There are a few different schools of thought regarding the ontology of man. Some think man is a dichotomy (and they explain why they believe so in various ways), and others believe we are a trichotomy. Some think that this subject is too ambiguous in Scripture to come to any firm conclusions. I believe the Scripture clearly reveals enough about the ontology of man for us to understand with confidence, that we, like God, are triune beings. So, I would like to lay out my view in Scripture.
Why does it matter? I believe that while this is not an essential doctrine, understanding our makeup, and more specifically being able to make a distinction between our soul and spirit, is vital in teaching people to discern between the voice of God, the voice of the enemy and their own voice. There are a lot of things that are labeled spiritual or God, that are in fact soulish at best, being self-originated. There are also many things that are called spiritual or godly that are actually carnal or even demonic in origin.
Discernment is a spiritual exercise, as spiritual things are spiritually discerned. There is a huge lack of discernment in Christendom today. I think believers need to be equipped to wade through all the junk with a solid understanding of how to truly test all things.
But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
The Creation of Man
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.
God made Adam a physical body from the dust of the earth, then God breathed life into Adam or gave him a spirit, and upon that spirit entering Adam’s body, he became a living soul.
The word for spirit in both Hebrew and Greek is also used to speak of breath or wind. Some think that what God breathed into Adam was just breath or wind. However, the context as well as the whole counsel of scripture help us understand that what God breathed into Adam was not just air or breath, but life, and that was a spirit life.
God created man for compatibility with Him. He made us in His image for the purpose of relationship. God is Spirit and He created man as spiritual beings.
So, God gave Adam a spirit, and God also gives all men a spirit and forms their soul within them.
The spirit of every man comes from God, not our parents. Which, by the way, is why the doctrine that we are born spiritually dead because of Adam is nonsensical. We did not get our spirit from our natural parents, that came from God directly, and God did not issue anyone a dead spirit. God also did not form anyone with a morally corrupted soul. He forms our “inward parts” and you are fearfully and wonderfully made.
The Spirit of Man Comes from God:
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God who gave it.
Thus says God the Lord,
Who created the heavens and stretched them out,
Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it,
Who gives breath to the people on it,
And spirit to those who walk on it:
The burden of the word of the Lord against Israel. Thus says the Lord, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him:
Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?
God Forms Our Inward Parts in The Womb:
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
Thus says the Lord who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you: ‘Fear not, O Jacob My servant; And you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.
Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, And He who formed you from the womb: “I am the Lord, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself;
And now the Lord says, Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, So that Israel is gathered to Him (For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, And My God shall be My strength),
For I will not contend forever,
Nor will I always be angry;
For the spirit would fail before Me,
And the souls which I have made.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.
The word of God is clear that we each have a spirit that comes from God, and that it is God who forms our “inward parts.” I believe the scripture also reveals some important things about those inward parts and makes a distinction between those parts and our body.
Man is Spirit, Soul, and Body
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
God wants to preserve our whole being, spirit, soul, and body, blameless. His plan is to redeems us completely.
Some who argue that man is a dichotomy claim that man is simply soul and body, and that the “spirit” refers to the force of life in us. They believe that the spirit is an inanimate force, not a part of our person, but more like electricity. The word of God does not describe the spirit of man as simply an impersonal “force” nor is it just referring to the fact that we breathe air. Just as the Spirit of God is not some inanimate force or power but His Spirit, has a “mind, will and emotion” so does the spirit of man.
Others argue that we are a dichotomy because we are body and spirit, or body and soul. They believe that the soul and spirit are the same thing and there is no distinction between them. We will cover why this view contradicts scripture as well.
The Spirit / Heart of Man
Man is a spiritual being. The spirit and heart of man are synonymous in Scripture, and often referred to together in Hebrew poetic parallelism, two lines with the same meaning.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Hebrew poetic parallelism of spirit/heart:
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
- Contrite is Hebrew dakka from the Hebrew word daka which means to crush.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise
- God is looking for a broken and contrite spirit, Matthew 5:3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation: and uphold me with a free spirit.
- The joy of his salvation is that our spirit becomes free again! That is deliverance!
3 I remembered God, and was troubled;
I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah
6 I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart,
And my spirit makes diligent search.
And may not be like their fathers,
A stubborn and rebellious generation,
A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.
