Have you ever heard someone teach on “soul ties” and the need for Christians to become aware of them and sever them? I learned about this Word of Faith doctrine at youth retreats and in every Christian “self-help” Book (oxymoron) dealing with sexual purity, adolescence, dating, and marriage. Books teaching about deliverance from addictions to spiritual bondage all point to these soul ties (and generational curses) as the background chains or hindrances to Spiritual Growth and freedom. But are these teachings Biblical?
Well, let’s first look to a resource that presents itself as a Bible study site:
What a soul tie is
The Bible speaks of what is today known as soul ties. In the Bible, it doesn’t use the word soul tie, but it speaks of them when it talks about souls being knit together, becoming one flesh, etc. A soul tie can serve many functions, but in it’s simplest form, it ties two souls together in the spiritual realm. Soul ties between married couples draw them together like magnets, while soul ties between fornicators can draw a beaten and abused woman to the man which in the natural realm she would hate and run from, but instead she runs to him even though he doesn’t love her, and treats her like dirt. In the demonic world, unholy soul ties can serve as bridges between two people to pass demonic garbage through. I helped a young man not too long ago break free from downright awful visitations from demons, all due to an ungodly soul tie he had with a witch. The man was a Christian, and the only thing that allowed her to send demonic torment his way, is through the soul tie. Other soul ties can do things such as allow one person to manipulate and control another person, and the other person is unaware to what is going on or knows what is going on, but for no real reason, allows it to continue. (from GreatBibleStudy.com, accessed 9/23/14)
Wow, that’s quite a collection of things lumped under “soul ties”. Does the Bible teach any of this? From here on out, we will only look at what the Scripture says. Let’s examine the premise behind these claims in bold first before exploring this doctrine any further.
Souls being knit together
The first claim is that the Bible talks about souls being knit together. Where does the Bible talk about that? Well, the phrase is mentioned in the Bible but it isn’t really taught. The most commonly used text for this idea comes from 1 Samuel 18. Let’s begin in chapter 17 so that we can get some context as to when this all took place.
1 Samuel 17:50-58 (ESV) | David Defeats Goliath
50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. 51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 52 And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron. 53 And the people of Israel came back from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their camp. 54 And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent.
55 As soon as Saul saw David go out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is this youth?” And Abner said, “As your soul lives, O king, I do not know.” 56 And the king said, “Inquire whose son the boy is.” 57 And as soon as David returned from the striking down of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. 58 And Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”
1 Samuel 18:1-5 (ESV) | David and Jonathan’s Friendship
1 As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. 3 Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. 5 And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war. And this was good in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.
Okay, so here we have written that after God defeated Goliath at the hand of David, Jonathan took to David and loved him as his own soul. Their souls were knit together. In the Hebrew the phrasing for “soul knit to soul” here is nephesh qashar nephesh. The Hebrew language has very few words so each word has a meaning that is broader than our English word for “soul”. Before we look at the meanings of the individual words, let’s look at where this idea is conveyed elsewhere in Scripture. Such a place is found in Genesis 44. Now, to set this next quote up a bit, this is during the 7 years of famine that followed the 7 years of bounty prophesied to Pharoah by Joseph. If you remember Joseph was the favored son of his father, Jacob (who would later be renamed Israel), whose brothers sold him into slavery. They deceived Jacob and told him that Joseph was killed (Genesis 37). Fast forward many years later, Joseph is now second-in-command of all Egypt and his brothers have come for food to weather the famine. If you are unfamiliar, I recommend reading the whole story beginning in Chapter 37, but for now let’s dive into 44.
Genesis 44:18-34 (ESV) 18 Then Judah went up to him and said, “Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears, and let not your anger burn against your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself. 19 My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father, or a brother?’ 20 And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’ 21 Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.’ 22 We said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ 23 Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall not see my face again.’ 24 “When we went back to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. 25 And when our father said, ‘Go again, buy us a little food,’ 26 we said, ‘We cannot go down. If our youngest brother goes with us, then we will go down. For we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ 27 Then your servant my father said to us,‘You know that my wife bore me two sons. 28 One left me, and I said, “Surely he has been torn to pieces,” and I have never seen him since. 29 If you take this one also from me, and harm happens to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in evil to Sheol.’ 30 “Now therefore, as soon as I come to your servant my father, and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy’s life, 31 as soon as he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol. 32 For your servant became a pledge of safety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father all my life.’ 33 Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. 34 For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would find my father.”
