Among Christians, there are generally two schools of thought on the nature of mankind. There is the bipartite view, which is the view that human beings are made of body and soul/spirit. According to this view, the words “soul” and “spirit” refer to the same thing and can be used interchangeably.
Then there is the tripartite view, which states that human beings are comprised of 3 parts: body, soul and spirit. The spirit and the soul are not the same thing and have different functions, according to this view.
To me, the tripartite view is the one that makes the most sense, and I believe it has more scriptural backing than the bipartite view. I understand that there is much disagreement on this, so if anyone wants to debate this topic, I’d love to hear your thoughts, but the “bipartite or tripartite?” question wasn’t what I wanted to focus on here. I wanted to share some thoughts based on my view that we are body, soul and spirit.
Here is a summary of the three components. I won’t go into this in depth, because it’s a complicated subject – whole books have been written about it, and I’m no expert, so I’ll keep it simple.
Obviously, our body is the physical part of us, and it is through our body that we connect to the physical world through our 5 senses.
The soul is man’s self-consciousness, and is the seat of our personality. The soul is made up of the mind (Prov. 19:2, Lam. 3:20), the will (Psalm 27:12, Psalm 35:25, original words:”soul”) and emotions. (Sngs 1:7)
The spirit is the highest part of our being, the part of us that connects to God. The spirit serves three functions – to fellowship or commune with God (John 4:23) to know right from wrong through the conscience (Acts 17:16) and to perceive things through our intuition (Mark 2:8, 1 Cor. 2:11)
Unlike the body and the soul, the human spirit is said to be “dormant” or “dead” (Eph 2:1) until the time we experience spiritual birth or regeneration. At that time, the things that we once considered “foolish” we are now able to understand and see in a different way. (1 Cor 2:14)
Here are some graphics that show the different parts of our soul and spirit.
Now, on to my little revelation, or theory. Obviously, we know that as Christians we should be led by the Spirit. We are not to be controlled by our bodies, or flesh, but by the Spirit of God. And when we become born again, we are given a new spirit, which is straight from God. What occurred to me when I was looking at those graphics, was that the three parts that make up our spirit correlate with the three parts that make up our soul. So, each part of our soul should be guided by its “higher part” in our spirit.
When we make decisions, our will should be guided by our conscience. If we go solely by our own will, we all know there are times we will do the wrong thing, and go astray. Our conscience is like a judge in a courtroom, it’s the part of us that convicts when we do wrong and approves when we do right. So our conscience is a safe guide for determining if our actions are in line with God’s will or not. If should be stated that this is for believers. Everyone has a conscience, but the natural man is living by a very different standard, and his conscience may be weak or “defiled.” (1 Cor. 8:7, Titus 1:15) Once the natural man comes to God and is reborn spiritually, God will give him a new and cleansed spirit. (Heb. 10:22)
Our mind should be in tune with and enlightened by our intuition. It is not our mind or intellect that gives us true understanding, but a deeper, truer way of knowing, and that is our intuition. The dictionary describes intuition as: direct perception of truth, fact, etc., independent of any reasoning process; immediate apprehension. As you can see, it’s separate from the mind.
I believe that this is the highest way of knowing, because it is the foundation, or the way we start knowing anything. CS Lewis put it this way: “If nothing is self-evident, nothing can be proved.” There are many people – namely atheists – who believe that science or the scientific method is the only way of knowing truth. But what many of them fail to realize is that there are certain truths that must be in place before you can even go to the scientific method, and those things cannot be proven by science itself. Those are truths that come from intuition. Philosophers call this kind of knowledge “a priori” knowledge (which means, “from what is prior”). So, just as our will should be in line with our conscience, our mind should be in line with our intuition.
Lastly, our emotions, and the way we love and react to others, should follow the example of how God loves us. So the part of our spirit that connects to God (fellowship) correlates to the part of our soul that contains our emotions, and we should look to God’s fellowship with us, as a guide to how we fellowship with others.
So that was what I wanted to share. If anyone disagrees, or thinks that what I’ve said here is not biblically accurate, please don’t hesitate to post your thoughts and correct me if you think I’m wrong. I would like to hear your thoughts on this. Thank you for reading and God bless!