BODY, SOUL & SPIRIT
[Much of this material was derived from Brent Harris's
excellent book, Body, Soul and Spirit]
THE EARLY CHURCH'S VIEW
OF MAN WAS TRICHOTOMOUS
Most Biblical scholars in the early church saw man as a threefold (trichotomous)
being. Even as late as Augustine (A.D. 354-430), the common view was
that man was trichotomous - that he possessed a body, a soul, and a
spirit. Augustine substantiated this fact very plainly when he wrote
in Faith and Creed:
"... there are three things of which man consists - namely spirit,
soul, and body ..." [Faith and the Creed (XX:23)].
Augustine was very clear on the matter.
But as Latin Theology (i.e., Roman Catholicism) began to take hold,
most theologians abandoned trichotomy and began to see man as simply
a two-fold being of soul and body (with spirit being just another name
for the soul). This idea, known as dichotomy, continued as the majority
opinion down through the centuries and still is the most common view
held by the Roman Catholic Church and most of the Protestant churches
which came out of the Reformation (i.e., the Dutch Reformed, the Lutheran,
the Episcopalian, the Presbyterian, etc.) - all of which, interestingly
enough, hold to a post-millennial approach to eschatology (i.e., that
the church must take control of the world before Christ can return).
[It is interesting to note in this connection, however, that Martin
Luther, the father (so to speak) of the Reformation, championed the
view that man was trichotomous.]
TRICHOTOMY, THE PLYMOUTH
BRETHREN & EVANGELICALISM
It wasn't until the rise of evangelicalism in the 1800s [and most especially,
the Plymouth Brethren, the group which is looked upon by most church
historians as the parent body out from which evangelicalism sprang]
and John Nelson Darby that trichotomy once again revived - and it's
worth noting in this connection that along with a revived view of man
as a trichotomous being, pre-millennialism also revived. Through such
books as Dispensational Truth by Clarence Larkin (1918) [which
possessed detailed charts and very refined explanations as to man's
three-fold nature] and Hal Lindsay's Late Great Planet Earth
(1962) Darby's teachings were popularized and gained wide acceptance
and public acclaim in conservative church bodies throughout most of
the 20th century. But with the rise of the modern ecumenical movement
- i.e., the political movement of Protestant and Catholic bodies
together to "take the nation back for Christ and the church" - post-millennialism
(which "politicizing" promotes) resurfaced along with dichotomy - which
post-millennialism of necessity encourages.
TRICHOTOMY AND THE SCRIPTURES
But that man is a three-part being seems to be the unwavering view
of the Scriptures: that man has a body is, of course, self evident;
but that man has a spirit in addition to his soul is also just as evident
- at least to those who are disposed to read the Scriptures literally.
The Scriptures seem to clearly differentiate between the two. For example,
that man has a spirit seems to be very plain from the following Scriptures:
- "The spirit (Heb. - ne shamah) of man is the lamp of the
Lord." (Prov. 20:27)
- "The spirit (Gk. - pneuma) indeed is willing ..." (Matt.
- "Jesus perceiving in his spirit (Gk. - pneuma) ..." (Mark
- "He sighed deeply in his spirit (Gk. - pneuma) ..." (Mark
- "My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior (Gk. - pneuma)
..." (Luke 1:47)
- "He was deeply moved in spirit (Gk. - pneuma) ..." (John
- "Being fervent is spirit (Gk. - pneuma) ..." (Acts 18:25)
- "I am going to Jerusalem, bound in the spirit (Gk. - pneuma)
..." (Acts 20:22)
- "Whom I serve in my spirit (Gk. - pneuma)." (Rom. 1:9 NASB)
- "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit (Gk. - pneuma)
..." (Rom. 8:15)
- "What man knoweth the things of a man except the spirit (Gk. -
pneuma) of man which is in him." (I Cor 2:11)
- "They refreshed my spirit (Gk. - pneuma) as well as yours."
(I Cor. 16:18)
- "His spirit (Gk. - pneuma) was refreshed by you all." (2
- "The Lord Jesus be with your spirit (Gk. - pneuma)." (2
And that man has a soul is also evident from the following Scriptures:
- "Why are you cast down, O my soul (Heb. - nephesh)." (Ps.
