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Many a conflicting view has been taught on this concept and because of the degree of concentration needed to absorb the intricacies of this concept, very few teachings can be found on the subject. However, in this study, we will attempt to define spirit, soul and body in the simplest terms possible. Because of the very detailed work necessary to connect Hebrew and Greek concepts, we will deal predominately with the New Testament Greek.
PNEUMA - A current or blast of air, breath or breeze. Figurative of the human or Holy Spirit; innermost being.
PSUCHE - Breath, referring to breath, as in the natural breath of life. A soft breeze as opposed to a blast of air.
SOMA - The body as a whole. Used in a very wide application, literal or figurative, usually referring to the physical body.
- The heart or middle, figurative of innermost being or human spirit.
SUNESlS - The putting together of all intellect (the comprehension of it).
DlANOlA - Deep thought, in the mind. The implication is the channeling or exercise of it.
NOUS - The intellect or conscious, rational mind wherein decisions are computed and made through an act of the will.
Not much New or Old Testament teaching can be found specifically on the tri-unity of man, although indication has been made, in scripture, of the concept. It was first made by Jesus Christ in Mark 12:30, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”
Though it is not specifically explained, it is clear that there are three distinct parts being referred to in the verse which are the heart (Gr. Kardia), figurative of the human spirit, the soul (Gr. Psuche) and strength (Gr. Ischus), referring to the body or the force of one's being. We also see a reference to the mind (Gr. Dianoia). In verse 33, “And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices,” we also find a reference to the understanding (Gr. Sunesis), which means the putting together of all thought within one's being so as to understand or comprehend. So we not only have a reference to spirit, soul and body, but also the mind. The mind is rooted in all three parts of one's being - physical information, emotional or soulish information, and spiritual thought or information.
The Apostle Paul referred to the spirit, soul and body in two specific instances as being the make-up of the whole man. 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit (Gr. Pneuma) and soul (Gr. Psuche) and body (Gr. Soma) be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This verse indicates that God desires to heal and prosper the whole man. Another reference made by Paul to the spirit, soul and body is found in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged 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.”
In this verse we see an obvious reference to the spirit, soul and body. The joints and marrow refer to the physical body (Gr. Soma). The heart (Gr. Kardia), refers to the hidden, inward thoughts and feelings, whether in the spirit, soul or combination of both.
Keep in mind that kardia is a figurative word when referring to the spiritual part of man and it usually places emphasis on the spirit of man or the innermost being of man. Notice in this verse the word dividing. The word of God is able to divide asunder, according to this verse, the three parts of the triune man so as to observe where thoughts and desires are originating and thereby take control and live a more balanced and aware life. Let us now begin to divide by definition and generally outline the three parts of man, starting first with the body.
The body (Gr. Soma) is that part of man which, of course, houses all of the physical anatomy and make-up of man. In this portion of our being there are certain needs, desires, feelings and appetites. The physical body is of the earth; earthly or terrestrial. 1 Corinthians 15:40, “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.” God formed this part of our being from the dust of the earth. 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.” It is entirely composed of physical elements.
The body itself is blessed by God, and contrary to religious thinking, it is not evil. However, without the control of the Holy Spirit from within the human spirit, the needs, wants and appetites of the body become perverse, going beyond the boundaries set for it by God.
It is important to keep in mind that the body and the soul are to be in subjection to the spirit. This thought is pursued throughout the lesson.
The body is that tabernacle in which the soul and spirit are contained. 2 Peter 1:13-14, “Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.” It will be resurrected. 1 Corinthians 15:52, “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.” It will receive immortality. 1 Corinthians 15:53, “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” Until it receives immortality, it is subject to death. Hebrews 9:27, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” But Paul says to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” The spirit and the soul depart from the body when the body dies, awaiting resurrection.
Within the body lie the works of the flesh, but we must remember that the body was created by God for a purpose. Within it lies the temporary physical realm of thought, carnal thinking, which, of course, is contrary to spirit thinking, 1 Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” With the physical body we taste, we feel, we smell, we see and we hear all of the physical things around us.
