What Are the Five Stages of the Soul?

Nancy Kane
header for What Are the Five Stages of the Soul?

The five-stage model follows the life of Jesus and integrates truths from the Scriptures as it unfolds the process by which a Christian will mature in the faith.

The Five Stages

Stage One is Our First Love—Called into Saving Faith. In this stage, we are embarking with joy upon the spiritual journey with Jesus Christ as our Redeemer and Savior. We see this in the example of Jesus’ calling to Peter to drop his nets and follow Him.

In Stage Two, defined as Obedient Love—Learning the Ways of Godliness, the believer is trained up in the fundamentals of the faith to live and grow within the body of Christ. After accepting Jesus’ invitation, Peter becomes a disciple of his Rabbi, following closely and obediently.

In Stage Three, marked by Persevering Love—Invitation to Intimacy, the believer is invited into a more in-depth understanding of what it means to surrender, along with developing a sacrificial heart that God shapes and forms for His purposes. This stage involves a more profound internalization of one’s faith and belief and a greater desire for intimacy with Christ. This stage often contains unexpected setbacks and realizations about oneself. For instance, we see Peter deny his beloved Jesus three times: “While the words of denial were being spoken, Peter heard the crow of a rooster ([Luke] 22:60b). At that instant, the Lord turned and looked at Peter ([Luke] 22:61a). One can only imagine the searing pain of conscience that swept over Peter at that moment …‘The effect on Peter was shattering.’”[1]

The believer in Stage Four, Sacrificial Love—Living the Kingdom Here and Now, is mature and steadfast in his reliance upon Christ in order to serve and love others. After Jesus is crucified and resurrected, we see a new Peter emerge. The impetuous, anxious Peter becomes empowered to courageously proclaim the message of Jesus to the Jewish authorities; he is becoming the “rock” upon which Jesus said He would build His church (Matt. 16:18).

“Suffering and pain take on different dimensions in each stage as we grow closer to God.”

In the final stage, Stage FiveIntimate LoveBeing Light and Love for the World, the believer rests assuredly in the presence of Christ and surrenders all to serve Him. This is most notably seen as sacrificial love for Christ and His kingdom, even unto death. We see the apostle Peter and the other disciples encounter the risen Christ at the Galilean seashore, the third time Jesus appears to the disciples after the resurrection. Three times Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me? . . . then feed my sheep” ( John 21:15–17). Peter, now tried and tested, is being invited by Christ to love Him by living not for himself but for the benefit of others. Peter’s last season of the journey culminates in giving up his very life for his beloved Rabbi.

Underlying Assumptions of the Stages of the Soul

As you consider this map of the Christian life, there are some fundamental assumptions and critical elements that are important to keep in mind:

  • Jesus is our model of life, character, and conduct; our hearts are formed by Him.
  • Each stage builds on the stage preceding it.
  • The process is not as linear as it appears but rather more of a spiral. As we continue to grow, we will inevitably be circling back and picking up what has not been thoroughly learned in prior stages.
  • Suffering and pain take on different dimensions in each stage as we grow closer to God.
  • We will encounter unique obstacles to our growth in each stage that may inhibit us from continuing to mature.

[1] Kevin D. Zuber, “Luke,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham, eds. (Chicago: Moody, 2014), 1596.

For Further Reading:

Stages of the Soul

by Nancy Kane

How can you tell if you’re actually growing? Sure, when you’re working on getting rid of a huge character flaw you can see...

book cover for Stages of the Soul