Body, Soul & Spirit
Body, Soul and Spirit
One of the heated arguments of Christianity is: Are Human Beings composed of two elements or three? Are we body and spirit or are we body, spirit and soul (which includes our mind, will and emotions)? This argument has been going on for centuries.
In our modern America, another theory has been formed. We are only made up of one element. We are just glorified animals. We have just evolved and become more advanced than the other animals. There is no such thing as an everlasting spirit. When we die, we cease to exist. This theory, of course, is only accepted by a very few. Those who believe this theory believe that they are so elite, so intelligent, that they are the highest creature that could ever exist. Thus, there is no such thing as a god or eternal spirit that could exist.
With very, very few exceptions, all people and all religions believe that we have an eternal spirit that lives on after we die. We believe this, because it is built into us. Our spirit is a part of who we are. It is the part of us that reaches out to God. Even if we don’t know who God is, we know that there is something out there that is calling to us.
God Created Us
The Bible teaches us exactly how God created human beings. Genesis 2:7 (NIV) says: “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” The King James Version says that he became a Living Soul. The word translated “soul” (in the KJV) comes from the Hebrew word “naphash” which, in effect, means the essence of a living being, everything that that living being is. We are a living soul.
Here God takes two elements. The first is physical, the dust of the ground. The second is spiritual, He breathed the breath of life into him. In other words, God placed a spirit into the physical element. When these two elements were combined, a third completely new element was created.
Our Physical Bodies
So God created our bodies out of the elements of the earth that He had created. Our body is a part of God’s earthly creation. This is why, when we die, our body decays and all that is left is dust. Our bones seem to last much longer than the rest of us. But under the right conditions, they too, will decay into dust.
The part of our physical being that controls our body is our brain. Science has verified that anything and everything that happens to and in our body is controlled by our brain. When our brain is functioning properly, our body works exactly as it should. When there is something wrong with any part of our brain, some part of our body does not function properly.
In fact, scientists have discovered that they can cause the body to react in certain ways simply by altering the chemistry in our brain or by applying electrical impulses to certain parts of our brain. Our brain uses chemical and electrical impulses to control our body. We definitely have a physical body controlled by physical forces.
But there is another part of us that came directly from God. Notice that God said that He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” Now, this could mean that He simply gave us life as he did all of the animals. But this phrase is not used in connection to the creation of any of the animals. Man was created in a very special and unique way.
Our spirit came directly from the Spirit of God. It is an eternal spirit which will never cease to exist. Everyone, unless we completely suppress it, feels that there is something in us that will exist forever. Somehow we know that there is a world beyond our own that we cannot see but definitely does exist. This is our spirit reaching out to God, its creator. Our spirit is God-connected. Our spirit is aware of the spirit world around us.
We are not just animals as so some today are trying to teach us. When God created us, He breathed into us a spirit that came directly from His own Spirit. When this happened, we became a unique creation. We were no longer just animals; we became “living souls.”
First, we know that what God breathed into Adam in Genesis 2:7 was his spirit because it says in Job 32:8 (NIV) “But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.” It is also our spirit that enables us to live as a human being. Job 33:4 (NIV) “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” We die physically when our spirit leaves our body. Psalm 146:4 (NIV) “When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.” When Jesus died on the cross, John 19:30 says: “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (NIV) Again, when Stephen died while being stoned to death, he said: Acts 7:59 (NIV) “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
It is our spirit that identifies who we are. Throughout the Scriptures, when referring to the identity of a person, it refers to the person’s spirit. Look at the following Scriptures in Proverbs.
Proverbs 20:27 (NIV) “The lamp of the Lord searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being.”
Proverbs 16:18 (NIV) “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Proverbs 18:14 (NIV) “A man's spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?”
The same idea is expressed in Eccles. 7:9 (NIV) “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”
It is our spirit that connects us with the Spirit of God. Romans 8:16 (NIV) “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.” When we die, it is our spirit that lives on in the presence of God. Eccles. 12:7 (NIV) “and the dust (body) returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” Yes, our spirit lives forever. It is the real part of our existence.
