SAVE YOUR SOUL, LOSE YOUR SOUL = A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE
A) SOUL = PSUCHE DEFINED
[Dr. Robert A. Morey, Death and the Afterlife, Bethany House, Minneapolis, Minn, 1984, pp. 54-56]:
1) OCCURENCES IN THE NT
"The word psuche is found 104 times in the New Testament. It is translated in the KJV as:
Soul: 59 times
Life: 39 times
Mind: 3 times
Heart: 2 times
You: 1 time
Us: 1 time
2) THE LEXICOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL
[Arndt and Gingrich in A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (pp. 901, 902)]:
"Define psuche as
(a) physical life, i.e., the life principle in man and animals,
(b) earthly life itself,
(c) the soul or inner self which transcends physical life and is the seat of intellect, emotion and will. 'It stands in contrast to the body... There is nothing more precious than psuche in this sense... The soul is the center of both the earthly and the supernatural life,'
(d) used in a figurative sense as a metonymy to refer to living people in general. It is used as a synechodoche, i.e., a part is put for the whole.
[Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (p. 677) views psuche as meaning
(a) the vital force which animates the body' of men and animals,
(b) a figure of speech for living persons
(c) the soul as the seat of emotion, intellect and will, 'the soul regarded as a moral being destined for everlasting life... as an essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death ....a disemobdied soul."
3) THE EXEGETICAL EVIDENCE
"The word psuche like nephesh has several different meanings.
First, it refers to the invisible and immaterial principle of physical life which animates the bodies of animals and man (Rev 8:9; 16:3; Matt 2:20).
Second, it is used in a relational or functional sense to refer to earthly life (Matt 6:25).
Third, it is used as a figure of speech to refer to people in general (Acts 2:41).
Fourth, it is used of God in Matt 12:18 and Heb 10:38 in the sense of God's transcendent self. That psuche cannot mean physical life when used of God is obvious. It is used to refer to the seat of emotion, intellect, and will in God. Fifth, as the image-bearer of God, man also possesses a psuche which transcends the physical life of the body (Matt 10:28).
The Apostle John clearly contrasts the physical life of the body to the condition of man's transcendent soul in 3 John 2. As a result, man's soul, or ego, is the center of his intellect (Acts 14:2), emotion (Matt 26:38), and will (Eph 6:6).
Psuche is also used to describe disincarnate souls which worship at God's throne in Rev 6:9. In Acts 2:26, 27, Luke clearly states that the conscious psuche of Christ went to the underworld (Hades), while His body went to the grave. It is used as a synonym in connection with such words as heart, mind, and understanding (Matt 22:37; Mark 12:33; Acts 4:32).'''
Notice that psuche = life is an intrinsic part of the individual, inseparable from his being.
When the term "life" is used in Bible it often means physical life in the body, the existence and activity of the man in all his parts and energies. It is the person complete, conscious and active. Thus the life that one possesses is an intrinsic part of one. Although it is a possession, it is a unique one, such that it pervades the entire being and cannot be thought of as a finite material possession like a diamond that can fall out of ones pocket and be lost and then found again periodically. If one loses ones life, it obviously means that one's very existence has dramatically changed, usually irretrievably. Certainly, losing a diamond is not equivalent to this as some might insist.
[Compare Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary [G & C Merriam Co., Springfield, Mass, 1980]:
Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines life as "a principle or force that is considered to underlie the distinctive quality of animate beings; an animating and shaping force or principle." Hence, this principle is inherent in the individual, an intrinsic part that animates every part of ones being.
B) INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS ON 'SAVE ONE'S LIFE'
[Zane Hodges states, "Gospel Under Siege", Redención Viva, Dallas, Texas, 1992, pp. 100-101]:
"Furthermore, in the teaching of Jesus a distinctive note is sounded which is not really found in the Old Testament passages about 'salvation.' Although the Old Covenant saint thought instinctively of the preservation of his physical life, the New Covenant person is taught to go beyond this consideration.
According to Jesus, a man can 'save his life' even when he 'loses' it, (See Matt. 16:25 and parallels). This paradox suggests that even death itself cannot destroy the value and worth of a life lived in discipleship to Christ. Such a life survives every calamity and results in eternal reward and glory.
Paul is not far from such a thought in Philippians. To be truly 'delivered' in suffering is not necessarily to survive it physically, but to glorify Christ through it.
The same idea is present in the Apostle Peter's famous passage on suffering found in 1 Peter 1:6-9. The expression in verse 9 which is translated 'the salvation of your souls' would be much better translated according to its normal Greek sense: 'the salvation of your lives.' Peter is describing the messianic experience in which the believer partakes of Christ's sufferings first, in order that he might subsequently share the glory to which those sufferings lead (1 Peter 1:10, 11). In this way the 'life' is saved, even when paradoxically it is lost, because it results in 'praise honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ' (1 Pet 1:7).
