In Response To The “We Are Gods” Theology: Part 2: Are You A Spirit?

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In the previous article, we examined the first significant claim of “New Creation” teachers who hold that believers are gods. Namely, the wrong interpretation of the creation account. We saw that there is no basis whatsoever from Genesis 1&2 that God created man as a god.

False teachers have always made too much of the creation account. Kenneth Copeland, who is one of the pioneers of the deification of man, said,

“God’s reason for creating Adam was His desire to reproduce himself. I mean a reproduction of himself. And in the garden of Eden he did just that. He was not a little like God, he was not almost like God, he was not subordinate to God even…And Adam was as much like God as you can get, just the same as Jesus when he came to earth. He said “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” He wasn’t a lot like God—he’s God manifested in the flesh…Adam in the Garden of Eden was God manifested in the flesh.” [1]

Biblical chapter and verse for this bold assertion? He had none to hand, except to appeal to the creation story, which we have seen upon careful examination does not support any form of deification of man at all. Kenneth will go on to attribute this false teaching of his to “divine revelation” which he claims to have received from God Himself. In a 1989 message he preached, “Substitution and Identification”, Copeland said,

The Spirit of God spoke to me, and he said, “Son, realise this.” “A twice-born man whipped Satan in his own domain.” And I threw my Bible down and I sat up like that. I said, “What?” He said, “A born-again man defeated Satan. The first born of many brethren defeated him.” He said, “you are the very image and the very copy of that one.” …And He said, “You are in His likeness…”

And I said, “Well now, you don’t mean, you couldn’t dare mean that I could have done the same thing?” He said “Oh yeah. If you’d known and had the knowledge of the Word of God that He did, you could’ve done the same thing. ‘Cause you’re a reborn man too.” [2]

So, you see that this teaching did not originate from a careful Scriptural exegesis; it is quite plainly the doctrine of men and of demons.

Recall that in the very first temptation in the garden of Eden, Satan dangled the fruit of deification before Eve. He said, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5). But even in the garden, the knowledge of good and evil did not make man God—it simply plunged Adam’s posterity into a state of depravity and helplessness in sin (Genesis 3:22). Could Adam or any of his posterity be sinless like our Lord Jesus Christ? Has anyone ever been? Could we have done what Jesus did, to die in our place and resurrect on the third day? What rank heresy!

Christian, realise that this teaching is nothing but a demotion of God and a deification of man. Authentic, historical and orthodox Christianity believes in one God, not many gods. He stands transcendent and resplendent, unequalled to any creature. As we affirmed in the previous post, His desire in creation and regeneration is to make us like Him, not to replace Him or to be the same as Him. Similar and same are similar, but not the same.

The Exaggeration of the Trichotomy of Man

This false theology makes a great deal of the fact that as humans, we are (essentially) spirit, with a soul, which dwells in a body, what is referred to as the trichotomy of man. I want to argue from the Scriptural data that this position is exaggerated and that we don’t have conclusive evidence from the Scriptures that man is tripartite. What is quite plain throughout the Scriptural narrative is the fact that, in addition to the body, there is an immaterial aspect of man, which the Bible sometimes calls “the spirit”, and at other times “the soul”.

Let’s examine what those who teach that “we are spirits” say about these so-called divisions and hold them up to the Scriptural lens.

First, they claim that the spirit is the higher component of human nature, the body and soul being subservient to it if trained properly. Based on this, they say it is our spirits which relate to God (as it is sinless), as our souls and body are prone to sin. Second, they assert that this “spirit” comes into being, or is born at regeneration, such that believers cease to be human from the moment they are born again. Thirdly, they assert that those who live in the consciousness that they are spirit do not experience the limitations that the “ordinary” human being experiences; namely sickness, poverty, failure etc (wealth and health theology).

The spirit or soul is NOT higher than the body 
To the first claim, we do not agree that the spirit is superior or sinless (please see the previous article), or that it is the spirit alone that communicates or relates to God. On the contrary, we see both the body and the soul/spirit being involved in worship, prayer and all aspects of our relationship with God.

Mary, in Luke 1:46-47 magnifies the Lord with her soul and in the same breath, her spirit rejoices in God her Saviour. The “soul” and “spirit” seem to be used synonymously to describe the same activity of worshipping the Lord.

Similarly, David, in the Psalms simplifies all this when he enjoins his soul to bless the Lord and all that is within him to do the same (Psalm 103:1).

In Romans 12:1, we are commanded to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

We are not born as “spirits” at Regeneration

To the second claim, we note first of all that these “New Creation” teachers contradict themselves. On one hand, they insist that man was created as a spirit, and in the same breath they assert that the born-again believer is a spirit and therefore ceases to be anything like the ordinary human being. If all humans were created as “essentially spirits”, then where lies the differences between believers and unbelievers? Both believers and unbelievers should then lay claim to deity.

The teaching that we are born again as “spirits” stems from a misinterpretation of John 3:6 where Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” and Romans 8:10, where we read, “But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness.”

