Thursday, July 23, 2009

Man is body, soul and spirit

So often we heard people quoting the above, and after a while we did the same. But do you really know it is from the Bible? How much do you understand concerning it? This is my understanding of the subject, and the key verse is in Gen 2:7 (KJV).

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Gen 2:7 (KJV)

The body
The body is plain enough – it is referring to the physical body, the flesh. The Word of God said that the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground – first part of Gen 2:7 (KJV). Our body comes from the dust of the ground, and when we die, our body decays. This is the physical part of us. When we die, it is destroyed, it has no part in life after death. The Word of God does talk about its replacement. For those destined for the Kingdom of God/Heaven, its replacement is an incorruptible body (1 Cor 15:52-54). So, is the physical body important in God’s eyes when we are still living on the earth? The answer is yes, and this is what the Apostle Paul wrote as benediction to the Thessalonians in his letter:

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 The 5:23)

Paul also exhorts us, in Rom 6:12-13, not to let sins reign in our mortal bodies - not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. (Rom 6:12-13)

But you may ask why (since it decays after we died)? I give you 2 reasons:

1. We are God’s workmanship (Eph 2:10a).

If you read the Creation story in the Bible, you will find God spoke things into being. But did you realize that for the creation of man, God did more than that? He formed man from the dust of the ground (Gen 2:7). How does one form a thing from dust? Imagine God took the trouble to mould and shape man into what we look like. And how did God create woman? God took a rib from the man and made the woman (Gen 2:22), probably in like fashion as He did for the making of man.

2. Our body is His temple.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Cor 6:19-20).

Now if you are a Christian, your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God dwells in you. God made the physical man the way we are, God did not make our body to be like that of a cow or a snake. We are made the way we are and we must accept that, we should let ourselves be, the way God wants us to be. If you still do not catch what I am getting at, for a moment, think about what you know about the temples or the throne place or dwelling place of God. What kind of pictures do you get from the Bible about physical temples or throne place or dwelling place of God? For example, the place on Mt Horeb, where Moses saw the burning bush, it was a dwelling place (maybe for a while) of God (More about this in a separate article). What did God indicate to Moses about the physical surrounding? God said the place was holy, and that Moses was to take off his scandals. What about the Tabernacles of God (of Moses and David). God gave precise instructions on how everything was to be made, where they were to be placed, the layouts and dimensions, etc. So, do not tattoo your body, and do not defile your body. Do you know what the common thing is, in all the scenarios of God’s temple, throne place or dwelling place? Holiness. The Spirit of God is not called the HOLY Spirit for no reason.

The soul
We have now understood we have a body and that, that body is important to God, and He made it with the prospect of having his Spirit dwell in it. What then is the soul? Again we go back to Gen 2:7. We read in the last part, that it said, “and man became a living soul”. It is not easy to describe what exactly the “soul” is; the following words give good ideas of what the soul is:

A soul is a life or life individual (or some called life principle),
A soul is a being (1 Cor 15:45 NIV)

So, accordingly an animal has a soul, even a plant. When applied to man, the soul can be considered the “inner man” (as separate from the outer physical man). Therefore, one could say that a soul and a body add up to a life form (a life with a form).

When we talked about the non-physical “makeup” of a person, such things as a person’s personality (e.g. introvert, extrovert, etc), talent inclinations such as music, arts, etc, emotional tendencies, heart condition, etc, we are really referring to the soul, the very person as opposed to the physical body. So each person is unique because each is a unique soul.

The spirit
Now we will talk about the spirit. If a soul and a body make up a life with a form (life form), how does spirit comes into the picture? Again we look at Gen 2:7 (KJV).

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Gen 2:7 (KJV)

I submit to you that the breath of life is the spirit of man. God created the spirit of man when He breathed into man’s nostrils. I think it is NOT correct to say that by this action, God has put his Holy Spirit into man. I believe the correct way to look at this is that the breath of God created the spirit of man. This created spirit is what made us different from plants or animals. Plants and animals are living things, they have body and soul but no spirit.

