This is the fruit that God bears in the regenerate when he wills to have these nine holy and beautiful attitudes, these nine godly inner attitudes.]

The lord Jesus is talking about inner attitudes. Paul is speaking of the results of those attitudes. When we come to the spiritual parallel we see exactly the same point. When you look at the Beatitudes, you see it is talking about the inner attitude. Blessed are the poor where? In spirit. “Blessed are the pure in heart....” Again the lord Jesus is talking about the heart attitude; he is talking about the internal attitude of the man spiritually. But Paul is not speaking about that. He is talking about the fruit of the Spirit, again the counterpart of the works of the flesh. Here, you will find that the fruit is something that has come forth from the tree. It is not still inside the tree; it is borne outward. It becomes the manifestation of the life of the tree. It is something that you can actually take from the tree without in any way affecting the tree itself. You cannot take a man’s inner being away from him - his thoughts, his feelings, his attitude - but you take his works, that is, his fruit. These are two very important things. In each case the lord is speaking about inner attitude, I emphasize this again, and in Paul’s case he is expounding and explaining what happens when you have this kind of inner attitude. If you have sinful inner attitudes, then you will have the works of the flesh which he describes in these parallel 15 items.

So a commentator is not there simply to repeat what the lord Jesus said. I would not be explaining the Bible to you if I simply read beatitudes to you, because you can read that for yourself. Paul is not going over the Beatitudes and repeating them. He expects his hearers, who are Christians, to have been instructed in the teaching of the lord Jesus already. He is expounding to them what happens - what are the works that come out of these kinds of evil thoughts and what are the fruit that comes out of these holy thoughts. That is very important to grasp.

Now you realize that Paul is actually applying and expounding what the lord Jesus is saying. The lord Jesus does not emphasize the aspect of works of the flesh or fruit of the Spirit for one very simple reason: because he knows if you have these thoughts, these holy thoughts (these thoughts which he described as blessed), then you will have the fruit of the Spirit. That part you leave to the Spirit to do. You cannot do these things. You cannot produce the fruit. By definition they are the fruit of the Spirit. There is nothing you can do about that. He tells you what you have to do in order that God can do something in you. So he leaves that part to the work of the Spirit. Or the works of the flesh, he knows that if you have these evil thoughts, what will happen in due time is that these evil thoughts will express themselves in those works of the flesh. So having spoken the first part, the second part will follow, but Paul as a commentator has the task of explaining explicitly the things that will follow either in the case of holy thoughts or evil thoughts. Once you perceive all these, I think you will begin to see that in this whole matter something very wonderful happens.

Poor in Spirit and Love Are Foundational

Let us now try to follow through this observation and see whether our observation is correct. The first beatitude says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and the first fruit of the Spirit is love. I would like you, first of all, to notice that the first beatitude is a foundational statement that in a way includes in itself the other eight beatitudes which follow. The same is true for the fruit of the Spirit. The first fruit ‘love’ is in a way a fruit that contains all the other eight within itself. That is why Paul did not say ‘the fruits of’ (plural). He said, “the fruit of the Spirit”, single fruit which has an eight-fold manifestation, like a cluster of grapes. There is just one cluster but has 9 grapes on it. They are all part of the one thing. There is an internal unity in all these. So the poor in spirit is a foundational statement from which all the other Beatitudes derive and love is the foundational fruit from which the other 8 follow. If you do not have love, you will not have joy, you will have not peace. None of the others will follow. If you are not poor in spirit, neither will you mourn for sin; neither will you have this hungering and thirsting for righteousness; neither will you have the meekness - all these other things follow from that foundational element.

But now look at it like this. What a commentator or a Christian does when he studies the teaching of the lord Jesus is not that he rushes to a commentary and then begins to study the commentary as such. The way to study the Bible is to ask one question. And the reason why Paul is so remarkable a commentator, so profound in his insight into the meaning of God’s word is that when he reads the Bible he does not say, “Well, what does Professor so-and-so say about this passage?” Or, “What does this pastor say or that pastor say?” What he does is when he looks at the passage, he applies to it himself and sees what happens. When you study the Bible, think of it like this. The lord Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall inherit the kingdom, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” I say to myself, “lord, help me to be poor in spirit. Lord, by your grace, I will be poor in spirit. I will make it my aim to be poor in spirit. What will happen to me when I am poor in spirit?” The answer will come. If you come to Him and come to Him in poverty of spirit, you will know from experience what God will do with you. You know what He will do with you when you come to Him with the sense of utter dependence: “I come to you in poverty of spirit”, that is, “I come to you, Lord, like a spiritual beggar. I have nothing in myself. Have pity upon me as you would have upon a beggar, for that is what I am spiritually, I am only a beggar”.

