WHAT IS SOUL? by Bishop Dr. J. Akin Atere

The human soul is that part of a person that is eternal, the parts that lives on the body dies and decays. Jesus said, we were not to fear men, who can only kill the body, but not the soul (Matt. 10:28). There is some confusion as to whether the human spirit and the human soul are the same or different in some way. The Bible is not entirely clear on this but there is evidence of at least some subtle differences. The spirit is described more in terms of force “But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereunto he went; and his seed shall possess it.” (Num.14:24) While the soul seems to be static entity. From 1 Thess 5:23 and Heb. 4:12 there is indication that they are separate entities Jesus Christ, because he was fully man as well fully God, has a human soul. His soul experienced anguish at Gethsemane while He prayed before going to the cross. He said “My Soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” (matt.26:36-46). The Messianic Psalm also speaks of the soul of the Messiah, saying that his soul will not be abandoned to Sheol. Nor his body to corruption, or decay (Psalm 16:9-0; Acts 13:33-37). The human soul can be strong or weak (2 Pet. 2:14) saved or lost (James 1:21; Ezek.18:4). It was created by God (Jer.38:16). The human soul needs the protection, purification and atonement of God (Lev. 17:11; 1 Peter 1:22). The human soul is eternal and imperishable and every human soul will be somewhere for eternity. This is a sobering thought. Every person you have ever met is a soul, living in a body and that soul will last forever. Some will reject the love of god and as a result they will have to pay for their own sins with death (Romans 6:23) and since the soul is eternal, it will be an eternal death. Only those who accept the free gift of forgiveness and Christ’s atoning sacrifice will experience the opposite eternal life and peace in heaven. One of the most famous Psalms speaks directly to this issue is (Psalm 23:2, 6) “And Balak did as Balaam had spoken; and Balak and Balaam offered on every altar a bullock and a ram.” “And he returned unto him, and, lo, he stood by his burnt sacrifice, he, and all the princes of Moab.” The inspired psalmist knew that after his life in this body had ended, his soul would dwell with God for ever (Ps.22:26; 49:7-9).

Ecclesiastes 12:7 says “the Spirit returns to God who gave it. God is the giver of life and He receives the soul at eth end of life.”

The New Testament speaks frequently about everlasting life or eternal life (John 3:15-16). Jesus spoke of those who would inherit eternal life. Matt. 19:29 and those who would experience eternal punishment Matt. 25:46. The soul is mentioned more than 250 times in the Bible. Its described as existing beyond physical life. David knew that, even though his son’s earthly. We had been brief, his soul would endure eternally.

Satan knows full well that he dominates the physical or the soulish man. Therefore he does not care if a man goes to a church where the Spirit of God is not in evidence. He knows that his victim is a creature of emotions and it matters not if the emotions are stirred to sentimentalism, just so long as man’s spirit does not come in contact with God’s Holy Spirit. The soul is the seat of the human’s passions, feelings and the desire of man, Satan is satisfied if he can master these. F. W. Grant said – the soul is the seat of the affection, tight or wrong, of love, hate, lusts and even the appetites of the body. Hammor said to Jacob “The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter” (Gen. 34:8) of David and Jonathan. It is written “The Soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Sam.18:1). These passages show the soul to be the seat of the affections. As the soul loves, so it also hates (2 Sam 5:8) that are hated of David’s Souls. 2 Pet.2:11 warn “Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.”

The soul of man, i.e. his affections and desires, are never directed God-word until after the spirit has become regenerated. He may have a troubled conscience or be so stirred emotionally that he may weep bitterly, and still remain dead in sin. Some answered alter call severally and yet remained in sin. When the spirit of God illuminate the Spirit of a man with divine light and life, that man begins to yield his affection and faculties to God.

According to the Bible, physical death is a termination of physical life by the separation of body and soul. It only marks the end of our present physical life. The Bible presents two important stages of the soul after physical death. These are the intermediate state resurrection and eternity. It also presents two important destinations of the soul, which are heaven and hell. For believers, after death their souls enter the presence of the Lord (2 Cor.5:1-8) and the wicked enter a place of suffering (Luke 16:23; 2 Pet.2:9).

At conversion therefore or at the point of a new birth, the soul of man is re-focussed, heading to heaven, Jesus celebrate the soul of the new man/woman. But Satan is disturbed and would want him/her to fall back. He will set at work to corrupt the souls that had been purified and save; he could come in any form using what you have or lack.

