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Hebrews 4:11-13 by Robert Dean
Series:Hebrews (2005)
Duration:1 hr 0 mins 12 secs

Hebrews Lesson 37    December 15, 2005


NKJ John 10:28 "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.


Hebrews 4


I want to go back and pick up a couple of verses that we got to at the end of last time. Chapter 4:1-10 has one focus. That is a challenge that begins in verse 1.


NKJ Hebrews 4:1 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.


There is a challenge there that we need to take this seriously. There is a yet future rest that is distinct from the Promised Land rest that was mentioned earlier. That is the point of the analogy. So the focus of the passage we saw last time is on rest. There are 3 different rests mentioned. 


The first is creation rest that has to do with the 7th day rest after the Lord created the heavens and earth. Then we have the second rest that is the Promised Land rest. The foundation of this analogy is important to understand. You have God working for 6 days and then He ceases His work. That is the main idea of rest – to cease the labor. Now the labor of those first 6 days is a good labor. We have such a knee jerk reaction whenever we see the word "works" in the Scripture to ascribe it to human good - man's attempt to try to do things that please God or gain approval with God. But the term works itself is a neutral term. You have to pick up its meaning from the context. There is work that is good because it is done in obedience to God. It is done under the power of the Holy Spirit and it produces divine good. We use that term to distinguish it from human good. That is the morality, the religious works, and the efforts that are simply produced in our life by the old sin nature done apart from dependence on God. The sin nature not only produces those acts that we think of as sin but also produces morality - anything we think of as good but is done apart from dependence upon God. So we have to look at that context. So God worked for 6 days and ceases His work on the 7th day. It doesn't have the idea with God of rest from labor as if He were tired or weary.


Then there is Promised Land rest that God promised Israel. The foundation of that is based on the Sabbath rest of God in the creation week. Israel's entry into the Promised Land is built on an analogy to the creation rest. They have been in slavery. They have gone through the wilderness. Finally they come into the land of opportunity, the land of prosperity, the Promised Land, the land flowing of milk and honey where they can rest from this labor that has gone of before. That doesn't mean that there wouldn't be responsibility after that any more than God's rest is cessation from the labor of the first 6 days of creation meant that God stopped doing anything or that He stopped taking care of His creation. 


Then the third category of rest that is introduced in this passage is millennial rest. You have the ages culminating in a period of perfect environment in Millennial Kingdom that is described as the Messianic Kingdom, the Kingdom of God, or the Period of His Rest. That is what we are moving toward. That is yet future. Verse one clearly indicates the future orientation of the passage to this rest that is in the future. We would connect it back to 2:5


NKJ Hebrews 2:5 For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels.


The whole orientation of this passage from 2:5 down through 3:6 which is the didactic section sets the stage of an orientation to the future – an orientation to that world to come. The rest, the His rest spoken of in chapter 4, is fulfilled in the Millennial Kingdom.  We haven't entered it yet. That is why there are these warnings in verse 1 to be afraid. We could translate that third person imperative as "we should fear". The same way when we come to 4:11. That idea is picked up again.


NKJ Hebrews 4:11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.


So the rest is viewed as something future. What is important here is identifying the concept of rest. As I went through various commentaries and various discussions on this passage and the meaning, what you will typically find is that theologians will identify that rest as heaven. It is simply entering heaven and being face-to-face with the Lord. You have serious problems with this passage if the rest is heaven or being face-to-face with the Lord. Then we you come to verse 11 you have a mandate to be diligent to enter that rest. The idea of the passage is that entering the rest is contingent upon being diligent. That would be a works salvation if entering the rest is equivalent to the idea of being in heaven or being face to face with the Lord. So we have to be very careful with these terms. 


That is often how you will typically find that Lordship salvation people interpret Hebrews. They will go to the passage and say, "See entering the rest is contingent upon being diligent and being diligent is the normal fruit of truly being saved. If you are not diligent you are not truly saved." 

The Armenian position (that argues that you can lose the salvation that you once had) would say, "See if you're not continuously diligent then you lose your salvation." 


