Thank you for your fabulous web site - I am slowly working my way through your teachings of the Word. Judging by the sheer volume of material you have on your site I can only imagine how busy you must be. If you have the time I would like to ask you your teachings of the following, which puzzles me:
What spirit is within us? Is it "our" spirit, or the "Holy Spirit"?
When do we get it? Is it at birth, believing, or baptism?
When we die our spirit goes back to heaven (God), but what if we are not saved? Does it go to hell?
Can we end up in a situation where our soul goes to hell (if we are unsaved) and our spirit to heaven?
As you can see I am totally confused! I am not alone, others in my congregation (including my pastor) cannot answer this to my satisfaction.
On a different note, I have been questioned on your church's roots (as a basis for your teachings), which I might add I am in agreement with, as I currently struggle with many aspects of my current church (Pentecostal). Is your church related to the Campbell / Stone movement?
I don't aim to answer questions to a person's satisfaction. Some people are never satisfied with any answer that does not agree with what they already believe. My goal is to answer questions in a manner that makes God's teachings on the subject clear. "For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10).
Who a person is and his spirit are the same thing. As a human being you are made of three parts: your body, your soul, and your spirit. "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thessalonians 5:23). Your body is the physical container for your spirit. "For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life" (II Corinthians 5:1-4). Your soul is your life. And your spirit is that which is you -- that which is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and which will live on eternally.
You are getting confused because "spirit" can apply to anything belonging to the spiritual realm and there are many different spirits. It is in outline form, but see Soul and Spirit for a detailed breakdown of these terms. The answer to your questions depend on which spirit you are referring to.
Since there is a Judgment and "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (II Corinthians 5:10). It is proper to state that all spirits return to God upon death. "Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The confusion comes because you are assuming that every spirit remains with God. The verse doesn't say that. In fact, just a few verses later is this warning, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). Everyone is going to return to God and God is going to judge everyone. The point is not to think you can avoid God's wrath or that you are not accountable for your actions.
The churches of Christ have always puzzled the denominational world because we don't fit the typical mold. Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone were two famous preachers during a period of religious history called "the Restoration Movement." Campbell, along with his father, were Baptist preachers who studied themselves out of the Baptist denomination. At about the same time, Barton Stone, Presbyterian preacher, and the congregation where he preached studied themselves out of the Presbyterian denomination. These weren't the only men to do so. There were a large number of people, who, turning to their Bibles, realized that their particular denominations were not adhering to God's teachings. They wanted to go back to doing just what God said. There was no particular founding leader. Campbell and Stone are often picked on because they were more vocal than most and made easy targets. But these men knew, and so taught, that they were not starting a religion. They wanted to go back to the religion that Christ started centuries ago.
They weren't the first to do this either. I have several articles about self-starting churches who desired to return to the teachings of the New Testament. See: "The Story of the Churches of Christ in Central Europe" and "Pre-Campbell Christianity" as examples. The point is that the only thing needed to start a church of Christ (Romans 16:16), is a Bible and the dedication to follow it. Churches are constantly self-starting, which is why Jesus stated that Hades could never stop it (Matthew 16:18). You can't wipe out or corrupt something when there is no central controlling point and which restarts every time you turn around because someone else started reading their Bible and deciding we need to do this.
So when you ask for the basis of my teaching, it isn't Campbell or Stone. I've only read few things that either man wrote and that was long after I became a Christian. What I have read was mostly from curiosity. The sole basis of my teachings is the Bible. "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen" (I Peter 4:11).
While you will find variations in teachings between individual Christians and various churches, what stumps most people is how solidly consistent the churches of Christ are in the vast majority of their teachings, even though there is no organizational body stating what we believe. Yet, the answer is so simple, few believe us. When you plant one type of seed, you get one type of plant. We all follow the Bible -- nothing more and nothing less. From that one seed comes one body.
"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Ephesians 4:1-6).
Thank you for clarifying this. I think I got the spirit and the soul confused! In relation to this, does God deposit His Spirit in us as well as us having our own spirit? i.e. Do we have two spirits in us? If so, when do we get the Holy Spirit? (at Baptism, believing or birth?) So, when the Bible talks about souls either in heaven or hell, is it really referring to spirits in heaven or hell? Sorry, still confused on this aspect.
"The ship sank and eight souls were lost." We often use "soul" to refer to a person, even though it technically means the life of a person. Since the spirit is the person, and that person remains living after death, then it is proper to speak of a person's soul in the afterlife because his life is with his spirit. It certainly isn't with his body because it is dead.
In regards to the Holy Spirit, people confuse things mightily, in part because they draw conclusions from the King James Version, not understanding that words used in 1611 have changed meaning in modern English. The Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian in exactly the same way that the Father dwells in us and Jesus dwells in us.
"And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him" (I John 4:16).
"For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (Ephesians 3:14-17).
The Father, the Son, and the Spirit dwell in a Christian in exactly the same way a Christian dwells in God.
"Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father" (I John 2:24).
See "Indwelling" for more details.