- "My soul (Gk. - psuche) is very sorrowful." (Matt. 26:38)
- "My soul (Gk. - psuche) doth magnify the Lord." (Luke 1:46)
- "Now is my soul (Gk. - psuche) troubled." (John 12:27)
- "... were of one heart and soul (Gk. - psuche) ..." (Acts
- "I call for a record upon my soul (Gk. - psuche) ." (2
- "For they watch for your souls (Gk. - psuche) ." (Heb.
- "Seeing you have purified your souls (Gk. - psuche) ."
(I Pet. 1:22)
- "Which war against your soul (Gk. - psuche) ." (I Pet.
should be noted in this connection that the Hebrew word for spirit
is ne shamah which means "wind," and the Hebrew word for soul
is nephesh which means a "living (thinking) being." They are
two totally different words, and mean two totally different things.
In addition, the Greek word for spirit is pneuma which means
"breeze," and the Greek word for soul is psuche, which
- like the Hebrew word, nephesh - means a "living (thinking)
being." Again, they are two totally different words, and mean two totally
Finally, the Hebrew word for spirit, ne shamah ("wind"),
corresponds to the Greek word for spirit, pneuma ("breeze"),
while the Hebrew word for soul, nephesh ("living (thinking) being")
corresponds to the Greek word, psuche (also "living (thinking)
Thus, when God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness
... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created
he him ..." (Gen. 1:26-27) what is meant here is that God made man a
three-part being. Since God is a three-part being (i.e., He is triune),
He created man a three-part being - body, soul and spirit.
WHAT IS THE SPIRIT OF MAN?
If, however, man has a spirit which is different from his soul, what
is the spirit? The spirit is our "inner man" (Eph. 3:16) - it is that
portion of our being which is meant to touch (and commune with) God
- so that we:
"May be able to comprehend (understand) ... what is the breadth,
and length, and depth, and height (of Christ); and to know (His) ...
love ... which passeth knowledge, that ... (we) might be filled with
all the fullness of God." (Eph. 3:18-19).
The spirit is what Peter refers to as "the hidden person of the heart"
(I Pet. 3:4) - and it's precisely this "hidden person of the heart"
which differentiates man from the beasts.
MAN AS DIFFERENTIATED
FROM THE BEASTS
The beasts have no such ability to touch God - they were never meant
to "commune" with God - only man has this ability (or possibility).
Indeed, if only the body and soul are taken into account, then the radical
"animal rights" activists (as bizarre as they may seem) are correct
when they say that there is little that differentiates man from the
beasts - after all, beasts, just like man, think, reason, love, and
hate and, ipso facto, they have a soul! To say that they don't
- that they just react to stimuli like plants - is asinine. Plants (which
have only a body, but no soul) don't think, don't love, don't reason
- unlike the beasts and man, they only react to stimuli; they are still
alive, but they don't have a soul, and surely they don't have a spirit.
SOUL AND SPIRIT
It is important to understand the difference between our soul and
spirit because it is in our spirit where we are cognizant of God and
where He speaks to us through the Holy Spirit. It is the spirit where
our fellowship with God begins. It is in our own spirit where we must
worship God. This is why Jesus said,
"God is a Spirit (meaning the Holy Spirit): and they that
worship him must worship him in spirit (meaning man's spirit)
and in truth." (John 4:24)
Our spirit is deeper than our soul. It's deeper than our random thoughts.
It's deeper than our outward emotions which we might project to others
- it's a place where we can retreat to and always find happiness and
joy in Christ - regardless of our outward circumstances. This is what
Paul was talking about in II Cor. 6:10 when he said that as a servant
of Christ he was "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" - sorrowful in his
soul due to the trying circumstances which surrounded him - but always
rejoicing in his spirit where he had fellowship with the Lord Jesus
Paul puts it this way in II Cor. 4:8:
"... we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but
not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not
destroyed." (II Cor. 4:8)
Nothing could shake Paul from his deep, abiding trust and peace that
was his experience down deep in his spirit - although outwardly, in
his soul, he was often bewildered and distressed. Some have likened
it to a storm raging on the ocean; but if we go down beneath the waves
we find rest and peace. How often we forget, and try to ride out the
storm on the surface (in our soul) where the raging waves of confusion
and fear predominate, instead of trusting Christ in our spirits. It's
in our spirits where "the peace that passes all understanding" is to
be found (Phil. 4:7) - the peace which is ours because Christ dwells
there. It was in our spirit where we first met God when the Holy Spirit
convicted us of our sin. Wasn't it glorious when we first came to know
Christ? It might not have made sense in our mind or soul, but down deep
inside we knew the gospel was true and that we needed a Savior.
