Salvation of the Soul
Saving of the Life
By Arlen L. Chitwood
If Any of You
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone [any of you] desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
For whoever desires to save his life [soul] will lose it, but whoever loses his life [soul] for My sake will find it.
For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. (Matthew 16:24-27)
In Matthew chapter sixteen, coming into the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus took His disciples aside on several occasions and continued to teach them, as before, revealing things to come. Beginning with verse thirteen, immediately after His warning to beware of the leaven (false doctrine) of the Pharisees and Sadducees, this revelation falls into four categories, which are all interrelated:
1) The true identity of Christ (vv. 13-16, 20).
2) The impending inception of the Church (vv. 17-19).
3) The approaching crucifixion of Christ (vv. 21-23).
4) The salvation of the soul in relation to the coming kingdom (vv. 24-27; cf. v. 28; 17:1-9).
Overall Scope of Events
1) “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)
The disciples, as evidenced by Peter’s confession, believed that Jesus was the Christ (v. 16); but the masses in Israel believed otherwise (vv. 13, 14).”
The word “Christ” (or “Messiah,” as translated from the Hebrew text) means Anointed One. In the Old Testament, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed; and the complete ministry of Christ (past, present, and future) encompasses all three of these offices.
As Prophet (past), “Christ died for our sins”; as Priest (present), “He ever lives to make intercession” for us; and as King (future), “He shall reign forever and ever” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3; Hebrews 7:25; Revelation 11:15).
Insofar as Peter himself was concerned, his confession really involved only the latter, the kingly office, rather than all three. The disciples at this time did not grasp the fact that the Cross and the present dispensation (in which Christ would exercise the office of Priest) would precede the kingdom (vv. 21-23; cf. 17:3, 4, 22, 23; 20:17-19; Luke 9:30, 31).
Peter acknowledged Jesus as God’s Son immediately following his acknowledgment of Jesus as “the Christ.” “Sonship” implies rulership, and this is exactly what Peter had in mind (cf. Exodus 4:22, 23; 19:5, 6; 2 Samuel 7:12-14). It was simply recognition by an additional means of that which he had already stated.
In reality though, an acknowledgment of Jesus as “the Christ,” God’s Son, must involve His complete, threefold office — Prophet, Priest, and King. And this was something that Peter did not understand at this time, as shown by his further remarks.
Christ’s future ministry as King, within the Scriptural framework in which it is set forth, cannot exist apart from two things:
1) A finished work in His past ministry as Prophet.
2) A continuing work (to be completed in the future) in His present ministry as Priest.
This is the primary reason for Christ’s severe rebuke of Peter in Matthew 16:23. Peter, in verse twenty-two, unknowingly denied to Christ that which he had previously attributed to Christ in verse sixteen (cf. Matthew 26:63, 64).
Note Christ’s words in this respect to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, following His resurrection:
O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!
Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory? (Luke 24:25b, 26).
“Suffering” must precede “glory.” And apart from the former, the latter cannot occur. This is an established biblical principle that cannot change (cf. Genesis 37:23-36 and 45:1-15; Exodus 2:11-15 and 40:33-38; Job 2:6-8 and 40:12-17; Psalm 137:1-9; 1 Peter 1:11; 2:21; 5:1).
2) “I will build My Church.” (Matthew 16:18)
Matthew’s gospel is the only one of the four gospels that records Christ’s announcement that He was going to build His Church. The record of this announcement is given in a gospel that, throughout the gospel, centers on Christ’s kingship and the coming kingdom. And the record is given at a particular time in Christ’s ministry. It is given following Israel’s climactic rejection of the King and the proffered kingdom of the heavens.
Thus, this revelation of the Church occurred following a particular set of circumstances occurring within Christ’s ministry, necessitating a change. This though would not be a change in the message but a change pertaining to the recipients of the message, a change concerning those to whom the message would be proclaimed.
The message would still center on the kingdom, but there would be a change concerning those to whom the offer of the kingdom would be extended. In complete keeping with Israel’s climactic rejection in chapter twelve and Christ’s departure from the house in chapter thirteen, the kingdom was about to be taken from Israel and given to “a nation bearing the fruits of it” (Matthew 21:43b).