The hyper Calvinist position is a 5 point lordship perseverance position. Remember Calvinism is built on a 5 point acronym - TULIP. (You have to learn your flowers if you are going to be a theologian!) 


Total depravity

Unconditional election

Limited atonement

Irresistible grace

Perseverance of the saints


What they mean by perseverance of the saints is that the person who is truly saved will persevere though they will sin and may sin grievously. They won't ultimately deny Christ. They won't fall into permanent sin and will recover because they will always persevere and will always recover and advance to the end of their life. That's lordship salvation. It is a back door works system because you know you are saved not by faith plus works at the beginning of your Christian life, but the works demonstrate that the faith was real. What they will say is that if you don't have works that are consistent with your profession of faith, then you have a false faith. You have a non-saving faith. It was not a real faith. It was a false faith. It is a subtle system that is dominant across the country. You'll hear it leak in if you listen to folks on the radio or if you read any books on Biblical exposition. People say that in everyday conversations. You will be talking to someone and they will say, "I don't know how they can be a Christian. Look at what they did." The hidden assumption is that if you are really saved, if you had genuine faith then you wouldn't do that. But since you did that (whatever that is) then you must not have had genuine saving faith. It is a back door introduction of works into the system.  So it is very important to identify this concept of rest. It also helps us to unpack the meaning of the Scripture. 


Let's go back to verse 8 for a minute because I want to redo some of my closing exegesis from last week from verse 10. 


NKJ Hebrews 4:8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.


The "them" refers to the Exodus generation and then in this passage with Joshua the conquest generation. You have this analogy between the Exodus generation and the present generation which under girds this whole section. The Exodus generation failed to mix faith with promises. They failed to mix faith with God's promise so they didn't enter into the Promised Land and they didn't experience the rest of God. They were still justified. They were still individual believers who failed to realize the promises, the blessings, the future inheritance that God had for them. They jeopardized it by their lack of faith and it eventually culminated in such serious divine discipline that they lost the opportunity to experience the inheritance that God had promised them. So the writer of Hebrews is saying that we who have believed have the same potential to enter into rest. That is to enjoy at a fuller degree the reign of Christ during the Millennial Kingdom and to rule and reign with Him. Yet we can fail to appropriate that and fail to fully realize those millennial blessings and responsibilities by failing to believe the promises of God and advance in our spiritual life. 


Then the writer in the thrust of his argument is showing that the rest that of all of this pictures in the future is for the people of God. 


Then we have an interesting construction in verse 10.


NKJ Hebrews 4:10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.


Now this verse begins with a somewhat ambiguous Greek construction. I remember when I first went to seminary and started studying Greek I thought this would solve all of the problems. Somehow folks get that idea that if "I just learned the original languages then some of the things that come up when they read the Bible would be solved because I could read it in the original." In some sense, some things are resolved. There is clarity just as if you read the original language you get a clearer understanding of what the author is saying. But no language is perfect. All languages have a certain amount of ambiguity in the way they express things. Knowing Greek and Hebrew solves some problems but then it opens up a whole new area of problems that you have to deal with. Just because you can read the Greek and Hebrew doesn't mean that it resolves everything. 


There is an ambiguous phrase at the beginning of 4:10. I went back and I rethought this again last week so I want to change my interpretation of the passage from the end of last week. 


Who is the "he" here? That is what is important to identify. It is difficult because there is no specific third person singular pronoun in the original. What you have at the beginning of this verse is the articular aorist active participle of eiserchomai. Now the article with the participle means that is going to be handled like a noun. A basic rule of grammar is a participle is called verbal adjective.  That means that sometimes it is going to act like a verb. Running - that is how we form participles in English – with an "ing".  Sometimes it is going to act like a verb. Sometimes it is going to act like an adjective or a noun. When it is going to function like an adjective or a noun it has the article with it. It is easy to identify at that point. After that it gets somewhat confusing. 


