The Triune Human Being

Introduction

How does the human being interact with God the Father? How can a seemingly physical being interact with a spiritual being effectively and with certainty? I believe that it is necessary to dissect the human being in order to answer these questions. I don’t mean to physically cut a person open to see how they operate because that would provide very little help in the spiritual realm. What I do mean is to determine how the whole person is constructed and use that to understand how we interact with God and the spiritual realm.

This lesson will examine the triune nature of humans. Do humans exist as a triune being? Well, consider for example basic materials on earth. We understand how these materials behave by understanding how they are composed. The chemical model of these materials consists of the formation of molecules and of course there are the atoms themselves. The behavior of these basic building blocks dictates the behavior of the material at various temperatures and pressures. I will use the same approach when analyzing humans by breaking humans into three primary parts. These three parts will be called the soul, body, and spirit. We will examine the function of these three, how they interact with each other, and ultimately how we as a whole interact with God. Based on our knowledge of these components.

THE COMPONENTS OF HUMANS

Humans are said to be composed of the following three components.

  1. Body
  2. Soul
  3. Spirit

Now it can’t be absolutely proven that these three components exist. However, they are identified in order to explain the overall functioning of the whole person. For example, the doctrine of the Trinity is similarly used to explain the overall makeup of God. If we can divide humans into functional parts then we could analyze these parts as well as their relationship to each other and get a better understanding of how humans as a whole operate.

Let’s examine the scriptures to see what it says about these three components of humans. Jesus told Satan when he was being tempted.

(Matthew 4:4 NIV) Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

We are very much aware that we need food to eat for physical energy. Without proper nourishment, the body would eventually die of malnutrition. Now Jesus said that we live on more than just this physical food. He says that we also live on the word of God. What does the word of God feed? Consider the following verse.

John 6:63 (NKJV) 63It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

Now consider that the words Jesus speaks are the same as the words God speaks. Jesus doesn’t give his own message; instead he says what the Father told him. So the word of God is spirit and it is life. Life to what? Well, since the word of God is spirit then it would seem reasonable that spirit feeds spirit so that the word of God feeds our spirit. Consider also the following verse.

1 Corinthians 2:11 (NKJV) 11For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.

Here Paul identifies the spirit of man, which abides within him (within the body).

Next let’s review Genesis 2:7, which says,

"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

You may notice immediately that the "dust of the ground" is the body and the breath of life is the spirit. We see here that the spirit is the life-giving component of the human being. Without the spirit (breath of God) the body and soul would have no life force (energy) to operate. That is why the Bible says that man became a living soul after the breath of life was breathed into him. This verse also introduces a component called the soul. We will discuss the soul later in this study. We are currently just establishing the existence of the three components of the human being. Therefore, humans are composed of body, soul, and spirit. There is another passage of scripture that establishes the same.

"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." (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

The Body Of Humans

The body is the physical component of the human being and is our connection to the physical (material) realm. It is the house of the spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). The body is composed of various chemical and organic compounds. We require Vitamins, minerals, iron, zinc, etc. We also require other organic materials in order to power the body. That is, physical food is required to feed the physical body. Regardless of the state of the spirit or soul, the body will function if it has the proper foods.

If the body is fed properly and operated properly then it will be a fine tuned machine. The body is an organic machine in the strict sense. It is our earth suit when you consider that the core of the human is a spiritual being. We know a great deal about the body because it is in a realm, the physical realm, that we are very familiar and comfortable with. We know that we should eat right and exercise so that the body can operate at an optimal level. We learn from a young age to eat our vegetables, drink plenty of fluids, exercise, and eat a balanced diet because these will contribute to a healthy body. We learn what is necessary to take care of our skin, eyes, ears, hair, etc. We are very familiar with the physical world and therefore very familiar with our bodies.

Now the body is not a passive organic machine. It has its own needs and desires (not that it is able to think). For example, a drug addict craves the particular drug he or she uses. This is a craving from the body. The body also has cravings from time to time that we should be aware of in order to effective deal with them.

The Soul Of Humans

The soul is the vital existence of a human being. The Hebrew word for soul is nephesh, which literally means a living being. There are four aspects of the soul, which are listed below. The soul is actually considered in many cases to be the core of the human being. Our individuality is determined by the soul.

Sometimes it helps to think of the soul as the intellectual, emotional, and the seat of the personality of an individual. The key thing here is that the soul identifies and distinguishes the individual. We are soul. We don’t have a soul because we really are living souls. The soul is the culmination of the body, spirit, and soulish things (thinking, feeling, the will, etc.). However, the soul is a lot more than just the seat of the intellect, emotions, and personality. It defines the individual and for all practical purposes, is the individual. Let’s discuss some of the aspects of the soul.

Physical Life

The soul identifies the physical life of a person, that is, the total vitality of a human being. The soul designates the entire human being physical life that needs food, clothing, and shelter. A person really doesn’t have a soul in the strict sense. Instead, a person is a living soul (Genesis 2:7). You cannot separate the soul from the whole person. The soul is the person.