The Church, in this respect, was to be called into existence for definite and specific purposes surrounding the kingdom of the heavens; and these purposes were not only intimately associated with the coming kingdom, but the complete fulfillment of these purposes could not be realized until that day Christ exercised His office as King.
But, preceding the Church being brought into existence, the events of Calvary had to occur first. A means of salvation had to be provided first (a means connected with Israel, yet separate from Israel), else there could be no new entity of the nature referred to by Christ.
(Note that the Passover lamb was given to Israel, and only Israel could slay this lamb [Exodus 12:1ff]. Thus, only Israel could have slain the Paschal Lamb in 33 A.D., which is exactly what occurred [Acts 2:23, 36; 7:52].
Man today is saved on the basis of the death of a Jewish Paschal Lamb and His shed blood — a Lamb slain by the only one who could slay this Lamb, by Israel. But, though the Lamb was given to Israel and Israel slew the Lamb, unsaved man today doesn’t have to go to Israel per se to avail himself of that which has been done. Rather, the slain Lamb [who was raised from the dead and lives forevermore], with His shed blood, has been made available for all — Jew and Gentile alike.
And because this is true, all that a person has to do today — Jew or Gentile alike — is “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” [Acts 16:30, 31]. Then, because of Christ’s finished work at Calvary, the believing individual passes “from death into life” [John 5:24; Ephesians 2:1, 5].
This then allows the Spirit to perform a work in the individual [an immersion in the Spirit], placing him “in Christ.” And this, in turn, allows the individual to be numbered among those forming the new entity — the “one new man” — which Christ announced during His earthly ministry that He was about to bring into existence.)
And, beyond being brought into existence in this manner, it would be necessary that this new entity, as Israel, have a priest. This would be necessary because, as in Israel, salvation wouldn’t do away with man’s sin nature. And, with man still retaining his sin nature, the ever-present possibility of individuals falling into sin would exist among those within the camp of the saved; and sins committed by the saved, by Christians, would have to be dealt with in a manner that was in complete keeping with the way God, in the Old Testament, had previously established that they be dealt with — through a priest ministering on the individual’s behalf, on the basis of death and shed blood.
The whole of the matter of the sin question in relation to salvation — past, present, and future — was dealt with in the camp of Israel by death and shed blood. It was dealt with first by the application of the blood of slain paschal lambs (Exodus 12:1-13). Then it was subsequently dealt with by the blood of other slain animals and the work of priests (e.g., Leviticus 1-7, 16).
The whole of the matter of the sin question in relation to salvation — past, present, and future — is dealt with today through exactly the same means, by death and shed blood. This has forever been established in the Old Testament, and it can never change.
Today, as in the Old Testament, the sin question in relation to salvation is dealt with first by the application of the blood of the slain Paschal Lamb (cf. Acts 16:31; 1 Corinthians 5:7). Then it is subsequently dealt with by Christ’s high priestly work and His shed blood presently on the mercy seat in the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 9, 10).
In this respect — to effect salvation past, present, and future — Christ died “for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3); He presently lives, exercising a priestly office, in order “to make intercession” for us, providing a present cleansing from sin (Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 1:6-2:2; cf. John 13:4-12); and Christians, because of this twofold work of Christ (Prophet and Priest), can look forward to a third work of Christ when He comes forth as King. They can look forward to reigning as consort queen with Him during the coming day of His power.
In this respect, everything surrounding God’s redemptive work by and through His Son — past and present — moves toward a revealed time when this redemptive work will be realized in its fullness, in the coming kingdom.