In fact, it can be said that there is not a single place in the New Testament where the expression 'to save the soul' ever means final salvation from hell. It cannot be shown that any native Greek speaker would have understood this expression in any other than the idiomatic way. That is, he would understand it as signifying 'to save the life.'
In modern use, of course, 'to save the soul' is almost universally understood as a reference to eternal salvation. But this fixity in its meaning is not relevant to its New Testament use. In the New Testament we should always understand it as equal to our expression: 'to save the life.'
In Philippians Paul never uses the word 'salvation' to refer to the question of heaven or hell. After all, both he and his readers knew where they were going. Their names were in the Book of Life (Phil 4:3)!"
II) [Jas 1:21]:
(v. 21) "Therefore [you believers] put aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in a humble spirit receive the word [which] implanted [in your heart] is able to save your souls."
"so that" = "hoste" = so that - refers back to vv. 17-18: so that as a consequence of our salvation, i.e., of our new birth - v. 18. We Christians will be the first fruits, the pre-eminent glory of all creation. Therefore, verses 19-21 go on to exhort believers to act accordingly.
"able to save your souls" - "souls" - "psuchas". The soul is defined as the essence which animates the body but is not dissolved by death, (Mt 10:28). In this context, the 'soulish life' which is lived on earth, (i.e., the life as directed by one's soul), will be saved from a premature physical death and rewards in heaven, if the believer turns from living a sinful life.
[Zane Hodges states, "Gospel Under Siege", Redención Viva, Dallas, Texas, 1992, pp. 26-27]:
'''In the opening chapter of the epistle, shortly after declaring his readers to be the offspring of God's regenerating activity (1:18), James writes:
1) [Jas 1:21-22]:
(v. 21) "Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
(v. 22) But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."
"That this passage is analogous to 2:14 is easy to see.
2) [Compare Jas 2:14]:
"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?"
Here, too, James is affirming the necessity of doing something, and he clearly means that only if his readers do God's Word will it be able to 'save their souls.'
At first glance, this seems only to repeat the problem already encountered. But in fact it offers us the solution. The reason we do not see it immediately isdue to th efact that we are English speakers with a long history of theological indoctrination. To us, the expression 'save your souls' can scarcely mean anything else than 'to be delivered from hell.'
But this is the meaning least likely to occur to a Greek reader of the same text. In fact the expression 'to save the soul' represents a Greek phrase whose most common meaning in English would be 'to save the life.' In the New Testament it occurs in this sense in parallel passages Mark 3:4 and Luke 6:9 (see also Luke 9:56). Among the numerous places where it is used with this meaning in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the following references would be especially clear to the English reader: Genesis 19:17 and 32:30; 1 Samuel 19:11; and Jeremiah 48:6. Perhaps even more to the point, the phrase occurs again in James 5:20, and here the words 'from death' are added.
By contrast, the expression is never found in any New Testament text which describes the conversion experience!
The natural sense of the Greek phrase ('to save your lives') fits perfectly into the large context of James 1. Earlier, James was discussing the consequences of sin. He has said, 'Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-growth, brings forth death' (1:15). Sin, states James, has its final outcome in physical death. But obedience to God can defer death and 'save' or 'preserve' the life. This truth is echoed also by Paul (see Rom 8:13).
This understanding of James 1:21 agrees completely with 5:19, 20, where James says to his fellow Christians:
3) [Jas 5:19-20]:
(v. 19) "My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back,
(v. 20) remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins."
On this attractive note of mutual spiritual concern among the brethren, James closes his letter. But in doing so, he manages to emphasize once again that sin can lead to death.
It has been observed that the Epistle of James is the New Testament writing which most clearly reflects the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. The theme of death as a consequence of sin is an extremely frequent one in the book of Proverbs. A few illustrative texts can be mentioned:
4) [Compare Pr 10:27]:
"The fear of the LORD adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short."
5) [Pr 11:19 NAS]:
"He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life, And he who pursues evil will bring about his own death."
6) [Pr 19:16 NAS]:
"He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, But he who is careless of his ways will die"
It is clear that this is the Old Testament concept which furnishes the background for James's thought. A recognition of this fact clarifies a great deal. 'To save the soul' (='life') is to preserve the physical life from an untimely death due to sin."
III) [Compare Mt 16:24-27]:
(v. 24) "Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.
[Notice that "coming after Me [Jesus]", i.e., discipleship and not salvation is in view, i.e., following the Lord in service, denying one's own personal direction and accepting the Lord's direction in one's life to the extent of taking up one's particular cross in life of difficulty, persecution and service to God]
(v. 25) For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it.
