Harold S. Paisley
Question: What is to be understood by the words "I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thes. 5:23)? How may the difference between spirit and soul be explained?
Answer: It is difficult to understand the spirit and soul in man, but it is abundantly plain however, that man is a tripartite being (Gen. 2:7). The scripture in question places the three parts in the order of importance. The spirit is the greatest and the body the least. Man in his natural condition is more concerned with the well being of the body than of the spirit and the soul. The spirit is associated with the mind and the intelligence. "For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?" (1 Cor. 2:11). The soul is associated with the desires and affections of the heart. These linked with the body, form one personality. God is the Father of spirits, so it appears that the spirit gives man God-consciousness. The soul gives self-consciousness. The body with its senses, gives earth-consciousness.
At death, the body without the spirit is dead, or asleep in the case of the believer. This is plainly stated in James 2:26 and 1 Thes. 4:13. The soul and spirit never die or sleep but continue to exist either in heaven or hell. The word of God does not divide the soul and spirit but can pierce the inmost depths, laying both bare, revealing all that man is in the sight of God (Heb. 4:12).
It is thus revealed that the spirit and soul can never be separated while linked with the body in this life or apart from the body in the intermediate state, or finally in the eternal state when reunited with the body in resurrection. This is true of both saved and lost.
How serious a matter to be a living personality destined to exist eternally in glory or despair. The knowledge of the spirit will always be possessed by the soul, and the affections of the soul will forever be the portion of the spirit. When we speak of the salvation of the soul, we mean the salvation of the person who is spirit, soul and body. The question of the tripartite character of man is a most searching subject of believers and of the utmost importance to unbelievers.
Question: I have been puzzled over two scriptures. They appear to be quite contradictory. My question is "Does God repent?" God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? (Num. 23:19). And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not (Jonah 3:10).
Answer: Many have been puzzled over the above statement which at first appears contradictory. The first states that God does not repent, while the second state that He did repent. Are both true? Can they be reconciled?
The significance of the first scripture is the fact that because of our limitations, God clothes His thoughts in language that we may understand. The words must mean that God never repents because unlike men that lie, He has said nothing He should not have said. In this He is altogether different from all mankind. We repent when we are conscious of wrong doing, but God can do no wrong act or say a wrong word.
God is love as well as righteous and although He states "the soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezek. 18:4), yet if that sinner turns to God in repentance, he shall not die, but live. God must deal in mercy towards those who otherwise are doomed to perish if such turn to Him in repentance. He is a God of inflexible righteousness, but also if infinite love. Jonahís message was true "yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown." The repentance was true, from monarch to prisoner. When they turned to God, God turned to them, Judgment was reversed to salvation. A further reading of Jeremiah 18:7-10 will answer the apparent difficulty. How God who pronounces judgment on evil men will change His course of action to blessing upon evidences of true repentance from evil.
It is therefore shown that in Godís attitude towards mankind, He reserves the right of changing His mind (which is the definition of the verb "to repent"). If this were not so, we who have obtained mercy should have perished for our sins deserved eternal wrath. When we turned to Him in repentance, He turned to us in grace.