The Spirit of Man Experiences Emotion:
The spirit of man is said to have thoughts and emotion in Scripture. The word for “spirit” in the Old Testament is ruach, in Hebrew. Here are some of the ways the ruach of man is described in the word.
ruach: breath, wind, spirit
Original Word: חוּר
Part of Speech: Noun Feminine Transliteration: ruach Phonetic Spelling: (roo’-akh) Definition: breath, wind, spirit
Now it came to pass in the morning that his spirit [ruach] was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them for Pharaoh.
And they were a grief of mind [ruach] to Isaac and Rebekah.
So Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel; but they did not heed Moses, because of anguish of spirit [ruach] and cruel bondage.
But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass through, for the Lord your God hardened his spirit [ruach] and made his heart obstinate, that He might deliver him into your hand, as it is this day.
- The Lord hardened his ruach and made his heart (spirit) obstinate (stubborn). God hardens the hearts/spirits of men.
And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage [ruach] in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.
- Rahab tells the spies that when they heard of what the Lord had done to deliver Israel out of Egypt their “hearts (lebab) melted” and there was no ruach left in them.
- ruach is translated courage here. We see the parallel between heart and spirit again here.
Part of Speech: Noun Masculine
Phonetic Spelling: (lay-bawb’)
Definition: inner man, mind, will, heart
1 Samuel 1:15
But Hannah answered and said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit [ruach]. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord.
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit [ruach] there is no deceit.
- In whose ruach there is no deceit – guile.
When my spirit was overwhelmed within me,
Then You knew my path.
In the way in which I walk
They have secretly set a snare for me.
4 Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me;
My heart within me is distressed.
- Psalm 142:3 and 143:4 both speak again of his spirit being overwhelmed.
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the spirits.
- In many translations the word spirit ruach is translated “motives,” God weighs the motives of the “heart” or “spirit.” Proverbs 16 goes on to contrast the haughty or prideful spirit, verse 18, with a humble spirit verse 19. And tells us we are to rule our own spirit!
Whoever has no rule over his own spirit
Is like a city broken down, without walls.
A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back.
- The word translated feelings here is spirit.
There are many more scriptures that speak of having a grieving spirit, a vexed spirit, etc. Both in the Old and New Testament.
The Greek Word for Spirit Strong’s Concordance pneuma: wind, spirit
Original Word: πνεῦμα, ατος, τό
Part of Speech: Noun, Neuter Transliteration: pneuma Phonetic Spelling: (pnyoo’-mah) Definition: wind, spirit
Usage: wind, breath, spirit.
4151 pneúma – properly, spirit (Spirit), wind, or breath. The most frequent meaning (translation) of 4151 (pneúma) in the NT is “spirit” (Spirit). Only the context however determines which sense(s) is meant.
[Any of the above renderings (spirit-Spirit, wind, breath) of 4151 (pneúma) is always theoretically possible (spirit, Spirit, wind, breath). But when the attributive adjective (holy) is used, it always refers to the Holy Spirit. “Spirit” (spirit) is by far the most common translation (application) of 4151 (pneúma).
The Hebrew counterpart (rûach) has the same range of meaning as 4151 (pneúma), i.e. it likewise can refer to spirit/ Spirit, wind, or breath.]
Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.
When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.”
Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
1 Corinthians 16:18
For they refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men.
Things Scripture Reveals About Our Spirit:
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers,
- We serve God with our spirit!
For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both.
- The spirit of man is compared to an angel here, so it is clearly not some inanimate force. The Pharisees believed that man had a spirit and believed in a bodily resurrection. The context here is that they are correct, and Paul is using this point of agreement with the Pharisees to create a distraction so that he can escape persecution.
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,”
- Our spirit bears witness with the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:17
But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
- Believers are one spirit with Him. Our spirit is in unity with His.
1 Corinthians 6:20
For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
- We are to glorify God with our body and in our spirit, because all of us belongs to Him.
1 Corinthians 14:2, 14
2 For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.
14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.
- Your spirit can pray prayers your mind does not understand.
22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
The Heart of Man
Jesus makes is clear that the problem of sin is a heart issue.
Again, the prophesy in Ezekiel is that we need a new heart (spirit). We need our spirit to be born again…. we need a new spirit… which is synonymous with a new heart!