[So in light of the previous verse the phrase
"to save his life" = "ton ...psuchen autou sosai" ....= ................................."the... life ........your...to save" = to preserve his life, his physical life and the value of it as the rest of the passage indicates to earn a reward when Christ comes again. Notice that since salvation is not a reward but a gift, (Eph 2:8-9, Ro 3:23-24), then something other than salvation is in view in this passage.
"but whoever loses his life for Me will find it" = Notice that Eternal Life vs the Lake of Fire cannot be in view here because losing one's life for Christ results in finding it. What is in view is finding one's life, i.e., preserving the value of one's life via service to the Lord = becoming a disciple]
(v. 26) What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?
[So gaining the whole world is pictured as valueless in some respect: the eternal respect; for worldly gains are only short lived, temporal. But the value of one's life which is found in serving Christ results in eternal rewards that will last forever]:
(v. 27) For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father's glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what he has done."
[Notice that the one who loses, i.e., gives up control of his life by committing it to serving the Lord will preserve his life, i.e., preserve its value in eternity for rewards when the Lord comes again]
IV) [Mk 8:34-38]:
(v. 34) "Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
(v. 35) For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
(v. 36) What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?
(v. 37) Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
(v. 38) If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."
V) [Compare Lk 6:9]:
"And Jesus said to them, 'I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good, or to do evil, to save a life, ["psucheu"] or to destroy it?"
The word for physical - soulish life in Luke 6:9 - "psucheu" - is the same root word that is translated as "souls" in Jas 1:21, ("psuchas").
Compare also Mk 3:4: same word "psucheu" translated in Mark as one's physical - soulish life.
So James tells fellow believers in Jas 1:21 to put aside all immoral behavior and obey God's word "which [God's Word] is able to save your soul." [with the result that one's physical life is preserved from premature death]. He refers to saving one's life relative to physical death, to rewards in heaven and to the true value of one's soul - one's physical life - to God on earth....instead of wasting one's life on earth with the temporal, immoral or trivial which have a devastating effect on the quality of one's life in eternity.
VI) [1 Pet 1:1-11]:
(v. 1) "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,
(v. 2) who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
(v. 3) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
["hope" = "elpida" = a sure hope ]
(v. 4) and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you,
[Bible Knowledge Commentary, NT, Walvoord & Zuck Eds, Victor Books, USA, 1988, p. 841]:
"The sure hope is of a future inheritance (klEronomian). This same word is used in the Septuagint to refer to Israel's promised possession of the land (cf. Num 26:54, 56; 34:2; Josh 11:23); it was her possession, granted to her as a gift from God. A Christian's inheritance cannot be destroyed by hostile forces, and it will not spoil like over ripened fruit or fade in color. Peter used three words, each beginning with the same letter and ending with the same syllable, to describe in a cumulative fashion this inheritance's permanence: can never perish (aphtharton), spoil (amianton), or fade (amaranton). This inheritance is as indestructible as God's Word (cf. 1 Peter 1:23, where Peter again used aphtharton). Each Christian's inheritance of eternal life is kept in heaven or 'kept watch on' by God so its ultimate possession is secure (cf. Gal 5:5)."
(v. 5) who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
[Notice that 'an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you, who through faith...', i.e., through faith one receives and has kept for them by God an eternal inheritance]
[BKC, op. cit., p. 841]:
"Not only is the inheritance guarded, but heirs who have been born into that inheritance are shielded by God's power. 'Shielded' (phrouroumenous) is a military term, used to refer to a garrison within a city (Phil 4:7 uses the same Gr. word). What greater hope could be given to those undergoing persecution than the knowledge that God's power guards them from within, to preserve them for an inheritance of salvation that will be completely revealed to them in God's presence. Believers possess salvation now (pres. tense) but will sense its full significance at the return of Christ in the last time. This final step, or ultimate completion of 'the salvation of their souls' (1 Peter 1:9), will come 'when Jesus Christ is revealed,' a clause Peter used twice (vv. 7, 13)."]
(v. 6) In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
(v. 7) These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
(v. 8) Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
(v. 9) Obtaining as the outcome of your faith ["pisteOs" = faithfulness] the salvation of your souls
(v. 10) Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care,
(v. 11) trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow."
[Hodges, op. cit., p. 101]:
"The same idea is present in the Apostle Peter's famous passage on suffering found in 1 Peter 1:6-9. The expression in verse 9 which is translated 'the salvation of your souls' would be much better translated according to its normal Greek sense: 'the salvation of your lives.' Peter is describing the messianic experience in which the believer partakes of Christ's sufferings first, in order that he might subsequently share the glory to which those sufferings lead (1 Peter 1:10, 11). In this way the 'life' is saved, even when paradoxically it is lost, because it results in 'praise honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ' (1 Pet 1:7)."