Body, Soul, Spirit

<<the total human>>

Humans are triune beings, comprising a physical body, a personality or soul, and a spirit dimension, as indicated by “May your whole spirit, soul and body…” (1 Thes 5:23). Each of these individual yet inter-related parts of us needs to be functioning effectively to be integrated, balanced and whole

Am I paying attention to all aspects of my person or being dominated by one?

people, and to live the abundant life Jesus describes (Jn 10:10). Although three dimensions are listed here it is sometimes difficult to accurately distinguish between the unseen aspects of our wonderfully made and complex beings (Ps 139:14; Heb 4:12). 

Humans were created in ‘the likeness of God’ and are primarily spiritual beings, so we can relate to and enjoy relationship (on that level) with God who is Spirit (Gen 1:26,27; Jn 4:24). God’s design was for the spirit to direct the soul, with the body in submission to both. When humanity rebelled the soul became the dominant part, distorting the proper alignment [of our being] and suppressing the spiritual aspect. This Godly ‘line of authority’ is the key to right living as there are major problems when the order of command is altered. Even as Christians when we are not ‘walking in the Spirit’, the soul is in control and so sin can easily result (Rom 8:5,6; Gal 5:16,25). Having become ‘alive’ at salvation the greatest battles are those we fight within – to yield to [God] the Spirit or be guided by our own self-centred nature. Life situations continually present opportunities for us to choose to prevent the soul’s domination, making it once again submissive to our spirit, under the Holy Spirit.  

In the same way as sin affected our whole being God’s redemption affects all parts [of our being] – the spirit is renewed and connects with Him, the soul (encompassing the mind) is to be transformed and the body to be in health (Ex 15:26; Ezek 11:19, 18:31; Rom 12:1,2; 3 Jn 1:2). At death the soul and spirit dimensions of us return to God waiting to be reunited with an imperishable body to spend eternity in either heaven or hell (Gen 2:7; Eccl 12:7; Rom 8:23; 1 Cor 6:14, 15:42,50-54; 1 Thes 4:13-17).

The body

This is the physical part of us. In the Bible it is commonly described as ‘flesh’ or ‘carnal’ – old words for the physical dimension. It is conscious of the world around us and houses the other two parts (spirit and soul) then decays after death. Even when we cease to live on this earth, this is not the end of our existence because although people can destroy the body they cannot touch the soul (Mt 10:28; Jn 10:28,29; 1 Cor 15:54).  

Because of our unrighteous lusts and nature, resulting from the Fall, the body can override the spirit with disastrous results (Mk 14:38; Rom 8:5; Eph 2:3; Col 3:8, Gal 5:19-22, 6:8; 2 Tim 3:2-7).  Consequently we are not to pay

We must look after the 'container' too

attention to the sinful (fleshly) desires, rather our bodies must be disciplined and controlled, presented to God as a living sacrifice. The God-given role for our body is as a servant for the spirit and soul (Rom 7:14-25, 12:1; 1 Cor 9:27; Gal 2:20).  Following salvation and becoming a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, we are to bring glory to God by living pure lives for divine purposes (Rom 6:12,13; 1 Cor 3:17, 6:15,19,20; 1 Jn 4:13).

Our spirituality is lived out through the physical dimension – as it was for Jesus – who, in human form, neither neglected or pampered His body but offered it as a vehicle for God’s will and purpose (Jn 1:14; Rom 6:19, 8:11; 2 Cor 4:10; Heb 2:15; 1 Jn 4:1,2).

While Jesus made provision for our ultimate healing it is our responsibility (through self-control and discipline) to care for our body ensuring it receives adequate food, sleep and exercise yet is not put under needless pressure by over-eating or poor diet (Isa 53:4,5,11; 1 Cor 6:12,13, 10:23; Eph 5:28; 1 Pet 2:24). A healthy body can contribute to good emotional, mental and spiritual health whereas yielding to the various appetites of the body (by casting off restraints of decency and diet) result in a multitude of problems.

The soul

This is the essence of our being, ‘who we are’. With it we connect to our fellow humans, and we interpret our earthly surroundings.  It has three important capacities which distinguish humans from all other creatures.

1/. The will (‘I want’) – the desires need to be shaped and disciplined for the decisions made determine the outcome of life (Job 31:1; Ps 101:3; 1 Cor 9:27)

2/. The mind (‘I think’) – the intellect, dealing with concepts, ideas, and reasoning, needs to be stimulated and renewed (Rom 12:2; Eph 4:17,18,22-24; Phil 4:6,8)

No aspect of the soul should control a believer  

3/. The emotions (‘I feel, I like’) – impressions from experiences. These are affected by the state of our body and they can fluctuate up and down so are not reliable. Therefore they need to be guided and guarded (Prov 16:32).

Our brain is the decision-making department, receiving input from the five bodily senses (touch, taste, hearing, sight, smell). It also processes issues of  morality – of good and bad behaviour,  receiving  influences from both God and Satan, yet we alone choose which option we take in each situation in life (Gen 4:7; Josh 24:15; Rom 6:12,13). The Bible’s message is to ‘put off the old self’, to be made new in the attitude of our minds and to put on the new godly character (Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:9,10).

