C. S. Lewis is often quoted as having said, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul; you have a body,” however, this saying is not found in any of his published writings. The phrase can be traced back to a 1960 novel, titled A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. The actual phrase is, “You don’t have a soul, Doctor. You are a soul. You have a body, temporarily.” [emphasis from original]
Many pastors and Bible teachers have used the abridged version of this phrase (omitting, “doctor” and “temporarily”) to emphasize the importance of man’s soul and the eternality of the soul.
As Christians we understand the soul to be the essence of our being (Gen 2:7, 1 Cor 15:45). The souls of man will never die. All souls will live eternally, either by the grace of God in Heaven or under the penalty for sins in Hell. The intention of this phrase is to focus on our identity as an eternal being, not a perishable body.
The phrase in its entirety must be properly defined, to determine the truth in the statement. We know that our fleshly, earthly bodies are perishable and therefore it is true that we “have a body, temporarily.” However, some have considered the word “body” in a different context and consider this statement to be false. Although our earthly body is temporal, in eternity we will have a body.
1 Corinthians 15 tells of the bodily resurrection of all who have been given victory over death, through the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. This passage speaks of both those who are alive at the time and those who have died in Christ (their souls are in Heaven and their bodies lay in the grave).
1 Corinthians 15:52-57 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible [the earthly human body that has perished in the grave] must put on incorruption [a new and glorified body], and this mortal [those who are alive at the time of the bodily resurrection] must put on immortality [the new, glorified body]. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
We do not fully understand what the glorified body will be like. The Bible teaches that our earthly remains will be raised (either from the grave or, for those alive, from the earth), but this resurrected body will not be the same as the “earthen vessel” that our souls inhabited on this earth.
Understanding how the word “temporarily” can change the meaning of the phrase, it is wise that Christian pastors and teachers omit it. This saying is intended to contrast the immortal, eternal soul with the mortal, perishable body.
The answer to the question, “are we a soul, or do we have a soul” is . . . We ARE a soul!
What do we know about our soul?
The Human Soul
1) The soul is the essence of who we are. Man was created a living soul and his soul belongs to God.
Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Ezekiel 18:3, 4 As I live, saith the Lord GOD. . . Behold, all souls are mine…
2) The soul is the seat of human emotion, consciousness, and connection.
Job 30:25 Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? was not my soul grieved for the poor?
Psalm 107:9 For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.
Psalm 119:28 My soul melts for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word.
Psalm 119:81 My soul faints for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word.
Isaiah 53:11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
Isaiah 58:10 And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day.
3) The soul is different from the spirit. We were created as a triune being.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of  soul and  spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole  spirit and  soul and  body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
4) In salvation, it is our soul that is regenerated, not our body.
Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
Psalm 34:22 The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.
Hebrews 10:39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
1 Peter 1:9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
Faith in Christ is lived in the soul by the power of the Spirit. It is a relationship of unity and bond with Him that is given to us by Him when He resurrected us from death to life and gave us His Spirit. Just as the Spirit was breathed into Adam at creation, the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, was given to us to make our souls alive and to fill and fuel us with the power of the resurrection—the power of the Living Christ.
All other religions are based on a relationship with God through the works of the body. They teach: serve God and do good. Then you will be worthy and He will love you.
Christianity teaches: we are not worthy and we can never do enough good to be made worthy. But Jesus is good! And He is kind, merciful and loving—and He did for us what we can never do. He loves us and He came to earth to live and die for us. When we repented and trusted in His finished work on the cross for the payment for our sins, He saved us He forgave our sins and made us worthy. Therefore, we can go out into the world and do good—not by our power, but by the power of His Spirit who dwells in us and works through us. We demonstrate our love for the Lord Jesus Christ when we share His love with brothers and sisters in Christ and with those who do not know Him.
All people ARE souls. No one’s soul will ever die. The big question is, “Where will one’s soul spend eternity?”
The question believers should ask themselves every day is, “how, and for whom, is my soul LIVING this day?”
Make today a “win” for the Lord Jesus Christ by surrendering to the power of His Holy Spirit and letting Him work through you. Then tell someone about the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ today. There are “dead men walking” all around us. Tell them how their soul can LIVE!
For what shall it profit a man,
if he shall gain the whole world,
and lose his own soul? (Mark 8:36)