19 Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh,
Our heart is our inner man, our inner most being, our spirit man, the seat of our desires, affections, passions, it is those desires, values and affections that make up our primary or supreme purpose in life. Is your supreme purpose in life to live for self? Then you heart is evil. If your supreme purpose in life is to live for the glory of God, then you heart is good and pure.
Hebrew Word for heart:
leb: inner man, mind, will, heart Original Word: בֵל
Part of Speech: Noun Masculine
Phonetic Spelling: (labe)
Definition: inner man, mind, will, heart
Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
2 Chronicles 16:9
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.
- Our hearts can be perfect but our soul is not. We don’t have perfect knowledge or perfect understanding. We are forever growing and learning. However, we can have a perfect heart or spirit towards God. Which speaks of pure or perfect intentions.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Greek word for heart:
Original Word: καρδία, ας, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine Transliteration: kardia Phonetic Spelling: (kar-dee’-ah) Definition: heart
Usage: lit: the heart; mind, character, inner self, will, intention, center.
2588 kardía – heart; “the affective center of our being” and the capacity of moral preference (volitional desire, choice; see P. Hughs, 2 Cor, 354); desire-producer that makes us tick (G. Archer), i.e our “desire-decisions” that establish who we really are.
[Heart (2588 /kardía) is mentioned over 800 times in Scripture, but never referring to the literal physical pump that drives the blood.
That is, “heart” is only used figuratively (both in the OT and NT.]
What proceeds from the heart?
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Matthew 15:11; 16-20
11 Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” 16 So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? 18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. 20 These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.
Salvation is circumcision of the heart.
but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
- The word for Spirit here is the same word used for both the Spirit of God and spirit of man, it is context that tells us whose spirit it is. So, it’s translators who determine when to capitalize the S in spirit. In this instance, I believe it should not be capitalized because it is speaking of man’s spirit being circumcised. Circumcision is that of the heart, in spirit – not in the letter…
We Worship God in Spirit
22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.
Jesus says, “come to Me and drink,” … then if you believe, out of your heart (your spirit) will flow… “rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).
We come to the river, we drink from the river, and we get into the river (Ez. 47) and the river gets into us!
The River of Life
1 Cor. 6:19
Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
Door of the house —This is the entrance of the Temple itself; the waters come out from under its threshold, just as in Revelation 22:1 they proceed “out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” The prophet, who had just been in the outer court (Ezekiel 47:1), is brought in to the door of the house that he may see the waters.
Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar. 2 He brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gateway that faces east; and there was water, running out on the right side.
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
Where did God reside inside the OT temple? The holy of holies. Just as the OT temple, our temple is made up of the outer court (our body or tent), inner court (our soul) and holy of holies (spirit) which is the inner most court where God resided. Our inner most being is our spirit man.
It is our spirit man that has communion with the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 6:17).
Spiritual things are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:9-14
9 But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Our spirit discerns the things of the Spirit, not our natural mind. Our natural mind can only comprehend spiritual things to the extent that we allow God to renew our mind and we submit our mind to the things of the Spirit. Revelation happens in the spirit of man. It comes in a flash of enlightenment, as God illuminates your heart to a truth. Your ability to retain that revelation, and even share it without tainting it, requires that you first submit your soul to it. We submit our thoughts to His, our emotions to His, and our will to His.
The alternative is that we reject the truth, or revelation, that God has given, and rebel against it. When we do, we become fools and our foolish hearts are darkened (Romans 1).
The Soul of Man:
God formed each man’s soul within them. Animals are also called souls (usually translated creature), they have bodies and souls, and some breath air (same word used to describe spirit beings). However, they do not have spirits. Man is unique in all creation and we are not merely a dichotomy like animals. So, what is a soul?
psuché: breath, the soul
Original Word: ψυχή, ῆς, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
Phonetic Spelling: (psoo-khay’)
Definition: breath, the soul
Usage: (a) the vital breath, breath of life, (b) the human soul, (c) the soul as the seat of affections and will, (d) the self, (e) a human person, an individual.