Thus, in Matthew chapter sixteen when Peter denied to Christ His work as Prophet at Calvary — “Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (v. 22) — he, apart from realizing that which he was doing, was not only denying to Christ His subsequent work as Priest but he was also denying to Christ His future work as King as well (something that he had previously acknowledged [v. 16]). And, for this reason, Peter then experienced a severe rebuke at Christ’s hands — “Get behind Me, Satan! . . . .” (v. 23)
The events in Matthew chapter sixteen occurred shortly after Israel’s “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” and Christ’s subsequent departure from “the house” — the house of Israel (chapters 12, 13). And, for all practical purposes, even though the announcement was not made until later (Matthew 21:43), the kingdom of the heavens (at the time of the events in Matthew 16) had already been taken from Israel and was about to be offered to a separate and distinct “nation.” This new “nation,” the Church (1 Peter 2:9, 10), would, in turn, do that which Israel had failed to do — bring forth “the fruits of it [fruits relating to the kingdom].”
Thus, attention called to the Church in connection with the kingdom of the heavens at this point in Christ’s ministry, to later be more fully revealed through the Apostle Paul, is at the exact juncture where one might expect such revelation — after Israel’s climactic rejection (chapter 12), followed by Christ’s departure from the house (chapter 13).
3) Church, Body, Bride
Viewing the matter from another perspective, the basic principles relating to the formation of the bride (who is to one day reign with Christ as consort queen) and the redemptive work of the Son in relation to the bride are introduced in the New Testament at this time, though previously set forth millennia before. They were previously set forth in the first three chapters of Genesis, by the experiences of Adam in relation to Eve; and these principles remain unchanged throughout Scripture, having been reintroduced by Christ during His earthly ministry.
Adam was the first man upon the earth. He was also a type of Christ, the second Man, the last Adam (Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 15:45-47); and the experiences of Adam in relation to Eve prefigure the experiences of Christ in relation to His bride.
Eve was created in Adam at the very beginning, but was not brought into existence as a separate entity until a later point in time. Adam was put to sleep, his side opened, and from this opened side God took one of his ribs and formed Eve from the rib. Eve, in this manner, was taken out of Adam and then presented back to Adam for a helpmate (Genesis 2:20).
Adam, apart from Eve, was incomplete (for she was part of his very being — bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh). And, because of this, when presented back to Adam, Eve completed Adam, along with realizing completeness herself. In the highest sense, Eve was still part of Adam’s body, and God looked upon both together as “one flesh.” Both of them together, though two entities, formed one complete person (Genesis 2:21-24).
In the antitype, the bride of Christ has existed in the Son from eternity. The bride’s existence and salvation date back to a past time, “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4; Revelation 13:8). The bride, however, could not be brought into existence as a separate entity until the Son, at a time during Man’s Day, was put to sleep and His side opened.
This took place at Calvary. The Son died, and His side was opened. And out of this opened side came forth “blood” and “water” (John 19:34) — the two elements necessary to bring into existence the bride, separate from the body, but still part of the body (the “water” speaks of cleansing after the application of the “blood”).
Once the complete, redeemed bride has been brought into existence in this manner, “not having spot, or wrinkle . . . without blemish” — once Christ has completed the work announced in Matthew 16:18, building His Church — the bride will be presented back to the Son; and the bride will complete the Son (Hebrews 2:10 [the word “perfect” in this verse should be understood in the sense of bringing to completion]). Then, when the bride completes the Son in this manner, in the highest sense, as in the type, God will look upon both as “one flesh.” Both of them together, though two entities, will form one complete person (Ephesians 5:26-32).
In the preceding respect, God’s past work in bringing Eve into existence and His present work in bringing His Son’s bride (the Church) into existence, based on the events of Calvary, must be studied in the light of one another.
As previously seen in Genesis 2:22, God took a rib from Adam’s side, which “He made into a woman.” The Hebrew word translated “made” in this verse is banah, which means “to build.” Eve was created in Adam at the very beginning, later taken out of Adam, built into a bride, and then presented back to Adam.
In Matthew 16:18 Christ said, “. . . upon this rock I will build My Church.” Then Christ was later put to sleep at Calvary, His side was opened, and the two elements necessary to bring the bride into existence flowed forth — blood and water.
(The word “Church” [Greek: ekklesia, meaning “called out”] is used more than one way in the New Testament. The word is used, for example, in Revelation 2, 3 to refer to all of the saved during the present dispensation, those called out of the world. But the word is also used in a futuristic sense, as seen in Matthew 16:18, referring to a segment of the saved — those called out of the larger body of Christians, those called out of the saved [cf. Hebrews 12:23].)
