Spirit, Soul and Body ...distinguishing the difference between spirit, soul, and body

I Thess 5:23 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.

The Bipartite Being - Dual Man

Many, including some within the field of science claim man is a bipartite being - simply a soul living in a body - having a dual nature - good and evil within him.  This is no diferent than an animal.  There is a good and an evil side to everyone's personality, and what is important is how one behaves and the decisions one makes.  Duality teaches that every aspect of life is created from a balanced interaction of opposite and competing forces, yet these forces are not just opposites, they are complementary.  In other words, man was born knowing good.  Mind and body exist as separate entities and that the mind controls the body, but the body can also influence the otherwise rational mind, such as when people act out of passion.  God is not in the equation of this belief. 

The Tripartite Man - Three-Part Man

The Bible is very specific to say that man is a three-part being.  As a Tripartite man, we are a spirit, we have a soul, and we live in a physical body.  God tells us in Gen 1:26 that we were made in the image and likeness of God.  God is a spirit, and thus we were created as a spirit.  God also says in the Book of Genesis that He created man as a living soul.  As such, God created man as a spirit and soul combination.  Soul and spirit are two separate dimensions of who we are, yet they are inseparable.  If we were simply a spirit, we would have no character or personality – we would simply be a spirit.  A spirit without a soul has no personality, no will, no emotions, no intellect, nor any power of reasoning.  The soul is the personality of the spirit; so furthermore, both the spirit and soul live together forever  – immortal, regardless of whether in heaven or hell.

A spirit without a soul has no personality, and a soul without a spirit has no life.  God created man to be a spirit, which is life, and possess a soul, which becomes our personality - that is the core of who we are.

So let’s first examine our spirit, using the graph below to help explain the position of the Bible.

The Tripartite Man

Our spirit

Within our spirit part of our being, we have a conscience, our intuition, and our passageway to our communion with God.

Our conscience:  Our conscience shows us right from wrong.  Because of the original sin, however, man is born with a sin nature.   He was not born good as the Bipartite belief claims.  The sin nature was already within mankind at birth.  His beginning is already alienated away from God, and the sinful experiences in life continue to sear man's conscience to justify his or her sin.  Furthermore, all of mankind needs to be reconciled back to God.

Our intuitionOur intuition is one's inward knower.  God created mankind with an inner knowledge of a god outside of himself who created him and his surroundings.  This is something a person automatically knows - his intuition tells him.  No one was born an atheist.  To become one, one has to become indoctrinated into that kind of belief.  
Our pathway to commune with GodGod created man to love and commune with his Creator.  It is God's desire to have a loving relationship with His creation.  Not all people, however, use that pathway to commune with God, because not all people pray.  Instead, they look for unhealthy love in a world that does not want to accept that God receives pleasure in our communion and relationship with Him.  Our spirit being, consisting of our conscience, intuition and pathway to God is immortal and will live on forever.   

Our soul

As previously mentioned, God creating man as a spirit and mankind has a soul.  Our personality comes out of our soul.  Within our soul, we have our mind (not brain), our will, and our emotions.  Our spirit and soul together are the invisible part of man that is immortal and lives on eternally.

Our mindWe are all fully aware that we have a mind.  It is in operation every moment of the day and even during the night.  Man can't see it, but we know it is there.  Our mind, however, is not our brain.  Our brain is like a holding place - a physical organ that stores what goes on in our mind.  The two work together in conjunction with one another because our thinking and experiences in life are stored and retrieved upon command as we live out our daily lives.  You think and you make decisions, based on your experiences day in and day out.  No matter what your IQ level may be, you still make decisions every day.  Science has determined that man makes anywhere between 10,000 and 30,000 decisions a day.  The decisions you make will help form your character, which comes out of your experiences in life.

There is a difference between character and personality.  God created us with an innate personality that lives within our soul.  Those are inborn traits that are demonstrated externally out to others.  Our character, on the other hand, is a set of learned behavior traits that determine whether we will effectively achieve goals, be forthright in dealing with others, and will obey the laws and rules of the society around us.

Our will:  We are also fully aware that we have a will because it is in operation every moment of the day. Our will becomes the basis for our decisions.  While we operate out of our personality, our will also helps form our character as we make day-to-day decisions that altar our life.  Our mind and will are very important in our day-to-day life here on earth.

Our emotions:   God created us with emotions.  It is part of the innate personality He created within us.  Some people are more emotional than others, very temperamental, or less – even to being stoic in nature.  We are all fully away of this function within ourselves.  God  created us that way.  One laughs, cries, and display all kinds of emotions depending on the day/time/or hour or mood we are in.  