5590 psyxḗ (from psyxō, “to breathe, blow” which is the root of the English words “psyche,” “psychology”) – soul (psyche); a person’s distinct identity (unique personhood), i.e. individual
In the OT the word for soul is:
nephesh: a soul, living being, life, self, person, desire,
passion, appetite, emotion
Original Word: ψυχή, ῆς, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun Feminine
Phonetic Spelling: (neh’-fesh)
Definition: a soul, living being, life, self, person, desire, passion, appetite, emotion
It is used to describe a life! All living beings – including animals, especially air breathing animals.
It is translated as “creature” in Genesis 1:20-24 speaking of birds, animals and living things God created on the earth, as well in other OT verse referring to living animals.
The same word that speaks of “Spirit” is also used for wind, breath and air, in scripture, both in the OT and New Testament. During the flood, all air breathing animals died, besides those on the ark. Every living thing with the “breath of life” died in the flood. However, this is referring to them breathing air not them having a spirit as man has a living spirit.
So, animals are also “souls” they are sentient beings, with natural emotions and some kind of ability to think and reason. Their minds do not have the same capacity to reason as a human mind but they still have a mind. So, is the only real distinction between man and animals our intellect? Are humans simply more intelligent animals? Animals are not spirit beings, but man is. God is Spirit (John 4:24), the scripture says and man is made in His image.
There are a few times in scripture that speak of the “body and spirit” or “body and soul.” Dichotomists claim that the two are therefore being used interchangeably, and that both these expressions make up the whole being of man. The truth is, the fact that all three parts of man are not always listed, doesn’t prove their point. Scripture also often talks about the Father and Son, or Christ and the Spirit, or the God and His Spirit, none of which means the other person of the Trinity doesn’t exist.
Men have a soul, but unlike animals, men also have a spirit… we have to learn to discern between our soul and spirit and that is what the word of God teaches us to do!
Dividing of Soul and Spirit
Since the spirit of man does have thoughts and emotions, some dichotomist claim that spirit and soul are used interchangeably in scripture and they argue that there is no distinction between the two because both are capable of similar things.
There are several issues with that argument. First, if the fact that they are similar in some of their functions means they are the same and cannot also be distinct, then the same can logic can be applied to the Trinity. The fact that the Father, Son, and Spirit are all said to do many of the same things in Scripture does not negate the distinctions that are also clearly made between the three.
Also, if we truly are merely soul (spirit and soul being the same) and body then the real issue is that there is then no distinction between man and beast. We are then no different than the animals.
The word of God makes a distinction between the soul and spirit, so we must as well:
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.
We enter the world as a clean slate with both a spirit that is alive and an uncorrupted soul, both of which came from God. When we sin our spirit dies, it is separated from the life and fellowship of God (Romans 7:9). Our spirit man, that is then cut off from God. It becomes dysfunctional; our hearts become hardened and darkened. We begin to function as merely soulish, carnally minded men. We then use the faculties of the soul simply to satisfy the desires of the flesh. Our mind is set on carnal things rather than spiritual things. So, we need to be born again, so that our spirit man can once again be in communion with God. If dichotomists are correct then the mind and spirit would be one and the same, and both our spirit/soul would die when we sin, and both would be made new when we are “born again.”
When we are born again we get a new spirit. However, our mind (which is a faculty of the soul) still needs to be renewed (Romans 12:3). Our soul still has certain thought patterns, ideas, memories, influences that all have to be purified and sanctified by the renewing of our mind. Your soul has been tainted, not only by your own sin but by the influences of sin around you, and it has to be purified by washing of water by word of God (Ephesians 5:26). If there was no distinction between soul and spirit then there would be no need to renew our mind once we are born again, because the word of God is clear that our spirit is made completely new (2 Cor. 5:17). If the soul was merely a faculty of the spirit of a man then it would have been made new instantly upon salvation when the spirit of a man is regenerated and made new.
So, I believe we do need to learn to make the distinction between soul and spirit and it’s the word of God that reveals that distinction to us. The Word of God teaches us to discern between not only flesh and spirit, but soul and spirit. The truth is, the distinction between flesh and spirit is much easier to discern than the distinction between soul and spirit. The desires of the flesh are easy to identify. However, we have to learn to discern not just between what looks outwardly right and wrong, but the distinction between our thoughts and soulish ideas, and intents of the heart or spirit. The division between what is truly spiritual and your own emotion, and your own thoughts and imaginations. This is a distinction which reveals your true intentions.
