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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII


Part IX


Part VI: A Fresh Look at the Meaning of the Word "Soul".

Chapter 4

A Crucial Test

     WHAT HAS been said in the three previous chapters meets a crucial test in the Incarnation. A study of certain passages which deal with this great mystery sheds a wonderful light on this particular aspect of the subject (see also "The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation", Part IV in this volume).
     I never cease to wonder at the care which God has exercised in appointing the exact words to be used by those who were engaged in setting forth key theological statements in Scripture. The precision with which such statements are made is truly profound, and because of it the study of Scripture is likely to be the more rewarding as it is the more conscientious and reverent. Let me illustrate this by putting together several passages which give us some light on this greatest of all mysteries, the Incarnation.
     In Isaiah 9:6 it is written,

     For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

     And in Hebrews 10:5-7 we are given a picture of the scene in heaven which immediately preceded the appearance of the Lord upon earth as Mary's first-born Child. It is written,

     Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me.
     In burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure.
     Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God.

     These two passages are complementary. In Hebrews we are informed by revelation that when the body which Mary carried in her

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womb was fully prepared (verse 5) -- a Greek word which means more than is conveyed by the single English word "prepared" and implies rather absolute perfection -- then the announcement was made in heaven in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. He replied at once, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God." The burnt offerings and sacrifices of the Old Covenant had not satisfied; something more was needed, and this something was to be fulfilled by One whose coming had been repeatedly foretold in the volume of the Book.
     Now this specially prepared body was conceived by the Holy Ghost, but until it had received its own spirit it could never be more than a perfectly formed body. For all its perfection it must be stillborn. From whence was the spirit for it to be derived?
     Before the Incarnation, the Lord Jesus Christ was pure spirit, able to assume material form in the theophanies of the Old Testament (see "The Trinity in the Old Testament", Part V in this volume), but nevertheless essentially of one substance with the Father. It will be noticed that in all those passages which refer to a relationship of Father and Son, between God and the Lord Jesus, the reference in the Old Testament is to the future, "I will be to him a Father and he shall be to me a Son" (1 Chronicles 17:10-14, literal translation). It is not until we enter the New Testament that the future tense gives way to the present tense.
     The exact moment at which this transition takes place is given specifically in Hebrews 1:5:

     For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee?

     Note that it is said "this day." In verse 6 this is reiterated and the time made even more specific with the words, "when he bringeth the first-begotten into the world." We can, therefore, put these passages together, with one or two others to be mentioned, and we have this picture: When Mary's full time was come (Galatians 4:4) God sent forth the Lord Jesus Christ to be the spirit which would render that perfect little body a living soul. Thus "the Child was born" and, at the same instant "the Son was given," and this is exactly what is stated in Isaiah 9:6. At that moment, that very day when He brought the first-begotten into the world, the relationship which had been predicted as future in the Old Testament became present in the New, and "I will be to him a Father" became "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." When "that holy thing" (Luke 1:35) received its proper spirit -- none other than the Lord Jesus Christ who had spent eternity with God (John 1:1,2) -- there appeared in the world God's Holy Child Jesus (Acts 4:27). The Holy Thing had become a

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Holy Child. The wonder of it is that when that little baby drew its first breath, God had become man.
     How beautifully the Word of God has been hedged about, that the events of that memorable day may be as fully understood as our finite minds are able to do so. The Son was "given." Transcending even the usual understanding we have of the word "given" with reference to Calvary in John 3:16, the term has a twofold meaning: given at the time of the Incarnation and given again at the time of the Crucifixion. God twice gave His Son.
     I think we may conclude from this three things. First, in the Incarnation, the Person of the Lord Jesus appeared in human form when a purely spiritual being was given to a purely material body. Then emerged the soul to which reference is made in such passages as John 12:27 ("Now is my soul troubled") and Matthew 26:37 ("my soul is exceeding sorrowful. . ."). Secondly, that the time of this emergence of the soul coincided with the moment the spirit was given to the body, and not before. And the spirit was given to the body only when the body had come to completion, i.e., was perfectly prepared for it. And thirdly, that the relationship of Father to Son was established that very day. The relationship previously had been one of absolute equality which did not involve the implications of greater and lesser. Fatherhood and sonship inevitably introduce this concept of greater and lesser, as indicated in the statement made by the Lord (in John 14:28), "My Father is greater than I." Prior to this we read only of "God with God," a relationship which allowed of no such distinctions. The wonder of it all is that in spite of the new relationship no surrender of this absolute equality was involved, for it required the fullest exercise of His deity at all times to maintain whatever had to be surrendered for a season in order to assume the position of Sonship. Only absolute Deity can humble itself and maintain this humiliation (Philippians 2:8), so that in some mysterious way the assumption of a momentary humiliation required, if anything, an even greater display of divine power. From all this it does not appear that in the greatest of all births there is any contradiction of our thesis that the soul emerges when the spirit is given to the body, not before, and that this is coincident with the drawing of the first breath. In Isaiah 53:12 we are told that He "hath poured out his soul unto death." In the New Testament we are told that He dismissed His spirit. These two events were simultaneous, the soul departing when the spirit returned into God's hands. Perhaps it should be noted that the very form of the Lord's words, "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit," could only have come from One who had surrendered

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of His own free will just sufficient of His infinite power in order to become man, and as man depend upon God to care for His spirit when it ceased to indwell His body until it should again be united with it. Though He never ceased to be God, He could not now ever cease to be man. From the morning of the Resurrection until this day there has always existed in heaven one whole and perfect man -- body, soul, and spirit -- to whose image we shall be conformed and who thereby is constituted the true first-born of the family of God.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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