That was God speaking to us in our spirit.
BEHOLDING AND REFLECTING THE LORD
It is in our spirits where the consciousness of God is found. Some
have said that our spirit is where we are conscious of God, our soul
is where we are conscious of self, and our bodies are where we are conscious
of the physical world of the senses. Sanctification means bringing our
soul into submission to our spirit which is beholding and reflecting
God. When we do this, we reflect God to the world. This is what Paul
meant when he said that
"... we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of
the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even
as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor. 3:18)
This is what true godliness is all about. It's not about learning
formulas from "how to" books promoted by "Christian" psychologists and
counselors on how to have a good marriage, to be a loving father or
wife, to be a caring parent, etc. It's about beholding God in our spirit
and reflecting Him through our soul to the world which surrounds us.
Our need isn't for more books and seminars, our need is to behold the
Lord in our spirit and reflect Him to those who touch us in our daily
lives. When we do this, we will automatically be a loving father, because
He is a loving father; we will automatically be a loving husband or
wife because He is a loving father or wife; we will automatically be
a caring parent because He is a caring parent. This is exactly the practice
of our Lord insofar as His walk with the Father is concerned. Jesus
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself,
but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth,
these also doeth the Son likewise." (John 5:19)
ABIDING IN THE LORD
And this is what Jesus told us to do:
"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself,
except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
"I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I
in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can
"If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered;
and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
"If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye
will, and it shall be done unto you.
"Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall
ye be my disciples." (John 15:4-8)
It's not working for Christ, but "abiding" in Christ; it's not doing,
but "beholding and reflecting."
POST-MILLENNIALISM & DICHOTOMY
vs. PRE-MILLENNIALISM & TRICHOTOMY
Finally we come to one last very important matter. I very much suspect
that it is not without cause that pre-millennialism and trichotomy go
together just as post-millennialism and dichotomy go together. I don't
believe that it is a matter of simple happen-chance that historically,
whenever pre-millennialism has predominated in the church, trichotomy
has also prevailed; and whenever post-millennialism has predominated,
dichotomy has likewise flourished. There is a connection between pre-millennialism
and trichotomy; and there is a connection between post-millennialism
Post-millennialism is the effort by Christians (as a corporate body
- i.e., the church) to do a work for Christ, specifically to bring in
the kingdom of Christ. The arrogance and aggrandizement of self which
is implicit in such thinking is overwhelming - this kind of thinking
could never take place in the human mind which is fixed upon Christ.
It doesn't emanate from a spirit which is "beholding and reflecting"
Christ, but from a soul which at best has only a nodding acquaintance
with the Lord. Those who truly behold God in their spirit would never
countenance the kind of arrogance which could say, "I will do a work
for God." This kind of thinking is born of "the pride of life" which
is altogether a thing of this world (i.e., it's worldliness). The Bible
"For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust
of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but
is of the world." (1 John 2:16)
Those who have truly touched the Lord would never be so arrogant and
pretentious. Moses saw God, and he hid his face in fear:
"And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto
him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said,
Here am I.
"And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy
feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.
"Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham,
the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face;
for he was afraid to look upon God. (Ex. 3:4-6)
Where is there any "pride of life" here?
Isaiah too saw the Lord, and he recognized immediately how small and
insignificant he really was:
"In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon
a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple ...
"Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man
of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips:
for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. (Is. 6:1, 5)
Where is there any pride here? Where is there any thought of "doing
a work for the Lord?" - unless the Lord did the work through him.
And John the Apostle also saw the Lord, and even he - the one who
had leaned on Jesus' breast at the
"Last Supper" - fell on his face "as if dead:"
"I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud
voice like the sound of a trumpet, "And I turned to see the voice
that was speaking with me.