Do you know what God will do? He will pour forth His kindness and His love upon you! That is what He will do. And you will experience Him! You do not have to get a commentary to understand what that means. You will experience the in pouring of His love into your life. Then you understand, “Ah, to be poor in spirit means that God’s love will be poured into my heart!” That is why Paul said that, exactly those words in Romans 5:5 that “God has shed abroad His love into our hearts by His Holy Spirit.” Paul is speaking about experience. He says, “I know it because He has shed abroad, He has poured forth His love into my heart by the Holy Spirit.” You see how perfectly there it follows. If you will come to Him as a spiritual beggar, you will experience His generosity, His loving kindness, and His spiritual bounty that He will pour forth upon you.

Mourning and Joy

Now if you study the Bible in this way, and if I study the Bible in this way, not academically but spiritually, you will see that Paul’s conclusion is exactly borne out by experience. The same is true if you go right through the Beatitudes. What happens to those who mourn, who mourn over their own sins, who mourn over the sins of other people, who mourn over the sins of the church, just as Ezra and Nehemiah mourned over the sins of Israel. When Ezra said: “Lord, we have sinned. We, your people Israel, have sinned wretchedly. Have pity upon us.” What happened? What happens when you mourn for sin? Well, He will pour forth His forgiveness upon you. What happens when you are forgiven? You will be filled with joy. That is exactly what the parallel passage in Luke says. In Luke 6:21 (the parallel passage to the Matthew one), the second beatitude says this, “Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.” You shall laugh. You will be filled with joy.

Do you see what Paul is doing? He is drawing forth the consequences of applying the Sermon on the Mount into your life. If you come forth mourning for sins, mourning for the sins of others, mourning for the sins of the church - but never forgetting mourning your own sins lest you become self-righteous - then as the lord Jesus also said in Luke 6:21: “Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh”, that is, you will be filled with joy. There you find that the second fruit of the Spirit corresponds exactly with the inner attitude of the disciple that mourns. You mourn for sin - that is what you have to do - and God will, on His part through the Spirit, fill you with joy. You see how easy it is to understand? It is very easy to understand.

Meekness and Peace

We proceed to the third beatitude. “Blessed are the meek....” What happens if instead of studying this passage academically, you think to yourself, “What will happen to me if I come in meekness, if my arrogant attitude is removed from me?” If you become meek, humble, contrite before God, what will happen is that you experience God’s peace being poured into your heart. You are going to see what God will do in your life. You will experience a peace that you never understood before. Of course, that is exactly what the lord Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-29: “Come unto me all of you who are weary and heavy laden. Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of spirit and you shall find rest - peace - unto your soul.” That is the consequence of meekness: peace unto your soul. Paul has not failed to notice this connection between meekness and peace in the very words of the lord Jesus. Besides, his own experience confirms this. Now you can see all the parallels all coming in exactly as it is.

Hungering and Thirsting for Righteousness... and Patience

What happens then as we press on if you hunger and thirst for righteousness? What happens when you hunger and thirst for righteousness? When you hunger and thirst for God? “Hungering and thirsting” - notice the present continuous tense. You keep on hungering and thirsting for righteousness - what will that do for you? For that will build for you a spiritual endurance where it is translated sometimes as steadfastness, sometimes as endurance, sometimes as what I like to translate it as stick ability - being able to stick the thing through. Stick ability - that is what Christians need.