The Church to which Christ referred in Matthew 16:18, synonymous with the bride — created in Christ from eternity — is presently being built in the previous manner. It is presently being removed from the body, called out of the larger body of Christians, and built into a bride. And the time when this process will be completed, with the bride being revealed and presented back to the Son, lies in the future.
Just as Eve was taken out of Adam’s body, the bride of Christ is presently being taken out of the Son’s body. The entire body over which He is the Head consists of all the saved during this present dispensation. But the bride is a smaller group that is presently being called out of the larger group, i.e., called out of the body. All of the saved are “called” (or, “called out” in relation to the world) and form the body, but only the “called out” (from among the saved) — those taken out of the body — will form the bride of Christ. The bride is a selection out of a selection (a removal from the body of those previously removed from the world):
For many are called, but few are chosen [lit., “few are called out,” referring to a select group removed from the “called”].” (Matthew 22:14)
Note that man had no part in God’s work surrounding the formation of Eve — from the time of her creation in Adam, to the time when she was presented back to Adam. Nor can man have a part in the formation of the Son’s bride. Jesus said, “I will build My Church.”
The word “Church” comes from a compound Greek word (ekklesia), which, as previously seen, means “called out” (ek, “out”; kaleo [or, klesis], “to call”). And the clear teaching of Scripture attests to the fact that the Church that Christ is building consists of individuals who are being called out of the saved, not individuals who are being called out of the world.
The Church, in the preceding respect, is the body of Christ in the same sense that Eve was the body of Adam. Eve was bone of Adam’s bones, and flesh of Adam’s flesh (Genesis 2:23).
All of Eve was of Adam’s body, but she was not all of his body. “For we [Christians] are members of His [Christ’s] body, of His flesh, and of His bones” (Ephesians 5:30). All of Christ’s bride will be of His body, but the bride will not be all of His body.
And as Eve was to reign as consort queen with the first man, the first Adam (Genesis 1:26-28), thus will it be for the second Man, the last Adam and His bride. The first man, the first Adam, could have reigned only as a complete being, with Eve completing Adam; and the second Man, the last Adam, can, in like manner, reign only as a complete being, with the bride completing God’s Son.
In that coming day, the King with His consort queen will reign in this manner — as one complete person — fulfilling that which was set forth surrounding man’s creation (male and female) in the beginning.
4) “Whoever . . . .” (Matthew 16:25)
. . . whoever loses his life [soul] for My sake will find it.
For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. (Matthew 16:25b, 27)
Following the revelation of “Jesus” as the Christ, the coming inception of “the Church,” and the coming “sufferings,” “death,” and “resurrection” of Christ, revealed events continue with the announcement concerning “the salvation of the soul” in relation to the coming “kingdom” (vv. 24-27). Then, the last verse in chapter sixteen, along with the first five verses in chapter seventeen (ignore the chapter break), continue with the subject of the kingdom itself.
The entire program of God during the preceding two dispensations (Gentile and Jewish), along with the present dispensation (Christian), moves toward the climactic dispensation having to do with this present earth — the Messianic Era. During Old Testament days, the salvation of the soul in relation to the heavenly sphere of the kingdom was open to those in Israel. Numerous Old Testament saints, desiring positions in this heavenly sphere of the kingdom, governed their pilgrim walk accordingly. And these Old Testament saints, in that coming day when the kingdom is under the rule of their Messiah, Jesus the Christ, will realize these heavenly positions (Matthew 8:11; Luke 13:28, 29; Hebrews 11:8-16).
However, with the removal of this offer from Israel and the subsequent setting aside of the nation, the offer today is being extended to an entirely new nation, a new creation — the “one new man” in Christ. Individuals from this new creation in Christ can govern their lives in a manner during the present dispensation (as individuals from the old creation in Jacob could during the past dispensation) that will allow them to qualify for positions in the heavenly sphere of the coming kingdom. And in that coming day, Christians shown qualified will, as certain Israelites from the prior dispensation, realize the salvation of their souls (lives).
