What Are The Spirit, Body And Soul?


The average person weighs around 10.5 stone and is made up of the following chemicals: 92.4 lbs. Oxygen, 31.5 lbs. Carbon, 14.6 lbs. Hydrogen, 4.6 lbs. Nitrogen, 2.8 lbs. Phosphorous, 1.12 lbs. Chlorine, 1.02 lbs. Iron, 0.34 lbs potassium, 0.24 lbs. Sulphur, 0.12 lbs sodium, 0.04 lbs magnesium, 0.02 lbs. Fluorine. Now if you accept that, that is all there is to a human being, then you’ve sadly missed the point, there’s a lot more to a human being than just a few chemicals.

You see all human beings are triune beings, let me explain. The Godhead is made up of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Human beings are also triune beings because we have a body, soul and spirit.

But sadly, many people have forgotten the soul and spirit part, all they think about is the body. You see all these so-called supermodels who in the world’s eyes have great physical bodies but sadly the soul is dead.

The apostle Paul gives us a complete description of the nature of man in 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

“May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Here, the apostle clearly reveals that man is a triune being, consisting of spirit and soul and body. And even though this is the only verse in the Bible in which the three-fold nature of man is mentioned, these three elements, body, soul and spirit, are referred to in different combinations in other places, in both the Old and the New Testaments.

In the Old Testament, for example, in his God-given wisdom, Solomon refers to the body and the spirit, Ecclesiastes 12:7. Solomon says at death, the body returns to the dust of the earth, and the spirit goes back to God who gave it.

So straight away we can see a distinction between the body and the spirit. Matthew 10:28, Here Jesus Himself speaks of those who are able to kill the body, but who are unable to kill the soul. This statement proves that the body and the soul are also different, Hebrews 4:12.

The Hebrew writer tells us that the Word of God is able to pierce, `to the dividing of soul and spirit’.

Again, this shows us that there is a difference between the soul and the spirit. And remember the spirit to which the Hebrew writer makes reference too here is not the Holy Spirit but the human spirit. Paul makes this clearer in Romans 8:16 where he writes, “The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children.”

He also makes it clearer in 1 Corinthians 5:4 “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, you being gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And finally, in Hebrews 12:13 the writer says, “To the general assembly and assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect.” Contrasting the assembly of the Israelites at Mount Sinai with the assembly of the Hebrew Christians at Mount Zion, the writer tells them, “You have come to the spirits of just men made perfect”.

And so, in Ecclesiastes 12:7 we see the distinction between the body and the spirit. In Matthew 10:28 we see the distinction between body and soul. And in Hebrews 4:12 we see the distinction between soul and spirit.

Now please remember that in these verses where these three elements are mentioned, I’m not offering them as proof of man’s nature because we need to understand them in the context in which we find them.

It’s in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 where we find a definite statement as to the nature of man. We have to remember where we came from.


Because some people have forgotten their creator, Hosea 8:14 / Deuteronomy 32:18. That’s what happens when you forget where you came from, you become unmindful.

When you take God out of the picture, you’re left with a pointless existence. When you take God out of the picture, you’re left with being nothing special. Now if we’re going to try and reach anyone, we ourselves first need to understand the nature of man. We too first need to understand where we came from.

Genesis 2:7 “The LORD God formed the man from the soil of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

We see here that God formed or fashioned or moulded, man’s body out of the ground, and we read, that God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man, became a living being”.

Now the word ‘being’ has been preferred by later translators, rather than the word ‘soul’ which is used in the King James Version, because the original word ‘nephesh’ does not mean ‘soul’ in the special New Testament sense.

Mickelson Hebrew Dictionary says this, nephesh (neh’-fesh)

1. (properly) a breathing creature, i.e. animal of (abstractly) vitality

2. used very widely in a literal, accommodated or figurative sense (bodily or mental).

Mickelson Greek Dictionary says this, psuche (psoo-khay’).

1. soul, inner being or life

2. (literally) breath In fact, in the Old Testament, where the word ‘nephesh’ occurs 745 times, the translators of the King James Version have rendered it by at least 30 different words or phrases.

So, the difference between the Hebrew ‘nephesh’ of the Old Testament and the Greek ‘psuche’ of the New Testament is easily recognisable.

Something else we need to remember is that we’re not to suppose that man was a ‘dead soul’ until God breathed into him ‘the breath of lives.’

The word ‘life’ is plural in the Hebrew text. In other words, there was nothing before; it was the entrance of ‘the breath of lives’ which actually constituted him ‘Man’.

Notice that the word ‘became’ is categorical. We should read the verse in this way; “God ‘breathed’ into his nostrils the breath of lives, and Man came into being – a living soul’.”