I find so many people, they cannot stick it. They cannot stick through the thing. They run into some difficulties and immediately the white flag goes up. They say to Satan, “Okay, okay. I surrender. Don’t kill me now. I surrender.” We have so many surrendering Christians. They have not experienced what Paul says concerning our life in Jesus that: “He, God, always gives us the victory through His anointed one Jesus our lord.” Paul was never one who knew spiritual defeat because he implemented the spiritual principles in his life and so always gained the victory. Okay, sometimes you get knocked down but that is not defeat. In a boxing ring you do not win by just knocking the other guy down; you have to knock him out. Paul said, “I get knocked down but no one has ever knocked me out.” He gets knocked down, but then he gets up on his feet again and knocks the other guy out. That is the way to do it! We too often get knocked down, but not knocked out! No, no, because God’s anointed one  always gives us the victory. Left to ourselves, Satan would wipe the floor off us. He would make a doormat out of us; he would trample us. But through God’s anointed one we always gain the victory. So what happens to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness? They learn endurance. What trains us so well in spiritual endurance as learning to persevere in our hunger and thirst for righteousness all through our spiritual life? We are to be never complacent, never satisfied, never to say, “Well, I know everything there is to know. I studied the Bible for 20 years. It is enough for now. I know everything. I know more than most people.” We must never be satisfied to even think, “Well, I have already reached the spiritual stature. I do not need to press on anymore.” No, no. The reason why you press on is because thereby you have spiritual endurance. Those who do not press on are the ones who give up.
Well, I find all the way this constant correspondence, this continuing connection.

Merciful and Kindness

Let us go to the next point - the merciful. In the Beatitudes you have, “Blessed are the merciful” and the counterpart in the fruit of the Spirit is kindness. These two words are so close in meaning that there is hardly a need for drawing a connection. In fact the words ‘merciful’ and ‘kindness’, are constantly linked in the NT. Take for example Titus 3:4 where you have this word for ‘kindness’ which is in the fruit of the Spirit here, and in v5 you have the word for ‘mercy’. Kindness and mercy - one is simply the consequence of another. One is simply so internally linked with the other that no fuller definition is required. Or take for example, Ephesians 2:7; there you have ‘kindness’. In v.4 you have ‘mercy’. Kindness and mercy are constantly linked. In 1 Peter 2:3 you have ‘kindness’ and in v.10 you have ‘mercy’. These are constantly linked to each other.

Pure in Heart and Goodness

[In the beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart”, we see the correspondence to the fruit of the Spirit of ‘goodness’ very easily.] The connection is so obvious that there is hardly need for anything to be said. The connection is even explicitly stated, for example, in 1 Timothy 1:5 where you find the word ‘pure’ just as you have here in the Sermon on the Mount, directly connected with the word ‘good’ as is in the fruit of the Spirit - the pure in heart, the good of conscience. Pure and good, they are simply synonymous terms.

Peacemakers and Faithfulness

When we come to the seventh one, “Blessed are the peacemakers”, the corresponding fruit of the Spirit is faith, more specifically, faithfulness. The Greek word for ‘faith’ is the same word for ‘faithfulness’. There is in fact no difference in the Greek. You will find that for example the RSV sometimes translates the word as ‘faith’, sometimes as ‘faithfulness’. There is not any real distinction from the point of view of the lexicon. The peacemaker is a person who can be described as faithful because such a person is one who is walking faithfully in the footsteps of the Master. Why did the lord Jesus take up the cross? in order to be a peacemaker - to reconcile us to himself. Why do we take up the cross? Why does the lord Jesus call us to take up the cross? Well, when we studied this beatitude we saw it already! Because we are also as Paul says, given “the ministry of reconciliation”. So when you are following exactly in his footsteps, doing the work that he does, being a reconciler, a peacemaker, that is the test of faithfulness. It is so obvious, so clear. And in fact the words ‘faithfulness’, ‘faith’ and ‘peace’ are linked together in 2 Timothy 2:22. These words are again linked right there.