Therefore, in other to maintain the new nature spiritual life and to fall back, the services of a mentor is needed and desired the Old Testament contains insights about mentorship. We find one example in Moses’ Father –in-law Jethro also called Reuel (friend of God). In exodus 18:1-24, we find the friend of God serving God’s leader as a mentor and coach in vital ways. By meeting with him, taking time to find out how he was doing personally, listening to him about the ups and downs of his journey, celebrating with him, worshiping with him,  eating with him, watching him work, asking him probing questions, challenging unproductive behaviour and given wise counsels. He wisely drew out what God was doing in Moses’ life and pour in at the right moment to help Moses develop a plan for leading God’s people in healthy ways. One verse that first come to my mind that relates to the influence of one line on another is Proverbs 27:17, 19 “Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd…. And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before the entire congregation; and give him a charge in their sight.”

Mentoring entails more than merely passing on knowledge about God. It involves showing people how to love and serve God. God provided a biblical format of mentoring within the family to ensure that faith in the one true and living God would be  pass from generation to generation. Deut 6:4-9 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:  And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.” In the New Testament, Jesus added another dimension to this relational learning process. He extended this command to the community and explains the primary purpose of mentoring in Matt. 22:36-40

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Paul related to the Corinthians as a father not as a teacher. A teacher’s predominant goal is to pass on information to others in a way that can be understood, processed, and applied and effectively. This is what we obtained at Church seminars, when sermons are delivered, Bible Studies are written and post recorded – all are with an eye to helping individual grow. But growth requires much more than a transfer of information and an exhortation to apply that information. A parenting approach, on the other hand, incorporates a different mindset. Mothers are fathers focus on what will help their child change, grow, develop and become all that God desires them to be. It’s a more holistic approach. It’s certainly includes teaching, but it’s not focused exclusively o the mind. Instead, parents take into account both the will and the emotions. A parenting is centred on relationship. While I can teach people without a personal relationship with them.  I certainly can’t with parenting and established relationship because it makes trust possible, drives discussion to deeper levels, create a safe place failure, injects encouragement, and allows for healthy imitations. Paul notes in 1 Cor. 4. This kind of caring relationship touches the individuals in a deeper way than teaching    ever can. Christian mentoring is a process dependent upon submission to Christ. Neither the mentor not the mentee controls the relationship. As such, the process is best characterised by mutual sharing, trust and enrichment as the life and work of both participants is changed. The mentor serves as a model and a trusted listener. The mentor relies on the Holy Spirit to provide insight, change lives and teach through the modelling process. The Apostle Paul spelled out mentoring as his leadership model “follow my example” as I follow the example of Christ (1 cor. 11:1) “Whatever you have learnt from or receive from me or seen in me – put it into practice” (Phil.4:9(a)). In essence he is saying “let me mentor you, let me be your role model.

Peter commands the elders of the Synagogue “Be examples to the flocks “ (1 pet.5:3) and Paul explains to the elders at Ephesus “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you” (Acts 20:17) In other word Paul is telling the elders “I showed you, now you show them”. In all truth, if a Christian leader is not mentoring someone, to that degree he or she is not living up to his or her calling.

God has failed the body of Christ with many potential mentors besides those who are named as elders or shepherds. The Church leaders cannot personally meet all the mentoring needs of everyone. While it may not be possible for shepherds to personally, intentionally, mentor each sheep that need mentoring but they have to help these needy sheep find godly mentors. To provide for the mentoring needs of their local community of faith, the leaders must be intentional, continually expanding the circle of members by equipping others” to mentor.

The Apostle Paul gave a mandate for coaching in Eph. 4:11-12 “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” the Greek word ‘Katartismon’ translated “equip”, “prepare” or ‘made perfect’. It is used in Matt.4:21 in the case of repairing fishing net and of restoring spiritual health to a person who has fallen (Gal.6:1). It may be used of perfecting what is lacking in the faith of Christian ( 1 Thess 3:10; Heb 13:21); 1 Pet.5:10), it denotes the bringing of the Saints to a condition of fitness for the discharge of their functions in the body. In the New Testament beside Jesus, none of it the picture f a coach better than Barnabas. He was willing to walk with Paul when everyone wanted to walk away. When Paul wanted to drop mark from the team, Barnabas struck with the young leader who needed to work through some personal issues. These passages highlight Barnabas coaching impact.

  1. Acts 9:23-31 Barnabas discerned potential in others, especially Paul.
  2. Acts 11:22-24 Barnabas discovered God at work as he worked alongside others. He intentionally brought Saul into a ministry situation because he knew Saul would be an asset.

Above all mentor, Jesus Stand supreme. His relationship with others especially with His disciples. He emptied Himself (Matt.20:20-28; Phil.2:7) of power and status to become incarnate. Jesus impacted knowledge and values through His words and actions. He showed the disciples that values of the kingdom of God were different from values of the world. Matt. 12:9-13; matt: 13-15; John 8:3-7). He taught His disciples out to expand the ministry after they had spent time with him. He wanted them to practice doing what he had taught them or saw Him doing (Luke 9:1-2,6; Luke 10:1-3; Matt.28:18-20).

