This Blog is a continuation from yesterday's, where we began to explore the nature of salvation and children. The reader is encouraged to read yesterday's to pick-up the context of this current discussion.
3. The nature of the Human Soul – The center of Self Awareness
Man was created a living soul
We know from Genesis 1:26-27 and Genesis 2:7 that God had breathed into the nostrils of man and “he became a living soul”. The word for soul in the Old Testament, nephesh, refers to a living being. In the New Testament we see the word “psyche” used, from whence we derive our word “psychology”, literally meaning a study of the soul. The soul in mankind has five areas, functions or faculties. As we look at the account of mankind’s fall into sin in Genesis 3, we can discern all five faculties or functions of the soul in man. These functions that we are about to consider were given to man at his creation, and each of them were affected in the fall.
How the Mind functions in the life of a child
The first function we can note is the area of the mind. This is the thinking faculty of the soul and is the first area Satan tempted Eve by when he said: “Yea, hath God said” (Genesis 3:1). It is no wonder that the mind is of premier concern in discipleship, since it is the first area of the soul that was addressed by the enemy (compare Hebrews 12:2). Children’s minds gravitate toward openness to all kinds of thoughts and curiosities, requiring supervision and authority to give boundaries for discerning good from evil. Concerning the mind of a child Paul writes this in 1 Corinthians 13:11: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” When it comes to instructing children in the word of God, the mind is of utmost consideration, since only the right actions and moral decisions can derive from right thinking (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, 11:19, 31:13).
The mind is the place where certain illuminations can occur in a child
It is in this area of a child’s soul that illumination can and does take place. Scripture is clear that it is possible for heavenly illumination to touch the soul, but not the spirit (Hebrew 6:4). The spirit is the area in man where God the Holy Spirit comes to reside in salvation (John 14:23; Romans 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Hebrews 4:12). Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:10 “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in Heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” Though this passage is difficult to understand, we can say at bare minimum that there is some type of ministry of the angelic host going on in the lives of young little children.
Having four children of my own, I can testify how my own children have been able to know when they are in the presence of evil, have reacted to a sudden move of God in a church service, and have said profound statements beyond their capacity to understand. Though they mentally cannot process all that God is working in their young lives, yet they do function in it in ways that we cannot even begin to comprehend.
The emotions are the wardrobe for the mind – especially in children
The second function of the soul is the emotional realm. In Genesis 3:6, following Satan’s twisting of scripture and Eve’s giving into his temptation mentally, the Bible tells us how Eve then gave more ground emotionally: “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise…”. The emotions are the wardrobe for the mind. Children are especially sensitive in the realm of their emotions. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:20: “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.” In using this illustration to positively reinforce strong fellowship among the Corinthians, Paul is reminding us of how children are still developing emotionally. Children, more than adults, will be won emotionally to a particular pattern of behavior. In the first 7 chapters of Proverbs Solomon instructs his son to be led by the wisdom of God’s word, and not his emotions. Emotions are reactionary, and must be led by the will informed by the mind.
The function of the will in the life of the child
The will then comprises the third function or faculty of the soul. Again in turning to Genesis 3:6 we find Eve’s ongoing descent into temptation: “…she took of the fruit thereof, and gave also unto her husband with her…” At this point Adam willfully rebels and does eat of the fruit. The scripture is clear that Eve was deceived, but that Adam willfully rebelled. He not only willfully chose his wife over God, but he consented to her listening to the serpent. He failed to protect her and was complicit in his wife’s deception, thus making him the primary responsible party for the entry of sin into the world (Romans 5:1-11). Children are commanded to obey their parents due to the fact that they inherited sin from their parents and ultimately from Adam (1 Peter 1:17-18). It is the will that at birth is bound and bent to please the self rather than God (Psalm 51; Ephesians 2:1-2).
How the conscience works in the life of a child
With the mind, emotions and will we come to the fourth area of the soul, the conscience. The conscience acts as the “dashboard lights” for the soul, warning and reminding all people of God’s righteous standards (Romans 2:15). It is in this area of the soul that issues surrounding the so-called “age of accountability” come into view. I heard one pastor describe it this way: “Before the age of accountability, the child has knowledge of right and wrong. It is when they willfully rebel against God that their responsibility before God’s law changes, for now they can discern between righteousness and unrighteousness.” Many preachers have referred to the condition of young children before God as being “safe”, due to the fact that though they are guilty in terms of right and wrong, yet they are not subject to due penalty as it pertains to righteousness and unrighteousness.
The “affections” govern the motives and behavior of a child
American Theologian Jonathan Edwards, in his book “Concerning The Religious Affections” also speaks of affections, which are another name for the motives and intents of the heart. The affections act as the governors of the soul, providing the boundary lines by which people operate. In Genesis 3:7 we could say that Adam and Eve had affections that led them to hide from God, rather than commune with God. As Edwards points out, a person will never choose against their strongest affection or inclination. Whatever their “bent” or “leaning” is, that is what they will choose. Children by nature will choose what brings them the most comfort and protection. As they develop, self preservation will come to dominate their primary motives for what they do. James 4:1 describes the affections in sinful man: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?”These affections operate out of what the Bible calls “The Heart”. Jesus notes in Mark 7:20-23 “And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. 21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” Proverbs 4:23 also reminds us: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. In communicating the gospel to children, we should always address the heart first before the behavior, since the gospel addresses the change of heart, not just behavior modification.
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