The heart

The heart is the bridge between our spirit and soul, governing the two together. See diagram above.  In our Bibles, we often see the words spirit, soul, and heart.  Sometimes they run interchangeably, meaning the heart could be the spirit, or often it will refer to the soul, or both.   The heart holds the two together and operates together as one.  The heart then is the core and essence of who we really are.  

The Bible tells us that everything we do flows out of our heart.

The ability to choose

God created mankind with the ability to choose.  We can choose to live and be controlled by our soul or live out of and be conrolled by our spirit, relying upon the Holy Spirit Who lives within our spirit when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.  

Living out and being controlled by the soul:  The core of the soul wants to rule the man for the sake of self preservation, not always aware whether that rule is good or bad.  Left to its own, the soul is determined, self–centered, self-willed, and selfish, desiring momentary pleasure and happiness.  The soul thrives at giving the body comfort.   

  • An unregenerate man:  If a man chooses not to believe in his heart (spirit/soul) and choose (mind, will, and emotions) to accept Christ, he will, by his sin nature, be led by his body and soul, which is sinful and self destructive.  This desire to love and be loved is replaced then by unnatural and sinful longings.  Because man is a spirit being, the natural ending will be death, being pulled down to an eternity in hell. 
  • Throughout history, man has tried to change his life by changing his behavior.  The world calls it behavioral modification.  Behavioral modification simply rearranges our flesh.  They become rules to modify our behavior.  In an effort to try to change one's behavior, such as selfishness, sex, alcohol, drugs, anger, lying, gluttony, we look at it as if it is something WE take care of by changing our behavior.  While rules can be good, and often needed, it doesn’t deal with the real issues of the heart.  Simply following rules out of necessity won’t last. It is only a matter of time when old behaviors will reign in our lives again.  God isn’t so concerned with behavorial modification, although that can be important; He is more concerned with what is going on in our heart.  The Bible tells us that our heart needs to be fixed.   It's not that behavioral modification or Christian counseling is wrong, the problem lies where we are not getting at the root of the problem.  We need to look at  the heart.   

Living out and being controlled by our spirit:  Because God gave man the ability to choose, man can choose to live out of his spirit instead of his soul to follow the leading of God.  To do so, however, one must accept God's Son as Savior, allowing the Holy Spirit to take residence within his or her spirit.  When that happens, the Holy Spirit enters in and becomes one with your human spirit;  He dwells and illuminates in the born-again human spirit to show the believer the ways of the Lord.  You still have a conscience to know right from wrong, but now, the Holy Spirit dwells in your human spirit to show you what the Lord wants you to know. 

  • The Holy Spirit wants to teach us how to live.  He dwells within us to be our teacher, our guide in life, our instructor of truth, equipping with the power we need in this life to lead a holy life pleasing to God, and to be able to love and worship our Creator in an intimate personal way.
  • The Word of God tells us that we need to renew our minds to the Word of God, which comes out of our soul.  As we read and study the Word of God, we are allowing the Holy Spirit to renew our minds according to God's Word (Rom 12:2).  The more you earnestly study God's Word, seeking Him to change you, the more the Holy Spirit renews your mind to the Word of God.  He shows you in your conscience and intuition what God wants you to know regarding sin, righteousness and pure intimacy.  Your conscience and intuition then become the voice of the Holy Spirit.  You commune with God through your spirit, although you do use your soul (mind, will and emotions) to do so because the Holy Spirit is directing you in life.   The pathway to God, which dwells within your spirit is where you worship, commune, and fellowship with the Lord.  This is also where you petition, intercede and make your requests known to God as well.  This is your fountain of life – your pathway to God - your place in prayer. 

 Our spirit and soul are the eternal immortal parts of our being, and will live on forever, being temporarily housed in a earthly body which will eventually die and decay.  As we see in Rom 8:11 there is a day that will come when the Holy Spirit who lives within our spirit will raise our spirit/soul up and take us to heaven to spend an eternity with God forever to spend intimate time with Him forever. 

The Body

Finally, let’s examine the body - the visible part of who we are.  This element of us also has three dimensions - flesh (including all organs - brain is an organ), blood, and bone.  This is the mortal part of us, subject to death and decay.  This is where our five physical senses lie:  Seeing, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.  It's sad, but true - man concentrates more on the body, which will one day die and decay, than on the spirit/soul part of us, which is the immortal eternal part of who we are.  We have it backwards.

We are an eternal spirit and soul, living in a temporal body which will one day die and decay.  One day, our Bible's tell us when we get to heaven, we will receive an immortal glorious body.  Then, and only then, will we be complete as an eternal spirit, soul, AND body.

I Thess 5:23 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

Written by Pastor Joyce A. Erickson

Believers Bible School, Founder https://believersbibleschool.com/