Early in the wilderness journey. Moses began to mentor Joshua, years later. God choose Joshua to be the next leader of the Israelites because he had Moses’ Spirit and had been mentored for the leadership position. Deut. 31 & 34.

In King 19 and 2 Kings 2 Elisha was prepared for his prophetic ministry through his close relationship with Prophet Elijah. When Elijah was taken up into heaven, his mantle fell on Elisha and he received double portion of his mentor’s spirit.

The book of Ruth portrays Naomi as a mentor to Ruth, her Moabite daughter-in-law. Ruth has such a strong relationship with Naomi that she refused to leave her for any reason. Naomi helped Ruth understand the laws and custom of the Israelites (Ruth 1-4).

Paul was a mentor to Timothy and described the young man as being “like minded” with him in his commitment o saving God. The relationship was so strong that Paul called it a father-son relationship.


At the beginning of a mentoring relationship, it is importance to ask: Where is my mentee in his/her relationship with the Lord! Prisoners and ex-prisoners have very diverse spiritual needs. God catches His fish first, then cleans them. We must therefore minister to people where they are spiritually rather than expecting them to come up to where we are just from the start. It is most likely that even though they are “Born again”. They may have habits, attitudes and viewpoints that are very worldly ( 1 Cor. 3:1-3). It is vitally important for mentors to model biblical for mentees, providing example on how God wants us to live and demonstrate Christianity in action. (1 Pet. 5:1-3). Mentors can help create an atmosphere that is conducive for the Holy Spirit to do His work. As mentees develop a @spiritual appetite” they become eager for the world (heb.10:24-25, 1 Pet.2:2-3).

Sometimes, mentees may view seeking advice as a sign of weakness especially when he/she feels he/she is mature enough in spirit.

Mentor should then be prepared to offer insights and point out alternatives, while remembering that mentees must ultimately make their own decisions (Prov. 13:14; 15:22). When mentees need help, mentors help them to look into the Bible for answers because it is our spiritual nourishment and it provides wisdom on every aspect of life (Psalm 1:1-3, 2 Tim.3:16-17; Heb. 4:12). We must show our mentees that God is our ultimate, most significant source of wise counsel (Psalm 32:8; John 4:16-17; James 1:5).


 “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Pro.27:17

 “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.” Eccl 4:9-10

Every Christians needs a spiritual mentor, reasons though not limited to

  1. SOMEONE TO BELIEVE IN YOU: Everyone desires affirmation. You need someone who will listen carefully to your passions, dreams, goals, hang-ups, and immature ideas and provide caring objective input you can trust, which will take into account of their sense of how God is working in individual life (Barnabas and John Mark – Acts 15:36-39; 2 Tim.4:11).
  2. PROVIDES A ROLE MODEL: A mentor has a tall order to fill by presenting themselves as a role model that is not only in talk but in walk. It means that they “lead by their lives” as commanded by the scriptures where it is evident they are led by the Holy Spirit and present a godly role model of Christ like behaviour to those they mentor (1 cor.11:1).
  3. PROMOTE SPIRITUAL GROWTH: By definition, spiritual mentors are to help others develop a solid pattern of spiritual discipline in their lives which helps deepen their personal relationship with God, grow in the image of Christ and prepare them to become most usable for the kingdom. This activities include formal and informal study such as training in the Christian discipline, helping to determine spiritual gifts and ministry direction (Phil. 3:13).
  4. PROVIDES ACCOUNTABILITY: Today’s cultural environment provides many land mines and diversions. It is not difficult for the enemy to attempt to derail someone who earnestly desires to deepen their relationship with God. Consequently, having a mentor accountability partner is an invaluable benefit for asking questions, heading off danger and derailing diversion like Samuel and Saul (1 Samuel 9-15)

If you have been in a church for over two years and you still not understand why you are there, then you need to critically examine yourself. If you have been there because of a traditional purpose, then you must begin to make a change in your thinking.

Each time you go into a fellowship, you are supposed to gain a spiritual promotion by experiencing and learning new things or by being re-kindled or challenged to do better than you have ever done. Never walk in and out of a fellowship empty handed. Always attend a fellowship with the intention to gain a new experience in the Lord.

  • Position yourself as a student who is there to learn.
  • Position yourself as a child who needs to learn from his father
  • Position yourself as a man who wants to be recruited to join army of the Lord
  • Position yourself as a worker who want to help win more souls into the kingdom of God
  • Make yourself available to be used of God in any way.
  • Open up yourself for emergency enlistment in the army of the Lord.
  • Be willing to give all you have as a sacrifice unto His glory
  • Never underrate anyone and do not allow confusion to control your mind.