I Thessalonians 5:23: 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.
We’ll study these three parts in this order, biblically.
The Spirit, the first of the three parts, is first mentioned in Genesis 1:2:
Gen. 1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
The word Spirit many times is associated with air; “pneumatos” is the Greek word for spirit from which we derive “pneumatics.” Here we see the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, working apart from but with God the Father at the same time.
The spirit is the part of a human being that allows them to communicate with God on a Spiritual level (i.e. “Spirit”). Without this connection, there will be no way to talk to God.
In the Old Testament, the Spirit indwelled certain people for different times, and allowed God to communicate through them. The prophets experienced this, as well as men like Samson, David, Saul, and even Balaam.
When God created Adam, He breathed into his nostrils the breath (air, spirit) of life, making Adam a living soul. Without the spirit there is no life, at least in a spiritual sense.
When Adam fell, a part of him died (Gen. 2:17).That part, we find in 1 Corinthians 15:45, must be made alive by Christ:
I Corinthians 15:45: And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
The word “inspiration” also involves the Spirit: not only is its root word contained within the word “inspiration,” but the book of Job draws the connection:
Job 32:8 But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.
The “spirit” is undoubtedly the Spirit of God, which gives us understanding, and leads us into all truth (John 16:13). This lack of a living spirit in a lost man is what causes him to see the things of God as foolishness, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14).
When God created Adam and filled him with His spirit (breath of life), the Bible says that man became a living soul. The Spirit, the second of the three parts of the human being, creates a spiritual connection between God and man’s soul. When Adam chose to sin, and fell as a result, that connection was severed. From that point until the resurrection of Christ, the word “soul” is used interchangeably with “body.” The Jews had no concept of a Spiritual nature, and so used the word “soul” much like it is used colloquially today: “That poor soul,” or “There wasn’t a soul in sight.”
This can be seen in many verses:
Job 33:22: Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers.
Psalms 7:5: Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust. Selah.
Psalms 22:20: Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.
Psalms 56:6: They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul.
So, in the Old Testament view of things, the soul was simply another word for the physical body. This view is shared by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who fail to recognize that the human nature is made up of more than simply the visible flesh.
In a practical sense, the Soul is the emotional part of our being, our “heart” and our feelings.
Colossians 2:11: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
12: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
The operation of God whereby we are born again is described as a supernatural, hands-free circumcision, putting off the flesh. This operation separates man’s soul from his flesh at Salvation as he receives the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit then creates the connection between that individual’s soul and God.
The visible, fleshly part of man is the body, the third of the three parts of the human being. The flesh is not “us,” it is simply an accessory that is closely tied to our soul, or the conscious part of our being.
Paul spoke very clearly about the flesh’s impact on our lives, stating that:
Romans 7:18: For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
A cursory list of verses dealing with the flesh turns up the following:
Romans 6:19: I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
Romans 7:25: I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
Romans 8:1: There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Romans 8:5: For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
I Corinthians 15:50: Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
II Corinthians 7:1: Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Galatians 5:13: For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
Colossians 2:13: And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
In essence, the Bible has little good to say about our bodies or our flesh. It is the carnal, natural part of us that causes us so much trouble. We are commanded time and again not to walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
God created man in His own image: three parts, distinct and separate, but one whole, cohesive being. Unlike God, however, we have to deal with a lost, sinful nature in our flesh, and we must endeavor to “walk in the spirit” on a day-to-day basis.
The Flesh is our “container,” or our physical being.
Our Soul is the non-physical part of us that can communicate with God.
The Spirit is the conduit by which we can communicate with God.