Answers to Correspondents.: "Soul" and "Spirit"; Jesus - God and Man; Not Literal Water; Ransom for All; Hades

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C. R.—1 Thess. 5:2323And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23).—In ordinary language the two words "soul" and "spirit" are used for one another yet Scripture clearly distinguishes between them, though they are not to be separated. It teaches that the soul is the seat of the affections, passions, and appetites, whether good or bad, and that the spirit is identified with the mind, the higher part of man, and in which he stands in relation to God.
J.—It is important to remember that when the Lord Jesus was here on earth there was in Him the perfect presentation of God to man, and also the perfect presentation in Him of man to God. For though in Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, He was true man. In Him, in His words and ways, and gracious, tender dealings with sinful men, we see the revelation of God—of the Father—so that if I would know God, I look at Jesus. Gazing adoringly at Him, I recall the words of John 1:1818No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (John 1:18), "No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, Ile hath declared Him." Nor do I forget His own words in John 14:99Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? (John 14:9), "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." God manifest in manhood here on earth—heard, seen, contemplated, handled, as it is said in 1 John 1:11That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (1 John 1:1). And if we go on to His death upon the cross, there the love of God, His holiness, and His just dealings with sin, are all displayed in a way that subdues and wins the heart. Let us now look at the other side. Let us think of Jesus as One who took a servant's form, and who, through the Eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God. All that man should be Godward, Jesus was. Obedient, dependent, finding His meat in doing the will of Him who sent Him, and in finishing His work. In Him every moral trait shone in unclouded beauty. If humanity everywhere was a wilderness of stones, Jesus was a garden of delight, where no thorn or thistle ever grew. Was a life like that nothing to God? Surely we know that if there was not 'a heart on earth who could appreciate all that Jesus was in His life below, there was in heaven One, even His God and Father, who could and did.
We are not quite sure that these brief remarks meet the case you have in view. If not, kindly write again, and you will doubtless endeavor to state your point so clearly that we shall have less difficulty in seizing it.
R. A. M.—John 3:55Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5).—We entirely agree with you in believing that the water of which our Lord here speaks is not literal water, such as we use every day of our life. No sane person would contend that water—pure and simple-is meant in John 4:1414But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:14) and 7:38. Why, then, should it have this meaning in John 3:57 There can be no doubt that the Lord refers to Ezek. 36:24-3824For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. 25Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. 28And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. 29I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. 30And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen. 31Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. 32Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel. 33Thus saith the Lord God; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. 34And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. 35And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. 36Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the Lord build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it. 37Thus saith the Lord God; I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock. 38As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men: and they shall know that I am the Lord. (Ezekiel 36:24‑38), a passage which deals with the restoration and future blessing of Israel, now scattered over the face of the earth. They shall be the subjects of the new birth, they shall be "born of water and of the Spirit." But no one, we suppose, would be so foolish as to think that when the Lord God shall sprinkle "clean water" upon them and cleanse them from their idols and all their uncleannesses, He will use actual water drawn from river, spring, or brook. No; a person is not born again by being baptized with water. He is born of the Spirit, and instrumentally by the Word of God, of which water is a figure. Your vicar evidently believes in "baptismal regeneration," and holds that a new life is imparted to an infant when baptized. But we note his confession that this may be lost if the baptized one should not lead a good life. Now let us suppose that for years he does not lead a good life, but a very bad one, so that all he gained by his baptism is lost. Is there any hope for him in after days? "Yes," perhaps your vicar would say, "if he sincerely repents and turns from his wicked ways." And, we presume, in that case he would be born again for the second time. But how has this come to pass? Not by baptism, for your vicar would not baptize a person twice over. Clearly, then, he is born again on this occasion without baptism at all! And so the whole theory falls to the ground.
We can easily understand the answer you receive when speaking to some about the new birth. They were born again when christened, so they say, and there is an end of the matter. And the Book of Common Prayer supports them in saying so. But it is of the greatest importance to remember that if the Prayer Book were packed with good things from cover to cover, it is not the Word of God, and therefore offers no basis for faith. "What saith the Scripture?" must ever be our earnest inquiry. And no doctrine is to be received, however hoary with age, that cannot be found, clear and distinct, in those sacred oracles. To the law and to the testimony every question must be referred, and from its decision there can be no appeal.
R. H.—1 Tim. 2:66Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (1 Timothy 2:6).—We accept these words in their simplest and fullest sense, namely, that Christ gave Himself a ransom for all. In agreement with this we read elsewhere that "He is the Propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the whole world" (1 John 2:22And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)). The ransom, the propitiation, is not to be narrowed down to a particular nation, such as the Jews, or to a special class drawn out of many nations—it is broad enough for all. His blood is available for any sinner, no matter who he may be. Hence we can carry the gospel to every creature under heaven. But carefully remark that we are not now speaking of the substitutionary aspect of Christ's sacrifice—His bearing of "our sins." This side is only predicated of believers. If the vilest come to God through Him, who is the Propitiation, they may then go further and see Him as the One who has borne all their sins, so that not one of them can be named again. As to your other question, there is much in what you say, but it is too controversial for discussion within the limits of our correspondence columns.
F. T.—In a recent answer to a correspondent we pointed out that there are two words in Greek, both of which are translated hell in our Authorized Version of the Scriptures—Hades and Gehenna—the latter signifying the place of eternal punishment. You ask about the former. It means "the unseen or invisible world of spirits, upon which, till the coming of Christ, darkness and obscurity rested. In hades' there may be joy as well as torment. The rich man and Lazarus were both in hades. In hell there is only torment." Hades never means the grave.