Because of our sinful nature the soul is corrupt, rebellious and biased with a self-centred focus towards earthly things rather than the creator (Eph 2:3; Phil 3:19). God declares, “The soul that sins [violates God’s commands] shall die” (Ezek 18:4,20). The Bible asks the question, what good will it be if a person gains the whole world and loses their soul in hell, because of their decision not to receive the gift of salvation and follow Christ? (Mt 16:26). Because it is at enmity with God natural human thinking ultimately leads to death (Rom 8:6,7, 10:3). Everyone’s conscience tells them what is right and wrong, through having feelings of guilt when it is violated yet feelings of pleasure when our actions, words or thoughts are decent and honourable (2 Sam 24:10; Rom 1:18-32, 2:15; 2 Cor 1:12; Heb 8:10). 

The Bible uses the term heart for – not the physical blood-pumping organ – but rather the aspect of our being where we experience or relate to God and others.  As it is the source of all life, for Christians, it is vital we protect it more than any other treasure, and allow God’s Word to take root within so it will keep us from sin. It is this area of life from which all manner of evil can emerge (Ps 119:9,11; Prov 3:3, 4:23;

God wants to restore us to ‘the best that we can be’

Mt 5:19; 2 Cor 10:4,5). It is our decision as to the degree we allow His principles to affect our whole life, yet God who searches our hearts and knows our motives will reward us accordingly (Jer 17:9,10; Mt 5:8).  “If you seek the Lord, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut 4:29). By obeying the truth we will bring cleansing to the soul (1 Pet 1:22).

Our soul stores up the hurts and disappointments of the past but they can be released as we ‘find rest in the Lord’. That is, by agreeing with Him and expressing His qualities instead of rebelling and stubbornly trying to do things our way in our strength (Ps 23:3; Mt 11:29). All emotions have either a positive, creative effect or a destructive power, affecting both soul and body. Physical disease is often the body’s reaction to negative emotions – even those that occurred in a person’s formative years (Prov 14:30). Psychosomatic illness is the term reflecting the interaction between the mind and body. Even in adult life, stress and anxiety often manifest as back or head pain. As we all respond physically to emotional distress at some time, the Bible’s advice is to “Cast all your cares [shame, stress and concerns] on the Lord” (1 Pet 5:7). Get rid of the emotional burdens that are detrimental to your health, especially un-forgiveness, for Satan’s aim is to poison the mind, blinding it from comprehending the truth (Act 14:2; 2 Cor 4:4). The Bible says, be thankful and pray about everything and the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds (Phil 4:4-7).

The spirit

This connects to God in the areas of faith, trust and worship. It is only believers who are spiritually alive, unbelievers are spiritually dead (1 Cor 2:14; Eph 1:13, 2:1-5; Col 2:13; Jas 2:26).

By being in intimate relationship with Him we are able to receive revelation direct from Him and to give Him our worship (Mt 2:12,22; Jn 4:23,24; Act 10:19, 13:2; Rom 8:16; 1 Cor 2:9-11, 6:17). However, (because of the effects of sin) our personal insights need to be checked against the principles of Scripture as Satan deceives by planting good-sounding ideas in our minds.

In the Garden of Eden the connection between the human spirit and God was destroyed – we became ‘dead’ to Him. Without His supervision or guidance people became desperately wicked and were unable to restore the connection themselves (Gen 2:17, 3:3-5, 6:5; Jer 17:9). God’s whole plan of

Being in the right relationship with our creator is fundamental to a fulfilled life

salvation was to do just this. In the same way that Jesus was resurrected so we can be restored to an intimate relationship with God – made truly spiritually alive again (2 Cor 5:17). By humbly repenting and trusting Christ He can go about his work to ‘create in us a clean heart’ (Ps 51:17; Eph 3:17). Our co-operation by ‘putting to death’ the sinful nature that once bound us and putting on the new way of God’s Spirit begins to effect a total transformation in each area of our personality. This only happens to the degree we allow Him to impact us, and requires ongoing yielding, repentance and obedience (Rom 6:12,13, 7:6, 8:13,14; 2 Cor 7:1).  

We are commanded to ‘walk in the Spirit’ and not cater to the appeals of our past life (Rom 13:14; Gal 5:16,17,24; 1 Jn 2:16). In order  to “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions” we should be consciously and continuously aware of His presence, and responsive to the inner guiding of the Holy Spirit as we go about our daily life, and not just when we are focused on God during our devotional times or public worship (Prov 3:6; Eph 6:18; Heb 13:5). Because of our fellowship with God our spirit experiences joy that is unaffected by the happenings of this world whereas our soul only looks for happiness which is based on changeable, earthly events.

The command of Scripture is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”, then you will be aware of Him working sovereignly in all the details of your life to bring about His purposes (Mk 12:30; Rom 8:28,29).

See also: being and doing, carnal, conscience, desires, emotions, health, heart, mental health, mind, self-control, spirit, spiritual/spirituality, will.