Persecution and Gentleness

So we press on to the eighth beatitude, “persecuted for righteousness’ sake”. What is the corresponding fruit of the Spirit? Well, the corresponding fruit of the Spirit is gentleness. Persecuted for righteousness’ sake - gentleness. The correspondence is extremely clear. Why? How should a Christian behave when he is persecuted for righteousness’ sake? Should he shout back? Should he revile back? Should he behave in an aggressive manner? No! His attitude is to be one of gentleness. As Peter says in 1 Peter 2:23, when Jesus was reviled he did not revile again, that is, when he was abused, ridiculed, laughed at, he did not retaliate in any way. He was gentle. He was meek. That is what meekness is about - one does not strike back. When he was reviled, he reviled not again. Peter said to the Christians you be like him. When you are ridiculed, when you are mocked, when you are trampled upon, you do not revile back again. You do not shout back; you do not talk back. You will be like Him: meek, gentle. That is why Paul speaks of the meekness and patience of God’s anointed one Jesus in 2 Corinthians 10:1. This is the pattern of Paul’s own life under persecution. We can look at what Paul says about how he behaves when he is persecuted for righteousness’ sake in 1 Corinthians 4:12. I find this passage so like God’s anointed one Jesus. I would like to read this to you from v.11: “To the present hour we hunger and thirst (you need a lot of endurance for that as we have noticed), we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless (like Jesus who had nowhere to lay his head), and we labour, working with our own hands. When reviled” - what did he do? He did not revile again - “When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate (that is, make peace); we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the off scouring of all things.” We are treated like garbage and we take it meekly, gently. Now this I find so beautiful.

There you see the parallel between this beatitude and the fruit of the Spirit. “Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” and then the fruit of the Spirit. What is the blessing? The spiritual blessing comes forth now in the form of gentleness, then in the form of inheriting the kingdom of God. The fruit of the Spirit is gentleness under persecution. Where can we see the true gentleness of a person, his true character? It will be under persecution. We can all smile when times are good. What we really are will appear when times are hard.

Being Reviled and Persecuted and Having Self-Control

What is the last beatitude? “Blessed are you,” the lord Jesus says, “when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account”. You are slandered; false stories are told about you; all kinds of lies are repeated about you. There is no truth in them at all and you are just having your reputation blackened. Your name is sullied; you are falsely treated in this way, how should you behave? You see the fruit of the Spirit? When ever did you need more desperately that fruit of the Spirit under those circumstances in self-control? How easily when we are falsely accused that we fight back. We are willing to take it when we deserve to be reprimanded. We can still be gentle because we feel that we are suffering justly. We wanted to suffer like this - it is a nice to have the feeling of being a martyr in some ways. When we are suffering for God’s anointed one Jesus, we can take it gently. But the one time we cannot take it and we will not take it is when people slander us and say false things about us. Then our anger arises; then we are going to strike back, because we feel, “This is not right! This is not true! Because I did not do this and you have not the right to say that about me.” Paul says, “No, no. Do not worry. The fruit of the Spirit when you endure false accusations is self-control.” It is during those times when you most desperately need that fruit of the Spirit of self-control that you do not allow yourself to get angry, to lose your temper. None of these will be glorifying to God. Rather, keep well under control. Let the Spirit of God help you so to live that you show forth the beauty of God’s anointed one Jesus.

Which Comes First - The Beatitudes or the Fruit of the Spirit?

I think you have seen by now how obvious, how clear is the connection between the fruit of the Spirit, on the one hand, and the Beatitudes. We see this internal spiritual connection right there, but we cannot finish at this point if we are going to understand the matter correctly. We have noticed already so far that the Beatitudes have to do with internal attitudes whereas the fruit of the Spirit is something that God does in us. Here, there is often a very serious spiritual error that many Christians commit. The spiritual error is this: we say to ourselves, “Well, one day when God has done His wonderful work in us, we shall be the ideal kind of person that Paul talks about. I must wait patiently until the Holy Spirit so transforms my life that I have all these fruit of the Spirit. Then I can be poor in spirit, and then I can be meek, and then I can mourn for sin, and then I can do all of these things. But since the Holy Spirit has not transformed me yet, then I say, ‘Sorry, Jesus, I am not poor in spirit, you see, because the real problem, if You do not mind me saying so, it is because You have not yet changed me. So really the fault really lies, if you do not mind my saying, in you. I say it most reverently and respectfully.’”

In other words we pass the buck back for our spiritual failure to God. You say, “You see, I am not a Paul because you did not make me a Paul. Remember? I mean Paul is Paul and I am me. And I am very original. I am not like Paul. So if You want to make a spiritual giant out of me, You have got to do it. In the meantime I would get on with my business until such time You have transformed me. Then I will become the spiritual giant. But on that day when I stand at the judgment seat, do not say, ‘Why aren’t you at the level of Paul?’ Well, because you didn’t make me a Paul. I was never predestined to be a Paul. I just happened to be humble ‘me’.” Let me tell you this, the lord Jesus will not accept that kind of talk. No, no, He will not allow this. We will not on that day be able to pass the buck back to Him and say, “Well, it’s Your fault that I am what I am.”