Self-deception is a serious thing. It is the truth of the word that renews our mind and reveals the truth to us about our own motives and intentions. Soulish things can appear “good.” Emotions for example, can feel pleasant and enjoyable and still be wicked at their core. At the same time, we can’t claim all emotions are bad or that they are fleshly or carnal. Or that all emotions that seem negative are not spiritual or godly at their source. God gave us emotions for good use. The joy of the Lord is vitally important to the Kingdom of God being established in us. Righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, that’s the Kingdom of God (Romans 14:17)! As is an understanding of the grieving of the Holy Spirit and suffering.
The same mind (soul) can be either carnal, set on the things of the flesh, or spiritual, set on the things of the sprit. Your mind is not a part of your body, or a part of your spirit, but it is a faculty of your soul. There is obviously a connection between your body, soul, and spirit, and I don’t think any of us can claim to have a complete understanding of the dynamic between the physical brain and soul, for example. We are complex beings and even what we come to understand about ourselves has to come from the revealed truth of Scripture. Man is not only a spirit, or only a soul, or only a body. All of our parts make up one whole person. So, we may not fully understand the relationship or connections between those distinct parts of our being, but we can still identify those parts and understand their intended function as revealed in Scripture.
Your mind (or soul which includes your mind, will and emotions) will either be used by you to facilitate the desires of the flesh or to facilitate the things of the spirit. If you are truly a believer, your spirit is now reconciled back unto God and has been made one with Him in fellowship and unity (1 Corinthians 6:17). So, that you are no longer governed by the desires of the flesh but the life of the Spirit. Jesus said that those who are born again of the Spirit, are like the wind. He told Nicodemus in John 3:8, “the wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” They are driven by and governed by an unseen force. One they have willfully yielded to obey. Paul said in Romans 8:14, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Everyone truly born of the Spirit, walks in the Spirit, and bears the fruit of the Spirit. By the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the flesh, etc. The point is, our human spirit is now in communion with the Holy Spirit, and we live out of that place of intimacy. We are not being governed by some external law or written code, but by the Holy Spirit who has taken up residency inside of us, in union with our human spirit. His Spirit both guides us and communicates to our spirit, with our spirit bearing witness, that we are indeed children of God and heirs.
3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
Appreciation of the Mystery
14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
We were created to function as triune beings. Our spirit man was created to commune with God. Our soul, the natural mind, will and emotions, were created to facilitate our spirit life, and both our inward parts (the scripture describes our inward parts as plural Ps 51:6, Ps 139:13) are housed in our body, which Paul called our “tent.”
The soul, is the self-life. Your own thoughts, ideas, emotions, imaginations, memories, and your personality, etc. It needs to be submitted to God so that we learn to live out of our spirit, and not our soul. We have all heard that emotions make excellent servants, but tyrannical masters. The word of God also tells us, in Proverbs 3:5, to “trust in the Lord with all our heart, and lean not on our own understanding.” God gave us a brain, with the ability to reason, and He absolutely expects us to use it. However, we are not created to do so apart from Him. He calls us to come reason together with Him (Is. 1:18). We are to engage God with our spirit so that He can help us to reason with the mind of Christ. When we attempt to reason our own ideas apart from Him we become fools. We are not all knowing, and greater minds than yours or mine have attempted to understand life and truth apart from the revelation of God, and have all come to extremely flawed conclusions. We don’t arrive at faith and revelation my way of mental assent or philosophical musings. We have a revelation by the Spirit of God, and then must yield our minds to His revealed truth! The Word is found in your heart (spirit) and in your mouth, with the heart (spirit) one believes:
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Faith is a spiritual thing! It is the only good and reasonable response of our heart to the light God gives us! Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). The truth God reveals, by whatever means He chooses to reveal it, provides the opportunity for us to respond in our heart with faith. When we believe we then also repent! Faith and repentance go hand in hand. We believe with our spirit, and we must then align the rest of our being with the revelation we have chosen to adopt as part of our life, so we must then repent, which is a change of mind which results in a change of behavior. The way we think, act, and behave, our soul, must come in line with the light that has been received in our heart/spirit.
