We human beings are complicated. Every one of us is unique, with different backgrounds and personalities. But with respect to how God created us, we’re actually all the same. The Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 that we were all created with three basic parts: a spirit, a soul, and a body:
“And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We can illustrate man’s three parts with a simple diagram. Picture three concentric circles; the outermost circle represents the body as the visible part of our being; in the middle, the second circle represents the soul as our inward part; and the central, smallest circle represents our spirit as our innermost, hidden part.
Let’s consider each of these three parts and their corresponding functions.
Our body through its five senses contacts the visible, touchable, tangible things of the material world. It’s the most outward and visible part of our being, and by it we exist and experience the things in the physical realm. But of course, we’re more than just a physical body.
Our soul, though unseen, is just as real as our body. By our soul, we experience things in the psychological realm. In fact, the Greek word for soul in the Bible is psuche, which is also the root word of psychology. Our soul is composed of our mind, which enables us to do things like think, reason, consider, remember, and wonder; our emotions, which enable us to have feelings like happiness, sorrow, anger, relief, and compassion; and our will, which enables us to choose and make decisions. Our mind, emotion, and will make up our soul, which is our personality, who we are within.
But we are even more than just a body with a soul within. We have a part that’s deeper than our soul—our spirit, which is the deepest and most hidden part of our being. By our spirit we can contact the spiritual realm. No other creature was created with this third part, the spirit, within. By our spirit God is real to us and we can contact Him, receive Him, contain Him, and fellowship with Him.
God created us with a spirit because He wants to know us, have a relationship with us, and even live in us.
Not only was our spirit made for God, but our spirit also has the ability to contact, receive, and worship God. As John 4:24 says, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truthfulness.”
John 3:6 tells us that we are born of the Spirit in our spirit. After we are born of God, we continue to contact and worship Him by our spirit.
God’s desire for us is that we human beings with all three parts would be vessels to contain and express Him. As we saw, God’s purpose is to come into our spirit to fill it with Himself. When we believe in Jesus Christ, He comes to live in us as our new life. He is in our spirit as the new Person in us so that He would be expressed through our entire being: spirit, soul, and body. This all begins when we receive Him into our spirit and are regenerated, or born again.
Before Christ came into us as the new life in our spirit, our soul was our leading part. We pretty much did everything by the thoughts and desires of our soul. We made decisions with our soul based on our own thoughts and considerations, our own feelings, and our own discernment. Whether we lived a good life or a bad life, a moral life or an immoral life, we lived a life in the soul.
But God’s desire is that once we’re saved, with a new life and with Christ as our new person living in us, our spirit would become the leading part of our being, not our soul. When we live by our spirit, our soul begins to express God’s life instead of our own.
Every day, even every moment, we have a choice. We can live by the old, independent life of our soul, or we can live by Christ as the new life and Person in our spirit. We can choose to allow our spirit to be our leading part, using our will to turn our mind to our spirit and to take in God’s living Word, allowing our emotions to be awakened and stirred to love God, and presenting our body to live a proper human life.
God’s intention in giving us three parts—a spirit, soul, and body—was that we would be vessels to contain Him and express Him. By choosing to live by our spirit, our third part, our soul and even our body will function together to fulfill God’s purpose.