Human Intellect and Emotions

The soul also identifies the desires, emotions, and will of humans. The soul desires power, sex, satisfaction, evil, and God (or a god in the strict sense) The soul is where the human rejoices, hopes, praises, is patient, feels, etc. The soul designates the emotional energy and willpower of humans.

The soul is primarily identified with this category. It is usually thought of as the seat of the emotions, will, and intellect. Though these are components of the soul

The Whole Person

The soul also designates the entire human person. As we said earlier, in a strict sense a human doesn’t have a soul; rather a human is a living soul. Now the soul is also seen to have a life giving force powering it as well (Proverbs 3:22). The soul however identifies the whole person and is that person. See (1 Peter 3:20, 1 Kings 20:32, Psalm 103:1)

Essential Life

Physical life is given and maintained by God. However, a meaningful and fulfilled life comes only when the soul yields to God and His WAY. This life transcends the materialistic goals and passions. Instead, this life can only be realized through Jesus Christ by becoming his disciple.

The Spirit Of Humans

The spirit of a human designates the life force of the human soul. Genesis 1:26,27 says,

"And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him: male and female created he them."

The Bible also says

"This is the word of the Lord concerning Israel. the Lord, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the spirit of man within him..."- Zechariah 12:1

"And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us."- 1 John 3:24 (KJV)

Our spirit originated from God as we read in Genesis 2:7. This spirit, or breath of life, is the life force that powers our bodies and soul. Note that it appears that this life force, spirit, or breath of life was in every creature on the earth (Genesis 1:30; 6:17; 7:22).

The spirit of humans can best be thought of as the life force of the individual. This life force, which is from God, powers the soul and the body so that the complete individual can function.

Interaction of Body, Soul, and Spirit

Before we discuss the interaction or the relationship between body, soul, and spirit, I thought it would be very helpful to discuss the mind and heart of humans. These terms are used in the Bible to refer to a variety of things and therefore is important to understand what they are.

The Mind

The word mind refers to the center of intellectual activity in humans. The King James translation of the Bible translated many Hebrew words into the English word mind. For example the Hebrew word for heart was translated to mind (Numbers 16:28), which identified the idea of the human will. Genesis 23:8 was translated using the word mind to identify the act of making a decision. The Hebrew word for soul in Deuteronomy 18:6 was translated to mind to identify the concept of the desire of the soul or person. See also Philippians 1:27, Hebrews 12:3, and Acts 14:2. The word mind also referred to the Hebrew word for spirit.

The Hebrew people did not attempt to separate the human being into components such as body, soul, and spirit. Hebrews considered the human being to be one entity with no distinguishable parts. This is why the doctrine of the Trinity is better seen in the New Testament then in the Old. Therefore, the heart, mind, soul, and spirit were in effect the same.

The Heart

The heart is the center of physical, mental, and spiritual life of humans. It was seen as the focus of the vital functions of the body including intellectual and spiritual life. The heart is the seat of the intellect (Matthew 13:15). It is connected with thinking and reasoning (Proverbs 23:7, Luke 1:66, 2:19; 1 Samuel 9:20, and Isaiah 46:8).

The heart was associated with the will of humans (2 Corinthians 9:7, Romans 6:17) and with the feelings and affections of humans.

The heart was also considered to be the center of the moral and spiritual life. This refers to a major concept called the conscience (there was no Hebrew word for conscience). The conscience is where our sense of right, wrong, good, and bad resides.

The Place of the Mind and Heart

The mind tends to deal more with the thought processes of a human, i.e., the intellect. The mind is where we reason, think, and contemplate. The heart tends to deal more with the core of our being as well as the intellect. It identifies the center of our existence and deals heavily with the concept of conscience. For example, the heart of a conversation refers to the core or gist of the conversation. The heart of a human, besides the actual organ in the body, refers to the core nature of that human in the intellectual and moral realms. You are indeed where your heart is.

We should also note that these words only describe concepts in the human makeup. Is there a true heart or mind? We may never know. However, they assist us in describing how a human being operates. The use of the heart model and mind model helps us to understand how we relate to the world around us, each other, and most of all God.

Human Operation

We have identified the body, soul, spirit, heart, and mind of humans. Now let’s put all of these together to get a picture of how a human being operates. Technically speaking, a human being is a carbon based earth-bound entity that is "self" programmed by the influence of others (parents, guardian, elders, etc.). Humans can feel things physically, emotionally, and mentally (conceptually anyway). We can reason, contemplate, and otherwise think. We are considered alive and conscious of self (unless illness supercedes this).

The Bible tells us that God created man from the dust of the earth. The human body is composed of many of the same elements that you might find in the dirt in your back yard. The body is composes of such elements as zinc, iron, potassium, vitamins, minerals, etc. The human body is therefore basically a highly specialized conglomeration of chemicals and materials. These materials form the earth suit that we wear each day. Basically, we have a very physical (materialistic) component in our makeup and we are indeed very sensitive and knowledgeable of it.