The human anatomy is a miracle of creation. It has 206 bones, 600 muscles, 970 miles of blood vessels, 400 cups on the tongue for taste, 20,000 hairs in the ears to tune into all sounds, 40 pounds of jaw pressure, 10 million nerves and branches, 3,500 sweat tubes to each square inch of skin, 20 million mouths that ingest food as it goes through the intestines, 600 million air cells to the lungs that inhale 2,400 gallons of air daily and a telephone system that relates to the brain instantly any known sound, taste, sight, touch or smell. The heart beats 4,200 times an hour and pumps 12 tons of blood daily and by the stripes of the Lord Jesus Christ our body is completely healed and one can walk in divine health. 1 Peter 2:24, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed,” and 3 John 2, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”
The soul (Gr. Psuche) refers to the life that is given to man as it relates to the personality of man. It is the seat of our identity. Our human nature, personality, and our character are projected by the soul. It is the divider between body and spirit, the battleground between the carnal world and spiritual world, between the flesh and the spirit. It is the seat of human emotion and conscious reasoning. It embodies our particular tastes, ego and id. Without it, it might be said that one would be faceless.
From it, one will express sorrow, joy, anger, grief and other human emotions. When pleasure is experienced from the body or through the spirit, it may activate an expression of joy which will come from the soul. Acts 3:8, “And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God,” and Luke 1:46-47, “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”
Whereas the body feels physical things, the soul feels and expresses emotions. The conscious, logical reasoning of the mind is operated from the soul. It could be considered the pivotal point of the spirit and body.
As the soul prospers in knowledge and wisdom, so will our lives in general, our relationships, pursuits, and state of being, 3 John 2.
The spirit (Gr. Pnuema) is the innermost being of man. It is the most sacred of places. It is the place in which the Holy Spirit dwells in us, we being the temple of God, 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” It could be considered the Holy of Holies.
The spirit is the seat of spiritual understanding and desires. It is through the spirit that we communicate with God. John 4:24, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” The spirit is a force similar to that of the soul, but yet it’s function is completely different. It is the most powerful part of the triune man. It is the place where the Word of God is germinated, being that the Word of God is Spirit and must be planted in the human spirit. John 6:63, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”
It is that part of man which knows, sees and discerns spiritual things such as faith, Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” which cannot be comprehended with the natural mind, 1 Corinthians 2:14. It is in this part of one's person that the mind of the spirit exists, 1 Corinthians 2:11, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God,” as opposed to the carnal mind which is at enmity with God. Romans 8:7, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” The spirit, like the soul, of course, is immortal and is the place wherein the will of the Holy Spirit is found.
When God desires to give us direction and our spirit is in tune with Him, the human spirit will project the revelation of God's plan into our conscious understanding, much the same way as a movie projector onto a movie screen. Many times when this occurs, the laws of natural reasoning are contradicted. It is in the spirit that faith is developed from which point also virtue or power is released. Romans 10:17, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Our spirit is the channel through which the power of the Holy Spirit moves to bring healing and deliverance to us and others. Divine fruit and godly character are developed in the human spirit as well. Through the human spirit, we receive spiritual guidance.
It is the radar system of our being. It sees and knows things that the body and soul can never perceive. It is from the spirit that the being of the triune man should be governed. Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”
It should also be noted that the spirit of man is that part of man that intercedes for unseen or unknown circumstances so as to counteract the plans of the devil. When the gift of tongues is given to the born again believer, it is given through the human spirit. 1 Corinthians 14:14, “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful,” and Romans 8:26-27, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ,” it is obvious that the mind is the battleground. It is that place where stored information converges and computes decisions. It analyzes situations based on the information it receives. That information is received and stored in several ways; our experiences, what we see, feel and hear, whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual.
The human, conscious mind is the starting point for the internalizing of conclusive or fragmented thought, which in turn, determines what we will be, who we will be, and what we will do in our lives. Decisions are based on information in three dimensions: physical or carnal, 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, (Greek Sarkikos), “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” and Romans 3:20, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin,” meaning the flesh as opposed to spirit and soul.
Then we have the natural, 1 Corinthians 2:14, (Greek, Psuchikos), "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned," which is the soulish life. It is a higher form of life than the physical, yet lower than our next source of information and life which is the spiritual life, Galatians 6:1, (Greek, Pneumatikos), “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted,” which is the supernatural dimension and moves beyond the natural dimension of reasoning.
As information comes together, it forms a sunesis within the nous or conscious mind. Once a decision is made, it completes a dianoia or channeling of our thoughts into an endeavor or a particular emotional experience, general state of being or the digestion of thought, Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things,” and Philemon 6, “That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.”
