JohnSWilson3 Blog


“But we are…of faith to the possession of the soul.” (Part 1)
December 22, 2011, 4:13 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

This is a curious statement “But we are not of withdrawal to destruction of wellbeing, but of faith to possession of the soul life.” The NASB seems to be the only modern translation that keeps the sense of the Greek language. Most translators interpret “possession of soul” as “salvation” but that is not the Greek letters used. “Salvation,” while it describes the end result, “possession of soul” gives us insight into the process, or the journey, that God is involved with in His body. This process is vitally important to how God gets what He wants. A process that Paul mentions in his letters and even Christ Himself describes in the gospels.

“But we are…of faith to the possession (peripoiēsin) of the soul.” The specific Greek word for possession or obtainment, “peripoiēsin,” here is only used four times in the New Testament. One in each letter to the Thessalonians and once in Peter’s first letter and the same root word is used in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The translators are not in agreement as to its actual meaning in each case where it is used. The word literally means “to do or make around.” (Vines, 440) The prefix of the word is where we get our English word “perimeter” which means the complete distance or length around something. Vine’s seems to see the word as meaning “‘the act of obtaining’ anything, as of salvation in its completeness.” I tend to agree with Vine’s as the word and its context in the New Testament seem to imply obtaining or possessing something in its completeness.

In his first letter to the Thessalonian ekklesia Paul says:

1 Thessalonians 5:8-9; “But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining (to obtainment of) salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This passage is constructed very similar to the Hebrews 10:39 verse. But instead of “possession (obtainment) of soul” it is “possession (obtainment) of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” But notice the process: “having put on…faith and love…and…hope.” Paul said something similar to the Roman ekklesia. And Paul mentions later to the Ephesians and Colossian ekklesias to “put on the New Man” (capitalization mine). But this armor cannot be put on unless the ekklesias “put aside the deeds of darkness” or “put off the old man.” This is not something that we do but rather realize, have spiritual sight of, that Christ has already done this! Christ has “put to death” the old man and we are now called and empowered by His Spirit to live by His life, the New Man! Because of this hope that we have been given in Christ we now by faith love one another, even those who we disagree with or even hurt us, our enemies.

In his second letter to the Thessalonian ekklesia Paul says:

2 Thessalonians 2:13-15; “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain (to obtainment of) the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.”

In this letter it is “possession (obtainment) of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here possession (obtainment) is connected to sanctification, or being set apart to God. This sanctification is by the Spirit. It is Christ’s life who is doing this as we live by faith in Jesus, who is truth. In both letters and in his former letters it seems Paul is using different words to describe the same thing, but each giving a different view of the same process. But what is amazing is that in this letter to the Thessalonians Paul has in view God’s glory being expressed! Christ is God’s glory! When we put on Christ, live by His life together with love by faith, it is the glory of God that is being expressed, the very life of Jesus Christ our Lord! Could we put our arms around this!

In his letter to the Ephesian ekklesia Paul says:

Ephesians 1:13-14: “In Him, you also, after listening to the message (Logos) of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”

What an incredible statement! In Christ, we are His possession (obtainment)! But as His possession He is in the process of redeeming us. Here Paul describes the “possession (obtainment) of soul life” from a different perspective. While we are His possession we are still in the possession process. While we have been redeemed we are still in the redeeming process. While we are saved, we are still in the saving process. While we are set apart to God, we are still in the separating apart to God process. God has something much larger in store, the full expression of His Son through His ekklesia! The body must learn together to live by its new nature, to its fullest. “To the mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”

The author of the letter to Hebrews has been describing this process throughout the letter to these believers. This ekklesia was facing difficult circumstances and as a result are being tempted to return to living under the law of Moses, under religion instead of by the life of Christ, His Spirit. The author has been encouraging them to see Jesus Christ, giving the brothers and sisters a wonderfully glorious view of Christ, His supremacy and centrality over everything. Christ in them is able to help them, but they must listen to Him, hear Him, and by faith follow Him together, loving one another. Only by trusting the Lord Jesus in these difficult circumstances would they truly experience more of Him, “the author of their salvation through sufferings.” The issues, the circumstances, the difficult things in life that we face as brothers and sisters are something we will face. And it is in these difficult circumstances where we learn to live by Christ in greater measure!

T. Austin-Sparks notes as we go on with the Lord, organically living by His life, these circumstances will only get harder. “The further we go on with the Lord, the longer we live with Him and the closer we walk with Him, the more intense becomes this travail of life.” (Sparks, “The Holy Spirit’s Biography of Christ”) They are a kind of spiritual smelting of removing the dross of the flesh and allowing the pure light of Christ to shine through our souls. In fact it is through this process that the Father gets what He wants, the increase of Christ’s life through His body, so that more of Christ’s life is expressed instead of the flesh. It is a spiritual process, something not of this earth, where we learn to live by the Spirit and not by the soul life. What then is vital to allow Christ’s life to increase to flow through our souls? How does one live by the Spirit and not by the soul life? This by the way is something I am still learning.

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