A friend of mine asked:
I hear what you are saying that man has no “soul”, but how do we deal with the Bible when it says at: 1 Thessalonias; 5:23 – “Now the very God of peace sanctify you throughout: and I pray God that your whole spirit and soul and body, may be kept blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”. 1599 Geneva Bible, pg. 1239. How do we deal with this?
“We should observe, first, that 1 Thessalonians 5:23 is not a doctrinal statement but a prayer. Paul prays that the Thessalonians may be totally sanctified and preserved blamelessly until the coming of Christ. It is evident that when the Apostle prays that the spirit, soul, and body of the Thessalonians may be preserved blamelessly he is not trying to split human nature into three parts, any more than Jesus intended to split human nature into four parts when He said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). “Spirit, Soul, and Body.” The key to understanding Paul’s reference to the “spirit, soul, and body” in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 is the fact that the apostle is addressing believing Christians who, while they are still in the flesh (body), possess two natures: the original Adamic nature received at birth (the soul) and the new spiritual nature created within them by the enabling power of the Spirit. The Adamic nature, as we have seen earlier, is called “soul– psyche” and denotes the various aspects of the physical life associated with the soul in the Bible. The spiritual nature is called “spirit” because it is God’s Spirit that renews and transforms the human nature. The body is, of course, the outward, visible part of the person. Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians to keep their “soul–psyche” sound and blameless for Christ’s coming means that they were to live not only for the physical life (Matt 6:25; Acts 20:24), which is threatened by death, but also for the higher, eternal life that transcends death. Similarly, Paul’s prayer for the Thessalanians to keep their body sound and blameless means that they would “not gratify the desires of the flesh (Gal 5:16) or produce “the works of the flesh” such as fornication, impurity, and licentiousness (Gal 5:19). Finally, Paul’s prayer for them to keep their spirit sound and blameless means that they would be led by the Spirit (Gal 5:18) and produce “the fruit of the Spirit” such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (Gal 5:22). Thus, Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians to keep the body, soul, and spirit sound and blameless is not intended to list the structural components of the human nature, but to emphasize the total lifestyle of those who await Christ’s coming. The distinction between the three is ethical and not ontological.”