Many people mistakenly believe that man is a physical being only. This can be very dangerous, because such a person lives to gratify his bodily desires, with no thought of consequence. Many have lived neglecting the immortality of the soul and spirit, only to realize their errors on their deathbed.
The difference between soul, spirit, and body can only be understood in the context of man being tripartite, just like God is. Subtle differences exist between soul and spirit in many cultures, but the consensus is that there are three parts of a person. This article offers details on the tripartite nature of man.
What Are The Three Parts of a Human Being?
Nowhere is the distinction of man clearer than in the Bible, where God creates man in His image and likeness (Gen 1:26). Since God exists as a triune being – Father, Son, and Spirit (Mt. 28:19) – He created man to be the same way. St. Paul makes mention of these three parts in 1 Thess 5:23 (NASB):
The Bible makes a clear distinction of the differences between body, soul, and spirit. Hebrews 4:12 says the word of God can divide soul and spirit. Understanding this is crucial to comprehending Christian teachings or drawing meaning to life after death.
The body is the easiest to understand since it is the visible flesh, bones, organs, and tissues we see. The body is the one that grows, ages, and eventually dies and rots.
The soul is the conscious and subconscious mind and includes the will and emotions. It is the part of a man that distinguishes them from each other – it houses emotions and personality. It is in the soul that we feel pleasure or anger from others, discouragement or hope and even anxiety.
The spirit is the deepest, intangible part of a man, which is why it is ignored by proponents of the bipartite nature of man. In Christianity, the spirit is the one that is made new in salvation, and it is the one that communes with God. Biblically, it is possible to have a dead spirit and still be alive in the flesh.
Body Soul Spirit Bible Diagram
What Are The Components of a Soul?
Man does not only have a soul, but he is also a soul. The Bible shows that man became a living soul when God breathed into him the breath of life (Gen 2:7). The soul has an enormous influence on your life because it can control both the body and the spirit.
God’s spirit communes with your spirit, but the will in your soul determines whether or not you respond to God’s spirit. Think of the soul as a gate valve that determines whether or not God’s influence will affect the actions of your body.
The soul is the seat of emotions, feelings, desires, passions, and thoughts. It hosts right and wrong (moral judgment), affections, lusts and physical appetites of the body. 2 Pet 2:11 warns us to “Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.”
It seems like the soul is everything, but this is only true depending on the influence of their spirit. It is impossible to direct your soul towards holy things until your spirit is regenerated. Once the spirit is renewed, God works through the spirit to cause the sill, emotions, and affections to be yielded to the right/holy things.
Where Is The Soul of a Man?
Unlike the spirit, which is intangible, the soul is found somewhere in the body. In Ancient Egypt, the soul was thought to be in the heart. Leonardo da Vinci in 1515 tried to find the soul by dissecting the brain, according to the prevailing belief of the time.
American doctor Duncan MacDougall tried to measure the soul by weighing tuberculosis patients on their deathbeds. He postulated that, if it exists, the soul has weight. Therefore, he determined its weight by weighing patients at the precise moment of death – when the soul leaves the body.
Neuroscientific research has illuminated different portions of the brain that are responsible for storing memory, emotions, and personality, and the total of these are what make up the soul. Some of these insights come as a result of changes observed in patients who have some brain damage – like the famous example of Phinehas Gage in 1884.
What Is The Spirit of a Person?
The spirit has different meanings in the Bible, most significantly the intangible part of a person that communes with God, who is Spirit (Jn 4:24). According to the Bible, one’s spirit can be dead – disconnected from God – even when he is alive. This is the major difference between soul and spirit.
The spirit of man holds the components of faith/belief, hope, conviction, reverence and worship. God communicates with the spirit, which influences the soul, which in turn wills the body into action.
It is because of the state of the spirit, for example, that a person can hear God’s Word and not be changed. The spirit is the seat of the conscience, which gradually dies when the soul and the body ignore it. When the spirit is dead, understanding or responding to God’s or godly messages becomes impossible:
(1 Corinthians 2:14)
The heart of man, not the blood-pumping organ, is also in the spirit. It is where the “meaning of life” as we choose/are convicted to understand it, are stored. Unlike the soul, there is no visible part, in the brain or anywhere else, where the spirit lives.
If we are spirits, who have a soul, but live in a body, at what moment do we get our souls? The answer has to be at conception, even though God knows our souls long before conception. What happens is that the soul enters the body, and from then on, the body works on building itself up.
From this discussion, we can understand the subtle yet powerful difference between the soul and spirit, and their actions on the body. It is impossible to study the functioning of soul and spirit without concluding that man lives beyond the mortal flesh that we see. And yet, this is what skeptics contend.