Description: Beginning of body, soul, spirit talks
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Body, Soul and Spirit 1
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? That is, why are you alive? Why am I alive? That’s the subject we’re discussing
on this program each day. We have come a long way since we started, some six or seven months ago. So if you
need some of the intellectual undergirding that those introductory talks provide, I would encourage you to
write for those cassettes, so that you can have the same kind of intellectual basis as we have gradually
formed over the months.
However, I have to jump in where we are in the discussion.
What we’ve said is that the meaning of life is connected with the Creator who made us. There is a personal
Creator, a personal intellect behind the universe. He made us so that we would be His friends, so that we
would get to know Him, and so that we would begin to understand Him and begin to have a love relationship with
Him. That is why He created us.
That’s why he created us like Himself. We referred to the early words of the Bible in the Old Testament that
probably most of us remember heard read at assembly in school or at some time or other in our lives. It’s that
verse, you remember, in Genesis, Chapter 1 and verse 26. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image …'”
We said He obviously turned around (if one can imagine God turning around) and speaking to His Son, His Jesus
who, of course, existed with Him in timeless eternity before the creation. He said, “Son, let us make man in
He decided to make us in His image, because He wanted us to be His friends and to enjoy Him and be His
children, to have an actual interacting relationship with Him that was personal. Of course, we mentioned that
the only kinds of people you can have real friendship with are people that have the same capabilities as you
yourself. You know that. You enjoy yourself most with people who have the same kinds of interests as you, and,
most of all, who have the same capabilities.
It’s that capacity to discuss and to converse and to analyze, to discuss topical events and to discuss
aesthetics, and to talk about literature and poetry and science and topical events. To talk about each other
and to talk about life and to reflect on ourselves. It makes part of what friendship is about. That’s why the
Creator made us in His own image. He actually made you to be His friend.
Now, I know that that just bewilders you, and you think that’s ridiculous, and who are you to be the friend of
God. But…that’s actually why He made us. He didn’t make us to be playthings or to be toys. He didn’t make us
to be pawns in some huge cosmic game that He plays. He made us, because He really loves us and wants us to
know Him and to understand Him. That’s why He made us in His image.
In His image, of course, means several things. First of all, it means making us with His capacities. That is
where we begin, probably, to touch parts of the meaning of life that you may well have been ignorant of. There
is a verse in the second chapter of Genesis, that gives some kind of metaphorical indication of the make-up of
the personality that God has given us. Of course, He explained it in child-like terms, because mankind, at
that point in creation, was in its childhood.
God, perhaps, would have explained it in much more philosophical terms to us today. But in those days mankind
was in its primitive stages and God explained the thing to mankind in those terms. In Genesis, Chapter 2 and
verse 7, you read this, “Then the Lord God formed man out of dust from the ground…” He took some dust (the
Hebrew word for “dust” is “aphar”)from the ground, and the ground is “adama”. Of course, you can see how
“adama” becomes Adam; He took some dust and He formed a body.
Of course, you and I know that bit very well, because we have all been to funerals and we’ve been to
gravesides. We know fine well that after several months the casket has been eaten through by worms. Eventually
we discover there is dust in the bottom of the casket. After centuries there is probably nothing left but
dust. The body just deteriorates into dust, because it is made from dust. You and I know that.
If you’ve seen your mother or father after they’ve died, you know you can look at them and it isn’t them. You
know it isn’t them. It’s their features and it looks like them, but you know fine well that it’s just a
physical shell. “They” are no longer there. You have a sense of that. You can almost push their forehead as
they lie in the coffin, and think “that used to be my Dad but it isn’t any longer. It’s just a piece of
physical flesh that will soon be dust.” God made us out of the dust and, in a sense, the body is the least
lasting, the most temporary part of us.
The verse goes on and it says, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into His
nostrils the breath of life.” Of course, breathing into his nostrils is God’s way of saying that He breathed
into us His own life. The Hebrew word for breath is “ruach”. It also means “wind” and, of course, wind is
something, you remember, that Jesus referred to as a symbol of the Spirit. Jesus said, “The wind blows where
it wills and no man knows from where it comes or whence it goes.” It’s the Spirit.
“Ruach” is the breath of God or the Spirit of God. If you say, “Well, now, what is the Spirit of God?” The
nearest you can come to it in simple terms is when you talk about, for example, the great “spirit” that
Churchill had — what a great spirit he had. It is his very essence. It’s the essence of the man’s character.
It’s the very heart of the man. It is what he really is deep down. It is his very nature and character. It is
his own very self.
If you take away all that are accretions and all that are additions and all that is accumulated over the
years, the very heart of a man is his spirit. God breathed into us. He put into us His own heart and His own
nature, His own attitude to things, His own Spirit, His own attitude. Then the verse goes on and it says,
“…and man became a living being.” That’s from what we call the Revised Standard Version translation. But the
King James Version is probably the best, because it says, “…and man became a living soul”.
The Hebrew word for soul is “nephesh”, and, it’s interesting, the Greek word for soul is “psuche”. That, of
course, becomes through the Anglo-Saxon changes, where the vowel changes, it becomes “psyche”. It means that
God made our bodies and then breathed into our bodies His own very essence, the essence of His own very
character, the thing that gives Him life. The two, as it were, mixed together much as, I suppose, instant
coffee and water do. The third essence that resulted was the soul, the psychological part of us.
So, one of the necessary things that we have to do is, in order to understand what the meaning of life is
about, to see that the psychological part of us is a separate part of us from this area called the spirit,
which is the very essence of God. That, again, is separate from the body. So, we are made in the image of God
in that we exist on three different levels. Let’s continue a little more with this tomorrow, and I think that
you will begin to understand your own self better.