This, in turn, rearranges or reinforces the information that already exists in our being. The old nature or soulish man has been put to the cross, crucified with Christ. The old man is no longer the dominant factor in our lives and its limiting affect has been broken. Romans 6:6, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Now we are not saved through works rooted in the ego (the law). Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Now, because of the grace and forgiveness of God in Christ, our spirit is restored. Through what we think in our conscious mind, we can stimulate and feed our spiritual man which has been regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit and has passed from death unto life. 1 John 3:14, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” When thoughts come into the mind, contrary to God's Word (thoughts of defeat, poverty or sickness, etc.), and you know the Word of God you will have the ability, from your spirit, to project into your mind God's Word which will, in turn, counteract that thought and displace it or drive it from you. Therefore, the ultimate goal is to think properly and thereby be transformed. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God,” Romans 12:2. So now we see there is the mind of the spirit, Romans 8:6, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace,” and then there is the understanding or conscious mind which is the soul. * 1 Corinthians 14:14, “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.” It is ultimately the mind of the spirit that one must learn to be governed by. The conscious mind lies in the soul and is that part of us which is the battleground between spiritual thought and carnal thought. The power of choice is exercised therein.
Through certain gates or channels that God has ordained in our being, our spirit, soul and body receives an influx of information. These gates are the five senses: hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling and touching. The eyes are the windows through which we see God's creation and many beautiful things that can stimulate faith and worship. Proverbs 15:30, “The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart: and a good report maketh the bones fat.” It is through the eyes that we read God's Word so that it can germinate in our spirit as a result. Proverbs 4:21, “Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart.” Through the eyes, our body enjoys certain sights and we are touched in our emotions.
Through the sense of touch, we feel things that can bring pleasure and can help in carrying out the accomplishments of different crafts which in turn feed our ego and emotions. The sexual experience, body ointments, bathing, feeling the warmth of the sun or a cool breeze are channeled into us through touch and affect our state of being. It also is a channel through which we impart the healing power of God from our spirit through the laying on of hands or comfort through caressing.
Through the ears, we hear many beautiful sounds that can stimulate. We can hear things that can depress, if we allow them to. It is through the ears that the Word of God is heard and faith comes as a result. Romans 10:17, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Through smelling, we smell fragrances; some appealing and some not so appealing. Proverbs 27:9, “Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel.”
Through taste our body again gains pleasure and enjoyment, which can directly interface with soulish and spiritual experience as do all of the gates or senses.
I'm sure that you will be able to find many ways in which these senses convey experiences to the make-up of the triune man.
In conclusion, the body carries fleshly desires and feelings, the soul carries emotional passions and desires, and the spirit carries in itself spiritual hunger and desire. The regenerated or born again believer must learn to be governed by his or her spirit through the power of the Holy Spirit and the engrafted Word.
The engrafted Word and Holy Spirit together will galvanize the strength of the human spirit to a level where it can govern the whole man. All three parts of the triune man form one understanding or one mind, which is to be rooted in the spirit of man. Until the spirit is born again, man is earthly and carnally minded. This is why we perceive that the born again believer must grow in stature.
It is the spirit of the born again believer that is growing and if it is not nurtured it will never take governmental control of one's life so that it may move into a place of blessing, prosperity, peace, love and joy in the Holy Ghost. This is a growth process. Hebrews 5:14, “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” The human spirit learns the mind of Christ, in turn, focusing it on the conscious mind much like a projector on a screen. The body and soul also focus their desires into the conscious mind.
We must decide what part of our being is going to govern us and it will come through the light of God's Word and the Holy Spirit. For instance, your body might say, you are sick, but God's Word says, you are healed. Faith must be germinated in the human spirit and take over the government of the body and vanquish sickness.
From the soul, emotions may try to dominate in one's life and this also would be contrary to God's Word in many instances. Again, the spirit would take over and make the final stand.
The born again believer, who's spirit is weak because of malnutrition (Greek, malpneuma), through a lack of actively abiding in Christ and meditating on His Word, will be typically a carnal minded or soulish individual or both.
The soul seemingly has the ability to duplicate many spiritual experiences being that it is also breath life, but it is because the ego lies therein that it desires to take control and simulate experiences of the spirit. This is why many times believers begin in a spiritual dimension and end up in a dimension of religious works or soulish will-worship experiences.