Man is made up of three parts: body, soul, and spirit. These three have separate functions, but when they work in unity, they can accomplish much. And that is how God created them to be. In the Garden of Eden, before Adam brought sin upon mankind, the body, soul, and spirit functioned in unity. As we grow up into “unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, we, like Jesus, become mature and our soul and body comes under subjection to the spirit to live victoriously. This is what Paul is talking about in 1Thessalonians 5:23: “And may the God of peace himself make you holy in every way; and may your spirit and soul and body be free from all sin at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The body, or flesh, is the visible part which is the contains the appetites. It demands to be satisfied with fleshly desires such as food, sleep, sex, drink, habits, etc. Paul addresses the war between the flesh and the Spirit in Galatians 5:16-21. Paul says that the flesh and the spirit war against each other.
We can see examples of this in our own lives. For instance, our spirits prompt us to spend more time studying God’s word, but our flesh does it’s best to keep us from it. When we start to read the Bible, we feel sleepy, or we get restless and find something else to do, or our brain tells us that we have work to do, or something else. A million things seem to keep us from the Word of God that gives us the strength to live an overcoming life.
Another example of the war between the flesh and the spirit is when the flesh forms addictions. When a person becomes addicted the body demands to be satisfied with the thing it is addicted to. Let’s say a person is addicted to pornography or gambling. The person knows in his spirit that the addiction is bad for him, and he wants to stop it. But the flesh demands he watch pornography, or that she gamble. The body wars against the spirit in such cases like eating too much, sleeping too much, or having illicit sex.
Paul lists the works of the flesh as “evil desire, unclean things, wrong use of the senses, worship of images, use of strange powers, hates, fighting, desire for what another has, angry feelings, attempts to get the better of others, divisions, false teachings, envy, uncontrolled drinking and feasting, and such things” (Galatians 5:19 – 21). But in 1 Corinthians 9:27, he gives his method of overcoming the desires of the flesh. He says he keeps his body under subjection. He teaches us that we are to be moderate in everything we do.
When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before the crucifixion, he knew that death was imminent, and had known from the beginning. However, his soul—his mind, will, and emotions—had to come under subjection to the Spirit. He told his disciples, “My soul is exceedingly and overwhelmed with grief—so that it almost kills me!” Twice he prayed, “Father, everything is possible for you; take away this cup from me, yet not what I will, but what you will.” He had already yielded his spirit to the will of the Father, and in the Garden, he yielded his soul. On the cross, he would yield his body when he wordlessly endured the pain and agony of the beatings, the scourging, the thorns and ultimately the cross.
In Corinthians, Paul speaks of the soul and spirit when he says, “The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45). Adam was created in the image of God and had a close relationship with Him until his disobedience brought separation between him and God. When he yielded to the temptation to sin he was giving in to an emotional desire to be like God, and he made a choice—he willed—to do the very thing God had told him not to do. He reasoned in his mind—his intellect—that it would be permissible to do this thing in spite of the command of his creator, thus he brought sin into the world for all mankind.
Until the time Adam disobeyed God in the Garden, his body, soul, and spirit were so united that they worked as one unit. But from that time on, the body, soul, and spirit of mankind separated into separate parts that warred against each other. Man was no longer led by the spirit, but his soul and his flesh became master, dictating to him how he should think, feel, and act. But, the second Adam, which was Jesus, came to earth in a human body with human feelings and desires. He showed man that he could put his soul and body under subjection to the spirit, thus providing a way and showing man how to do the same. He showed man how to be led by the Spirit instead of by the soul and body (1 Corinthians 15:47).
As Adam was created body, soul and spirit and in the image of God, so the purpose of God is for us to be body, soul and spirit and in the image of God. He has given us all the tools we need and has provided the knowledge for us to bring our body and soul into subjection to the spirit so that we can live an overcoming life just as Jesus did when he walked on earth.
With David let us declare: Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: 3 who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases,4 who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, 5 who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalms 103:1-5).
The spirit of man is the part that is sensitive to the spirit worlds. There are two worlds, two kingdoms. The Kingdom of Darkness is ruled by Satan and his demons, with his lawless society where death reigns sovereign. Jesus is the King of the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Light which is ruled by His love and grace where life is abundant. Because of the sin of Adam, every person is born into the Kingdom of Darkness (1 Peter 2:9) where they stay until they accept the call from God to be transferred through Christ into the Kingdom of Light. In the Kingdom of Darkness, a person lives in the power of deceit and sin, obeying the laws of their master Satan.
The moment a person hears and accepts the call of God by confessing Jesus as their Savior, they are delivered from the power of this darkness and transported into God’s Kingdom where they become citizens (Colossians 1:13). This action takes place in the spirit of man, where Jesus enters when he is invited, and thus where God dwells in the believer. Paul says it like this: “If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10). Paul teaches that the last Adam, Jesus, became a life-giving spirit (1Cointhians 15:45).
In John 6:63 Jesus says, “it is the spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I have spoken to you are spirit, and are life.” Paul states that he serves God in his spirit (Romans 1:9), and in Romans 8:10 he says that “if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness.” Proverbs says, “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord” (20:27).
According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:14, when we pray tongues we may not understand what we pray, but it is our spirit that is praying, and in verse two he says we are speaking mysteries as we speak to God. He talks about praying and singing with our understanding and with our spirits. We are spiritual beings “transformed into the same image (of God) from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Until a person asks Jesus into his or her heart, the spirit lies dormant like a dormant tulip bulb. The instant Jesus is invited in the spirit begins to grow as Christ fills it with Himself. The spirit is fed and nurtured with the word of God as the person reads, hears, and meditates on the scriptures. As a person fills his spirit with the word and presence of God, it becomes stronger and stronger until the person is more and more like Jesus and is led by the Spirit of God. Romans 8:14 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.’
God’s purpose for us is that we become one with Him, and we do that through Jesus. In 1 Corinthians Paul says we haven’t received the spirit of the world, but the spirit that is from God “that we might know the things that were freely given to us of God”. He says, “the mind of the spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5) and when the Spirit of God is in us, we mind the things of the Spirit. The word of God is “living and active” sharp enough to divide the soul and spirit so that we can live controlled by the Spirit, not the soul.
God purposes for us to become into unity in body, soul, and spirit just as Adam was created to be and just as Jesus was. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Paul writes, “And may the God of peace Himself sanctify yo9u through and through—that is, separate you from profane things, make you pure and wholly consecrated to God—and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved sound and complete [and found] blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Faithful is He who is calling you and utterly trustworthy, and He will also do it.”
In Ephesians, we find that Christ gave to the church ministry gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers for the purpose of maturing the church “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God . . . attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13). The Spirit of God dwells in our spirits, therefore, out spirits are righteous. The maturing needed is in the soulish area—-our minds, wills, and emotions. When these come into unity with the spirit, we will think and act like Jesus. We will control the fleshly desires and appetites just as Jesus did when he walked on earth.
Jesus prayed, “My prayer is not for them [his disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Actually, our lives depend on it. Romans 8:12-14 says, “we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” And this is totally possible, for like Paul, we can be “confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).