Why should we seek to understand what the soul is? Jesus said that we should love the Lord your God with all your soul. You cannot obey this command unless you know what the soul is. The Greek word for soul is psyche. Isn’t it interesting that psychology is not defined as the study of the soul but of the mind. “Psychology is the science of mental behavior and the human mind, and the professional application of such knowledge toward the greater good,” as defined by the Unified Theory of Psychology (UT) [https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/theory-knowledge/201112/psychology-defined]
“And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart (kardia), with all your soul (psyche), with all your mind (dianoia), and with all your strength (ischys – might, power, force). This is the first commandment.” (Mk 12:30) Jesus commands us to love the LORD with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. At first glance, you may wonder how all the parts of a person are connected. I believe the soul connects the mind, the heart, and strength (might, power, force). From this statement, the soul is not the heart or the mind. You may have heard pastors describe the soul as the mind, will, and emotions. But Jesus identifies the soul as distinct from the mind and the heart. Even God has a soul. (Matt 12:18) Jesus’ soul was sorrowful in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Matt 26:38)
Humans Have Three Parts
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians to keep the body, soul, and spirit blameless or sinless. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Thes 5:23) The spirit has been made alive by the Holy Spirit, who is dwelling in every believer. It is God-consciousness and where we have the divine nature of Jesus. The body is the tent that the believer operates with. It is sinful, but with the Holy Spirit’s power, the believer can reckon it dead and use it for righteous purposes. The soul uniquely defines the person, the personality, the temperament, the will, the emotions, the mind, the motivations, the weaknesses, the intellect, the devotion, and the passions.
The soul synthesizes all the inter-workings of a person. The heart can be deceived, fearful, and troubled; the mind can become proud; motivations can be impure; thoughts can be sinful; logic can be flawed; and feelings can lead astray. The soul is where all this activity can be harmonized by the Holy Spirit.
A Soul In Hell
The soul is the part of a person that lives forever. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt 10:28) Jesus is referring to authority figures who can condemn a soul to physical death. However, only God can condemn a soul to eternal death in hell. We should fear God and not human authorities. Will your current physical body live in heaven or hell for eternity? Paul wrote that a person’s current physical body cannot live eternally (1Cor 15:42, 44).
The Soul Is One’s Life
Jesus likened His soul to his life, and He gave His soul as a sin ransom. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life (psyche) a ransom for many.” (Mk 10:45) Jesus explained that He would lay down His soul and take it up again. “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life (psyche) that I may take it again.” (Jn 10:17) In much the same way, Jesus declared that a person should lose his soul for Jesus in order to find it (Matt 10:39). Jesus also taught that a believer should follow Him daily and crucify any action, thought, or behavior opposed to following Jesus (Lk 9:23). Paul exhorted his readers to offer themselves as living sacrifices. A dead sacrifice is not useful to God. But a living sacrifice can be useful to God, by doing His will (Rom 12:1).
Loving God Specifically
God was very wise to inspire Moses to write, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deut 6:5) It gave the hearers more accountability. The term soul can be very nonspecific to a person looking for excuses to love the Lord less than all. But adding the heart, they knew that loving God required emotion and passion. Loving God also required strength, will and purpose. Jesus added a new area of accountability – the mind.
Loving God Completely
Jesus repeated the word all in His command – all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. God expects you and me to love Him completely. With the additional clarity of heart, mind, and strength, I believe the soul gets overlooked. Since it is the part of you that lives into eternity, it is even more important that you love the Lord with all of your soul. Below is a partial list of the ways that the soul is affected in life and how it responds to God. Loving the Lord with all your soul will be spiritually beneficial to you in this life, will fulfill the command, and will allow God to fill you continually with His Holy Spirit. Abundant life is promised to you by Jesus. But so many distractions can prevent you from experiencing it.
God’s Will From The Soul
Paul wrote that you should do the will of God from the soul. “…not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart (psyche)…” (Eph 6:6)
To The Lord, From The Soul
In everything you do, you should be doing all to the Lord from the soul. “And whatever you do, do it heartily (psyche), as to the Lord and not to men…” (Col 3:23)
A Soul Can Be Diminished
A soul can be discouraged and need comfort. “…comfort the fainthearted (oligopsychos can mean small-souled)…” (1Thes 5:14) The word for comfort in this verse is not parakaleo, but paramytheomai, which can mean to calm and console.
A Soul Bears Fruit
Jesus taught that when you offer your soul as a sacrifice, and die to yourself and live for Jesus, you will bear fruit in this life, lasting into eternal life. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves (phileo) his life (psyche) will lose it, and he who hates his life (psyche) in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (Jn 12:24-25)
Don’t Worry About Your Soul’s Needs
Jesus used the word worry five times in Matt 6. He explained that God knows that your soul needs food, drink, and clothing. “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life (psyche), what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life (psyche) more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Matt 6:25, 27, 28, 31, 34)
Martyrs Save Their Soul
Seeking to save your soul from serving the Lord will bring negative consequences. But losing your soul for Jesus will, in fact, lead you to save it. Every Christian is a martyr – and some actually die for their faith. “For whoever desires to save his life (psyche) will lose it, but whoever loses his life (psyche) for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
Soul Needs Rest
Jesus was illustrating how life can become so distracting and demanding that your soul won’t experience rest. It is in this rest and contentment, that God us able renew your strength, joy, and purpose. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt 11:29)
Cast Your Care
God never intended for you to worry and be anxious. He cares for you and knows what you need even before you ask. “…casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1Pet 5:7)
Live In Freedom
Sin and the distractions of this world should not enslave you. You are free in Christ to serve Him preeminently. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (Jn 8:32)
Abundant Life Is Promised
Surpassing, extraordinary, superior, and supernatural capture the meaning of abundant life. In another verse, Jesus promised that living waters would flow from your being. Peter wrote that you can have joy unspeakable and be full of glory. But their is an enemy that attempts to steal, kill, and destroy this abundant life. “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (Jn 10:10) Paul told us how to defend ourselves against the devil.
I added the last few promises that did not specifically mention the soul, because your life can be blessed beyond measure in Christ. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…” (Eph 3:20) It is when you love the Lord with all your heart (affections and emotions), your soul (the source of emotions, thoughts, reasoning and your personality and the synthesis of victorious spiritual living), your mind (thoughts and reasoning), and your strength (force, intent, and volition), you can experience rest, abundance, freedom, confidence, victory, and being worry-free.
Service To The Lord From The Soul
As Paul taught his readers, you do the will of God from your soul and in everything you do, you do it for the Lord from your soul. So, as you love the Lord with all your soul, you will be doing more of His will and your effort will improve because you are doing everything in life to the Lord. The heart, mind, and strength are familiar terms, but the soul is not. Yet the Scripture teaches that the soul is more than the heart, mind, and strength. Your are spirit, soul, and body. God’s command is to love Him with all your soul – your personality, your life, and the inter-workings of your heart, your mind, and your strength.