Certain authors of Scripture, for example in the Gospel of John, John uses an articular participle like a noun. That is where people get confused. He will talk about he who believes. The Lordship crowd comes along and says that the present is durative action. "He who continues to believe." But if you understand John and how he uses grammar, he is using it as a noun, the believer. That is the best way to translate it. It is not emphasizing ongoing action. He is using the participle as a noun. So you translate it as "the believer" and it avoids all those weird interpretations that Lordship salvation advocates come up with. This verse begins with that same kind of construction. It is an aorist participle here. 


The general rule of grammar is that an aorist participle (because it is past tense and doesn't have a time element when it's a participle) precedes the action of the main verb. Here is where you get into some interesting stuff because main verb is katapauo and its an aorist active indicative. 


When you get into this who is the "he"? Is the "he" who had entered (I pointed out last time I thought that it was the Lord Jesus Christ because he has entered his rest.) I made a fundamental error there. (This is a problem that moving brings. You get distracted with all the cares of life. Do you ever run into that?) I was thinking in terms of His ascension and that doesn't fit with anything in the passage. The first thing to deal with is who does the "he" refer to? Does it refer to the Lord Jesus Christ or does it refer to some individual? The past tense is what can throw you off. 


The first problem is that you have to avoid is identifying this as something that has already happened. The past tenses indicate that it is something that at first glance has already happened. But this would then necessitate understanding the concept of rest in this verse as equivalent of entering heaven or being face to face with the Lord. Because you see the past tense - if that is talking about something already completed in the past then somebody has already done this. So therefore the rest would have to be understood as entering into heaven. We have already realized from our study of the passage that rest can't mean entering into heaven. So the past tense here is not to be understood as something that has already actually occurred. So we must conclude that if rest is equivalent to being face to face with the Lord or entering heaven then entering heaven would be dependent on works because that is where we go in the next verse. So the next option is to see if there is another meaning for the aorist here. This is what is called a proleptic use of the aorist. (How is that for a nice big fancy word? You can expand your vocabulary a little bit.) Proleptic means that you use the past tense to refer to something that hasn't happened yet. It is referring to something that's in the future. It could be similar to what grammarians call a gnomic use which means it is a general principle that is being articulated. That is how we should understand this.  It is not talking about someone who has already entered his rest and has already ceased from works, but it is stating a principle that the person "anyone (which would be a better translation) who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His". 


So that is a grammatical possibility. When we plug in a synonym for rest it opens the passage up. His rest refers to what? The future Millennial Kingdom, the Messianic reign of Christ. Let's do a simple word substitution and instead of using the term His rest let's substitute Millennial Kingdom. The principle then is explained to be "for he who has entered the Millennial Kingdom has himself also ceased from his work as God did from His." See how that opens it up. It makes it understandable as a gnomic principle. That is that the rest is yet future and at the point in which anyone enters the Millennial Kingdom (that is a place of rest) there is a cessation of current works. 


That is why we have to identify works in the passage as the next element of interpretation. Works here doesn't refer to attempts to gain God's approval. It is not human good here. It is simply Christian service. It's living the Christian life. It's the labor of living in the angelic conflict. That is work. If you haven't realized that in your Christian experience then something is wrong. Or, I am making some real mistakes. 


Sometimes I think I live in the vortex of the angelic conflict. I was talking to George Meissenger yesterday and George said that he thought that demons inhabit all of the computers of all the pastors that he knows. He may be right.


"For he who has entered the Millennial Kingdom has himself also ceased from his work as God did from His."


You enter first logically and then there is a recognition of ceasing afterward. That is the logical construction of the passage. 


Then there is the comparison – as God did from His. When did God cease from His labor? At the end of the creation week. So that is the foundational analogy to the all of this rest imagery in chapter 4. God labored for 6 days. He ceased labor and enjoyed the results of it afterward. In the same way the believer lives out his Christian life striving to please God by studying the Word, confession of sin, walking by means of the Holy Spirit growing, applying the Word, Christian service, the duties of our priesthood, the responsibilities of our ambassadorship – all of this ties together. It is work. It is not human good. It is divine good when we are walking by means of the Spirit. But it is labor in this age. 


