Man: A Tripartite Being with Body, Soul and Spirit

Man: A Tripartite Being with Body, Soul and Spirit

How many parts are there to a man? The Bible says that man consists of three component parts: body, soul and spirit. Man is a triune being because he is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), who Himself is a Trinity. But what is the difference between the body, soul and spirit?

The view that man is made of three parts is called “trichotomy.” But there is an idea also that prevails largely today that man consists of only two component parts: namely, body and soul/spirit (dichotomy). They say that “spirit” is not a separate part of man, but simply another term for “soul”, and that both terms are used interchangeably in Scripture to talk about the immaterial part of man, the part that lives on after our bodies die.

Those who hold to this view argue that Scripture uses the word spirit (Hebrew rûach, and Greek pneuma) more frequently when referring to our relationship to God, but the use of such is not uniform, and the word “soul” is also used in all the ways that spirit can be used.

But this view has often caused confusion in the minds of Christians. While soul and spirit are so closely related that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish accurately between them, the Bible makes it clear that they are not the same; they’re divisible.

The Origin of Man

The Bible says that God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27); but this does not mean physical likeness because God is Spirit (John 4:24). Being in the image of God refers to our personality, conscience, intelligence, awareness of right and wrong, etc.

We are individual and moral creatures capable of loving, sacrifice, doing good deeds and many more, because we were created in the image of God.

God created man in His own image

If Genesis 1:26-27 records the fact chronologically that man was created on the 6th day, Genesis 2:7 tells us how it was done. It says, “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 being.”

The three parts of man are referred to in this verse: the body of man which is made of the dust of the ground, the spirit breathed into man’s nostrils by the LORD God and the soul which is the union of the other two.

Man is a Tripartite Being composed of Body, Soul and Spirit

There are two passages from the Bible that clearly establish the fact that man has three parts.

A. 1 Thessalonians 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.”

This verse clearly states that man has three separate, distinct parts; the distinction maybe slight but they exist nevertheless.

B. Hebrews 4:12

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

Although some people teach that the soul and spirit are two words that mean the same thing, this verse definitely tells us that they are divisible. While it’s true that the terms soul and spirit are used interchangeably in Scriptures, there are other passages where this is impossible.

The Body

Man: A Tripartite Being with body, soul and spiritThis is the part of man which we are most familiar with – the physical part. Everything physical is our body and it is the part of us that decays over time and will eventually cease to exist and function when we die.

The Bible tells us that our body – our flesh and bones, was made of the dust of the ground. Did you know that dust contains 96 elements which are the same elements found in man? What a wonderful proof of creation!

Some of these 96 elements include: calcium, carbon, chlorine, fluorine, hydrogen, iodine, iron, magnesium, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, potassium, silicon and sodium. The body of man also has five senses: hearing, taste, sight, smell and touch. All pain, sensation or ability is expressed in and through the physical body.

After the fall, God in pronouncing curse upon man says, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).

And after the fall, the body became a dying, death-doomed body. Ever since man fell into sin in the Garden of Eden, every man born has an appointment with death (Hebrews 9:27).

The Soul

The soul is the seat of all affections.The Hebrew term for soul is “nephesh” and it is found more than 780 times in the Old Testament. We read in Genesis 2:27 that man not only has a living soul; he is a living soul. It is the immaterial part of man midway between the body and the spirit, yet it is not a mixture of the two, though at times it seems to take on characteristics of one or the other.

The soul is self-consciousness; it stands for the individual, personal life. The ingredients which make us human beings belong to the soul. The intellect, thought, ideals, love, emotion, understanding, decision, choice and other like qualities are all associated with the soul. In other words, the soul is also the seat of all affections and Satan knows this very well that is why he operates making his appeal to the affections and emotions of man.

*Read here how to love the Lord with all your soul: The Greatest Commandment of God

It is the soul of man that Jesus died to redeem on the cross (Hebrews 10:39; Psalm 49:8). But the soul is never directed towards God until after the spirit has become regenerated. Man is not able to love God or the things of God until he is born from above.

Man’s desires and affections are turned toward God when he realizes his sinful condition and accepts God’s gift of salvation. But even though we have died to sin and been raised to life through Christ, our souls still need to be transformed and purified by the washing of the word (Ephesians 5:26).

Unlike the body, the soul cannot be destroyed by physical death but lives on beyond the grave. The soul does not die when the body dies because Jesus said to not fear those who can kill the body, but rather fear Him (God) who can destroy both body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28).

