“When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:21-22). Faith in Acts.
A major reference for the object of evangelizing, preaching of the gospel, can be seen here in this text of Acts— “strengthening the souls of the disciples”. How timely to enter this discussion as I was asked recently, ‘what is the soul?’ Genesis records God in creation as having “formed man from the dust of the earth. He blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” Before biology; before cardiology; before psychology; before anthropology; before sociology.
With a vast number of uses of the Hebrew word for ‘soul’ in the Old Testament, it is understood as ‘to breathe’; ‘to draw breath’; and is the deciding mark of the living creature with a view towards the cessation of this breath being the end of life. I suspect that one of the most powerful world religious traditions is the place that the ‘Shema’ holds in Judaism. The Torah Book Deuteronomy speaks to the followers of this faith saying, “Hear O, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
The earliest uses of ‘psuche’ in Greek has the meaning of ‘to blow’; ‘to cool’; and is viewed as the vital force housed in man that finds expression in ‘the breath’. ‘Breath-soul’ are seen together and said to ‘leave man at the moment of death through the mouth or wound.’ In the ‘Golden Age’ ‘psuche’ is given it’s greatest conceptual thought in the ‘trichotomies’ of the great philosophers. This method of ‘3 part division’ first sees ‘the soul’ separated from the body and the mind. Then, in Plato, 3 divisions of the soul. By the time of the Acts writing, the discussion on ‘the soul’ has reached enormous perspective in that now, there is an ultimate concern, a seeking for ‘a home for the soul’— a major objective of most all religions of the day.
Jesus, looking through the religious window of a faith that had taught him to love ‘God alone’ with ‘all his living breath’— to live and breathe love for ‘One God’ only; took the stated value of the ‘soul’ to higher ground in what he said. “For whoever would save his ‘psuche’ will lose it; and whoever loses his ‘psuche’ for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his ‘psuche’?”
In their most powerful days of evangelism, before ‘church’; before liturgy; before creeds; before denominations— concerned only with ‘the Kingdom of God’; Barnabas and Paul having narrowly escaped ‘death by stoning’ to carry out this mission of “strengthening the souls of the disciples”.
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