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Part I: The Tripartite Makeup of Man – Introduction3 min read

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This post is part of a series.

Many great Christians in history, such as Andrew Murray and Watchman Nee, have emphasized that the bible teaches that man has a tripartite structure, made up of Spirit, Soul, and Body.  The main proof text for this is 1 Thessalonians 5:23, which reads:

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Watchman Nee’s books, especially the first few chapters of his crowning achievement, The Spiritual Man, as well as the brief but excellent Release of the Spirit, have informed the majority of my thoughts on this topic, and both books should be required reading.

In The Spiritual Man, Nee does a great job of clearing up the confusion between soul and spirit, and provides many proof scriptures as well.  However, rather than recapitulate his arguments, I want to take them for granted and move on to the functions of the spirit. soul, and body

1. The Spirit

The spirit is the supernatural, non-physical part of man.  It also can be described as having three functions:

  • Conscience
  • Intuition
  • Communion

2. The Soul

The soul is the natural, non-physical part of mankind. It is the
seat of the personality. It is made up of the following functions:

  • Will
  • Emotions
  • Intellect

3. The Body

The role of the body in the spiritual life is not much discussed in Christian circles, for two reasons.  The first is that fundamentalism, which emphasizes our sinfulness, but not our divine nature (made in God’s image), focuses on sin and the “lusts of the flesh,”, confusing the use of the word “flesh” in scripture, thinking that the body is “bad.”  Secondly, Christianity is mainly focused on revealed truth, and therefore focuses on hearing God and intellectual study.

The eastern religions, by comparison, focus on empirical truth, and try to learn about the divine through the experiences of the body and soul.   Practitioners of yoga and sitting meditation know much more about how to integrate the body into spiritual practice than Christians do.  But that’s another essay.

The body is the natural, physical part of man.  Nee does not really break out the functions of the body, but I have surmised that the three major functions of the body are as follows (this I say, not the scriptures ;)

  • Communication
  • Movement
  • Enjoyment (including procreation and eating)

I’m sure each of those could be expanded upon.  I may also be able to use Acts 17 as a description of the functions of the body, but communication is left out of that – that is, in Him we:

  • live (biological processes)
  • move (movement)
  • have our being (house our spirit)

With this as an outline, I will follow up with a breakout of each.

>> Part 2 – Spirit : Intuition