"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26).
"For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?" (Luke 9:25).
Our Lord Jesus Christ taught what no other teacher ever has---the transcendent worth of the soul of man. He taught that the soul of a man is precious beyond all price. He affirmed that every soul is accountable to God for all he thinks and feels, as well as for all he says and does. Christ warned men of the great danger of losing their own souls.
We know from Scripture that the soul of man is of immeasurable value. No sum of money can express its worth. It transcends expression. If we were to judge by the conduct of men, we might conclude that the soul is of no worth whatsoever. Everything seems to occupy the attention of mankind rather than the salvation of their own souls.
EVERY MAN HAS A SOUL
What is a soul? It is the spiritual, the best and most noble part of man, and it is distinct from the body. It is the immortal part of a man which allies him with angels and God who are spirits. Speaking of the immortality of the soul, Jesus Christ said: "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10:28). Luke records Him saying: "Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do" (12:4).
According to Jesus Christ, man may go so far as to kill the body, but here the power of man ends. Christ clearly distinguishes between the state of the body and the state of the soul. The state of the soul would not be different at death, if the soul sleeps after death as does the body. Jesus Christ taught that a soul could be lost but not annihilated.
The soul outlives the body and is superior to the body. When Rachel died at the birth of Benjamin it is said that "her soul was in departing" (Gen. 35:18). Here we see death is the departure of the soul from the body to the world of the spirits. When Elijah wanted the dead child to come back to life he prayed: "O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again" (I Kings 17:21). The Lord answered Elijah's prayer, "and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived" (v. 22). Here again we see the soul left the body at death and existed separated from the body. This proves its immortality. Then we see that this immortal soul returned to the body of the child and the child lived. If the soul can exist separated from the body, it is not the same as the body.
The powers and properties of the soul are amazing. The soul retains its powers when the body is mutilated or destroyed. This demonstrates its superiority to the body. The soul is capable of thought and reflection, matter is not. It has power to contemplate God's being as well as His government over the world. The soul is capable of enjoying the friendship of God and of reciprocating His love.
The body is the house of the soul (II Cor. 5:1; Job 4:19; 13:12). The body is compared to the house, and the soul to him that lives in the house. Man is more noble than the house he lives in, so is the soul more noble than the body. The body is the clothing or garment of the soul (II Cor. 5:2-4), and we know that the body is more than raiment (Matt. 6:25). As clothing is worth less than the body, so the body is worth less than the soul that it covers. The body is a tabernacle in which the soul worships God (II Cor. 5:1; II Pet. 1:14), and a worshipper is more honorable than the place of worship (Heb. 3:3). Even so the soul is more honorable than the body.
IT IS POSSIBLE FOR THE SOUL TO BE LOST
In the text Jesus Christ said that a man may "lose his own soul." Sin is what causes a soul to be lost. "The soul that sinneth it shall die" (Ezek. 18:4,22). Isaiah 3:9 declares: "The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves." Sinning against God is what ruins the soul and causes it to be sent away from God. Sin is what makes the soul hateful in the eyes of Divine Justice.
A soul is lost when it is separated from God and His favor and is under His curse and wrath. "But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile" (Rom. 2:8-9). These words of Paul express the second death and the torments of Hell. Unless satisfaction is made for the sins of the soul by the blood of Christ, this is to be the future condition of every sinning soul on earth.
A soul is lost when it is shut out of Heaven and sent to Hell. In Luke 9:25 Jesus Christ called it the casting away of the soul. In Matthew 23:33 Christ declared that impentient sinners cannot "escape the damnation of hell." The soul is lost when it is excluded from light, peace, and rest. Of the lost souls of the wicked Job said: "They grope in the dark without light" (Job 12:25). As to the present and future estate of the wicked, Isaiah declared: "There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked" (Isa. 57:21). Of the beast worshippers it is written: ". . .they have no rest day nor night" (Rev. 14:11).
A soul is lost when it is "punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (II Thess. 1:9). It is lost when it is told by Christ: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41).
IF THE SOUL IS LOST IT IS THE SINNER'S OWN FAULT
Christ did not say that He would lose some souls committed to Him. Rather, He spoke of the man losing "his own soul." It is the man who does the losing. Man cannot lose the souls of others; he can do no more than lose "his own soul."
The man that loses his soul loses himself. A man may lose his family and estate and in time have them restored again. But if he loses his soul he can never regain it. He that has lost himself is no longer his own master. He is at the mercy of the Devil. He is in the hands of Divine Justice. What a great grief it is for a man to realize that he has lost his soul, lost the most important part of his being, lost himself! The knowledge of the awful loss of his soul makes him a self-tormentor.
How fearful is the loss of the soul! It is the deprivation of all good and exclusion from God's protection. It is to suffer the due reward for your deeds---to be left to your own shame---to be delivered to the torments of the Devil and a guilty conscience. In short, it is to be swallowed up of all the most fearful miseries that a just and holy God can righteously inflict upon the soul of a sinful man!