Hebrews 2:3 reveals that the message concerning “so great salvation [salvation of the soul]” was first announced by the Lord. This message, however, within the text, had to do with a particular group of people outside Israel (“we” [Christians — the new creation in Christ, which was about to be brought into existence when the message was first announced]). And the message involved the same salvation, in connection with a kingdom, previously offered to and taken from Israel — the saving of the soul in relation to the kingdom of the heavens.
The salvation of the soul, as previously seen, was a major subject of Old Testament Scripture (Proverbs 11:30; Ezekiel 3:17-21; 14:14-20); and numerous Old Testament saints, as Moses, “looked to the reward.” They looked beyond their earthly inheritance to a heavenly inheritance. They desired a higher calling, “a better, that is, a heavenly country,” and they will have a part in “a better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:10-16, 26, 32-40).
They will realize the salvation of their souls in relation to the heavenly inheritance (cf. Hebrews 10:26-11:1), with the remainder of the nation (the vast majority) realizing an earthly inheritance in the land covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
(The fact that the heavenly sphere of the kingdom was taken from Israel at Christ’s first coming, following almost fifteen centuries of Jewish history dating back to Moses, or following almost two millennia dating back to Abraham, cannot do away with the attitude that numerous Old Testament saints took relative to this sphere of the kingdom. Many Old Testament saints exercised faith relating to the heavenly sphere of the kingdom, and they will not be denied an inheritance therein [Hebrews 11:39, 40].)
The message concerning the salvation of the soul in relation to a “nation” (the Church) that was not Jewish, which was first announced by the Lord, was not understood by the prophets. They “inquired and searched diligently” concerning something that was beyond their day and, thus, not for them — coming into possession of this salvation through being “partakers of Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 1:9-12; 4:12, 13).
Jesus alluded to this new “nation” that would inherit “so great salvation” in Matthew 12:46-50 by referring to a new relationship that was not conditioned on lineal descent (descent from Abraham), and Jesus made known to His disciples additional facts concerning this new entity in the parables in Matthew 13:1ff and His revelation of the Church in Matthew 16:18ff. Then, the full revelation surrounding this separate, distinct “nation,” the Church, was later vouchsafed to the Apostle Paul and is called in Ephesians 3:3 “the mystery,” referring to something heretofore not opened up and revealed.
Revelation surrounding the mystery, in this respect, “first began to be spoken by the Lord,” the message was “confirmed to us by them that heard Him,” and the full revelation was then given through the Apostle Paul.
(That which is seen in the mystery revealed to Paul was not something unknown and foreign to the Old Testament Scriptures. Rather, that which is seen in the mystery revealed to Paul was a major subject of Old Testament typology. The Spirit of God simply took that which is seen in the types and, by Paul, opened up and revealed numerous things previously recorded in this manner.)
Matthew 16:13ff outlines the transfer of the salvation of the soul in relation to the kingdom of the heavens from Israel to the Church, and these verses constitute one of the pivotal sections in the gospel of Matthew. Matthew chapter twelve is the beginning pivotal section, and chapters thirteen and sixteen continue this same trend of thought, providing additional details.
Then, the announcement is made in chapter twenty-one (vv. 33-43) concerning the removal of the kingdom from Israel. And the events of Calvary follow, allowing the Church — the new recipient of the offer to occupy heavenly positions in the kingdom — to be brought into existence and occupy the necessary position “in Christ” (necessary to form a new creation, a new man, a new nation [cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 3:26-29; Ephesians 2:11-15; 1 Peter 2:9, 10]).
(For additional information surrounding “the one new man” in Christ, refer to the author’s book, Search for the Bride, Chapters 7, 8.)
If Any Disciple
The text from Matthew 16:24-26, dealing with the saving or the losing of the soul, has been removed from its context by numerous individuals over the years and erroneously used relative to the message of salvation by grace as it relates to the unsaved. These verses, however, have nothing to do with a message to the unsaved in this respect. Truths brought out in these verses relate to the saved alone, those already in possession of eternal life.
