How Many Parts are There in Man?
Emailed question: “Br. Phil, I have heard a lot from the supposedly ‘learned class’, say that Man is made up of three parts or rather beings; The MIND, THE SOUL and THE SPIRIT. Now my question is whether this is true in light of God or rather whether it is Biblical. If man has the three, what happens to the mind and soul when one is born again because we only receive the SPIRIT of Christ and not the Mind and Soul?”
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Greetings in the wonderful name of Jesus! Your question confirms something I have often observed, that attempts to over-analyze such things as body, mind, soul, and spirit can raise more questions than answers and result in confusion. We’re dealing with English translations of words from 2 or 3 ancient languages, words that are sometimes used in different senses. For example, in Gen. 2:7 the Hebrew word nephesh, often translated “soul,” is apparently used of the whole man. When God breathed into man the breath of life (actually, lives) he became a living soul.
To me, man in his natural state apart from God has a bodily existence made alive by the life God breathed into Adam. That life has been passed down to us all through natural birth. The immaterial part of us, which could be called our spirit or our soul has several “aspects” or characteristics such as mind, will, and emotions that reflect the fact that we were created in the image of God. None of these things are separate “beings” but rather different aspects of human life in this world.
This natural life we have received from Adam has been corrupted by sin, a principle that enslaves and ends in death. In ourselves there is no escape from this.
That is what salvation is about. We need a second birth that imparts a different life from the one we received from Adam. That life is the same life that is in Jesus Christ, the same life that enabled Him to overcome death itself. It is eternal and cannot die.
Our destiny is to one day receive an immortal sin-free body and to be forever free from what we received from Adam. But while born-again believers are in this world we still live bodies of sin and death. Listen to Paul’s words:
2 Cor. 4:7-5:10 -- “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
“It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
“Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” NIV.
One of the real keys in that passage is in verse 16 of chapter 4: “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” Paul saw himself in two “parts” if you want to put it that way. He still had natural life but he also had new life. The Christian life is about learning to live by the new life. Christ accomplished everything when He died and rose again, but what He accomplished is something we lay hold of by faith and live out over time while we live in this present world. 1 Tim. 6:12 tells us to “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called ....”
Naturally speaking our minds are “hostile to God.” Rom. 8:7. That is why we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Rom. 12:2. That is, our minds need to delivered in a practical sense from thinking like the world to believing the truth as God teaches us. He is faithful!
The bottom line is that in Adam all men are lost, but in Christ everything needed for eternal salvation has been provided. We receive forgiveness of sins and a new life and our lives going forward are about being transformed into Christ’s image as we confidently hope in His promise “... that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Phil. 1:6.