Description: Continuation of body, soul, spirit talks
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Body, Soul and Spirit 2
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? What’s the purpose of it? Why are you here? Why was the world created? That’s the
subject we’re talking about on this program. We’ve got as far in our discussion, over the past months, as
having started to deal with the explanation of the meaning of life that has been given by the unique human
being that most of us know as Jesus of Nazareth.
He pointed us back to the early words that most of us have heard read in school assembly when we were little.
The words that you may remember go like this, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image…'” Jesus
explained to us that the Creator of the universe, in timeless eternity, before the world was created, turned
around to Him, His only Son, and said, “Let us (let you and I) make man in our image …” Jesus explained that
the reason the Creator made you in His image was because He wanted you to be His friend and His close
associate, indeed His child.
That is why we are really created. The Creator made us not simply to look after the world, not simply to play
a violin, if that’s what we can do well, or to complete mathematical equations, if that’s what we can do well,
or to scrub floors, or to build cars, but He made us so that we could be His friends. We could enjoy an
intimate relationship with Him that He would then enjoy forever in timelessness.
That’s why He created us in His image, because the only one you can enjoy friendship with is somebody who is
like you. You know that yourself. You like people who enjoy the same kind of things as you. To enjoy them,
they have to have the same kind of capabilities as you. That’s why the Maker of the world made you and me in
Somebody has said that we have the only brain cells that can think about themselves. That’s one of the things
that divides us from the animals: the self-conscious ability, self-critical ability. That’s because we are
made in the same form as God. Last broadcast, we discussed another verse in the early chapter of Genesis that
describes the creation of man in somewhat metaphorical terms, probably because mankind was in his childhood
and that’s the way he would understand it.
You remember, it runs that God took dust from the ground and made man’s body. You can find that in Genesis
2:7. It runs, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground…” Your body is just made of dust and it
will return to dust. Then, the verse runs on, “…and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” The word
for “life” in Hebrew is “ruach” and it means God’s own Spirit, the very own Spirit of God, the very thing that
makes Him God. It is the very fire of His life. It is the very essence of God.
When you talk about Churchill’s great spirit, you mean his attitude, the very heart of the man himself, the
very essence of his life, the thing that makes him Churchill. That’s what God’s Spirit is. It’s the thing that
makes God God. It’s the very life attitude. It’s the very fire inside him. It’s the very energy that makes him
God. And God breathed that into us.
Then it says that man became a living soul. It seems that God’s life Spirit combined with our body and
resulted in a soul. The Hebrew word for “soul” is “nephesh”, but the Greek word is “psuche”, and it becomes,
of course, “psyche”. That is “psychological” in our English language. You can see that it means that the
spirit and the body came together and resulted in a psychological part of man that you and I often call his
Those three levels are the levels in which man exists, and the levels at which God exists. They are what make
it possible for man to know God and to have any relationship with Him. That’s why, in another part of the
Bible, very near the end of the Bible in the New Testament, in a book called Thessalonians and it’s in about
chapter 5 and verse 23, it runs, “May the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and keep your spirit, soul
and body blameless until the coming of the Lord Jesus.”
That division of spirit, soul and body is part of what will help you and me to understand the meaning of life.
That’s because we are beings that exist on those three levels. It doesn’t mean, of course, that you can go in
and take your appendix out. It doesn’t mean you can go in again and take your soul out. It doesn’t mean that.
It is not an entity like that; it’s not a physical entity. It is a level of reality within you that you
possess. It makes it very clear, and Jesus makes it very clear, that the spirit is different from the soul.
The soul is the kind of psychological part of us, the emotional side and the intellectual side. But, the
spirit is deeper than that. Of course, we get into all kinds of trouble today, because we mix up the two. We
think that when we’re dealing with thoughts and feelings and when we’re dealing even with intellect, we’re
dealing with the spirit. No.
The emotional and intellectual part of us is what is known as the self-conscious part of us. It is the part of
us that is self-conscious. We can look into our feelings and feel what we’re feeling. We can look into our
mind and see what we are thinking. We can will with our wills. Those are conscious actions. But, the spirit
is, in a sense, the unconscious part of us. It’s the part of us that senses God. It’s the part of us that is
lifted and energized by His own life and His own Spirit.
It is, actually in a sense, the God-conscious part of us. The soul is the self-conscious part of us, and the
spirit is the God-conscious part of us. It’s the part of us that comes alive when we begin to live our life in
trust of God. Then, we begin to sense what He wants us to do. That is the spirit. It is the spirit part of us
that knows God, and that is able to trust Him and sense what He is thinking.
The body part of us is the world part of us. We can see with our eyes, and hear with our ears. We can feel
with our fingers and we can taste with our tongue. All those activities of the five senses are connected with
our perception of the world. That kind of division, if you like to call it a division, though it’s certainly
not a divided man. We are not in bits; we’re all one. Those three levels on which we operate might help you a
Many of us have tried to feel God’s presence with our feelings. We have tried to think our way through to God.
Now, both our mind and emotions can get us so far, but, finally, it is our spirit that senses God and that is
able to contact Him and able to interact with Him. In fact, Jesus and His disciples went to great extremes to
point out that there was a division between the spirit and the soul.
There is a certain verse in the New Testament book of Hebrews (way near the back of the New Testament),
there’s a verse that runs in Hebrews 4:12, that says that the Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword
piercing to the division of soul and spirit. So, it is obviously quite important to be able to distinguish
between the spirit and the soul.
Actually the verse goes on and says, “…discerning the thoughts and intentions of man’s heart.” It indicates
that it is very difficult to distinguish between the spirit and the soul, but God’s own word is able to do
that. It is vital, of course, for you and I to do it. It explains a lot of the errors we make when we talk
about psychotherapy today. Let’s talk a little bit about that tomorrow.