THREE IN ONE: CHAPTER 2
Although the phrase “training your soul” isn’t in the Bible, the principle of soul training is very scriptural. A key passage in the Bible is Paul’s prayer in 1 Thessalonians 5:23
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Throughout the Bible, this three-part nature of man is given ample support. Through the ages, many godly men and women have understood and passed on the teaching of man’s spirit, soul and body. In recent times the great Chinese Christian, Watchman Nee wrote of the three-part nature of man in his classic work, “The Spiritual Man.” T. Austin Sparks, a well-11
known Bible teacher from Great Britain, also wrote on this subject in his book “What is Man?”
A more personal evidence for this biblical truth is found in the life experience of most Christians. For instance, we’ve all met believers whose spiritual lives seemed to be a never-ending roller coaster of feelings and words. Or we know of men and women whose strong intellectual ability seemed to turn every Bible doctrine into head knowledge, but with no resulting spiritual growth.
Both the emotions and intellect, along with the will, comprise the part of us the Bible refers to as the “soul.” “Soulish” Christians are those whose lives remain dominated by one or more of these three aspects of their soul life. They never break free from the bondage of their mind, will or emotions in order to lead a Spirit-led, Spirit-dominated life.
SPIRIT AND BODY
As mentioned, the soul is just one part of our nature. In addition to the soul nature with which we primarily relate to others, is our spirit, that part of us through which we communicate with God. Our body is that which houses the soul and spirit and which interacts with the environment around us.
Each of these three parts of our being have specific characteristics and functions for which God designed them. As a result of man’s fall, however, each of these aspects of our being is tainted and out of harmony with God. The God-intended order is that man’s spirit should be in fellowship with God. The obedient human spirit, yielded to the Holy Spirit, is meant to rule over and express itself through the soul, which, in turn, expresses itself through the body.
The first step of restoring this godly order of our spirit, soul and body is the act of receiving Christ as Savior. At that time, we are spiritually born again and enter a relationship with God. As Christians we are familiar with this first step; however, many young believers soon become frustrated when they discover that much of their undesirable behavior and attitudes are still problems for them as new Christians.
Salvation awakens our spirit and saves our soul, but does not automatically change the soul’s thoughts, habits and actions. We may still find ourselves fearful, cast down, and defensive. We become angry or jealous, even when we see that the Word of God tells us we can act differently. We continue to act against our own best interest and cry out to God in our misery, wondering, “Why?” 12
The soul, in that it is comprised of our mind, will and emotions, is also the source of such related traits as reason, imagination, and conscience. Each of these parts of the soul blend together to express our personality and shape our behavior. Perhaps you’re already able to see how these parts of your own soul have been warped by life’s circumstances, molded and trained to act in certain ways contrary to God and even your best interests. Look back at the failures in your life. Can you see how many of them may have been caused by the misuse of your emotions or faulty reasoning?
For those readers who may not yet grasp the significance of their three-part nature, let’s take another brief look at the function of our spirit and body. Our body is primarily a tent or dwelling place for the inner man. In John 1:14 we read that “the word (Jesus) was made flesh and dwelt among us…” The word “dwelt” literally translated means “tabernacled” which we normally think of as a “tent.” John tells us that Jesus’ body was a tent, a dwelling place. Our body is a tent where our soul and spirit dwell. It’s the instrument by which we express ourselves in this physical world. The minute my spirit and soul separate from my body in death, it collapses, because it is only clay; a few chemicals and a lot of water. Just as our untrained soul can cause havoc in our life, it’s important to note that those who don’t respect and care for their bodies will reap disaster. Disease, physical weakness and even early death are three fruits of those who would be careless with their bodies.
The spirit is the deepest part of man, that part which knows God experientially. The spirit, when it’s allowed to mature in God, is able to not only rule the soul and body, but is capable of obtaining great spiritual insight from God. One way to describe the use of the spirit is as an “inner knowing” or intuition that springs from the deepest part of a man. When we are newborn as Christians, our spirit, though alive to God, is often very weak and needs food to grow. Such food is good Bible teaching, reading and meditating on the Word, and fellowship with God through prayer. Because a spiritually mature Christian is a great hindrance to Satan’s work, he especially works against these means of spiritual growth.
– FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION –
- The author speaks of the initial step in the life of a Christian as being “born again” spiritually. Describe what happened when this spiritual birth took place in your life.
- Why do you suppose God created us as a threefold being?
- What do you do to feed your spirit?