"And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as a dead man ..."
(Rev. 1:10, 11, 17)
OUR GOD IS AN AWESOME GOD
Yes, the Almighty is our loving Father, but He also is an awesome
God! There is no room for impertinence and shallow familiarity with
the Lord such as Bennie Hinn so arrogantly exhibits in his preaching
- even with those who enjoy a loving relationship with Him (which is
certainly not the case with Hinn). He is not called "Lord" (i.e., master,
sovereign) for nothing! Job, God's "friend," had to learn this lesson
the hard way! - who are we, then, to tell God that we will do a work
for Him? - the titanic arrogance of it all! Those who say such things
only reveal that they have no real relationship with God at all - that
their presumed relationship with God is nothing more than an empty pretense.
"Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
"Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
"Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and
answer thou me.
"Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare,
if thou hast understanding.
"Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath
stretched the line upon it?
"Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring
to know his place;
"Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen
the doors of the shadow of death?
"Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest
"Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen
the treasures of the hail,
"Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?
"Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that
reproveth God, let him answer it.
"Then Job answered the LORD, and said,
"Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand
upon my mouth.
"Then answered the LORD unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
"Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare
thou unto me.
"Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou
mayest be righteous ...?
"Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with
glory and beauty (if you can).
"(Can you) cast abroad the rage of thy wrath: and behold every one
that is proud, and abase him.
"(Can you) look on every one that is proud, and bring him low; and
tread down the wicked in their place.
"Hide them in the dust together; and bind their faces in secret.
"(If you can do these things) then will I also confess unto thee that
thine own right hand can save thee. (Job 38, 39, and 40)
THE POST-MILLENNIAL "MINDSET"
Post-millennialists, nonetheless, say that they are going to conquer
the world for Christ - and in saying this, they reveal that they have
never really known God at all. Indeed, it's not without cause that someday
they may very will hear those dreadful words, "I never knew you" (i.e.,
"I never had an intimate relationship with you"):
"Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied
in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name
done many wonderful works?
"And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart
from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matt. 7:22-23) [And one must bear
in mind here, that these are people are not "out-right" sinners, but
people who evidently thought they were "doing a work for God."]
Their relationship with the Lord is all of self (soul) and nothing
of the spirit. Because they know nothing of the spirit - nothing about
"beholding and reflecting" the Lord - it's altogether natural for them
to have a dichotomous view of man. How could it be otherwise?
TO POST-MILLENNIALISTS, THE
CHURCH IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN CHRIST
Post-millennialism (and, ipso facto, dichotomy) emphasizes "doing"
over "beholding;" "works" over "reflecting" - and, more than that, it
emphasizes the church over Christ. In post-millennialism, it's the
church that is going to bring in the kingdom, not Christ. Christ is
seen as merely an observer in heaven while Christians on earth do all
the work. And more than that, in the post-millennial scheme of things,
the individual is de-emphasized, and the church is emphasized. In post-millennialism,
the church is everything - and, as a result, unity is stressed; but
it's not the unity which flows out of the individual as a natural consequence
of "beholding and reflecting" Christ in one's spirit, it's the unity
that is brought about by outward control - a control which flows from
church officers (elders, pastors, "apostles," "prophets," etc). It's
the kind of unity that is brought about by "outward conformity," not
the inner leading of Christ in our spirits.
UNITY IN THE POST-MILLENNIAL SCHEME
OF THINGS IS DEPENDENT ON HIERARCHY
The unity that post-millennialism brings is dependent on hierarchy
- the orderly arrangement of church officers in a kind of giant pyramid
which emphasizes rank and position. How high up one is in this pyramid
determines how "close" one is to God. One is required to "submit" to
those who are "above," and to "rule over" those who are "below" - and
one's spirituality is measured by one's submission to authority (i.e.,
to one's submission to control).
The order which post-millennialism promotes is based on a military-like
discipline, a discipline which is enforced by an outward chain of command.
