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Help Me Understand Our Body, Soul, And Spirit? | Q&A


Question:

Could you help me understand the spirit, soul, and body of men?

Answer:

In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 the three parts of our being are given in the order listed in the question: “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So, although some theologians have trouble with this division I think Scripture is plain enough to justify our acceptance. Detailed discussions are given by F. W. Grant in Facts and Theories as to a Future State, but we can simplify and summarize as follows.

The spirit provides our intelligent faculties of reason and the ability to have fellowship with other men and with God (1 Cor. 2:10; Rom. 8:16). Even intelligent animals that we have as pets do not have a spirit. We were made spiritual beings by God breathing into us the “breath of life.” (Gen. 2:7) God is the “Father of spirits” (Heb. 12:9).

The soul provides an emotional component and is used in Scripture to represent the person himself. In Acts 2:41 we read, “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” In Acts 27:37, “soul” and “person” are used interchangeably (See ESV and NASB cmp KJV and DBY). This is common usage even today. I don’t think Scripture ever refers to a dead person as a “soul”. After death, the person is a disembodied spirit. For example in Luke 8:55, we read about the young girl who had died: “And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat.”

Some theologians refer to human nature as a “dualism” which seems to confuse the distinction between the spirit and the soul. I think the verse quoted above from 1 Thessalonians as well as Hebrews 4:12 make it clear that we can distinguish between them as I have done here.

The body, of course, is our physical presence in the material world. It is important to respect the body as given by God (1 Cor. 6:19). It is also important to realize that it is through our physical capabilities and senses that we know the material world. Even our ability to read and hear is dependent on the physical nature of our bodies. With regard to spiritual truth, the apostle says, “We see now through a dim window obscurely” (1 Cor. 13:12). Hence, we “groan” looking for the full accomplishment of our redemption (Rom. 8:23; 2 Cor. 5:2).

However, the relationship between the spirit and the soul and the body has been disrupted by the Fall. Now the soul (desires) conflict with the spirit. This is why Psalms 14:1 says “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” The heart is more connected with the desires of the soul. The fool is not thinking intelligently because his “heart” is leading him astray. Skeptics pretend to base their skepticism on reason, logic, and evidence. But, in actuality, it is their desire to do their own will that is leading them astray. Anyone who puts faith and reason in opposition is being “foolish” in this way (Isa. 1:18).

Roy Touzeau

Roy Touzeau is a regular teacher at Grace and Truth Gathering in Portland, Oregon where he has been faithfully attending since 1981. He was instrumental in founding Principles in Focus, an annual biblically focused retreat for young people. Roy and his wife Pamela have been married for forty-nine years and enjoy visiting their children and grandchildren and studying God’s creation using Roy’s eight-inch telescope.

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