Fire and Form: Dividing Soul from Spirit

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The Importance of this Two-edged Sword

When it comes to a surgery this delicate, dealing with invisible things like soul and spirit, a special, sharp blade is required!

Hebrews 4:12 NKJV –13 NIV
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword,
piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow,
and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered
and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

“Don’t run with that kitchen knife!” mother warned.  “Be careful with that paring knife.  Cut away from your body when you peel those potatoes,” she further instructed us when we were little helpers in the kitchen.  Sharp blades have to be handled with care to do the job for which they were intended.  There is one particular blade that is so sharp it will divide soul from spirit, joint from marrow, and even our thoughts from our intentions.  This blade is the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.

If we are to understand worship from a biblical point of view, we must let the Sword of the Spirit do its work.  Taking the images used by the writer to the Hebrews, we see the internal work the Spirit of God wants to do in our lives:  He wants to reveal the secret things, things that, if allowed to remain hidden, will hinder us, perhaps even ruin us.  Let’s take them an image at a time.

  • “soul from spirit”  The Holy Spirit will show us by the Word of God what strong emotions within us originate in our spirit and which ones come from our souls.
  • “joint from marrow”  In the human body joints provide flexibility and utility while marrow give strength to the bones.  Deep within us we may not realize the differences between occasions to bend and occasions requiring unbreakable inner strength.  The Word of God helps us know when to flex and when to stand firm.
  • “thoughts from intentions”  Modern therapists say we have a conscious mind (thoughts) and a subconscious mind (motives.)  The Holy Spirit uses the Sword of the Spirit to reveal hidden motivations that drive us to say one thing and do something else.

We have been cleansed by Calvary’s blood and made new creatures in Christ Jesus.  It is not the Lord’s plan for us to spend the rest of our days as slaves to unseen motives, untrue beliefs and uncontrollable inner drives. Jesus wantsolyHol to set us free from these hidden chains.

What does this have to do with worship? 
Everything.  Many worshipers “feel” about worship but rarely do they “think” about worship.  Some never question their own strong feelings.  Strong feelings can spring from the cleansed spirit within us as we are compelled and inspired by the Word of God but they can also spring from wounded souls, from fearful hearts and from errant theologies.[1]  Emotions are commanded by Scripture.  Music, the principle art of worship, is the language of the emotions.  What the Bible has to say about worship forms our theology but the minute we express what we believe we do so in cultural terms.  Culture can be the language of the soul or the spirit. Our feelings and our culture must be judged by the Word of God.  Our souls, like our bodies, have fallen into sin.  When we receive Jesus into our lives as Savior, the Holy Spirit quickens our spirit as we experience a new birth.  As we grow in the Lord that same Spirit works to sanctify us from the inside out, that is, to cleanse us from ungodliness and set us apart to God.  That means hidden fears can be quelled in Jesus, unseen shackles can fall behind us and compulsive behaviors can be overcome.  Unrecognized controlling forces often compel us to do things beyond our control.  These horrid things grow in the dark places in our wounded souls when evil words are not forgotten, deep bruises still bleed, unspoken appetites continue to clamor and secret sins still molder.  But things that grow in the dark, die in the light.  The Word of God, like a blade of blinding light, is the only sword sharp enough to divide soul from spirit, joint from marrow and thought from intention.  The same Jesus who cleanses our sinful record from the heavenly books, wants to forgive our secret sins, heal our deepest bruises and free our souls from anything that would bind us.

Clean Hands and Pure Hearts
If we are to cleanse our worship culture from the effects of ungodly influences we must look within our own hearts.  Three questions help us do that:

  • Will I worship to please myself?  Have I allowed my preferences to take the prominent place in my worship choices?  Paul warned, “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.”[2]
  • Will I worship to please others? Do I make my choices in worship based on what I think other people expect of me? Again, the words of Paul, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”[3]
  • Will I worship to please God?  Is my passion focused on the Lord, His work, His will, and His way? Here are Paul’s words to the church at Thessalonica:

    “Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God…”[4]

When we can answer question number three with a heart-felt “Yes!” we are on our way to the discovery of the essence of life itself, the life lived in the resurrected power of Jesus Christ, the “Spirit and Truth” worship life.  Jesus wants to complete the work of Calvary, to cleanse our hearts. He wants to touch our sulking, wounded souls and rob our wounds of their controlling power over us.  He wants to show us how strong we can be when our spiritual bones are full of rich marrow as His powerful blood flows in us.  At the same time He wants to show us that we are strong enough to be flexible when we need to bend to His will.  And, He wants to hear us sing and make the music of heart He loves so much as soul and spirit unite in redeemed culture as we lift our voices to Him.

We must not fear this sharp blade or shrink back from the loving hand of the One who wields it. This is a blade we can run with safely!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer
F&F 132 © 2007 by Stephen R. Phifer REVISED June 29, 2009

[1] In my thinking “soul” refers to the self and sense conscious parts of us: emotions, memories, passions, preferences.  “Spirit” refers to the God-conscious part of us where Jesus lives by the power of the Holy Spirit as He reveals spiritual truths to us.
[2] Romans 8:5-11 NIV
[3] Galatians 1:10 NIV; also see: 1 Thessalonians 2:4-6
[4] 1 Thess 4:1-8 NIV; see also: I Timothy 2:4-6 and Hebrews 11:5-6


Fire and Form: Dividing Soul from Spirit

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