When the Millennial Kingdom comes we enter that rest of God – the Millennial Kingdom. We will cease from our labors. It will no longer be laborious. Remember that the laborious aspect entered in as a result of the fall. So verse 10 concludes with this general principle that the person who enters the kingdom has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Then we draw a conclusion,


NKJ Hebrews 4:11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.


This is where the strong knock out punch comes for many of us.


The "therefore" tells us that this is a conclusion from the 10 previous verses that began with a warning to be afraid, to be fearful, to be seriously concerned about our destiny. Then it's reiterated in verse 11. 


Because of this, because the rest remains, because there is this future potential let us be diligent to enter that rest. There is a real analogy here that we can by not believing God, by not trusting in His promises, by not advancing in the Christian life that we can lose this potential rest. 


The Greek word translated "be diligent" is the Greek verb spoudazo. It is the aorist active subjunctive that has in this case an imperatival mandate. There are different ways that you can express a mandate in Hebrew. It is a first person singular. Now we don't really have a first person singular imperative in English. It is normally translated "let us be diligent." In that sense it is called a hortatory subjunctive in the Greek, which merely means that it is a challenge to all of us (the writer included) to be diligent. The writer doesn't see himself as having already arrived. The grammarians don't think this is always accurate, but I think it carries the punch for English speakers a lot better if we translate it "we should therefore be diligent." There is a mandate here. There is not a sense of a back door out of this. "Let us be diligent" doesn't sound quite as strong as "we must be diligent". It is that imperatival sense. We must be diligent to enter that rest. The word translated diligent means hard working, industrious, attentive to detail, constant in our work, striving to grow, to advance and mature in the Christian life, hard driving. It is a strong word. It is the same word translated (It's not a great translation though.) over in II Timothy.


KJV 2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.


The word that is translated study is spoudazao. It means to be diligent. It means to put a tremendous effort into. The context shows that it is the study of the Word. So we are all challenged by this verse. We must be diligent to enter that rest. There is a condition stated here. If we want to experience all that God has for us in that potential to rule and reign with Christ in the Millennial Kingdom, then we have to be diligent about the Christian life. It means that the study of God's Word and walking by the Holy Spirit must have the highest priority. This isn't some game. We have all done this. We take grace for granted. We have done that as spiritually immature believers. We think if we do this or that we can just confess our sin and be right back in fellowship. But there are consequences to those acts of disobedience. That is what this passage has emphasized. When the Jews went through the wilderness there were ten times that they disobedient to God and ten times they complained. They can say, "We can get God's forgiveness." 


Even after Kadesh Barnea when God said, "Okay that's it. I've had it. You have murmured, groaned and complained enough.  You are not going into the land." God still forgave them. Forgiveness is not the same as removing consequences. We get all confused about that in American culture. Because someone is forgiven doesn't mean that the consequences don't continue. Now sometimes and frequently in His grace when He forgives us He also removes the consequences. But there are many times when God forgives us and the consequences remain. When David committed his sin with Bathsheba and then conspired to have Uriah killed, he covered it up. There was forgiveness but there were still divine discipline consequences. There were the natural consequences that came from that type of action as well as long term consequences. 


In fact I was thinking about this the other day when I taught it in my class at the college. I had looked at this years ago but I don't think I made the connection together. One of the consequences of that four fold discipline that's brought on David as a result of his sin with Bathsheba is the Absolom rebellion. That is the fourth series of discipline that he had to go through. When Absalom rebelled against David, David had to flee the city. He took his advisors with him. The man that became Absolom's right hand counselor was a man named Ahithaphel who was one of David's mighty men. Ahithophel was Bathsheba's grandfather. Doesn't that tell you something about the family dynamics that happened as a result of that affair with Bathsheba and killing Uriah. Here is Bathsheba's grandfather. Bathsheba is fleeing the city with David. Yet her grandfather is so angry at what David had done and his failures that he goes over to Absalom against his own granddaughter and her husband. So that tells you that maybe that marriage between David and Bathsheba wasn't a great love story or a great marriage. It certainly had some consequences for David in terms of the family dynamics with the in-laws. So we are challenged in verse 11.