The thought that all men have equal access to Christ through the spirit
(trichotomy) is anathema to post-millennialism - it strikes at the military-like
order which post-millennialism promotes. The belief that each individual
Christian has a spirit and can be led individually by that spirit
without resort to "outward authority" is a threat to post-millennialism's
pyramid-like structure and scheme of things. For post-millennialists
to admit that man is a trichotomous being and ipso facto not
dependent on hierarchy to guide and direct him is tantamount to destroying
the necessity for post-millennialism's pyramid. The thought that each
individual Christian can "know" God in his spirit independent of those
"above" him in the hierarchy is an abomination and sacrilege to post-millennialists.
THE TRICHOTOMOUS VIEW OF
MAN IS IN OPPOSITION TO HIERARCHY
But Jesus promoted no such hierarchical scheme of things. Jesus taught
the exact opposite. He said,
"Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over
them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
"But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among
you, let him be your minister (i.e., servant);
"And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant (i.e.,
"Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto (i.e., served),
but to minister (i.e., serve), and to give his life a ransom for many."
Instead of teaching man to be dependent on an outward hierarchy, Jesus
"... ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing
teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie [i.e., the
same anointing (which is truth and no lie) teaches all of you the
same things]. (I John 2:27)
And exactly what is this anointing? Jesus said that it is -
"... the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will
send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all
things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John
And again, Jesus said,
"But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the
Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father,
he shall testify of me ..." (John 15:26)
So important did Jesus believe the "Comforter's" ministry to be to
the individual Christian - a ministry which stands totally outside
any form of hierarchy - that Jesus said,
"... It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not
away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will
send him unto you. (John 16:5-7)
THE IMPORTANCE OF OUR
INDIVIDUAL WALK WITH CHRIST
Trichotomy emphasizes the importance of the individual believer's walk
with Christ - it's not that our "corporate" walk with other believers
isn't important, but that the starting point for all our relationships
with other believers, including our relationship with others in the
church, is our individual walk with Christ. Trichotomy teaches that
all believers - regardless of intellect and regardless of their
station in life or their position in the church - have equal
access to God through the Holy Spirit which indwells their human spirit,
just as all the branches in the vine have equal access to the nourishment
which the vine alone provides; Jesus said,
"I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I
in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can
do nothing." (John 15:5)
And John the Apostle said,
"And now, little children, abide in him ..." (I John 2:27-28)
The secret is abiding in Him! - that's where everything begins. It's
not intellect that counts, nor even seminary training, nor worldly success,
nor your "station" in the church or in life that counts - but abiding
in Him and abiding in His Word. If a Christian does these things, everything
else will follow, including a vibrant loving relationship with others
as well as a fulfilling life in the church.
THE INDIVIDUAL & THE CHURCH
Yes, the church is important. Indeed, the Bible says that the church
is the "Bride of Christ" (Rev. 21:9); but we must always bear in mind
that the church flows out of the Lord, not the Lord out of the
church. The Lord comes first, then the church. Out of our individual
relationships with the Lord flows the life of the church. If our individual
walk with the Lord is wrong, then our life in the church will be wrong,
and all the seminars, and all the books, and all the sermons aren't
going to help; but when the individual believer "beholds and reflects"
the glory of the Lord, then the church also will reflect and mirror
the Lord's splendor - and not until. Put another way, the health of
the human body depends on the health of the individual cells of the
body, not visa versa. When all the cells of the body are healthy,
then the whole body will be healthy - and not the other way around.
Some people speak of the church as if it somehow had its own identity
apart from its individual members; but the church has no life of its
own. It has life only because we - as individual members - have life.
The church has no life apart from the individual members which compose
it. The church reflects the glory of the Lord only insofar as its individual
members are "beholding and reflecting" the glory of the Lord. Paul put
it this way:
"And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace
to those who were near; "for through Him we (as individual members)
... have our access in one Spirit (i.e., the Holy Spirit) to the Father.
"So then you (as individual members) are no longer strangers and aliens,
but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household,
"having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,
"in whom the whole building (i.e., the church as a corporate body
of believers), being fitted together is growing into a holy temple
in the Lord ..." (Eph. 2:17-21 - NASB)
According to Paul, the order is this: first there are the individual
members, who as individual members are touching and communing in their
individual spirits with the one and only God-given Holy Spirit (i.e.,
the Comforter), and its through each individual member's touch with
the one and only Spirit of God that we are quite effortlessly brought
into oneness and then built together into a holy Temple (habitation)
unto the Lord.