Now if plants and animals without spirit can still live, why does God create a spirit in a man? Or why does the Gen 2:7 (KJV) still say “man became a LIVING soul” (a soul is already a life)? You see this word, “LIVING”, is also repeated in a related New Testament verse - 1 Cor 15:45 (KJV) - And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a LIVING soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. I give you 3 reasons for man to have a spirit:

1. God wanted to create us in His image (Gen 1:26-27). God is spirit (John 4:24a), so to be like Him, we are to have a spirit.

2. God is spirit, highest level of communion can only be spirit to spirit (1 Cor 2:14 – spiritual things are spiritually discerned, I believe having a spirit is necessary to receive aid from the Holy Spirit; John 4:24 – God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth)

3. To live in God’s world, Heaven, eternally, you need a spirit. A spirit lives forever.

Yes, I believe that a spirit lives forever. I do not think this belief is misplaced because the Bible does not speak of death of a spirit. In fact, the second death which is eternal suffering in lake of fire in Hell is not death in the way we, human understand it to be – become nothingness, but instead a spirit is still there, just constantly suffering. Even Satan and demons which are spirit in nature do not die, their ultimate destination is the same lake of fire in Hell, be “roasted” for all eternity. Do you now catch what I am trying to get at? In my opinion, the word, “LIVING” in verse 7 above is put there really because of the forever living nature of a spirit. With the creation of a spirit in man, the man’s soul became living in the sense that it shall live forever.

If you look at things this way, it would be right to say that animals and plants have no more existence or life when they die. They do not have a spirit that can live forever. If I am not mistaken, there is no mention of animals or plants getting resurrected or raptured to Heaven in the Bible.

I think it would not be complete if I do not address Gen 2:17, since it talked about death -

but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." (Gen 2:17 NIV)

What was God really referring to when He said “You will surely die.” Obviously He was not referring to 1st death or the physical death because Adam and Eve did not die. In fact, God met up with them after the Fall, subsequently put them out of the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve lived to produce children (Cain, Abel and Seth). If you subscribe to what I said above, Adam and Eve could not die, they were with spirits. So what did the dying there mean? As is widely held, death here really was referring to separation from God, the very source of life. What cannot be reasonably deduced or discerned or not revealed by the Holy Spirit, we should not speculate too much, so I cannot say what exactly happened to the body, soul and spirit of Adam and Eve. But we know from Scriptures that with that Fall, the nature of man has become sinful and that man has been “marked” to go to Hell. The thing I believe would probably not be wrong to say is that the spirit (of man) had been somehow “weakened”. The argument for this is simply that separation from the very source of life, God, weakens. Apart from Jesus, the separation could get more worse and the spirit, weaker, until at the Great Separation, the separation is greatest, the spirited soul is in Hell, the spirit is weakest and in constant agony. It is only through the work of Jesus Christ that man is reconciled back to God. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a LIVING soul; the last Adam [Jesus] was made a QUICKENING spirit.( 1 Cor 15:45 KJV ) The understanding of the 2nd part of this verse will further support what I said about the spirit of man having been “weakened” (You can read more about it in an article to come).

A soul is a life. It is unique in that each has his/her own personality. A soul and a body make up a life form (life with a form). Man is a life form with a spirit. Because of this spirit, man’s soul lives forever. When a man dies, his body decays, his soul and spirit live on. The spirited soul can end up either in Hell (eternal suffering in the lake of fire) or Heaven (the Kingdom of God).

I believe what I have given here is a very easy to understand, explanation of what the body, soul and spirit of man is. Its simplicity does not necessarily mean it isn’t correct. I have looked at some Greek and Hebrew texts/references but I shall spare you the complexities. But more importantly, I believe I experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit as I wrote.

You will find that some people, even scholars wrote about man being bipartite (body and soul). I believe this is not quite correct. Man is tripartite (body, soul and spirit). However, sometimes we do find that the words soul and spirit seemed to be used interchangeably in Bibles (inclusive of various translations).
This is not so confusing if you understood what I explained above. The soul for a man is a spirited soul.

Anthony Chia – I am a Tripartite man, my soul is a spirited soul.

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