We are warned about consequences and we are warned about judgment. That is important to understand. Why? Because that is the context of the next verse which is a very well known verse. It is one that many of you have heard hundreds of times and perhaps have memorized. 


NKJ Hebrews 4:12 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.


We have to understand this verse in its context. The context is a warning that we have to be diligent. We have to work hard in terms of the Christian life. I mean that in the sense that we have to pay attention to it. It takes concentration. It takes focus. If we slip into neutral we would go right back into carnality. We are reminded here that we need to be diligent. Why? There is an explanation that comes with the word gar at the beginning of verse 12. 


That's the foundation. He builds a case in this verse. The foundation is that the Word of God is living and powerful. Then it has a function.  It is sharper than any two-edged sword.  Typically what you will hear, what many people will do is wax eloquent on the fact that the sword mentioned here is the machaira. It is the Roman short sword. That would miss the point of the passage. We could spend a lot of time talking about the ramphia the big broad sword that was more the hacking offensive weapon that the Roman soldier carried or about the  about the shorter (18-24 inches) machaira; but the focus the metaphor that is here is on function. It is a comparison that the Word of God is sharper than any two- edged sword. The focus is not the thing it is compared to, but what is being compared – sharpness. The function of the machaira that sharp sword as it was developed militarily down through the ages is that it was a close-in fighting weapon. It was designed to pierce and stab the opponent. It had both offensive and defensive qualities but it was primarily designed for up-close action (not like the ramphia that hacked) to pierce and to stab. That is the point of the analogy. If you get into all kinds of historical and military details on the machaira, they are a lot of fun but you miss the point. The point is that the Word of God is so sharp that it pierces deeper, its cutting ability is more intense than that of the sharpest machaira that you have ever seen. That's the point. The Word of God has this ability to cut your soul to the quick. It pierces down below all the layers of rationalizations and self-defense and scar tissue and the callousness that we build up in our Christian life. The Word of God has the ability to slice like the sharpest scalpel to the core of where we live and where we think and to expose the human viewpoint and the sin and the garbage that is there. That is the thrust of this passage. That is what we have to be diligent about – that process that Paul talks about over in Romans 12:2.


NKJ Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.


How does that happen? The study of the Word of God exposes. It cuts deep past all of the layers of resistance that we set up where we are involved in arrogance and self-justification and self-deception. The Word of God slices all of that away so that it exposes what is really going on inside of our thinking and inside of our soul. The problem that we run into is that most of us don't have the courage to take a look at that. We don't like that. That is why it takes us so long to grow and advance in the Christian life. We resist that continuously. That is part of our sin nature. This is the struggle that we go through in the Christian life while there is always a struggle between walking by the Spirit and walking in the flesh. 


That first word "living" is the present active participle of zao. It means that it is alive. It is in the emphatic position. This is the first word in the sentence in the Greek. It would be boldfaced. The words of God are life to us. They are not just static words. This isn't like studying Plato or Aristotle. It's not like reading a good history book. It's not like reading good combative editorials dealing with your favorite contemporary political issue. This is something that is alive. This is something that has the quality of producing real life in us as well. 


Energes is where we get our word for energy. It's active. It's powerful. It has an inherent power that is based on the fact that it is truth. That is why Jesus said the truth would make you free.


NKJ John 8:32 "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."


It is the power of the Word of God. He prayed to the Father.


NKJ John 17:17 "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.


It is the fact that it is true that gives it power, not because there is some inherent mystical power to the words of the Bible. It's not like some magical incantation where if you say the right words or say it the right way then the right thing is going to happen. It is because it is true. It is because it conforms to reality. That is where the power lies. It is because it is true that is where the power lies.  It expresses the thinking of God. The Word of God is living. It imparts life. It is powerful.


That is the machaira. It is sharper than any two edged sword. No matter how sharp any weapon is the Bible is sharper.


It pierces. This is the Greek word diikneomai which means to pierce or to penetrate. That is the quality that is being emphasized here in the metaphor. The Bible penetrates to the core of our thinking. It reveals all of the selfish strategies that we have that we rely on to make life work apart from God. We try to find happiness, peace and stability without being totally being dependent on God, trusting in His promises, and mixing faith with the promises of God. 