We see here Judah pleading with Joseph (not yet knowing it was him) not to hold the youngest as they go back for their father. Judah explains that Jacob’s life is bound up in the boy’s life, here we see in the Hebrew “nephesh qashar nephesh“. Jacob’s life (nephesh) is bound up in (qashar) the boy’s life (nephesh). Jacob had explained to Judah that the mother of Joseph had only borne him 2 sons, and one was presumed dead; therefore, all that Jacob had left of her was this youngest boy. Jacob barely survived losing his favored son, Joseph, and Judah and the rest of the family believed fully that if they should return again without the youngest, Jacob would die of grief.
So does this mean the modern-day teaching of soul ties is Biblical? Well, let’s ask a couple of questions.
- Is this a prescriptive text? Does the Scripture teach us about these soul ties here or whether they are good or bad? No. In both instances we have descriptive texts of uniquely strong emotional bonds. Jesus taught that the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself, and then answered the question of “who is our neighbor” in a parable. Jonathan’s love for David saves David’s life on a couple of occasions from King Saul. David refuses to raise his hand against Saul (God’s anointed) and is terribly grieved when he learns of Saul’s death and the death of Jonathan. Jacob’s love for his youngest son is strong and tied to his deeply-seated love/loss for Joseph. Is it healthy? Not really, but neither is it being prescribed here. It simply was. Notice, however, that in neither case is this “knitting together of souls” happening in the background or by mistake or accident. These are deliberate bonds of love.
- Is this connection a Spiritual One? As we saw in the 2 texts above, the word nephesh is translated both soul and life. I have yet to find it translated “spirit” as in the spiritual part of a person. The Hebrew word for spirit is ruwach. Nephesh is more commonly associated with the emotions, mind, passions, and physical being rather than spiritual.
Clearly this idea of souls being knit together is a depiction of a deep emotional bond between two people. However, we haven’t established its existence at a Spiritual level nor have we seen any actual teaching on the matter. We see it merely describing a level of love that is uniquely strong in nature. We don’t see anything similar in the New Testament. Granted, we shouldn’t expect to see Hebrew terms being taught in the New Testament, but there is no teaching in the New Testament regarding a knitting of souls or a soul-bond between two individuals.
Becoming One Flesh
This is the most commonly taught aspect of this soul tie thing, especially in books targeting youth or adolescence. The idea here is that sex automatically ties the souls of those involved together. As the teaching goes, this is meant to be a good thing in marriage, but in the case of pre-marital or extra-marital sex it’s touted as its own spiritual problem beyond that of adultery. As the doctrine goes this connection then leaves an open door for continuing sin and spiritual torment and even blocked blessings from God… whether you are aware of this lasting soul tie or not. Is that what happens in sex?
Genesis 2:20-24 (ESV) 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Here we don’t see any of the Hebrew words used in the previous example of knitting souls. We see here that the two will become one flesh. There is no invoking of any spiritual realm here. She was formed from his flesh, and in the joining of their flesh they become one flesh again.
Souls Tied in the Spiritual Realm?
Marriage is a covenant of flesh. That is how Jesus taught it in Matthew 22.
Matthew 22:23-30 (ESV) | Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection
23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”
29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
The setup here is wonderful, because what the Sadducees created in their hypothetical was in keeping with the Law. No sin is described and there is no adultery here according to the Law. What the Sadducees are trying to trap Jesus with is that if there is a resurrection then at the resurrection she would now be guilty of adultery having multiple husbands, and having slept with all the brothers (specific sins in the Law). Jesus obliterates this trap by exposing their ignorance of the Scriptures… there is no marriage in the resurrection. Therefore, marriage is an earthly covenant of flesh, not a Spiritual one. It points to a spiritual relationship between Christ and His Church, but it is only a shadow of it. With this understanding, let’s take a look at Paul’s teaching/rebuke to the Corinthians in Chapter 6.
