One thing that helped me understand many of the concepts taught in church is a basic understanding of how we are made. Are you ready for a spiritual Anatomy lesson? This won’t be so bad. If we were taking Anatomy in nursing school we would have to memorize over 200 bones that make up the body. But in spiritual Anatomy you only have to know three things. God creates us as a trinity. You may remember “the Holy trinity,” one of the more difficult concepts for us to wrap our arms around and fully understand? There is only one God who manifests Himself in three distinct persons. Well, we are type of a trinity ourselves. Human beings consist of three entities: Body, Soul and Spirit. Take a look at this passage below:
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)
Do you see how all three–body, soul and spirit–are identified as one whole person? Allow me to identify the three parts of who we are, and hopefully this awareness helps us gain a fuller understanding of several Biblical concepts:
- Body – This is everything physical about you. Everything about a person that can be touched (inside and out) is the body. The body is in incredible work of creation (we are wonderfully made) but the body is temporary – it has a shelf life of no longer than 120 years (obviously it is typically less than this). The body is only aware of the physical world; in other words, only collects information from the five senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. The body has two primary interests: survival and pleasure. When you hear (in church) about “our flesh” or “our sinful nature” it is referring to our bodies and the self-centered tendency that comes naturally to it.
- Soul – The textbook definition for our soul is “the mind, will and emotions.” Think of the soul as who you are apart from the physical. Your thoughts are your soul; what you think, how you think, what you believe, what you desire. Your soul is who you really are and God is interested in your soul. It is your soul that lives on after the body gives away in this world. I often say that Christianity is a battle for your mind; well, that is another way of saying that Christianity is a battle for your soul. A battle between your flesh and your enemy (the Devil) vs your spirit and your God’s Spirit.
- Spirit – Your spirit is your connection to God. Remember that God is Spirit and we are physical (everything physical was created by God). We were created in His image – with the ability to reason and choose. When sin was chosen – many moons ago, it did spirit damage to mankind. Sin created a separation between mankind and the spiritual. In other words, sin damages our spirit; our ability to relate with and have a relationship with God. When you say “yes” to Jesus and receive the forgiveness of sin that He offers and paid for (on the cross), it has a wakening effect on your spirit. Not only does it make you immortal, giving life after the physical, but it enables us to have a relationship with God, who is Spirit!
Now, here is an interesting way that I have heard the concept of body, soul and spirit taught: Think of yourself as a house, one house containing three distinct entities. Your body is the infant of the house. The infant knows almost nothing and only wants what satisfies himself at the moment. The infant is interested in the now, survival and pleasure, and always wants its way. The soul, on the other hand, is the teenager of the house. A better ability to reason than the infant, but does not know nearly as much as he/she thinks. The teenager is certainly prone to poor and immature choices left alone. Finally, the spirit is the adult of the house. The spirit is full of wisdom and knowledge. The adult knows what’s best in the short term as well as the long term. Your aim in life is to let the adult run the house! Learn to seek and hear God’s Spirit, which speaks to you through your spirit. This is a skill that can be cultivated and honed. The first big step is being aware of His presence with you and then to develop the relationship from there. You speak to God by prayer, and He speaks to you – His Spirit to your spirit. Being a mature Christian means that your soul and then your body are in line with your spirit.
Sanctify – Set apart; or set apart from sin. (see in 1 Thessalonians 5:23)