Thursday, February 7, 2013

A soul, with a spirit, clothed in a body

Genesis 1:26-27 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.” 27God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Genesis 2:7  Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

Man is a soul, with spirit, clothed with a body  
David in Psalm 8:4-5 asks - "What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? (5) Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!"  Human beings are uniue among all of God's creations.  In the two passages of Genesis quoted above, we see the creation of man from two different angles. 

Man is a spiritual being: having a spirit and a physical body, a two-fold spirit/body creature
In the Genesis 1:26-27 we see the emphasis placed upon man the physical being created with the capacity to communicate and be communicated to by God.  Man is thus a spiritual being with a physical body.  In some places in scripture, we are given this two-fold view of man as a spirit in a body.  (Psalm 31:5; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Luke 23:46; John 19:30; Acts 7:59; James 2:26; 1 Corinthians 7:34)  

Man is a soul clothed with a body, a two-fold soul/body creature who perceives himself and relates to this world
Then in Genesis 2:7 we see the same creative event from the standpoint of man the physical being in relationship to himself and his surroundings.  The text in the original language reads that God breathed into the nostrils of man and he became a "living soul".  Here we see man "becoming a soul" with a physical body, endued with the breath of life from God.  Throughout scripture we at times we see a two-fold picture of man as a soul clothed with a body - emphasizing man as he perceives himself in relationship to his surroundings. (Genesis 35:18; 1 Kings 7:21; Isaiah 53:12; Luke 12:20)   

Now some Bible teachers have concluded that man is a two-fold being, material body and immaterial spirit or soul. 1 They will point out at times how the scripture will use the terms "spirit" and "soul" interchangeably.  Furthermore, the term "heart", which is used in scripture to describe the source from whence man thinks, feels and acts, is used either to describe the soul or spirit. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5;Mark 12:30-31) 

Mankind is a soul, with a spirit clothed in a body
In the progressive revelation of scripture, we come to discover that the passages speaking of man as a spirit/body, and those referring to man as a soul/body are viewing man from two angles, just as we have witnessed in Genesis 1:26-27 and 2:7.  Further study will reveal that mankind is not just a two-fold being, but a three-fold being: a soul, with a spirit clothed with a body.3  Three passages in the New Testament bear out this important insight, two of which simply define mankind as a three-fold being and one of which explains this truth in detail:

1. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 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.

2. 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."

3. 1 Corinthans 2:1-3:4. (Natural Unsaved man, Saved Spirit-filled man, Saved Spirit-indwelt carnal man).  In 1 Corinthians 2 we see the contrast between unbelievers who are operating as living souls, with a dead human spirit clothed in a body and believers as living souls, with regenerated spirits clothed in a body. When we come to 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, we find believers who with regenerated human spirits quenching the Holy Spirit and relying more on their carnal appetites in their soul and bodies.  

First, natural unbelieving man is a living soul who thinks (mind), feels (emotions), chooses (will) and has convictions (conscience).  However his human spirit, which was designed originally to commune with God, is dead, thus to the natural man, operating as a sinful soul with a dead human spirit, regards the Gospel and the things of God as incomprehensible (1 Corinthians 2:6-8) and foolish (2:14). 

Next Paul describes what takes place at salvation.  The natural man is engaged in conviction and grace by the Holy Spirit, who penetrates past the mind, emotions and will of His soul into his spirit.  With that Divine working of the Spirit, the soul of the man responds at the resurrecting work the Spirit is doing in that persons human spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:10-13)  Natural man becomes supernatural.  He is instantly born again in his human spirit by God's grace working faith as he chooses Jesus Christ.  The Christian with his soul is able to take into his mind, emotions and will God's Word, enabling him to commune with the Holy Spirit who lives in his human spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:10-13, 6:16, 19-20; James 1:18)  Overtime, the Christian can begin to think and act more and more like Jesus, since with God's word he is developing the mind of Christ, which is the sum total of the contents of divine scripture.   

Sadly, and thirdly, Paul explains what can happen to a Christian who though having the indwelling Holy Spirit in his human spirit, decides for a period of time to listen to the remaining carnal remnants of sin in his soul. (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)  As a result, the Spirit of God is greived and quenched, meaning that unless the Christian repents, no communication and leading by the Spirit will occur lest that Christian repents. (Ephesians 4:30-32; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; 2 Timothy 2:24-26).  This condition of the Christian is what we term "carnal".  In affect, the Christian operates as a "reverse hypocrite", meaning that he is trying to be what he really is not, namely acting as an unbeliever even though He is a Christian.  Thankfully God the Father will not let a Christian operate persistently in this condition for too long without executing fatherly discipline to turn the child of God back. (Job 5:17; Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12:6-8)

1 This position which is quite popular among conservative Bible believing Christians is called "di-chotomy" proposes man to be a two-fold being - immaterial and physical.
I will grant, the language used by scripture to explain the nature of human beings can exhibit overlap, however the primary point of the Bible's description of mankind is not merely clinical. Rather the Bible is describing man primarily as a spiritual and moral individual in need of salvation and resurrection. 

3 This position of viewing man as a three-part being is what we term "tri-chotomy".  My own viewpoint on this subject is that with dichotomy and trichotomy, people should not pit one against the other.  I believe that dichotomy represents legitimate observations of scripture that do define man in a two-fold way, however the viewpoint needs to follow through and see how the Bible takes those insights and shows man to be a body,soul and spirit.  Thus I do see man as a trichotomy, however we need to understand that there is two ways to speak of man.  First, man is a spirit being with a body, classified as seperated from God spiritually as a sinner or knowing God spiritually as a Christian.  Second, mankind is a soul clothed with a body who can be creative and interact with the world around him. As a sinner he is subject to the appetites of the fallen drives and thus operates completely out of the mind, emotions and will of the soul through his physical body. 


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