Tripartite Being of Man Encyclopedia

Spirit, Soul, and Body. Man has three parts to his being; a physical part, an emotional part, and a spiritual part. Animals have a body and soul, but no spirit. Plants have a body, but no soul. Angels are "ministering spirits" (Heb. 1:14). Only man has all three. Body gives us world-consciousness, soul gives us self-consciousness, spirit gives us God-consciousnesses. Man is set apart from all the animals, because his soul has a special self-consciousness, and his spirit a special God-consciousness. "There is a spirit in man, and the breath at the Almighty giveth them understanding" (Job 32:8). Man has three parts to his being, and they are connected, but distinct. Paul enumerates them in 1 Thess. 5:23; "I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ". The order is important. Our body can be in pain, but our soul can rise above. Our soul can be downcast, but our spirit can still rejoice in God. But when the spirit is in a bad state, everything is wrong. Man often quotes it backwards: "body, soul, and spirit". “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly (body), sensual (soul), devilish (spiritual)” (James 3:15). In the men of this world, the cravings of the body rule the soul and spirit. But with the believer it should be the opposite; what James calls “the wisdom from above”, and it results in peace (James 3:18). Our understanding of God’s will (spirit), should inform our emotions, and then what we do with our body. When God chooses to save a person, He saves the whole person; spirit, soul, and body. This is why the doctrine of the bodily resurrection from the dead is so vital. The Christian has not only the redemption of his spirit and soul, but also the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23).
Soul and Spirit. It can be difficult to distinguish between soul and spirit. The soul is the seat of consciousness, responsibility, and desire. The nature resides in the soul, whether it be the old nature or the new nature. Our sense of identity is in the soul. Our personal responsibility is in the soul. For instance, Paul could say “for what I do”… a person is responsible for their own actions. The spirit is one level above the soul… it gives man the capacity to reflect on his soul. Animals cannot do this, because they have no spirit (Psa. 49:20; Isa. 31:3). A cow would never say, “I’ve been a naughty cow, and I need to become a better one”. Animals do have souls, and therefore emotions, personality, and responsibility. A dog can be made to feel happy or sad, but they cannot reflect on their soul as humans do. There is one place in scripture where animals are mentioned as having spirits, but there is is an open question of one who does not know (Ecc. 3:19-21).1In one place only, where man is questioning about things existing “under the sun,” is “rooagh” ascribed to beasts, and then it is by one who confesses his own ignorance of what he is writing about. He, himself wise, asks the question about it, “Who knows?” and without answering. (Eccles. 3:19-21.) – Anstey, H.C. Spirit, Soul, and Body. The Christian Friend and Instructor. 1881[/enf_note] Another thing we have with a spirit is God-consciousness. Again, animals do not have the consciousness of God. You will never see a cow going to church out of a sense of obligation to the Divine. But man is innately religious. True worship is in the spirit. “God is a spirit; and they who worship him must worship him in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). That which is physical or strictly emotional is of human design and not true worship. However, true worship will affect the soul and produce emotion. Depending on the composure of the individual, the emotion may even affect the body; e.g. tears. This is natural and to be expected; however, we should never forget that the emotion produced is not worship. The Word of God is able to discern what is spiritual and what is soulish; i.e. “the dividing asunder of soul and spirit” (Hebrews 4:12). Worship is the overflowing of the human spirit that refreshes the heart of God. Furthermore, when a person dies, their soul departs (Gen. 35:18) and their spirit departs (Acts 7:59), but their body remains.