Let us note this difference. The Sermon on the Mount talks about the inner attitude in us but the fruit of the Spirit is what God’s Spirit does in us, but which comes first? We would like to say, “The fruit of the Spirit comes first and then we will be poor in spirit and we will do this and we will do that, when God has done all that in us. But since He has not done all that in us, then look at us as a church - we are all pitiful spiritual beggars. What can we do because God did not do anything in us?” That is very remarkable up to this point. Let me tell you: if you do not understand the text, read the commentary, that is, read what Paul has to say.

We Reap What We Sow!

Let us read what Paul has to say, as we return to Galatians again. In Galatians Paul is continuing to expound his point about the fruit of the Spirit and the works of the flesh. This is what he says in Gal. 6 and we read from v7. He says to the Galatians, “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will he reap.” What will you reap? It depends on what you sow! That is very obvious. You do not have to be a genius to understand that. You want to reap the fruit of the Spirit? Then you have got to sow something to the Spirit. Do you want to become a person who is spiritually powerful and that can be used by God? That depends on what you sow to the Spirit. Now that is what he goes on to say in the next verse, in v.8: “For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Eternal life is something that we are to reap. But in order to reap, we have to sow something, because you do not reap anything if you do not sow anything. If you sow the wrong thing, you reap the wrong thing. If you sow to the flesh, you will reap corruption and death. If you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life. It all depends on what you sow. Do not pass the buck back to God.

You cannot go on to become a spiritual giant by sowing to the flesh. All that you will reap from sowing to the flesh is corruption and death. So then in v9 Paul goes on to say: “let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap (a harvest), if we do not lose heart.” There is the patience. You keep hungering and thirsting for righteousness, you have to have the endurance. You do not lose heart. So then, as we have the opportunity, let us do good. Let us do good to all men.

Now I hope that you can see which comes first, the harvest or the sowing? The fruit of the Spirit is the outward manifestation of what God does in us, but to get fruit, you have to sow something; the fruit is the harvest. You do not get any harvest if you do not do the sowing. So Paul is going on to say, “If you sow to the Spirit, you shall reap the fruit. If you do not sow anything, you get nothing. And if you sow to the flesh, you reap corruption.” “If you sow sparingly,” he said in another place, “you will reap sparingly. If you sow abundantly you will reap abundantly.” Whether you get a big harvest or a small harvest depends on what you sow and how much you sow. Paul, in other words, is putting the responsibility right back to you, right back to me, right back to us. He will not allow us to say, “lord, we did not get a big harvest because you did not do much work in me.” That would be an insult to God. God’s power is sufficient for big harvests and is fully available to each person. It depends on what you sow, that is very important.

Learn from Paul - Pursue Spiritual Things!

What does it mean to talk about sowing? What does it mean to sow to the Spirit? Well, it depends, in other words, on what is your spiritual input? The harvest is the output. What you reap is the output. What is your input and where did you put the input? The sowing is something we do. That is very obvious if we are going to get any harvest. It is something we must do. There is a word that Paul uses time and again - the word is to pursue, to make it your aim. The reason why Paul is a spiritual giant is not at all accidental, nor is it a question of predestination. It is a question of what kind of a person he was by the grace of God. What kind of a person he was becomes obvious when you study his writings, his letters.

There are so many words you could study but notice one particular word, it is the word ‘pursue’. The Greek word is “dioko” - pursue, which is sometimes in the RSV translated rather weakly by the words “make it your aim”. The word “dioko” means pursue. It expresses a certain intensity in which, for example, you are running hard after a another person, say, in battle. You are pursuing or chasing the enemy. For example, you are hunting down a prey. You are pursuing, running fast so that you do not lose the prey - the animal you are hunting - or else you will go without supper, and so you pursue. It expresses a straining of every nerve in order to get to the prize, the goal. This word is used many times, at least 8x in the letters of Paul, for example, in Romans 12:13; or Romans 14:19; or 1 Corinthians 14:1 to pursue love, to make love your aim; Philippians 3:12 which is so characteristic of Paul. “I pursue - I press forward towards the mark.” That is intensity! That is the intensity of the input. The reason why we have a generation of feeble Christians is because there is no intensified input. I see Christians who are absolutely unmotivated, who have no goal, no pressing forward, no striving in the spirit. Nothing! They sit back waiting for a harvest when they have sowed absolutely nothing. No wonder they go through life with nothing. How can I expect God to give me a spiritual harvest when I have sowed absolutely nothing? I beg you to really think on this point very deeply.