So the Word of God pierces even to the division. This is the point of his analogy. The Word of God is so precise in its truth that it can demonstrate the distinctiveness between things that are often thought not to be easy to divide between – soul and spirit, joints and marrow, thoughts and intentions and motivations of the heart. That is the thinking. The heart here doesn't have the idea of emotion. It has the idea of your thinking.  It reveals and penetrates to the underlying motivations and intentions of our thinking. 


The thrust of this passage is that there is a future judgment coming. To prepare for that we have to let the Word of God fulfill its function to penetrate, to pierce and reveal what is going on in our thinking so that it can expose the human viewpoint. It can expose all the self justifying self deceptive rationales that we have so we can exchange human viewpoint for divine viewpoint in our souls.  This is what comes up in the 13th verse. There is not creature hidden from His sight. That's the point of verse 12 - exposure. That's one thing that the sinful creature doesn't like is exposure. We don't want to be exposed before that piercing gaze of a holy God.  That's what Isaiah experienced in Isaiah 6. 


NKJ Isaiah 6:5 So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts."


When he sees God he falls on his face and cries out. He comes into the presence of that brilliant exposing light of God he can't do anything other than to fall on his face and worship. He realizes how much of is life is permeated by sin. He has to be cleansed before he can be in the presence of God. Verse 13 reemphasizes this exposure metaphor. 


NKJ Hebrews 4:13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.


Why are we to be diligent? Because we are going to have to give an account. There is accountability in the Christian life.  Accountability is not a contradiction to grace. Grace means that we are not saved on the basis of our works. We don't have to gain God's approval in order to get saved. Nevertheless in the Christian life there are responsibilities and accountabilities and obligations if we are going to advance. The result is going to be displayed at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The result of that is going to determine what we do in the Messianic Kingdom – the roles and responsibilities that we have to rule and reign as kings and priests.


So verses 11-13 focus on the fact that we must be diligent. We must make this a priority. We can't just say, "I am tired tonight or there's a football game or we have Christmas coming up." We have to keep the study of the Word of God and its application the priority. 


There is something else that goes on inside of verse 12 that is important to understand in light of what the Bible teaches about man and man's make up. That comes in the phrase "the division of the soul and spirit." The word for soul is the Greek word psuche meaning soul. Sometimes it means the life principle. Sometimes it means self. These two words pseuche for soul and pneuma for spirit are words that are not necessarily rigid technical words. By that I mean that every time you see the word pneuma you can't go to the concept of the soul anymore than you can go to the word pneuma and say here it means spirit and there it means human spirit and there it means Holy Spirit. There are 10-12 different meanings for the word pneuma. In I Corinthians 2 Paul uses it at least 4 different ways in 3 different verses. You have to look at the context to understand what the thrust of these words is. We get so used to thinking in terms of rigid categories that when we are born we are spiritually dead and don't have a human spirit. When we are regenerate we gain a human spirit. We look at passages that talk about Pharaoh being troubled in his spirit. How does that fit the other categories? Can you say Pharaoh was saved? No you can't say that Pharaoh was saved. The words have a general sense.  Then in some passages they have a technical sense. In one sense you have to use your theology in order to clarify what the words mean in questionable passages. So you always have to go to passages where there is something specific and clear that is stated and use that as a principle to interpret passages when passages are less than clear. 


Now we are going to get reeducation. Almost everybody in this room has been taught wrong. Not everybody but most everybody has been taught wrong. There are two views of the makeup of man. The first view is called dichotomy from the Greek word meaning two parts or two divisions. The second view is a view called trichotomy. These are terms that everybody here is familiar with. This is where we are going to get reeducated. Dichotomy is two parts. The two parts are not body and soul. I want you to get that. The two parts are not body and soul. You can look this up in any classic systematic theology from John Calvin to Martin Luther to William G. T. Schedd. The two parts referred to in the dichotomous position are material and immaterial. The three parts in the trichotomy position are body, soul, and spirit. Now most of you were taught that two parts refers to body and soul and trichotomy is body, soul, and spirit. That is not how any systematic theology expresses this. 


