Will you explain the difference between our soul and our spirit? — Janet Gebhart, Fort Lauderdale
A. The Bible teaches that we consist of body, soul and spirit: “May your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:23). Our material bodies are evident, but our souls and spirits are less distinguishable.
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In the preceding passage, the Greek word for soul is psuche. This word implies our mind, will and desires as seen in our personal preferences, choices, and emotional responses to life’s situations. Our soul is reflected in our personality.
The Greek word for spirit is pneuma. It refers to the part of man that connects and communicates with God. Our spirit differs from our soul because our spirit is always pointed toward and exists exclusively for God, whereas our soul can be self-centered. The joy, comfort and peace of God’s presence can only be experienced through our spirit.
While everyone’s soul is fully active, not everyone’s spirit is, because when Adam fell the spirit died and was separated from God. Only in Christ is the spirit reconnected and reconciled: “At one time you were separated from God. But now Christ has made you God’s friends again … by his death … ” (Colossians 1:21-22).
Q. What does the Catholic Church mean when it says Catholics are literally eating the body of Christ when they receive communion? What Scripture is it taken from, and how do you feel about it? — M. M., Coral Springs
A. Catholics and Protestants participate in the act of communion based upon Christ’s command: “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me'” (Luke 22:19).
Catholics believe the bread becomes the physical body of Christ based upon their Catechism 1374: “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained” (Pages 383, 384).
Protestants believe this act is commemorative and figurative rather than literal because Scripture clearly shows that when Christ instituted the first communion, he was sitting with the disciples, so they could not have been eating his body literally.
Jesus often spoke figuratively (John 16:25), calling himself a door (John 10:10), the bread of life (John 6:35), a vine (John 15:1), and a hen gathering her chicks (Matthew 23:37), none of which he meant literally. He said to partake of communion “in remembrance of me.” We are remembering his broken body and his shed blood that saved us from the penalty of sin and reconciled us to God.
Got a question about ethics, morals or faith in everyday life? Ask Pastor Bob Coy in care of James D. Davis, Religion Editor, Sun-Sentinel, 200 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301. Questions also may be e-mailed to email@example.com.
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