Now things get quite complicated because the other components or aspects of human existence are not tangible. This is more complicated when we consider that chemicals can alter our emotional state and feelings. This complexity, I suppose, also demonstrates that the human is really one unit that we divide for descriptive and functional purposes and as in many such models, things don’t always work as the formula stipulates (Ex. mechanical physics versus quantum physics).

The Body and Soul

The soul identifies the individual according to our model. Your soul can be considered as you regardless of whether you have a body or not. The body is the physical component that we use to interact physically. It should be noted that the body without a soul is nothing and a soul without a body doesn’t change (except in the way it interacts with the surroundings). However, it is very important to realize that the whole you includes the body. You individually are a living being with a body, mind, powered by a spirit.

The soul therefore abides in the body while we exist on this earth because our body is part of our makeup. At least this is according to our model. The body is dead without the soul and spirit. The body is technically, as I said earlier, complexly formed materials.

The Body and Human Spirit

The body is dead without the life-giving agent of the spirit. The spirit is what gives us life and this spirit originates from God the giver and sustainer of all life. The body will be able to operate as long as the human spirit remains within it.

The Human Spirit and the Soul

The words soul and spirit are sometimes used synonymously in the Bible, which make describing them somewhat difficult. The spirit is the life giving component of humans whereas the soul is the individuality agent of the human. The spirit is like a power supply and the soul is what makes you an individual person.

The Heart and the Soul

The soul is your identity. We as a whole are living souls, which include the body and spirit. The heart is more of a description or barometer of who we are. An evil person is evil in his or her heart. Whereas a person is identified technically as a living soul. The disposition of this individual and the nature (morals, ethics, etc.) of this individual are described according to the condition of the heart.

The Importance of the Heart Model

The concept of the human heart is very important in understanding how we deal with things and how our belief and faith systems work. Consider the following scripture.

Mark 11:22 through Mark 11:23 (NKJV) 22So Jesus answered and said to them, "Have faith in God. 23For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.

Notice that it states not to doubt in your heart. The heart is the core of our existence. It is the center of the human being and whatever is in the heart determines what we are about. Therefore, whether you are intellectually convinced of something or not doesn’t really matter. The intellect can be easily abandoned but what’s in the heart cannot be readily removed. If you have faith in your heart then you truly have faith.

The importance of the heart model is that it determines the true nature of a person. Your conscience and morals reside in your heart whereas the soul identifies the whole person. The spirit is the energizing agent of all and has no real identity since all life force comes from the one God. Your soul identifies you as an individual and your heart identifies who you are and what you are about.

The Mind and Soul

The mind actually describes the thinking processes of a human and is sometimes referred to by use of the word "soul." Again, the soul identifies the individual and the mind identifies a particular function of that individual, namely the thinking and reasoning processes.

Human Development

How do the soul, body, spirit, heart, and mind develop? First of all, the spirit technically cannot be developed because of its nature. The spirit is the life force that originates from God and there is nothing that we can do to change that. So how can we develop the soul, body, heart, and mind of an individual?

Soul Development

The soul is developed by the development of the entire person including body and mind. All people develop soulically one way or another. We eat and receive some form of knowledge and therefore develop. In general the true development of the soul is found in the development of the mind and heart.

Mind and Heart Development

The mind identifies the thinking and reasoning aspects of humans. Therefore, developing the mind means that we develop our intellect (thinking, reasoning, calculating, etc.). The more we learn then the more our minds will be developed if we use it to think and reason.

The core of an individual is identified as the heart. Therefore, the condition of your heart says who you are. Consider the following scripture.

Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) 23Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

This verse literally says to guard what we think because our thoughts guide our lives. Notice how the word heart is used for the concept of the mind. The development of the heart is therefore directly proportionate to the moral and ethical development of a person. This development is characterized by the perception of a good person or bad person. If you are morally sound then you are considered good. If you are morally lax then you are considered a bad person.

How a person develops morally and ethically depends on the training he or she receives. Consider the following verse.

Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) 6Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

Train a child to be moral and he or she will be moral. Train a child not to be moral and he or she won’t. Of course we must remember that morals are relative. There are street morals, company morals, and there are righteous morals (pertaining to God’s Kingdom). I am referring to righteous morals here. If you want a child to grow up and develop into a person that lives a godly life then you will have to train that child to live in such a manner. This is how the heart is developed, namely by training. This also implies that you must have righteous morals as well else you will have to send your child someplace else for training.

Conclusion

We have developed a model in this study that helps us to understand how a human being operates. We operate according to what is in our heart, which is how we were trained from a child. Humans are divided into three components: body, soul, and spirit. The body is the physical component of humans. The soul identifies the entire or whole living being and identifies the intellect, mind, personality, and disposition of an individual. The spirit is the life force that we have from God, the giver of all life.

Understanding how humans operate will also help us to deal with different people in different situations. What is the disposition of this person? Knowing this can lead us into an effective way of communicating with people (especially the unsaved).

 


THE TRIUNE HUMAN BEING
A Study On components of a human being
By William R. Cunningham
© 1994 All rights reserved
Created February 1994
Revision #1: July 1994
Revision #2: December 1996

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William R. Cunningham
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