When a man loses his own soul it is an everlasting loss, for a soul that is lost can never be found again. It's banishment from God is everlasting and the fire that it suffers is everlasting fire. You could sooner count the drops of water in the sea, or the grains of sand on the seashore, than you can count the millions and millions of years that a damned soul shall suffer in the lake of fire. The person who has lost his soul can never say he is half way through his sufferings, for that which has no end has no middle (Jude 7).
A man loses his soul by doing what is destructive to it: "But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul" (Prov. 6:32). Divine Wisdom says in Proverbs 8:36: "But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death." All forms of sexual impurity and sins of every kind are destructive to a man's soul. Such a person may say he cannot extinguish his burning lusts, but he will find it shall be more impossible to extinguish the fire that shall never be quenched. He will ruin his soul because he wills to do so. His blood is on his own head (Hos. 13:9).
ONE SOUL IS WORTH MORE THAN THE WORLD
Add field to field, city to city, and nation to nation, yet one soul is worth more than all of this. One soul is of greater worth than all of the gold in Fort Knox, Kentucky. Take all the pleasures this world has to offer, and yet one soul is of greater value than all of these. Gain rank or fame until all men applaud you, but one soul is more precious than all of this. Go beyond earth, gather the sun, moon, and stars to yourself, but all of this is not worth one soul!
Let us suppose that a man could gain the whole world and be the master of it. Such a man could not enjoy the whole world if he had it to enjoy. One man can only be in one place at a time. He can only travel so far in a day, enjoy so much fine food, ride in but one automobile at a time, sleep with but one woman at a time. Such a fool would kill himself in a few weeks. Health would not endure such possessions. Worse still, of what use would the whole world be to a man who must leave it?
THE WINNING OF THE WORLD IS OFTEN THE LOSING OF THE SOUL
The world presents a man with fair language, promising hopes, convenient fortunes, and pompous honors. The desire of these things of the world causes men to waste and consume themselves to get preferment, to enjoy pleasure, to heap up riches and increase them. To attain these men will ruin their bodies and souls. In the end such men discover they have been hired servants that carried a great load of wealth and fame on a weary back all the day. Then when the sun of life is set they are turned into a dark grave and a burning Hell with a raw shoulder and a tormenting conscience.
Worldly prosperity has ruined many a soul. "And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:16-21).
This rich farmer forgot God and his soul. He imagined his fruits and goods would be food for his immortal soul. A God of judgment cuts off his long years of promised enjoyment. He required the soul the rich fool had neglected, corrupted and ruined. The rich man goes to stand before God with a lost soul, a soul lost by trying to win the world (I Tim. 6:9-10).
Why is it that men insure their lives and property, but they are so careless about their souls! How foolish to gather treasures and lose them---to lose the soul, Heaven and God. Millionaires in time are beggars in eternity (Luke 16:23).
THE LOSS OF THE SOUL IS SO GREAT THAT THE GAIN OF THE WHOLE WORLD CANNOT MAKE UP FOR IT
All the men of this world and the angels of Heaven cannot save a soul---cannot give it eternal life---cannot open the gates of Heaven---cannot close the gates of Hell---cannot make a person rich toward God. Ah, vain world! you are a poor reward for the loss of Christ and Heaven! O poor lost soul, you have the riches of earth, but you have lost the treasures of Heaven. You have the pleasures of the world, but you shall never drink of the rivers of God's pleasures. You have the honor of men, but you shall receive the everlasting contempt of God.
The world promises more than it can deliver. While the god of this world is pleasing your fancy, his hand is in your treasures, robbing you of your soul. To gain the world and lose the soul is a fool's bargain. Such a person is an unspeakable loser! When he comes to balance the account, to compare profits and losses, he will find he has been taken in by the great deceiver.
Our Lord asked: "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:37). What would he not give in exchange for the salvation of his soul at the great white throne of judgment? He would gladly trade his vice for virtue and his sins for the great salvation, but it cannot be done. No doubt he would be willing to give ever so much, but it will then be too late, for no exchange can be made. Once in Hell a great ransom cannot deliver a man from this awful place. In such a solemn hour a man will realize he is the biggest fool in the world!
The gospel is a revelation of a soverign remedy, provided by God, through Christ, for the salvation of a man's soul. It causes a person to see his sins are as black as Hell, and he becomes mindful that sin has ruined his soul and that within himself his soul shall surely be lost. The only way to escape is to commit the keeping of his soul to Christ (I Pet. 4:19). Paul did this with the confidence that Christ could and would keep his soul safely until the day of judgment: ". . .for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (II Tim. 1:12).
The redemption of the soul is precious (Ps. 49:8). The loss of this most excellent thing is unspeakably great. This is a good reason for people to be careful to whom they commit the teaching and guidance of their souls.
Don't play the hypocrite in religion. Be what you profess to be, for where is the hypocrite "when God taketh away his soul"? (Job 27:8).
Let the soul have the chief and first concern. God alone can save and keep the soul. Cry out day and night if you are undone, dear sinner: "O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee" (Ps. 25:20). Believe with all your heart the gospel of Christ and receive "the end of your faith, even the salvation of your" soul (I Pet. 1:9).