There are two views. The dichotomy view says that there are a variety of immaterial terms that are rough synonyms - heart, mind, reins, emotion, soul, spirit - that are inter changeable in some passages. So it is better to talk about the fact that man as a material physical body and then he has an immaterial nature that is described by various different words in the Scripture. That is the classic view of dichotomy. 


The trichotomy position argues that the soul and the spirit are different in make up and different in function. They are not synonymous. They are distinct. The other terms such as heart or will or reins or emotions or things like that describe components of the soul. I think that is a more accurate position. Where I am correcting your thinking a little bit is that you have to understand that dichotomy is never used in theological literature to refer to just the body and the soul. It is never used that way. Dichotomous refers to people who think that the parts of the body are the physical body and ten the immaterial part that is referred to by a lot of rough synonyms in the Scriptures. 


Now let's go through this and I will show you why I think the trichotomy position is the more accurate position. 


NKJ 1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.


If you go through the exegesis of the passage the things of the Spirit of God is a technical term used from verse 9 on to refer to the content of revelation. 


NKJ 1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him."


It talks about the things that the spirit has revealed to the mind of man. All the way through those verses 9-13 "the things" (which is a neuter plural) always refers to the content of the Scripture. It doesn't refer to anything out there in the world. It doesn't refer to your understanding of physics. It doesn't refer to your understanding of people. It refers to the content of revelatory speech, the content of the canon of Scripture.


We have the phrase "natural man." It is the Greek word psuchikos. We find it in another important verse. That is in Jude 19.


NKJ Jude 1:19 These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.


He is talking about nonbeliever false teachers. They are devoid of the spirit. Notice that spirit is capitalized in the New American Standard. It is capitalized in most English translations. But you don't have capitals in the Greek. It was all lower case. If it was a unshel manuscript it was all upper case. But they don't have a upper case P in pneuma to indicate one meaning one place and another meaning somewhere else. So to capitalize it was a theological deduction made by the translator. If the translator is not a dispensationalist and if the translator is a dichotomos then he is going to automatically knee jerk reaction every time you see pneuma to capitalize it. You make it the Holy Spirit if you can. But the word translated worldly minded is not cosmos; it is psuchikos.  Psuchikos doesn't have anything to do with the world. It is a word rooted in the noun pseuche for soul. It means a soulish person.  Literally in the Greek it says, "These are the ones who cause divisions soulish not having (and there is no article) spirit." So the word is clearly defined by an appositional phrase. Psuchichos means they don't have something called spirit. They are devoid of it. They just have a soul. So if you take that concept and you take psuchikos as being absent something called spirit back to I Corinthians 2 you realize that the author in I Corinthians 2 is pointing out the fact that the natural or soulish man who doesn't possess this thing called spirit can't understand anything about God. In that context he is clearly talking about some element apart from the soul that without it you can't understand God and with it you have the potential to understand divine revelation. There is where people think it must be the Holy Spirit. But in I Corinthians 2:9 the quote is from the Old Testament. I Corinthians 2:10-14 is an exposition of a principle grounded in the Old Testament. Were believers in the Old Testament indwelt with the Holy Spirit? No. So whatever is said in I Corinthians 2:9-14 regarding the spirit and possession of the spirit has to be able to be applied to both Old Testament saints and New Testament saints. So you can't understand the spirit in verse 14 as being related to the Holy Spirit.


Let's go back to I Corinthians 2:12.


NKJ 1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 


See how he uses the word spirit there in a different way? It is the thinking in that phrase. 


Notice that the translator capitalized spirit there. But what we receive at the instant of salvation is a human spirit because it talks about something that gives us capacity to know the things freely given to us by God. It would have to be true of an Old Testament believer as well. The Old Testament believer didn't get the Holy Spirit. He only got a human spirit. 


That is the function of the Holy Spirit in revelation. So this spirit is God the Holy Spirit combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a soulish man who hasn't received this thing called spirit yet does not accept it. 


