Spirit, Soul & Body
Andre van der Merwe
(All Bible verses quoted are from the New King James Version)
One of the biggest problems that Grace believing Christians have in understanding how we can be completely righteous (because we don’t always “feel” righteous), is the principle of spirit, soul & body. The Bible clearly says we have all three: 1 Thes 5:23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We ARE a spirit, we HAVE a soul, and we LIVE IN a body. This is very contrary to the worldly belief that we only have a body & mind (mind = soul). Let’s briefly look at each one.
The Spirit: When we are born again, our spirit becomes alive to God. Previously our spirit was in a dormant, dead state towards God, but alive to sin (we were IN sin): Eph 2: 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, (He) made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).
When we put our faith in Jesus, this old sinful nature is crucified (& buried) into death with Christ: Rom 6: 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, and also Col 3:3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Now our spirit becomes alive to God: Rom 6:11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And here is the most amazing part: The moment we put our faith in Jesus Christ, our born-again spirit is created just as righteous as Jesus, perfectly holy & glorious, and has the very nature of Jesus Christ itself! The Father made Jesus to be sin in our place, so we could receive His righteousness as a free gift! 2 Cor 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Our reborn spirit is sometimes also called the “new man” or “inward man”. Eph 4:24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. This part of us can never change; it is made righteous for ever!
The Soul: This is the realm of the psyche and includes the mind, will, intellect, personality and emotions. This part does not instantly change when we are born again. Yes we have made a choice for Christ, but this part of us still has the old thought patterns and habits of our BC (before Christ) life. These habits may have been formed out of mere self preservation instincts, or by us yielding our members to the desires of our old sinful nature. Even though we don’t want to sin anymore, we still sometimes make mistakes. This is what Paul talks about in Rom 7:15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
Our soul / mind is the part of us that we spend the rest of our life renewing. We must train our mind to agree with what happened in our spirit. How do we do this? By spending time with God, studying the word, praying, going to church, etc. Rom 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
This is why we are told to set our minds on the things above (Col 3:2), because the more we think God’s thoughts, the faster our minds will be transformed. Our old sinful thought patterns will starve, and our mind will come into agreement with our born-again spirit. Our soul is also the part of us that is being made holy or being sanctified. Heb 10:14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are (being) sanctified. Remember our spirit is already sanctified & holy.
The Body: When Jesus died, He purchased you through His blood. Your spirit became alive towards God, and your body is now a temple of God. 1 Cor 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
Our body will follow either the spirit or the mind, depending which one we give control. If we give our mind control (and our mind has not been renewed yet), we are walking according the flesh, and the fruit of this is death (death in the form of us reaping the results of our ungodly actions). Rom 6:21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!
But now, since we have been made alive IN the spirit (born again), let us walk according to the spirit! If our old sinful nature has now been crucified with Christ, why do we still want to walk according to it? As our mind becomes more & more renewed our body & mind (soul) will walk more & more in line with what has already happened in our spirit, becoming more committed to the righteous purposes of God. Rom 6:19 …Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness, and also Gal 5:16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
Remember you ARE a spirit; you have a soul and LIVE IN a body. Your spirit is completely righteous & holy, thus YOU have been made the righteousness of God!