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Foundational Questions & Answers
The Three Parts of Man
By Craig von Buseck
CBN.com Contributing Writer
Question: What are the three parts of man?
Answer: Spirit, Soul and Body
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 NASB)
According to the Bible, mankind is distinct from all the rest of creation, including the animals, in that he is made in the image of God. As God is a tripartite -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- so man is three parts -- body, soul and spirit. In the most explicit example from Scripture of these divisions, the Apostle Paul writes:
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23 NASB).
Man is made up of physical material, the body, that can be seen and touched. But he is also made up of immaterial aspects, which are intangible -- this includes the soul, spirit, intellect, will, emotions, conscience, and so forth. These immaterial characteristics exist beyond the physical lifespan of the human body and are therefore eternal.
These immaterial aspects -- the spirit, soul, heart, conscience, mind and emotions -- make up the whole personality. The Bible makes it clear that the soul and spirit are the primary immaterial aspects of humanity, while the body is the physical container that holds them on this earth.
The Body (Greek, "soma")
This is the entire material or physical structure of a human being -- it is the physical part of a person.
The Apostle Paul, writing to the Romans again connects the body, the mind (soul) and the spirit.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1-2 NASB).
For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body (1 Cor. 6:20).
The Soul (Greek, "psyche")
Genesis 2:7 states that Man was created as a "living soul." The soul consists of the mind (which includes the conscience), the will and the emotions. The soul and the spirit are mysteriously tied together and make up what the Scriptures call the "heart."
The writer of Proverbs declares, " Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life." (Prov. 4:23 NASB). We see here that the "heart" is central to our emotions and will.
But a natural (psuchikos -- soulish) man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised (1 Cor. 2:14 NASB).
Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, "Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day" (Acts 23:1 NASB).
The Spirit (Greek " Pneuma")
In Numbers 16:22, Moses and Aaron, "…fell upon their faces and said, 'O God, God of the spirits of all flesh, when one man sins, will you be angry with the entire congregation?'" This verse names God as the God of the spirits that are possessed by all humanity. Notice also that it mentions the flesh (body) of all mankind, connecting it with the spirit.
Another key verse that describes the separation between soul and spirit is Hebrews 4:12:
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12 NASB).
We see in this passage of Scripture that the soul and spirit can be divided -- and that it is the Word of God that pierces our heart to bring the division of soul and spirit, something that only God can do.
As human beings, we live eternally as a spirit, we have a soul, and we dwell in a body. We can rejoice with the Psalmist and declare,
For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well (Ps. 139:13-14 NASB).
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von Buseck is Ministries Director for CBN.com. Read ChurchWatch, Craig's Blog on CBN.com.
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