(Note: Removing these verses from their contextual setting and using them in relation to the unsaved does away with and destroys that which is actually taught in this section of Scripture, along with fostering confusion relative to the biblical teaching concerning the salvation of the soul.
Other passages of Scripture dealing with this same overall subject are, more often than not, accorded this same type of treatment [e.g., the warning passages in Hebrews, or the overcomer's promises in Revelation 2, 3].)
Within the text, Jesus is speaking to His disciples. The words, “If any man” (KJV), in verse twenty-four could be better translated, “If anyone,” i.e., “If any of you [disciples].” The word “man” is not in the Greek text but in the KJV has been supplied by the translators. The disciples were saved individuals (all, including Judas), and the message concerning denying oneself, taking up one’s cross, and following Christ (things not possible for the unsaved to accomplish) was directed to them.
This thought surrounding the disciples in verse twenty-four leads into verses twenty-five and twenty-six, which refer to the saving or the losing of the soul, with a view to being recompensed as stewards in the Lord’s house (reward according to works) in the coming kingdom (vv. 27ff). The word “For” connects verse twenty-five with verse twenty-four, and the same word again connects verse twenty-six with both preceding verses. Denying oneself, taking up one’s cross, and following Christ in verse twenty-four is the manner in which the salvation of the soul is brought to pass (vv. 25b, 26b). And the inverse of this would be true concerning the manner in which the loss of the soul is brought to pass (vv. 25a, 26a).
Within the context, as previously shown, Jesus is dealing with things relating to the kingdom of the heavens (v. 19). His Messiahship (vv. 13-16, 20), the Church (vv. 17-19), the Cross (allowing the Church to be brought into existence [vv. 21-23], along with showing “death” which Christians must experience relative to the self-life, the soul [1 Corinthians 1:18; Colossians 2:12; 3:1-4]), and the salvation of the soul in relation to the coming kingdom (vv. 24-27) constitute the subject matter at hand. One thought leads into another related thought, with the latter, the salvation of the soul in relation to the coming kingdom, being the end or the goal toward which everything moves.
Note how plainly and unmistakably the salvation of the soul (vv. 24-26) is connected with the coming kingdom (vv. 27ff) rather than with eternal life. The word “For” (same word that begins vv. 25, 26) appears once again, connecting verse twenty-seven with the preceding verses.
Thus, verses twenty-four through twenty-seven can only be looked upon as an indivisible unit in Scriptural interpretation, with one thought leading into another and all things moving toward a revealed goal.
(Note that Matthew 16:28-17:5 forms an additional explanation and provides commentary for v. 27, explaining that which is in view by the Son of Man coming “in the glory of his Father with his angels.”
And the thought of reward according to works is dealt with in related Scripture, seen both in connection with the kingdom [Luke 19:12ff] and the salvation of the soul [Hebrews 10:35-11:1, 23-26; James 2:5, 14-26].)
1) Deny Oneself
To deny oneself is to deny the fleshly impulses of the soul — the self-life. The unredeemed soul housed in an unredeemed body is to be kept under subjection by the instrumentality of man’s redeemed spirit.
By and through the impartation of the Word of God into man’s redeemed spirit, individuals, under the leadership of the indwelling Holy Spirit, progressively grow into spiritually mature Christians; and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christians growing in such a manner are able to deny the fleshly impulses of the soul, keeping their bodies under subjection.
This subjective state of the soul in relation to the spiritual man can be graphically illustrated from Old Testament typology in the lives of Sarah and Hagar. Hagar (the bondwoman), despised in the eyes of Sarah (the freewoman), had fled into the wilderness. But the angel of the Lord finding her by a spring of water gave the command, “Return to your mistress [Sarah], and submit yourself under her hand” (Genesis 16:4-9).
If a Christian is to be victorious over the fleshly impulses of the soul, those impulses which are under the bondage of sin must be made submissive to that which has been removed from this bondage. This is the clear teaching of Scripture, and there is no alternate way that this can be accomplished.
