This morning after the preacher had completed his sermon, I told the congregation of a one vehicle accident on our way to Church as we travelled along Great North Road in Benoni. This vehicle had gone from the double lane section, over the center grass pavement strip landing up on the grass section between the inbound lanes and the service road. We don’t know if anyone was injured or killed, but it reminded us of a number of road accidents over the last few days where there have been multiple deaths.
As evangelicals, we are always concerned when people die because we know there is a real heaven and a real hell and the departing soul enters one of these two places. We are always concerned because the soul is the real you, and the real you will exist in a real eternity for eternity.
Yesterday I posed three questions … “How important is the Soul?” “Why is the Soul important?” “What is the Soul?” I tried to deal with the last question yesterday. Today I want to try and work through the first two questions … “How important is the Soul?” and “Why is the Soul important?”
The human body dies and decays and is no more, yet there will be a resurrected body, one that is spiritual, a home for the soul. Many place extreme value on the literal physical body, even implying the exact same body that died will rise to life again. We have to reject this view because the body decays (rots) in the grave; is burnt to ashes in the furnace (cremation) or is eaten or fragments to nothing if buried at sea. (Please do not think I am implying we ought not to dispose of the dead with reverence. I am not.) Our Biblical basis for this is:
1Co 15:42 The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. The spiritual body houses the soul because the soul, the real you, is spiritual. So, how important is the soul?
1) The soul is of utmost importance because God formulated a rescue plan in eternity past.
We do not have the answer to questions like … “If God knew in eternity past that man would sin in the Garden, why did He not prevent it from happening?” The closest answer I can provide is that God permitted the “Fall” for His ultimate glory in Jesus, His rescue plan and mission.
Yet at extreme expense, far beyond human understanding, God comes to this planet to pay the ransom and set the spiritual prisoners free from their bondage to sin and the devil. This mission is explained and recorded for us from Genesis chapter 3 to Malachi … to Jesus’s birth … God incarnate. He left His splendor and glory. He left His majestic holiness … to pursue a rescue mission so intricate and so precise that the human brain is too limited to grasp. The cost to God of the incarnation, scorning, slander, hatred and eventually the Crucifixion is so huge … yet to Him that is the value of the soul!
2) The soul is of utmost importance because God appointed caretakers to watch and guard the soul. Once the soul is birthed into God’s eternal family, that soul needs to be cared for, protected and watched over.
Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
The purpose of obedience and submission to the spiritual leader (pastor – shepherd) is because they “watch” over your soul. The word “watch” is drawn from shepherds who watch over their flock. In our day we have fences around grazing lands for sheep and other cattle. Normally this prevents the requirement of shepherds at night. At times there is stock theft. During the days of the First Century, the profession of a shepherd was very important because of stock theft … but wild animals were the bigger problem. An excellent picture is created for us in Luke chapter 2:
Lk 2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
Observe the word “keeping”. Throughout the night the shepherds watched their flocks. Constant and intentional eyes were on the sheep to protect, prevent loss and satisfy the owner of the sheep. God in His mercy and love appointed spiritual shepherds over the saved soul … to watch, care, protect and feed for two reasons.
(1) For God who loves that saved soul. It is valuable.
(2) For that saved soul’s sake to prevent trauma, torment and anguish.
One day every spiritual shepherd, like the one who watches his master’s sheep in the fields, will give an account. The Owner of the Saved Soul is God. He owns the title deeds of the soul. This deed is written in the Blood of the Lamb. He loves that soul and wants the best for it, therefore He gives shepherds. One day, maybe on the Day of Judgment, they will stand before the Owner of the sheep (saved souls) allocated to them during their ministry on earth. Each soul needs to be accounted for … not just whether they came to church or not … but what he did with that soul. How he tried to serve that soul with the Word and through prayer. Was it necessary to encourage, rebuke, discipline, give extra love and attention, etc.? For example:
2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness
2 Tom 4:2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
(I will return to this theme tomorrow). Just as important and vital as it was to have shepherds watching the sheep throughout the night because these sheep were of great value to the owner, so God appoints spiritual shepherds to care for His spiritual sheep (saved souls), because these souls are so very valuable to God. They will give an account. Now just as sheep could be real dumb and problematic for their shepherds, so could saved souls be spiritually wayward giving endless grief to their spiritual shepherds. This does not help the shepherd nor the saved soul. You care for your valuables. You use a safe … what about your soul?
Lord, help us to listen to and follow those over us in Jesus. Amen.