He can not understand it because it is spiritually appraised. Pneumatikos has a lower case here. It is not God the Holy Spirit that enables us to understand the Scripture. It is having a human spirit. God the Holy Spirit does in terms of teaching us as part of the package that we get as Church Age believers. But in the Old Testament they were able to understand the revelation of God from Genesis to Malachi or if you are looking at a Hebrew Bible from Genesis to II Chronicles. They were able to understand God's revelation because they had become regenerate. What we get is an extra added teacher, God the Holy Spirit who guides us, directs us and helps us to understand His word in terms of illumination and guidance through the Scripture. So the natural man is a soulish man in contrast to the believer who becomes a pneumatikos man. He gets something quantitative at salvation. He gets something functional that he didn't have before. This is the human spirit.


Back in Genesis 2 God warned Adam.


NKJ Genesis 2:17 "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."


Something was lost. Some capacity was lost that gave him the ability to relate to God and understand Him. When God came walking in the garden after they ate, what did Adam and the woman do? They ran and they hid. They couldn't relate to God anymore. Now at regeneration we say that we are born again. To be born, something has to come into existence. What is born? What is birthed at regeneration? Some say that you get eternal life. No, something has to be there to be birthed. It is not just the reception of eternal life. There is something new that is added that gives the capacity otherwise there isn't any meaning to the word pseuchichos  and pneumatikos in I Corinthians 2. I think the best way to understand it is like this. You have the human body and then you have the soul made up of elements such as self consciousness. You look in the mirror and you see yourself. You dog looks in the mirror and he sees another dog. A bird looks in the mirror and he sees another bird. But you look in the mirror and you see yourself if it's a good day and you've had a cup of coffee. Then you have mentality. You are able to think. You have a conscience. You know right from wrong. You have volition. When Adam was created he also had a human spirit. I think of it this way. It is like a hand in a glove. They work so closely together when a person is regenerate that you can't always distinguish between the two. When you put the hand in the glove, what is holding the ball? The hand or the glove? They both are. They become an almost indivisible unity. It's the human spirit that allows the self consciousness to have God consciousness – the mentality to think God's thoughts, the conscience to have a divine value system and volition to choose for God. When Adam and the woman died spiritually they lost that element. They still have the function of the soul. When they are regenerate, they get the human spirit that allows the parts of the soul to function as they were intended toward God.


Let's look at some other passages.


NKJ Titus 3:5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,


Something is given birth to that wasn't there before. That is what we call the human spirit.


NKJ Hebrews 4:12 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


Our passage makes it clear that the Word of God can distinguish between and make a division between soul and spirit. Now that has to mean that at some level there is a distinction between the two things. They are not identical. In some passages the words are used interchangeably. That is where the hand in the glove imagery comes to bear because they are so united in a saved person that you can talk about the spirit and you are talking about both. You can talk about the soul and you are talking about both. They do become virtually synonymous.


Paul writes.


NKJ 1 Thessalonians 5:23 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.


Now if these aren't three distinct things in this passage then the statement "spirit, soul and body" becomes virtually meaningless. 


So you have these two passages I Corinthians 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12 make it clear and very precise statements that there is a distinguishing characteristic between the soul and the spirit. God clearly understands.


In other passages they are so intertwined that they can be viewed as one. One word can refer to the other. It seems that they are synonymous. So you have to use the clear passages to interpret the unclear passages. 


What about those in the Old Testament passages that talk about the spirit of Pharaoh or the spirit of somebody else or that someone's spirit was troubled? That is where spirit has the general connotation in many passages of the immaterial part of the man.  It's not a technical use of the word spirit. The word spirit can mean wind, breathe, or soul. But in other passages it is clearly something that is distinct from the soul. That's where you have to come in and use those clear passages to understand the unclear. Don't make the mistake of thinking that every time you see the word spirit of man that it is talking about what we call the human spirit because that is a theologically nuanced category that is only true in some passages. But it represents a true category. 


Now everybody is looking so confused. We will cover this some more as we go along. The point of the passage though is to warn us that we need to be diligent in our study of the Word. If we are not, there are serious consequences. 


Let's bow our heads in closing prayer.