Sarah’s and Hagar’s sons (Isaac and Ishmael) are set forth in both Genesis and Galatians as typifying respectively the man of spirit (Isaac) and the man of flesh (Ishmael). The soul (self-life) of man (in association with the flesh) must be made submissive to the spiritual man. Hagar was blessed, but only subsequent to her submission to Sarah (Genesis 16:10); and man in his self-life will be blessed, but only subsequent to the submission of the soul to the man of spirit, empowered and controlled by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Accordingly, blessings relating to the self-life (soul) can occur only in connection with the saving of the soul. Thus, the great issue centers on the man of flesh and the man of spirit both striving for control of the Christian’s life (soul), with the salvation of the soul hanging in the balance and being realized only through control of the self-life by the spiritual man.
(Blessings in connection with man’s self-life though are not as one may be led to think — having the best of both worlds, for such is impossible. Blessings in connection with the self-life are inseparably connected with dying to self. One has to die in order to live [John 12:24, 25]. The section that follows deals with this aspect of the matter.)
2) Take Up One’s Cross, and Follow Christ
The “cross” was the instrument of death, and taking up one’s cross is dying to self, dying to the self-life. Christians are told,
For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)
The man of flesh, the deeds of the body, exhibited through one’s self-life must be kept in a constant state of dying. The old man, so to speak, is to be affixed to the cross and not be allowed to move about. If mortification after this fashion occurs, the man will live (he will experience the salvation of his soul); however, if mortification after this fashion does not occur, the man will die (he will experience the loss of his soul).
The words “take up” and “follow” in verse twenty-four appear in two different tenses in the Greek text. The first has to do with a one-time act, but the latter has to do with continuous action. That is, Christians are to “take up” the cross at the beginning of their pilgrim walk, never laying it down; and, in this manner, they are to “follow” Christ continuously throughout the pilgrim walk.
(The translation of the parallel passage in Luke’s gospel, “. . . let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (9:23b), would seemingly militate against the preceding. This though is not the case at all.
First, there is some question concerning the validity of the word “daily” in the text. The word is not found in a number of the better manuscripts. But, if the word is to be considered part of the text, this part of the verse should be translated and understood in a similar manner to the way Wuest has it in his Expanded Translation: “. . . let him at once and once for all pick up and carry his cross day after day.”)
The same basic thought is set forth in Romans 12:1, where Christians are told, “. . . present your bodies a living sacrifice.” The word “present” has to do with a one-time act to be performed at the beginning of the pilgrim walk, never to be repeated. As the Old Testament priest placed the sacrifice upon the altar and left it there, the New Testament priest (a Christian) is called upon to do the same with his body. The body is to be placed upon the altar by a one-time act, and the body is then to remain upon the altar in a continuous state of sacrifice, never to be removed.
“Continuous dedication” in the Christian life is the correct biblical perspective. “Rededication” — as men often use the term — is, on the other hand, completely out of place, for such cannot exist within the biblical framework of the pilgrim walk.
A Christian cannot rededicate his life for the simple reason that he doesn’t have a life to rededicate. He has a life that can be given over to “continuous dedication” alone (whether or not he does so), and faithfulness or unfaithfulness among Christians will have to be understood and dealt with in this biblical respect.
3) For Whoever . . . .
The word “whoever” in verse twenty-five refers directly back to verse twenty-four. The thought is, “Whoever of you [disciples] . . . .” Verses twenty-five and twenty-six further amplify that which has already been stated in verse twenty-four, and, along with verse twenty-seven, form the Lord’s own commentary on this verse.
The word translated “life” twice in verse twenty-five and twice again in verse twenty-six (ASV) is from the Greek word psuche, which means either “soul” or “life.” A number of translations (e.g., KJV, NKJV, NASB, NIV) render the word psuche “life” in verse twenty-five but “soul” in verse twenty-six. Since “soul” and “life” are synonymous terms, translating psuche as “life” in one verse and “soul” in the next verse cannot really be considered incorrect. But not everyone has access to the Greek text or understands that “soul” and “life” are synonymous terms; and an inconsistent translation of this nature has, over the years, served to foster confusion in the interpretation of these verses.