That is why the Beatitudes is what comes first! That is the attitude of your input. That is what you sow. If you say, like Paul, “I shall make it my spiritual goal, my spiritual purpose; I shall pursue with single-minded determination, by the grace of God, to be poor in spirit. That is, I shall come to God as a person who is completely dependent upon Him. I shall come to God as somebody who is wholly committed to Him, fully yielded to Him, entirely open to Him like a spiritual beggar, that He may fill me with all His fullness.” If you come with that kind of an attitude, if you pursue this kind of an attitude with steadfastness, and if we steadfastly pursue such an attitude, we shall be filled with the fullness of God. “He shall pour His love into me in overflowing measure by His Holy Spirit because now I have opened my heart fully wide to Him. I have sowed a spiritual attitude which makes it possible for Him to give me the spiritual harvest. If I aim, by God’s grace, then I shall learn to mourn - mourn for the sin in myself and for sin in others. If I aim to be meek by God’s grace (i.e. by His enabling power) then the way is clear or open for Him to give me His revitalizing peace. Though I do not as yet intensely love righteousness, if I make it my object to learn to hunger and thirst for righteousness, then He is going to give me the fruit of the Spirit. [”To will is with me.” I can at last will to have that inner attitude.]

God’s Part and Ours

This then is what the lord is teaching us in the Sermon on the Mount: what we are to sow, what is our spiritual direction, what we are to pursue, what is the direction of our high calling that we must press forward to. Paul did not say, “Well, we have a high calling and I am waiting to be lifted up by the scruff of my neck to the high calling. I have a high calling but I am waiting for God to attach the booster jets to my back so that He can shoot me to the high calling.” No, he says, “I press forward”. This is what I am doing. I am pressing forward so that God, by His grace, will then empower me onwards. God cannot do anything in you unless you have the right attitude. I am sure that as a Christian you have discovered that already. You have to have the right attitude. For example, if you do not repent to begin with, He just cannot forgive you. His forgiveness is there like a vast ocean ready to forgive your sins. But if you do not repent, that impenitence is like a dike that holds back the ocean of His forgiveness. That ocean of forgiveness cannot come into your life. That water cannot fertilize the fields of your life because of the lack of repentance on your part holds back the whole of God’s grace. Now if we can comprehend this principle as regards repentance, how easy it is to understand this on any other level.

Aim to Be the Kind of Person Blessed by God!

The same principle holds true. God cannot do anything for you until you open your heart to Him. It is said, for example, that right at the beginning of the ministry of the lord Jesus, the lord Jesus could not do many mighty works in Nazareth because of their unbelief. Their unbelief held back the grace of God. The same is true all the way through your spiritual life. These Beatitudes then, brothers and sisters, you have to understand, is what the lord Jesus is saying to his disciples, “Blessed are this kind of people”. Now you aim to be this kind of person who is blessed by God. He said to his disciples, “You make this kind of person the objective of your life. You become that kind of person, because that kind of person is blessed by God.” That must be the goal of every disciple. I hope by now the whole objective, the whole teaching, the internal spiritual connection of the lord’s teaching on the Beatitudes becomes very, very clear to us. These Beatitudes are not meant to be intellectualized. They are meant to be applied into our life as the goal and direction which we are to follow. Then we are going to experience the power of God in our lives in a way that we never knew, never dreamed was possible, until our lives are so open to God through this poverty of spirit that He will fill us with all His fullness. I pray that God will truly help each one of us to understand these life-giving words of the lord Jesus God’s anointed one.

9th of a Series of messages on the “Beatitudes” .

This sermon was delivered by Pastor Eric Chang on May 18, 1980
Edited by Bruce Lyon