Are you primarily a physical being with a spiritual component? Or are you a spiritual being with a physical component? How you think about this determines how you view and respond to all of life.
We read in Genesis that we are created in God’s image. But what does that really mean? God took dust of the earth and made man. He breathed into us and gave us life. In fact, we are more than just a body. As God is three persons in one (Father, Son, and Spirit), so in His image He made us also with three parts: body, soul and spirit. And we are commanded to keep them all pure before God:
“May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
We easily understand the body part. Paul describes it as the temporary ‘tent’ in which we live. “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Corinthians 5:1)
The body’s ‘tent’ is meant for earth and is temporary but the permanent ‘building’ that God has designed for us includes not only the body but also our soul and spirit which live forever.
The soul and spirit are both eternal but the bible describes them as separate. We have a soul (Deuteronomy 4:29) and we are a soul. (Genesis 2:7 – some versions read ‘being’; others read ‘soul.’) Interestingly, ships and airplanes used to regard those who traveled on them as ‘souls’ and the maritime SOS distress signal stands for “Save Our Souls.” (Maybe today we think of it more as ‘Save Our Skins.”) The bible never describes us as being spirits but of having a spirit, one with which we are created and a ‘new one’ given by God to those who love him:
“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 11:19) We are urged to “get a new heart and spirit.” (Ezekiel 18:31)
Hebrews 4:12 talks about the separation of the spirit, the soul, and the body:
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
The important point here is that God is able to divide our soul from our spirit, which is a point of eternal consequence!
Some maintain that our intellect, will, conscience, emotions, and personality are parts of our soul and spirit while others assert that they are separate eternal elements. We could debate that extensively but the most important point to remember each day is that God designed us with both temporary and eternal elements. We relate to the world largely through our body’s five senses. We relate to God through our spirit. And it seems our noisy and emotional soul is constantly battling whether to listen to the body’s interpretation of world or our spirit who is aligned with the Spirit of God. When we’re troubled and perplexed by struggles, our challenge and need is to encourage our body and soul to talk with our spirit who is one with God’s Spirit. This sort of “talking to yourself” isn’t crazy. It’s essential for living the kingdom life in the midst of trials.
You are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ – body, soul, and spirit – by a God who knows you, searches your heart, and pursues you with His Spirit. (Psalm 139) He cares for you and longs to give you peace and joy when you abide in His presence and worship Him with every part of who you are!
“Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.” (Luke 10:27)