Updated: Nov 14, 2021
For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. Col 2:5 (NIV)
People often say I will be with you in Spirit. What do they mean? And what about the Soul?
If they cannot be there physically, they want you to know they are thinking about you or wish they were there with you. By saying they will be there in spirit what does that consist of? Can our spirit be somewhere else besides in us?
God is three persons and we are also comprised of three parts as we understand it: Soul, Spirit and Body.
God made us with a combination of soul, spirit, and body. Our consciousness is so fundamental to creation and intertwined with God that we will never have the cognitive skill or science to understand it. Consciousness is considered a Hard Problem by Science because science cannot empirically find it or prove it. Our consciousness is an aspect of our souls that make us self-aware.
Our soul is then the sum of our collective consciousness: Mind, Will and Emotions.
“Wisdom will enter your heart, / And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.” Proverbs 2:10
The Bible speaks of both “spirits” and “souls” in different contexts, writers often interchange the terms. The Bible also tells us that God Himself is spirit (John 4:24).
The soul consists of several things, including love, hatred, joy, and grief: basically, our personality. We are also gifted with a mind that can remember past events and project possibilities into the future using our imagination.
We have a soul because we are a person created by God and we exist. Our soul is not limited to our body, but it can depart (physical death) and exist separate from the body.
“It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. Genesis 35:18
Our souls are invested in our brains and if we are alive in this current existence our soul is bound by the condition of our brains and bodies. That is why when people suffer brain damage or develop dementia the operative aspects of their souls cannot work properly. They still retain their souls, but its expression is diminished.
Your soul is your essence and cannot be traded or duplicated. Human fantasies of creating life that functions as we do is Godless and yet one more example of Mankind rebelling and desiring to be our own God. Perfectibility is a utopian fantasy. Hitler thought he could do it, so did Karl Marx and Lenin to name a few.
The human spirit is the lamp of the LORD that sheds light on one is inmost being. Proverbs 20:27
As we understand it from scripture our Human Spirit comes into being or becomes active with Faith in Christ Jesus. This figurative “Lamp” is how God the Father, Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit see the thoughts and intents of your heart. You and I are an open book. That is why there are no secret sins.
We are very ignorant of the spiritual aspects of creation and how it works. The Bible shows us that there is an invisible realm around us with entities that interact with us and our reality. Some of those interactions are malignant and harmful as Demons and in some cases Satan himself are at work. There are scriptures that show Demonic entities making efforts to influence our thoughts and behaviors. Alternately God’s messengers, Angels intercede at God’s request in the affairs of man for good.
The fact our fallen selves, our sin nature blinds us to this ultimate reality requires God the Father, Christ Jesus, and the person of the Holy Spirit to be ever present. You can look at the world around us and what happens daily and now in these unusual times that we humans are not good at reconciliation and forgiveness.
Just think of all the sin, cruelty, sexual sins, slavery, murder, and torture that is ever present to God on a moment by moment basis as his omnipresence views mankind. Consider his sorrow and sadness.
Paul did not wish to visit the Christians in Corinth so bad was their conduct. The text indicates his motivation was not a lack of interest in their Christian life or their Church proceedings. He was content to stay away because, as the text makes evident, he knew there was a sense in which he was really with them.
In what sense then could the apostle deem himself to be with these Corinthian Christians "in spirit"?
First, Paul was with them in spirit through his teaching. He had long labored in word and doctrine in this center of Greek commerce and literature by which many were called and washed and sanctified by the gospel of Christ and by the Spirit of God. His teaching laid the foundation upon which other could follow.
Paul was also with them in spirit by his authority. Paul never forgot that he was an inspired apostle of the Lord. He spoke with authority by the Spirit of the Lord, and his counsel merely from men but of celestial authority. What the Corinthians were directed to do by Paul was in the Lord’s name, and with the assurance that their action would be sanctioned by the Divine Head of the Church.
Christ Jesus is absent in body but present in spirit. His new physical body is currently beside god the Father. The plan was that he would leave, and the Holy Spirit would then enter the world and comprehensively indwell believers and work in the world as well.
Christ's Church in Paul’s time and in ours operates with the express and clear instructions of our Lord and of his inspired apostles which is prompted by his Spirit and sanctioned by his authority. We do not see his body or hear his voice; but we cannot question or doubt his spiritual presence.
Jesus Christ is ever at hand to teach his disciples, to comfort those who suffer, to counsel those frustrated and confused by life and to impart his Divine authority to the actions and efforts of those who rely upon his Word.
So, reach out to those in your life who may not be present with you, but you carry in your heart as you are present with them in spirit. Let them know they are not alone in life.
Matthew writes that Jesus said,
“I’ll be with you, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”