Our lives are supposed to be primarily spiritual, we discern with our spirit, we commune with God with our spirit, we serve God with our spirit, and His Spirit then flows out of our spirit, etc. We are not mere animals.
It is important and helpful that we understand that each of our God-given, and God-created parts, were given to us with an intended function and for a determined end. That end is that we love God and glorify Him with all that we are. So, we have to understand God’s intention for our spirit, His intention for our soul (mind, will and emotions), and His intention for our bodies and proper use of each.
If we do not rightly discern between our spirit, which communes with God, and is where God speaks to us, and our soul, which is where our own thoughts, ideas, and imaginations originate, then we will forever struggle to discern between imagination and revelation. It is the word of God that makes that distinction clear, as we mature and learn to exercise our senses, as Hebrews says, we will be able to discern between self and God. All things must be measured and tested against the, “more sure word of Scripture.”
In certain charismatic circles, there is this growing idea that we can both initiate our own spiritual encounters with God at will (a faculty of our soul), and also that we can use our imagination to have an encounter and receive revelation. Neither of which are biblical. God does not commune with your soul (the natural man) and anything that originations in the soul of man is self and not God. Your ideas and imaginations are a poor substitute for God’s! You can’t claim that something you came to see or believe as you practiced “guided visualizations” and other things that teach you to engage your soul and imagination, are spiritual or that they can produce revelation.
Anything self (soul) initiated, is not God. That is not how the Spirit of God functions. He is not on demand, we are! One of the easiest ways to discern between real gifts of the Spirit and counterfeits, is to discern whose will is in operation. The Holy Spirit distributes to each one individually as He wills (1 Cor. 12:11). He requires that we submit our soul to Him, that we submit to His leading and learn to yield our own will to His so that His will can be established and we can flow with Him. Self-willed and self-initiated experiences are soulish at best, and quite frankly open the door to demonic activity.
The enemy doesn’t care if you want to feel like you are in charge. He doesn’t require humility or brokenness. If you seek to initiate your own will and experiences, usually the motivation behind such things is simply a lust for power, the enemy is happy to oblige.
That doesn’t mean that God does not want you to use your soul at all. God wants to sanctify your soul, not destroy it. However, He wants the functions and faculties of your soul to remain in their power place, just as He wants your flesh and natural desires to be used properly!
What we receive from God in our spirit is still filtered through, or then processed by our soul. So, the more our minds are renewed, the more truth and revelation we are able to receive and retain. However, this again, is the process of us continually yielding to new light God gives us, and repenting (changing our minds) and bringing our thoughts and lives into alignment with that new truth.
God wants us to desire spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:31; 1 Cor.14:1), that word for desire literally means to lust for. However, this is not a lust for power or a desire to manipulate the spirit realm for our own desires or gain, but it is a desire to see the Holy Spirit do as He will in and through us. Sadly, because there is such a gross abuse of spiritual gifts in the Church today, many have been turned off to their use altogether.
It is unfortunate that God gets blamed for so many things He had no part in. However, I pray that God continues to bring clarity to this issue so that we can take our rightful place as His Bride and function and flow in all that God intended for us! So that out of our hearts or bellies, would flow rivers of His living water! Our body is just a jar of clay, made of dirt. We have nothing of eternal value to offer this world in and of our self! That includes not only in the outer shell of our flesh but also the out shell of our soul, our own mind, intelligence, emotions, ideas, and imaginations are of zero value apart from the revelation of God! All the wisdom of man is foolishness to God! I don’t care how intelligent, eloquent or talented a person is, their personality and wit must bow to His Spirit. The problem is we like to polish up our jar of clay and present it to the world as something worthy of accolades. We want to wax eloquent when God wants us to decrease so that He might increase in us. Unless we learn to yield our soul to Him we will be of little use to Him and His kingdom. He is not impressed with self. What the world needs is not you, your personality, or your will to be done, but Christ in you, the hope of Glory.
The arguments that man is a dichotomy cannot be reconciled with various scriptures, and are not really even logically sound. I believe that Scripture is clear when we consider the whole counsel of scripture that man was created in the image of God, and like God man is a triune being. I pray we learn to function as God intended and bring Him all the glory that is due Him with our entire, spirit, soul and body!
Thank you for reading! I pray you found this helpful!
Loads of love and grace to you,