The Spirit

The spirit of man allows him to connect with GodJohn 4:24 says that “God is Spirit” and the spirit of man is the part that resembles God most. This is manifested in our assurance of salvation when it says in Romans 8:16 that “the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”

It is the spirit that gives man the ability to have an intimate relationship with God; it is that part of us that is enabled by God to know and worship Him. The spirit of man is what gets born again or regenerated. Just as the soul is the sphere of activity where Satan operates, the spirit of man is the sphere of activity where the Holy Spirit operates in regeneration.

*Related Article: Understanding the Personality of the Holy Spirit

When we become new creations, it is in our spirit that the Spirit of God comes to reside. Man in his unregenerate state does not understand the things of God because the spirit of man is limited to the things of man (1 Corinthians 2:14). The spirit of the unregenerate man has no more capacity to appreciate the things of God than a dog has to appreciate holy things (Matthew 7:6).

Conclusion

God created a tripartite being to love the Lord and to enjoy life and nature. Man was made for God; the spirit of man was made to commune with God.

As we prepare for the day of resurrection when our component parts will be reunited and we will stand before the Judge, let us continue in the process of renewing our minds and transforming our souls to line up more and more with the Spirit of God that is working in us.

Let us then put more effort to learn what the Bible really says about who we are in Christ once we’re born again and live according to the will of Him who called us.

12 Replies to “Man: A Tripartite Being with Body, Soul and Spirit”

  1. Indeed, man was made for God. Thank you for this post explaining who we are as new creations in Christ.

  2. I like to walk around barefoot in the summer. We have a cottage by the river and I am always barefoot and I feel relaxed and calm. It helps me to feel grounded. And this makes sense after reading your post since “our flesh and bones, was made of the dust of the ground”.

    1. Hello Wendy,

      When I first found out that our physical bodies contain the same exact elements that the dust has, I was truly amazed and can’t help praising God for His wonders! That tells us that God is amazing and that the Bible is really the word of God; it’s God’s revelation to man.

      I guess you can say that because we were made from the dust of the ground, we kind’a feel like we’re connected to the ground. After all, our bodies will return to dust at death. But more importantly, we know that because we have a spirit, we are able to connect with God and we are capable of joy and gladness because we have a soul.

      Blessings to you!

  3. This was a very informative article. It’s sometimes very hard to distinguish between the 3. This is spot on! Thank you so much for this! I will be sure to keep following and reading your articles. Have a blessed day!

    1. Hi Nick,

      Many Christians still have questions about the differences between the three components of man, especially in distinguishing between the soul and spirit. Some even say that they are one and the same but if we look closely at Scriptures, the soul and spirit are actually are divisible.

      Thanks for the visit, God bless!

  4. This is an educative article. I have a question what makes us different from other living things with reference to this tripartite being? What about angels what is their form of creation?

    1. Hi Oska,thanks for your comment and your question. While man is a tripartite being with body, soul and spirit, angels being spirit beings do not have a physical body; they only possess a soul and spirit. This means they are capable of feeling joy or sadness (an attribute of the soul)and they have the ability to communicate with God.

  5. Hello Alice!

    This was a great article that clearly outlined the difference between the body, soul, and spirit. You’re right that there is quite a bit of debate about this topic.

    Most people know and understand that there is a battle within them, that we hear voices, and we are tempted. However, many doctrines teach skewed origins on where this internal contention comes from.

    Your article explains the internal conflict very well. We have a soul that is in a fallen state, that is attracted to things that may be ungodly, and we have a Spirit that desperately needs direction, and can be the seat of God.

    Great job on such a clear articulation of a complex subject!

    1. Hello Tiffany, 

      Thank you so much for your comment and thank you if you find this post helpful in outlining the differences especially between the soul and the spirit.

      Although some believe that the soul is one and the same as the spirit, we know that they’re not because of certain passages in the Bible. And while some believe in the soul sleep doctrine, we know that the soul being immaterial remains conscious even at death. The body which came from dust will return to the earth and the spirit will return to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

      You said it very well, it is our soul that has become corrupt and that is why it is our soul that Jesus died for to redeem on the cross.

      Thanks again for visiting and I hope you’ll come back to read more inspiring articles.

  6. Thank you Alice for this exposition.

    I had a wonderful time reading through it. I remember David’s description of the word of life when he said it was sweeter than honey to his taste.

    I agree with all that’s been shared. The Word of God is our compass guide and reference point.

    We will only maximise our lives if the soul is renewed and the spirit strengthened, by the combined instrumentality of the Word of God and The Spirit of God.

    Please continue the good work. I hope to be back later for more refreshing and instructing from the wisdom of the truth.

    1. Thank you for your comment Festus.

      Let us continue to dedicate our life to God, our body, soul and spirit. Jesus saved our soul with His death and resurrection and our spirit restored back to life when we got born again. As we wait for the redemption of our bodies, may we live a sanctified walk in the Lord.

      May God’s richest blessings be upon you, physically and spiritually.

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