Vol. 30 New Series August, 1968 No. 4
THE SOULISH AND THE SPIRITUAL

The discussions that have been going on about baptism, "healing," etc. have led to some interesting by-products. My attention has been drawn to one in particular which, I consider, ought to be dealt with by itself, for the issues involved are of outstanding importance. I have been asked what I mean by "baptism in holy spirit," in a letter quoting a believer who "has never been baptized in holy spirit"; and the question is asked: "What is the evidence that one has had the baptism?"

As the subject of baptism is for some people rather an emotional one, I suggest we first ask the question of another matter. What is the evidence that one is "justified"; that is to say, that one's faith has been reckoned by God as equivalent to righteousness?

For the moment let us dismiss any thought of the evidence of Scripture, and pose this question in its bare form, as it stands. The answer is that there is none, absolutely none at all.

I certainly can produce no certificate of any sort that my faith has been reckoned as equivalent to righteousness. Some might, perhaps, feel inwardly that it has happened to them; but we are (or ought to be) very well aware that feelings are no no adequate substitute for facts. Then why do I believe it? Simply this, because God has declared it in the Sacred Scriptures.

"Abraham believes God" (Rom. 4:3), "He was invigorated as regards this faith, giving glory to God, being fully assured also that what He has promised He is able to do also. Wherefore also it is reckoned to him into righteousness." (20-22).

But on what ground can I apply this to myself? Simply: "Yet now, apart from law God's righteousness has become manifested. . . yet God's righteousness, through Jesus Christ's faith, into all and on all who are believing. .." That is all, and surely it is enough. BELIEVING! Righteousness is on account of faith and of faith alone. Where the faith is, Jesus Christ's faith, there is the righteousness. What is the evidence that we have the righteousness? There is no direct evidence of any sort. If we truly believe God in this matter, we believe that we have the righteousness; but apart from God's Word there is no assurance at all, no testimony of our feelings, no parchment certificate that we can display for all the universe to see. Nothing-except God's Word and that faith which is Jesus Christ's faith. All is spiritual, purely spiritual; unadulterated and unspoilt by anything soulish or fleshly (1 Cor. 2:14).

As with the righteousness, so with the baptism in holy spirit. For evidence, we have only God's Word. Only? Yes, only; but surely that ought to be enough.

How many appreciate the fact that out of the six occurrences of psuchikos, soulish, four are in 1 Corinthians; and that of the twenty six occurrences of pneumatikos, spiritual, fifteen occur in this epistle? Plastered on it, so to speak, is the warning to distinguish most carefully between the two, and to keep each in its place. That is an outstanding example of the Apostle Paul's delicacy of touch: he sets out the truth in proper order, and leaves the readers to spell it out according to their capacity. Yet very few bring to this the care and good sense they show in managing their own private or business affairs. In the recent dicsussion I have been almost alone in insisting that 1 Corinthians 1 to 4 is the necessary prelude to the rest of the epistle. Master those four chapters, and the remaining twelve fall into place and present little difficulty—at any rate, little by comparison with the enormous confusions usually read into them.

Surely it should not require special discernment to perceive that the "spirituals" in 1 Cor. 12:1 are also to a large extent soulish. There is not one of them which is not also a matter of the senses, the mind and the feelings. Those who had mastered the first four chapters would be well aware of this and well prepared for Chapter 13. They would appreciate Paul's beckoning on to "a path suited to transcendence" ; but they would appreciate, too, the point of Chapter 14-that the immature still needed these "spirituals."

The immature continue to need them; but Paul never repeats those three chapters. He leaves them, and thereafter goes on with transcendent matters. There is still a place for immature believers, but in the light of this epistle as a whole, no excuse for them to remain immature. The soulish things faded out of the picture as Paul pressed on to the prize (Phil. 3:14).

That is why it is so saddening to read of believers wanting an experience of baptism in holy spirit.

Admittedly many had an experience during the brief period covered by the glories of Pentecost; but the presence of such soulish things is fully explained in the Apostle Peter's speech in Acts 2:14-40. The experience was linked as a whole with the unlocking of the Kingdom and was fully in accord not only with immediate experience but with future glories in days to come. But what in it was soulish did not last, for Pentecost was the point where Hebrew Prophecy, the proclamation of John the Baptist and the special mission of Peter met and touched. Thereafter they diverged again, because what was both soulish and spiritual was for a long time to come to give way to what was purely spiritual. The crowning revelation of these things was displayed in the Prison Epistles. To turn back to Pentecost, or try to, was to turn away from Paul.

In all four Gospels is recorded John the Baptist's prophecy that the Lord Jesus would baptize in holy spirit, and this is the keynote of Acts (1:5; 11:16) which is explained in 19:1-7. As soon as these disciples (19:1) hear of the change, "they are baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus" (19:5). The hearing is met with faith, and produces an instant consequence: the new baptism instead of the obsolete one of John. What this fully means is stated in Rom. 6:2-7 and confirmed in Col. 2:12. No other baptism exists now: it is the baptism of unity (Gal. 3:28), the one baptism of Eph. 4:5.

So the nature of the evidence that one has had the baptism is clear enough. Being spiritual, and now wholly spiritual, the baptism has and can have no soulish or material evidence. None exists, beyond its effect on the spirit.

Some may feel inclined to smile at this distinction between soulish and spiritual. That is not surprising, for relatively few have minds sufficiently saturated in the Word of God to appreciate it and to understand the meaning of Heb. 4:12. "Parting of soul and of spirit" does not mean destruction of the bond between them but construction of understanding of what each is and means. Those who confuse the distinction between them and the functions each has, by so doing demonstrate their immaturity. When one comes down to hard foundation fact, everything depends on the extent the Word of God fills and dominates a person's mind. Those who have drunk deeply of this living spring reach the point where what is soulish no longer obsesses them. Then, and then alone, they have come to that maturity on earth which will grow into the perfeciton of the life to come.

Those who, like myself, began our spiritual life under the influence of Dr. Bullinger, had one inestimable advantage: warning from the start against confusing the soulish and the spiritual. His ministry was a consistent protest against pursuing soulish things under the delusion that they were spiritual, against peering inward for feelings and assurances instead of gazing outward to the Lord Jesus. Nothing is more hurtful, even fatal, to spiritual growth than constant preoccupation with what one ought to feel and consequently to do. Those who have had even a glimpse of the spiritual perfection displayed in the Prison Epistles ought to be beyond the temptation to dwell on the lesser spirituals.

R.B.W Last updated 29.9.2005