Who Are You?
by Dayton Keesee
Oklahoma City, OK

When considering the make-up of man, it is appropriate that we consider Paul's inspired comments: "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thessalonians 5:23). The totality of any human is summarized in three words: Body, Soul, and Spirit. The basic function of these three words is charted below:


(Proverbs 6:12-19; 2 Corinthians 5:10)


(Hebrews 4:12; Matthew 10:28; Luke 16:19-31)


(1 Corinthians 2:11; James 2:26)

Simply expressed, our body is our acting power; our soul is our will power (by which decisions are made), and our spirit is our knowing power. Proof for these conclusions can be found in the following scriptures.

A careful reading of Proverbs 6:12-19 shows the body acting in evil ways, identifying seven things that are an abomination to God. The action of eyes, tongue, hands, heart, and feet are fundamental facts of bodily function for which one must one day give an account, according to Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:10. That the body is our acting power is not a matter of controversy.

A clear conception of the soul and spirit is a different and more controversial matter. In the spirit of Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, and let us reason together" relative to the soul and spirit. Paul affirmed that the spirit is our knowing power in these words: "For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of man, which is in him?" (1 Corinthians 2:11). James adds that "the body without the spirit is dead" (James 2:26). That there is the spirit in any live body must be true. If one were to grasp my nose and mouth for about five minutes, I would no longer think, speak, or act among men! The body, the hair, the blood, the brain--the flesh--would all be there, but James explains that the spirit would be missing (and the body without that spirit would be dead).

Paul stated that the spirit is our knowing power. Generally, we think of the brain as the source of our thoughts. Technically, the brain is only the tool through which the spirit acts. If there is a stroke or an automobile wreck, by which the brain is damaged, the spirit is thereby limited in its ability to function in that damaged brain (tool), affecting speech and other body responses.

Think of one with musical skills, playing on a piano. Now snatch up about four white notes and three black notes from the keyboard. Will his musical knowledge be able to effectively produce a melody? No! Why? The tool has been damaged, limiting what he knows and desires to do. It is in this manner that a stroke, alcohol, an auto wreck may limit the spirit's function through the brain, its human tool.

The more complex questions arise when one seeks to distinguish between soul and spirit. One or two passages of scripture will help us. In Matthew 10:28, Jesus said: "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." The word destroy in this passage (Greek: apollumi) means "to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to, ruin, or render useless" (J. H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1966, pages 64,65). Neither the body nor soul in that place of eternal punishment will be able to render the functions for which they were designed. Note that Jesus did not say that the spirit would be destroyed.

After the judgment (and in hell), one will no longer be able to exercise his will or power of choice. His decision-making days will have forever ended. His soul is ruined or useless!

That leaves before us the spirit. The Hebrew writer mentions how the living Word of God makes a division between soul and spirit, and is "able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). Just as there is a close relationship between the soul and spirit, so there is a close relationship between our thoughts and our intentions. Yet, both the word of the Lord and facts declare there may be a significant distinction. Sometimes we know better than we decide! Suppose you shut a car door on your finger. Dumb! How do you respond? "Oh! I knew better than that!" But for some unexplainable reason, you left your finger in the car door.

Now a summary thought: If our spirit is our knowing power, and the soul is our will (deciding) power, Hebrews 4:12 teaches two great principles: (1) It makes a distinction between our thoughts and intentions (what we decide) and (2) The word of God separates between what we know and what we decide, condemning or justifying us relative to that process (see James 4:17).

Next, note the lesson Jesus taught about the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Both men died. The rich man went to a place of torment, whereas Lazarus was comforted. The rich man pleads for Abraham to send Lazarus "that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame" (vs..24). Two great lessons follow relative to those two places: (1) The rich man was informed that a great chasm existed between the two places, not allowing anyone to cross from one place to the other (v. 26) and (2) Abraham said to the rich man, "Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony" (vs. 25). Note that the rich man could still remember. He had died, but his spirit--his thinking, knowing power--was very much alive! But, his power of choice--his soul--was ruined or at an end--being unable to cross over the great chasm!

Some Application Thoughts. Three passages (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Zechariah 12:1; Hebrews 12:9) all affirm that you and I got our spirits from God. He forms the spirit within man! We did not get our spirit from our mother or father through the reproductive process. Nowhere do we read in scripture that our spirits will ever be destroyed. Each one of us is going to live on and on and on! Our body may die, but our spirits come from the eternal God and are eternal! What a sobering thought!

This, incidentally, solves some of the concern about cloning. Even if man began the human cloning process, all their biological and genetic process would have nothing to do with the spirit! That is still a function determined by God!

More pertinent are the factors related to prayer (see Matthew 6:9), the church (1 Timothy 3:14, 15), and baptism (Galatians 3:26,27; Romans 6:3,4). A careful notation of these passages affirms that prayer (addressed to God), the church (the household of God), and baptism (allowing the penitent believer to become a child of God) are simply efforts to get you and me back with God, who was the Father of our spirits from the first breath of air we ever took! The whole Christian system is to get us back with God, the Father of our spirits!

That leads us back to 1 Thessa-lonians 5:23. Paul's plea was that our spirits (which God gave us), our soul (our will now surrendered to His will), and body (now acting by His principles and precepts) might all be preserved complete in the eternal realm and glory of God's tomorrow! The goal of Christ's covenant is to reunite man with his Maker!

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