And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:23, emphasis mine).
Even though God’s Word clearly teaches that we are three-part beings, very few Christians practice a functional understanding of spirit, soul, and body in their everyday lives! Most people actually believe that they’re only made up of body and soul. They confuse soul and spirit as being basically the same thing. Therefore, on a day-to-day level, they only acknowledge a physical part and an emotional, mental, inner part (commonly called “personality”).
Even Strong’s Concordance fails to distinguish all three! The Greek word for spirit—
pneuma—is defined as being “the immortal soul.” I don’t mean to criticize anyone’s work, but my study of God’s Word has revealed a very distinct difference between spirit and soul. Therefore, I disagree with this particular definition of the word pneuma. Your spirit is your innermost part, not your “immortal soul.”
Your body is obvious. It’s the physical part of you that can be seen in a mirror. If you were talking to me face to face, you’d be seeing my body.
However, you’d be speaking to my soul, which is my mental, emotional part. Some people define “soul” as being the “mind, will, and emotions.” While that’s certainly true, it’s incomplete because your conscience should also be included. Your soul is what most people call their “personality.”
You can feel both your body and your soul. If I put my hand on your shoulder, you’d know that I touched you. However, I can also touch you whether I’m physically near or not. By speaking to your soul, I can make you glad, sad, or mad. Through my words I could “hurt” you without physically touching your body. It’s easy to know how you feel in your body and soul because you’re constantly in touch with them!
By taking a mental inventory, your body can instantly tell you how it feels. You know if your adrenaline is pumping, if you’re tired, if you’re healthy or fighting a cold, if your head aches, or if the shower’s just right. In fact, you don’t even really have to think about it, because your body constantly feeds you such information.
You can also check your soul and know right away how you’re doing. It’s easy to tell if you’re happy or hurt, mentally worn out or sharp and ready to go, or just plain angry. You’d even be aware of fear or depression if it came, because you’re always in touch with your soul.
However, your spirit cannot be accessed in any natural way. Jesus declared:
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6).
He meant that there’s no direct connection between the two. They are interrelated, as you’ll later see, but spirit is spirit and flesh is flesh. You simply cannot contact your spirit through your emotions or your physical body. Herein lies one of the great problems of the Christian life!
If you don’t understand that spiritual reality can’t be felt, then you’ll be confused when God’s Word declares that you have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Eph. 1:18-20). If you think truth can be discerned through your natural senses, then you’ll be baffled when the Bible says that you’re a brand-new creature who can do the same miraculous works that Jesus did (2 Cor. 5:17 and John 14:12). Without understanding spirit, soul, and body, you’ll search your body and soul in bewilderment wondering, Where is it? I don’t really have that kind of power in me. The Bible is so hard to understand! If you can’t see, taste, hear, smell, or touch what the Word reveals about you, you’ll immediately be thrown into conflict. This apparent disparity between your experience and God’s Word will cause you to throw up your hands in frustration and conclude, “It must not be true!”
Understanding spirit, soul, and body unlocks the spirit realm so you can experience who you are and what you have in Christ!
Since the spirit realm can’t be naturally seen or felt, the only way to accurately perceive spiritual truth is through the Bible. Simply take God’s Word and believe it!
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life (John 6:63).
God’s Word reveals spiritual reality. If you want to know what your spirit is like, you must find out from the Word. You can’t just go by emotion or some other type of perception. God’s Word is spirit and life!
When you look into the Bible, you behold yourself in the spirit.
For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty [God’s Word—specifically the New Testament], and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed (James 1:23-25, brackets mine).
God’s Word is a spiritual mirror!
When you look at your face in a mirror, you aren’t really seeing yourself. Rather, you’re viewing a reflection. In fact, your eyes have never looked directly into your own face. Think about it—you’ve always seen a reflection! Even though it’s only a representation, you’ve learned to trust it.
If you want to know if your hair is combed or if your makeup is on, you don’t just go by how you feel. Since those things can’t be felt, you must look in a mirror and then trust what you see. It’s the same with your born-again spirit!
God’s Word perfectly reflects who you are in the spirit. It’s the only way you can know. You can’t just assume “If I had God’s power inside of me, I’d be aware of it,” because that which is Spirit is spirit and that which is flesh is flesh! It would be like trying to feel if your makeup was on or if your hair was combed. Those things just can’t be felt! You must look in God’s mirror and trust the spiritual reality you see!