We Are Both Physical and Spiritual
Who I am is a combination of both my physical body and my God-given spirit. My physical body gives me my brain. But my spirit is also a thinking entity. What I think and how I think, is a combination of the action in my brain as well as in my spirit. This is what we call our mind. They work together as a unit. It is a mysterious combination. But we don’t need to understand it. We just need to accept that this is how God created us.
So, according to the Bible we have a created body and we have a God-given spirit. Then, according to Genesis 2:7 we became a living soul. God took a physical creation, put it together with an eternal spirit and created a third unique creation which is actually a combination of the first two. We simply need to accept who we are as a God-created creature.
While we live in this world, our body will be dominant in our life. This is why the Bible says that we need to come out of this world. Romans 12:2 (NIV) says “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” In other words, we need to allow our spirit to dominate our lives.
It is the combination of our brain and our spirit that determines how we act and think. As long as we live here on earth, we cannot separate our body from our spirit. They are molded together as one unit. It is our brain, working together with our spirit that give us our mind, will and emotions.
What we think, how we think, what we desire, how we react to the world around us is all a result of the combination of what happens in our brain and what happens in our spirit. Which has more control? Which dominates the other? Or are they equally powerful? People who are not consciously aware of their spirit are usually controlled by their brain processes.
Scientists have discovered that what we learn is stored in our brain by the cells in a particular area bonding together in specific ways. When we repeat an activity often enough, this activity is imprinted in our brain and we can recall it without even thinking about it. It becomes a “habit.” When we first start riding a bike, we have to think about everything we are doing. After a while, we just jump on the bike and ride it without even thinking about what we are doing. Our brain has been fixed to remember how to ride that bike.
The same process occurs when we think about something often enough. Those thoughts, ideas, etc. become imprinted in our brain and they become a part of who we are. If we always get mad when certain things happen to us, it is because that activity has been imprinted in our brain and we automatically react when that certain thing happens to us.
Even for a Christian, how we think and act will be a combination of both our brain and our spirit. Our spirit always wants to seek God and follow His commands. It is our human brain that draws us into this world. We have a choice as to which we allow to dominate our life.
So, what happens when we “die?” Do we cease to exist? No, this would be impossible because part of who we are is an eternal spirit that will never cease to exist. When we “die,” our physical body is separated from our eternal spirit. Our body returns to dust from which it was made.
But our spirit is eternal. It will never cease to exist. So it must go somewhere. And there are only two places our spirit can go. It can either go into the presence of God or be separated from God and live outside the presence of God. “But, how can we be separated from God. I thought that God was everywhere?”
There is a place where God is not. To understand this, read the article on “Why Is There Evil in the World?”
A New Body
No matter which place we go, we will be given another body. This time it will be a spiritual body. 1 Corinthians 15:44 (NIV): it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”
Philippians 3:20-21 (NIV): “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
What kind of a body is this? It will be very similar to the one we have now. It will be so similar that we will be recognized by our friends. Remember how Jesus was recognized by His friends after His resurrection? Read Luke 24.
Why is this necessary? Because God created us, not as pure spirit beings such as angels, but as human beings designed to live in a body. Since we are not living in a physical world any more, but rather a spiritual world, we will be given a spiritual body.
However, we will not be male or female. Matthew 22:30 (NIV): “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” This does not mean that we will be pure spiritual beings (as angels are) but simply that we will be neither male nor female. God created us as male and female here on the earth for two very important reasons.
1. To enable us to multiply (see Genesis 9:7 (NIV) “As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.").
2. To help us understand some very important spiritual facts. See the article on “Christian Family Life.”
Since it will not be a physical body, it will be a body that will never decay in any way. In fact, we will have no problems at all with it. Rev. 21:4 (NIV): “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
So, the important concept to understand is that God created us as a special, unique creature that had never existed before. God wants us to live with Him forever. And if we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we will do so.