“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” (1Peter 2:11 ESV)
When we go to the medical doctor for examination or surgery, he can find our brains, but she cannot repair our minds.
When the doctor opens our chests to do surgery on the heart, he is unable to do anything about our character.
When we receive a physical, there are no reports given on the state of our souls.
The Bible diagnosis for man in general is that we have great sickness of soul.
Mankind tends to ignore the soul, and thus to misunderstand the most weighty issues of life. Mankind places great emphasis on what the Bible calls the flesh. They may speak of human nature, human condition, wholistic health, etc. – but when considered apart from God, man is flesh – independent and temporary; willful, but weak.
The soul, in Biblical language, is the organ for relationship with God. When God formed Adam (Gen 2:7), he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man, a-dam, became a living soul – a creature made to correspond with the Creator in faith and fellowship.
But a dead or dormant soul does not have faith. We cannot enjoy fellowship with God with a captivated or collapsed soul. And it is not only God who desires your soul, but also the devil (1 Pet 5:8).
I am going to allow the context of 1 Peter 2:11 to control our thinking about the soul. In addition to the reference to “soul” in our text, Peter also refers to the soul in 1:9; 1:22, and 2:25.
Nothing to Look Forward to
1 Peter 1:9 speaks of “the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” This is followed, after a brief (but important) aside in vv. 10-12, with the admonition to “set youre hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (v.13). A sick soul has nothing to which it can look forward.
A sick soul has no dream of a future revelation (v.13), but is instead stuck in the present or perhaps the past. A sick soul has no sense of the holiness (vv. 15-16) of God which is above, beyond and behind all that we can see with our senses. The sick soul is then unable to respond to God with a proper fear (v. 17) that is due Him. He is left, by default, in the futility (v. 14) of a short-sighted, mortal and mundane existence.
Nothing to Act as Its Guide
The soul, by God’s gracious revealing, is broken free from its prison of blindness and ignorance to a whole new kind of life. This new life includes a consecration to God (1:22) which frees us from self-indulgence. God is gracious in that He has given our souls a guide in what is a trackless wilderness of life for those who are sick of soul.
This guide for the soul directs toward self-sacrifice rather than self-indulgence. We are to practice a brotherly kindness which is strenuous and which arises from only the purest of motives (v.22). Further, this kind of energetic direction does not allow for the crippling distractions mentioned in 2:1. These are to be put away so that our lives, as living stones (2:5), might be properly aligned with the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ (2:4,6). He is the Guide for our lives, and the Director of our souls.
Word studies lead toward to Biblical illustrations. The first is Joseph (Gen 39:8-9), who, in submission to his master and allegiance to God, endured false accusation and affliction. The second is Moses, recorded in Hebrews 11:24-26, who “refused,” “chose,” “considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.” These men had a guide from above that remained unaffected by the circumstances taking place here below.
No One to Look Up to
Jesus is called by Peter the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (2:25). For those with sick souls, we have no one to look up to. For those who are wandering, their goal must be to either remain anonymous in the room, or strive to be the biggest person in the room. And when I try to “enlarge” myself, I cannot admit to a Leader or a Captain. But Jesus is the one who has blazed a path for us, “leaving you an example” (v.22). He suffered and died, and now serves as the One to whom we look (Heb 12:2), the Author and Finisher of our faith, for those with souls that are being healed.
The Cure for a Sick Soul is not education for our ignorance, but rather God’s gracious revealing of things that we cannot see with our eyes. The Cure is not moral improvement in order to overcome self-indulgence, but is rather the Call to become part of something that is bigger than us and our private dreams, and that will last eternally longer than a temple made with stone. The Cure for my soul is not heroism, unless that means that I finally find in Jesus what I can never be in myself.