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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

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.