Any Christian who refuses to “deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow” Christ during the present day (v. 24) — synonymous with “whoever will save his life [soul]” (v. 25a) — “shall [in that coming day] lose it” (v. 25a), i.e., he will experience the loss of his soul/life.
On the other hand, any Christian who will “deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow” Christ during the present day (v. 24) — synonymous with “whoever will lose his life [soul] for my sake” (v. 25b) — “shall [in the coming day] find it” (v. 25b), i.e., he will realize the salvation of his soul/life.
The inverse of the place that the soul/life is allowed to occupy during the Christian’s present pilgrim walk will be true during the coming reign of Christ. A Christian who saves his soul/life today (allows his self-life to gain the ascendancy, allows his soul to rule) will experience the lose of his soul/life in that coming day; and a Christian who loses his soul/life today (keeps his self-life under subjection, refuses to allow his soul to rule) will realize the salvation of his soul/life in that coming day.
Profit … Exchange
The words “profited” and “exchange” in verse twenty-six have to do with building or refusing to build upon an initial investment. Christians alone are in view. Only the saved are in possession of this initial investment and, thus, in a position to profit.
The very ultimate in man’s goals, aims, ambitions, and aspirations — gaining the entire world in the self-life — is set over against forfeiting one’s life (his self-life) for the sake of Christ. And profit is accrued only in the latter. There can be no profit in the former, for the initial investment cannot be used in this realm. The initial investment can be used in the realm where the man of spirit alone is operative. And an accrual of profit on the initial investment will result in the salvation of one’s soul, but no accrual of profit on the initial investment will result in the loss of one’s soul.
“Profit” and “exchange” are the subject of several parables on stewardship that the Lord gave during His earthly ministry, and a brief review of two of these parables, the parable of the pounds and the parable of the talents, will illustrate what is meant by these expressions in Matthew 16:26.
In the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:11-27), a certain Nobleman (the Lord), before departing into “a far country,” delivered “ten minas [KJV: pounds]” to His “ten servants” and commanded them, “Occupy till I come.” “Ten” is the number of ordinal completion, signifying all of the Lord’s business delivered to all of His servants. The “minas [pound]” is a monetary unit of exchange, and all of the Lord’s servants were to trade and traffic in all of the Lord’s business during His time of absence. And they were to continue in this manner until their Lord returned.
Christ’s clear statement to His household servants before His departure was, “Do business [KJV: Occupy] till I come” (Luke 19:13b). Those in the parable who followed their Lord’s instructions and used the initial investment realized a profit, but the servant who refused to follow his Lord’s instructions and use the initial investment realized no profit at all.
Then, upon the Lord’s return, the servants profiting from the initial investment were rewarded, but the servant who realized no profit suffered loss.
The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) presents another picture of this same truth. A certain Man (again, the Lord) called “his own servants,” delivered to them “his goods [talents],” and then departed into “a far country.” The “talent,” as the minas/pound, is a monetary unit of exchange, pointing to the Lord’s business. The Lord’s servants, as in the parable of the minas/pounds, were to trade and traffic in the Lord’s business during His time of absence.
And, as in the parable of the minas/pounds, those servants who exercised faithfulness and used the talents entrusted to them realized a profit from the initial investment; but the servant who refused to exercise faithfulness and use the initial investment entrusted to him realized no profit at all.
Then, upon the Lord’s return, the servants profiting from the initial investment were rewarded, but the servant who realized no profit suffered loss.
The salvation of the soul is clearly set forth in Matthew 16:24-27 as emanating from works following the salvation of the spirit and has to do with rewards in the coming kingdom. Salvation completely apart from works applies to the “spirit” alone, and salvation in connection with works applies to the “soul” alone. The former must first be realized before the latter can come into view at all.
Through the salvation of the spirit (Ephesians 2:8, 9), Christians have been “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
(James is the main epistle in the New Testament dealing particularly with faith and works in relation to the salvation of the soul. This subject is developed more fully in Chapter 5 of this book. Also see the appendix in this book.)