Body, Soul and Spirit

Man can be likened to a motorcar - his body would equate with the frame, panels and wheels, his soul with the engine and his spirit with the petrol in the tank. Not all people accept the existence of the spirit as an entity separate from the soul, just as there are those who deny the separate existence of the soul apart from the body, yet the Bible is quite definite on these three aspects of man.

“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.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

The car without the engine becomes a derelict item of pollution - it cannot run. Even complete with engine, the car is useless without petrol and cannot demonstrate its power, performance or speed. In the same way, the body without the soul is dead and the soul without the spirit is dead (Genesis 2:7, James 2:26).  The body is merely a temporal container, with degrees of physical skills.  It is the showcase and dwelling place of the soul. The soul features personality, character, choice, reason and emotion.  Adam was a dead soul until he received a spirit.  The spirit is the life force (John 6:63) and provides the energy, will, motivation and ability to do whatever we do.  Naturally this is a simplification, but necessary to explain what I'm getting at. Just as bad petrol makes an engine run rough, the spirit determines the quality of the things we do.

However, man is more complex still.  Since the fall of Adam, there has been vacant space inside man's soul (1 Corinthians 15:22). There is room to accommodate more than one spirit, since God vacated the space occupied by Himself. Many evil spirits roam loose around this world under Satan's rule and direction (Luke 7:21, Luke 8:2, Luke 11:24-26, Acts 19:12-16), eager to occupy any of those empty spaces, and when they do, we have a choice of 'petrol tanks', so to speak. If we draw on an evil spirit for motivation, our actions are evil; if we draw on our own spirit, our actions are selfish. The reason we commit sin is that we are motivated by an imperfect energy source.


But God has provided, through Jesus Christ, a third alternative:


"The first man Adam became a living being." The last Adam became a life-giving Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 15:45).

God's Spirit will once more indwell our soul if we accept Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf.  This is what is called being 'born again'.

“Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. "Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ “(John 3:3-7).

Those who have been born again, also have a choice of 'petrol tanks' - their own spirit or God's Spirit, who indwells all born-again believers:

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13).


The Bible talks of death, but what is death?  Those who have experienced paralysis or loss of limbs will testify of the agonising frustration of wanting to do something, but not having the ability. Most of us have felt both extreme lethargy and, at other times, fitness and know the difference it makes to have the energy to do the things we want.  I’m reminded of stories told by people put under general anaesthesia that didn’t work properly. Lying in the operating theatre, totally aware of proceedings and pain, yet unable to communicate their condition to the doctors and nurses around them, must be the ultimate in nightmares.

I believe that in the final accounting, the souls of those who have not been born again will be condemned to hell, devoid of any spirit whatsoever.  They will have no spiritual energy. They will be aware but, as it were, suffer complete 'paralysis' of the soul. They will have desires, needs, cravings, urges; they will experience the ultimate in frustration through the absolute inability to do anything about their situation. For the Bible speaks of two deaths - the first is a physical death, the second is the death of the soul. Not until Christ has reigned on earth for a thousand years will all those who have died physically be resurrected. Then those whose names have not been written in the Book of Life will be thrown in the Lake of Fire, which is the second death (Revelation 20:14). I believe this is the time when the Word of God, sharper than any two edged sword, even to the dividing between soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12, Revelation 19:13-15), will be exercised.

I must say here that I personally struggle with the idea of everlasting hell fire. It seems to my way of thinking that the eternal existence of a place where evil and its perpetrators are punished forever would be a blight on the landscape of eternity.  Surely permanent eradication would be a preferable option?  But it is not for me to question God’s wisdom. Very possibly, as I meditate on that concept, the eternal existence of good depends on the eternal existence of evil.  Good can have no meaning without at least the potential for evil, and perhaps the maintenance of a reminder of that potential is essential to His purpose.


The spirit has a second function.  In the unseen or spiritual world it serves as a body:


“It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”
(1 Corinthians 15:44).


Just as our physical body is our means of relating to the physical world, so our spirit is our means of relating to the spiritual realm.  Even as you read this, you have a body in the spiritual realm. That body is the human spirit.  It is that body which must be put to death:

“… our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” (Romans 6:6),

in order that we might put on the new spiritual body, which is the Holy Spirit. Then there will truly be only one Body (1 Corinthians 12:12) because we will all share the same One and we will truly be equipped to fight and overcome in the spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:11-17).


There appears to be a belief, held amongst some Christians, that the human spirit is something wonderful, to be preserved at all cost. As if the spirit is the good side of man's nature, which will ‘emerge’ upon destruction of the soul - a kind of Jekyll and Hyde imagery. They have misunderstood. Man's spirit is no better than the spirit of beast (Ecclesiastes 3:19-21).  And it is the poor, not the rich in spirit who will inherit the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).  Besides, God wants tosave our soul, not destroy it (Matthew 16:25-26, James 5:20).  If we were to crucify our physical ‘flesh’, the entire church would have to commit mass suicide. If we were all to crucify our soul, the entire church would turn into a bunch of zombies.

Created Man comprises three aspects: body, soul and spirit.  It is his spirit that is in conflict with God, far more than his body.  The source of the misconception, that it is the body that’s to blame, is quite understandable, with the frequent biblical reference that it is our ‘flesh’ that causes us to sin, and therefore must be crucified. But we have a spiritual body, or spiritual ‘flesh’, which causes far morestrife.  It is this part of man that stops God from occupying His rightful place in His new Temple.

I concede that many temptations come via the bodily senses.  Jesus conceded the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak (Mark 14:38). But at the same time, He showed it is the heart of man, or his innermost being, that finally becomes the source of sin:


“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man.” (Matthew” 15:18-20)

I believe there is ample Biblical evidence that the heart is often analogous with the spirit of man. I will deal with that in much greater detail in my later essay “Crucifixion”. 


God promised His Spirit would not strive with man forever (Genesis 6:3). It is our human spirit that is intent on perpetuating our own will, and it is that part of man that must be surrendered if we want to cease striving with Him.