1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (ESV) | Flee Sexual Immorality
12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
While I dislike making arguments from silence; however, if sexual immorality were more than sin and somehow created a spiritual connection that needed a special severing, I believe Paul would have taught it plainly here. He doesn’t. Instead he moves right on into marriage, divorce, widows, and living as called. Why? Because sin is sin and there is no need to invent theories behind sins, one only needs to look in the Law, for the Law identifies sin and convicts us of sin. Adultery and all other forms of sexual immorality are sin. The answer to breaking the Law while under the Mosaic Covenant is death. The answer under the new covenant of Jesus’s blood is also death, but that death having already been paid by Jesus Christ. Which brings us to our assessment on this matter of “soul ties”.
Rescuing Mechanism for Word of Faith Theology
The doctrine of “soul ties” looks plausible at first (especially since it seems to fit our experience), but in-truth it cannot be taught from the scriptures, nor can it be substantiated as a Spiritual phenomenon. The biggest problem with this teaching is in the assertion that one who is “born again” saved by Grace, through Faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, might still have some sort of spiritual connection as a result of some past sin that remains at work in the believer’s life unless it is severed by some specific prayer. Really? Is that the Message of the Gospel? That once you have been made alive in Christ, parts of your soul might be unwittingly be bound in the spirit realm to past sin? No, it isn’t. This notion of the soul tie is a rescuing mechanism for the Word of Faith movement.
In the Word of Faith (WoF) movement, sin is not properly taught. More importantly, the condition of sin and the completeness of Christ’s substitutionary atonement on our behalf are not properly taught. In fact, once a person is saved the WoF movement rarely goes back to the cross except to declare promises based on the cross and “speak them” into existence. They teach that healing needs to be claimed and declared based on Isaiah 53, and that prosperity in this life is to be spoken into existence based on our having been adopted into the Kingdom of Heaven. The glaring problem with this teaching is the fact that Christians still get sick, Christians still die, and Christians still have financial struggles. The WoF catch-all for this fact is that we have to grow in faith until we are walking in the Spiritual realm and bringing Heaven down to earth, until then we get sick or we are poor because of our lack of faith. Then there comes the issue of repeated or habitual sins and addiction. Because WoF has a slanted view of the problem of sin, they need a rescuing mechanism for why confession of sin and repentance unto salvation doesn’t immediately remove the flesh’s desire to sin. Soul Ties (and generation curses) seem to offer an explanation for why we find ourselves caught up in sin even after we have been saved. It offers an external actor for the sin, a need for prophetic insight into the “root cause of the sin” and another occasion to “declare” freedom and to “speak” deliverance into existence. Unfortunately, if the ritual doesn’t stick… the Christian is back to square one… questioning his own faith and whether or not Christ truly died for him and his sin.
This “soul tie” thing isn’t Biblical. If you want to know why you continue to sin after having been saved by Grace, it’s because you still live in a fallen world, and walk in corrupted flesh that actively seeks out sin in opposition to the Holy Spirit who lives in you. Paul teaches in Romans 7 and in Galatians 5:16-26. In Galatians, he isn’t comparing Lost versus Saved; rather he is pointing out that our flesh desires sin but our Spirit desires Holiness. Walking in the Spirit is to deny the flesh daily, not by treating it harshly (asceticism) but by resisting its temptation and obeying the Holy Spirit. We confess and repent from our sins daily, taking up our cross daily, and following Christ. Repentance is a continual process. As we grow in knowledge and faith in Christ, we become more and more aware of the sin within our own flesh, and the deceitfulness of our own heart. There is not special ritual or prayer to cut off sin, for the answer to all sin, to all of the Law, is the Cross of Jesus Christ. There will come a day when we will no longer have to contend with our own sinful flesh, when at least our bodies will truly be healed of the sin of Adam and made perfect, that is in the resurrection in the Great and Final Day of Christ’s return.
Philippians 3:7-14 (ESV) 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Are there demons? Absolutely. Do they tempt and attack? Yes. Is there some special spiritual-jujitsu Christians need to learn to combat them? No. The Gospel of Jesus Christ frees us from spiritual darkness. We must contend with the flesh, resist devil (tempter), and repent of sins daily. We need God’s Grace every hour of every day.
1 John 1:8-9 (ESV) 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The forgiveness is immediate based on what Christ already accomplished at the cross. The cleansing is a continual process that will be completed when we are finally free of this earthly, fallen, body and are given our new heavenly bodies on the day of Christ’s Return.
May the Lord Bless and Keep you firmly in His Will,
In Christ Jesus,