The context of John 3:6 looks like this:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

A careful examination of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus will show that Jesus is making a comparison between natural and spiritual birth. His point is that the new birth comes about by the activity of the Holy Spirit. He further uses the analogy of the wind to drive home this point—namely that this is a sovereign operation of the Holy Spirit (we are not aware it until it happens. The moment we become aware of it, it has already happened). Some translations use “born from above” for “born again” in John 3:3—again a reference to the fact that it is the work of the Holy Spirit, and not of man. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” therefore simply contrasts the spiritual birth with the natural one (John 3:3 could be paraphrased, “the birth that is brought about by the Holy Spirit is a spiritual one”)—it is not to be taken to mean that the new believer is literally a spirit. Such an interpretation does not fit into the context.

Again, in Romans 8:10, the context shows that Paul means, before we came to Christ, we were not living in fellowship to God. We were dead in the sense that our whole persons were rebellious in our sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1). However, when we became born again, this changed. Whereas we were formerly dead to God and alive to sin, we now became alive to God and righteousness, and dead to sin. Thus, our whole persons become “new creations” to God in the sense that we are now in a new and right relationship with God (2Corinthians 5:17).

What Is the Real Difference?

So, let us ask those who insist that we are “essentially spirit”, with a soul in a body, what is the real distinction between spirit and soul? Is there anything that the spirit is said to do in Scripture that the soul cannot do?

The most convincing argument for me is the fact that every activity Scripture ascribes to the soul, the spirit is said to be able to do the same, and vice versa. Support for this is seen in the following.

Paul’s spirit was provoked in Acts 17:16 (challenging the notion that emotions are exclusive to the soul only). Jesus balances the equation when he said in John 12:27, “My soul is troubled” and few verses later John records that He was “troubled in spirit.” (John 13:21). Clearly, John uses the terms soul and spirit interchangeably.

Similarly, the faculty of understanding or reasoning and intelligence is not restricted to the realm of the “soul” alone. Scripture records the spirit’s ability to err (Isaiah 29:24) and of the spirit having the ability to understand (1Corithians 2:11).

We also see that the Bible refers to the soul or spirit departing from the body at death. For example, Jesus in Luke 12:20 rebukes the rich fool, and says his soul will be taken from him that night. However, when Jesus was about to die, we see Him committing His spirit to God and then giving up the ghost/spirit (KJV) (Luke 23:46).

When it comes to the afterlife, Peter refers to the dead as spirits (1Peter 3:19); however, John refers to the souls of those who had been slain under the altar in heaven, and of those beheaded for the sake of the gospel coming to life and reigning with the Lord in His millennial kingdom (Revelations 20:4).

On all this, Grudem insightfully writes,

Those who advocate trichotomy face a difficulty defining clearly just what the difference between the soul and the spirit (from their perspective). If Scripture gave clear support to the idea that our spirit is the part of us that directly relates to God in worship and prayer, while our soul includes our intellect (thinking), our emotions (feeling), and our will (deciding), then trichotomists would have a strong case. However, Scripture appears not to allow such a distinction to be made. [3]

The question remains, why do we need to isolate and hype the “spirit” from the whole man? Again, the answer lies in the fact that teachers of “we are gods” theology need you to believe that that you are the same in nature and essence (they call it having the same spiritual DNA—whatever that means) as our Lord Jesus Christ or God, so that it will be easy to believe you cannot be sick or broke.

But we have seen from the discussion in this article that,

1. There is no hard and fast distinction between what the spirit can do that the soul cannot do. The two terms are often used synonymously in Scripture
2.  If we were created as spirits and therefore gods, then everyone (both believers and unbelievers) is a spirit and god. True Biblical Christianity does not support this.

In the next article, we will delve into the biblical doctrine of regeneration and examine some specific Scriptural verses that are used to teach that we are gods.

Notes

1. Kenneth Copeland, “Following the Faith of Abraham I”; Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Ministries (1989); Tape #01-3001, Side 1.

2. Kenneth Copeland, “Substitution and Identification”; Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Ministries (1989); Tape #00-0202, Side 2

3. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Inter-varsity Press (36 Causton Street, London SW1P 4ST, England). 21: 443.

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One thought on “In Response To The “We Are Gods” Theology: Part 2: Are You A Spirit?

  1. interesting read…i think ye are gods teaching is absolute nonsense.

    however, i think the treatment of the soul and spirit, especially within the context of the new testament, was not dealt with in-depth enough. at the fall what actually happened to the three parts (two parts) of man? Paul’s use of the Greek terms for soul and Spirit were deliberate, why does the word of God separate the soul and spirit if they are the same?. Does Paul say he worships God with his spirit or his body? why the distinction? there is more in it we need to unravel. footnote I don’t agree one part is higher than the other, but i believe at regeneration something happens and real transformation is when all three aspects of our being are aligned towards God perfectly, (still working this theory out, but my starting point is Wesley and Aquinas)

    What has been the teaching of the church in its history on the soul and spirit and why do you support Grudem’s stance?.

    i think you will need to come back again with something more broad and in-depth, start with all scriptures that talks about our BEING at least in the NT, and what the church has always believed. if we are not grounded in this we stand the risk of taking a stance that can be counted as it is been done in the charismatic circles.

    Like

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