That phrase, ‘a living soul’, is adjectival and describes and defines man after God breathed life into the form which He had shaped.

And it’s here we see the difference between man and the rest of Creation. Remembering that the Hebrew word ‘Adam’ means ‘man.’ ‘Life’ like animal life, is something which Adam shared with every other living creature created by God. But the difference between the other creatures and man lies in the fact that God said ‘Let us make Man after our own image, after our likeness.’ Genesis 1:26

Only with reference to man is this said, and it is this ‘likeness to God’ which uniquely constituted man as a rational and moral being, possessing a conscience that enabled him to distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong, obedience and disobedience.

It is in this sense that man is a soul, a self, having self-awareness and self-consciousness. Now look at Genesis 1:26 again, “God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

This shows us that man is not only superior to all other living creatures on Earth because he possesses this moral awareness. This also shows us that the gulf between man and the rest of creation was further emphasized and endorsed when God assigned to him dominion over all other living creatures.

So how do these three different parts of man relate to each other?

I go into the local schools quite regularly and every now and then they ask me to come in and have a question and answer session with the children about God, the Bible and religion as a whole. And I remember one child asking me an amazing question; does the body have a soul? Now that’s a great question and yes, we can answer and say yes the body has a soul but maybe we should say, it’s the soul which has a body.

Our soul is self-conscious

Now I say that in light of what we’ve just looked at, the ‘soul’ is man’s unique self. It is the part of his being that, because it is rational and moral, determines the actions performed by his body, and which, therefore, renders him personally accountable for what he does.

And so, it is man’s ‘soul’ which will ultimately be either saved or lost, depending on his response to the offer of the salvation which was made first possible by the coming of Christ into the world.

Our body is Earth conscious

So now let’s look at the body, as someone once said to me ‘The Body is of the earth and for the earth’. We might describe the body as ‘Earth-conscious’, since it is the physical tool or instrument, by means of which a person’s ‘soul’ or ‘self’ by its very nature is invisible and is able to function in a physical world. If we think about Jesus Himself, when the Lord came into the world, John 1:1-2 / John 1:14.

Although the Son existed ‘in the beginning with God’, it was necessary that ‘the Word’ should ‘become flesh’ and ‘dwell’ or ‘tabernacle’ among us.

You see the Lord needed a physical body. And as Paul tells us in Philippians 2:6-8 that Jesus “Though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross!”

Paul says without the human form that He took on Himself, it would have been impossible for Him to fulfil the unique purpose for which He came.

He needed a body why?

1. To be able to communicate with mankind in a personal and unmistakable and uncomplicated manner.

2. To present the ‘signs’ which were to be the authentication and endorsement of His Messiah-ship.

3. To set the human race the perfect example of obedience to the will of the Father.

4. And above all, by means of that perfect life, to demonstrate His worthiness to become the perfect offering for the sin of the world.

And so, The Word must become flesh. This was the divine plan, and it is why we find the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, in 10:5 placing the words of the Psalmist from Psalm 40:6-8 into the Lord’s mouth, Hebrews 10:5.

Notice that the ‘body’ was prepared for ‘me.’ Peter, also talks about the body in 2 Peter 1:14, and he describes it as “putting off my tent.” In other words, loved ones, man is more than just a bunch of chemicals. Man is not merely an animated construction of flesh and bones; he is a soul, a ‘self.’

Man is housed in a physical body; and since his body is designed for earthly life, at death, the body returns to the earth. God told Adam in Genesis 3:19 “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to the dust, you shall return.”

We’ve briefly looked at the soul and the body now let’s briefly look at the spirit of man.

Our spirit is God-conscious

Job 32:8 “But there is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding”.

If we consider the body to be ‘Earth-conscious’, and the soul to be ‘Self-conscious’, we may think of the spirit as being ‘God conscious’. In other words, it is that part of man’s nature which enables him to reach out to and communicate with God. It is the spiritual dimension in man’s character, and, here again; we see the difference between man and other creatures.

Its only man says who can say, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God”, Psalm 42:2

It’s only man who is encouraged to “seek after Him, in the hope that they might feel after Him and find Him,” Acts 17:27

It’s only man who is given the assurance that “He is not far from each one of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being” Acts 17:27

And like we saw earlier according to Ecclesiastes 12:7, at death, “the spirit returns to God Who gave it”.

Someone recently shared with me an illustration to help me get this point and I would like to share it with you because I think it’s helpful. When I am away from home, I use the telephone as a means of communication with my wife. But when I am at home we talk face to face and so I do not need the telephone. Well in a similar way, God has endowed us with the ability to contact and communicate with Him, whilst we are here on earth.

And so, when we are ‘at home with the Lord’, we will no longer need the telephone. And so, it will be with our spirit.



"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."