The Nature of Man

What Are the Three Parts of Man?

Question: what is man made of? What are the three parts of man?

Answer: Spirit, Soul and Body

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 NASB)

According to the Bible, mankind is distinct from all the rest of creation, including the animals, in that he is made in the image of God. As God is a tripartite — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — so man is three parts — body, soul and spirit. In the most explicit example from Scripture of these divisions, the Apostle Paul writes:

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23 NASB).

Man is made up of physical material, the body that can be seen and touched. But he is also made up of immaterial aspects, which are intangible — this includes the soul, spirit, intellect, will, emotions, conscience, and so forth. These immaterial characteristics exist beyond the physical lifespan of the human body and are therefore eternal.

These immaterial aspects — the spirit, soul, heart, conscience, mind and emotions — make up the whole personality. The Bible makes it clear that the soul and spirit are the primary immaterial aspects of humanity, while the body is the physical container that holds them on this earth.

The Body (Greek, “soma”)

This is the entire material or physical structure of a human being — it is the physical part of a person.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the Romans again connects the body, the mind (soul) and the spirit.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1-2 NASB).

For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body (1 Cor. 6:20).

The Soul (Greek, “psyche”)

Genesis 2:7 states that Man was created as a “living soul.” The soul consists of the mind (which includes the conscience), the will and the emotions. The soul and the spirit are mysteriously tied together and make up what the Scriptures call the “heart.”

The writer of Proverbs declares, “ Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Prov. 4:23 NASB). We see here that the “heart” is central to our emotions and will.

But a natural (psuchikos — soulish) man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised (1 Cor. 2:14 NASB).

Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, “Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day” (Acts 23:1 NASB).

The Spirit (Greek ” Pneuma”)

In Numbers 16:22, Moses and Aaron, “…fell upon their faces and said, ‘O God, God of the spirits of all flesh, when one man sins, will you be angry with the entire congregation?'” This verse names God as the God of the spirits that are possessed by all humanity. Notice also that it mentions the flesh (body) of all mankind, connecting it with the spirit.

Another key verse that describes the separation between soul and spirit is Hebrews 4:12:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12 NASB).

We see in this passage of Scripture that the soul and spirit can be divided — and that it is the Word of God that pierces our heart to bring the division of soul and spirit, something that only God can do.

As human beings, we live eternally as a spirit, we have a soul, and we dwell in a body. We can rejoice with the Psalmist and declare,

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well (Ps. 139:13-14 NASB).

Our Link with the Ancestors

It is important to admit that the word “soul” is not merely a disembodied entity. In the Bible, soul or spirit is who you are. Consider Genesis:

God “breathed the breath of life” into Adam, and he became a “living soul” (Genesis 2:7; the soul is, literally, “that which breathes, the breathing substance or being. In his article “Soul,” G.W. Moon says “In Christian theology the soul carries the further connotation of being that part of the individual that partakes of divinity and survives the death of the body.”

Augustine and Thomas Aquinas rejected Platonic dualism, which saw the soul as good and the body as corrupt. These two theological giants, separated by centuries, agreed the Bible teaches that the spirit is the eternal person, but will one day have an eternal body:

“According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, who follows Aristotle in his definition of the human soul, the soul is an individual spiritual substance, the ‘form’ of the body. Both, body and soul together, constitute the human unity, though the soul may be severed from the body and lead a separate existence, as happens after death. The separation, however, is not final, as the soul, in this differing from the angels, was made for the body.

The Psalmist spoke of our soul as the very inmost being of our person: “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name” (Psalm 103:1. Jesus spoke of the inestimable value of the human soul (and simultaneously taught that soul and body will be reunited for either eternal life with or, in that case, without God): “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

At the very instant of death, the human soul is immediately translated to Almighty God. The redeemed are ushered into the eternal presence of the Lord, and those without an advocate (righteousness to meet God’s Law and sacrifice to atone for sin) are ushered into hell to await the New Heaven and New Earth. The Bible teaches that the human spirit, upon departing the body, goes immediately into the presence of God for either His welcoming or His disapproval.

At death, the body returns to the elements: “dust to dust . . .” But the soul resurrects with a new heavenly body, renewed with the eternal soul and rise to meet Jesus Christ, joining Him in the air, taking their place with the glorious company of angels, archangels, prophets, apostles, martyrs and the whole company of heaven.

At the time of Judgment, the unregenerate bodies are also resurrected. United with soul, each appears before the Great Final Judgment. Without the Advocate, our Lord Jesus Christ, these suffer the righteous sentence of God for unbelief. The redeemed also appear before the Lord. But Jesus Christ is their Advocate. His perfect life is accounted to theirs to meet the Divine requirement of perfect obedience (Christ fulfills the Covenant of Works). The Lord Jesus’ atoning death on Calvary’s Cross provides the blood sacrifice of the only Son of God applied to their lives. The punishment of their sins has been placed upon the Second Person of the one true and holy God.

2 Corinthians 5:8: We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you. And if He comes for you, your spirit, the real you! will be with Jesus. The One you have loved throughout all of the days of your life will receive you.”

God’s promises are your destiny: when you die, your soul goes immediately to the Lord. Your earthly remains are precious to God. “If the farmer knows where the corn is in the barn, then our Father knows where His precious seed is in the earth.” And in Christ, God will raise those remains to eternal life. If you have received Jesus Christ as Lord, you will be acquitted of all sins by the righteousness and the sacrifice on the cross by your Savior. And safe in the arms of Jesus;

John 11:25-26: 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 14:1-4: 1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God or “Believe in God”; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going

First, when we die, we are consciously and immediately in the presence of our Savior in heaven.The Bible is clear that after death, two literal destinies await all humanity: eternal life and eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Those who place their faith in Jesus Christ receive everlasting life. When a believer dies, her body remains in the grave, but her soul is consciously and immediately taken into the presence of Jesus. 

Do our deceased loved ones know what goes on in our lives here on earth?

Will we see them again?

Yes, our deceased loved ones are able to see us and know what is going on in our lives. Scripture says that “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1).

From the context, it is clear that the sacred author is referring to the faithful departed, particularly heroes of the Old Testament. The fact is, even though these people died, they are alive. As Christ Himself said, God is “not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him” (Lk. 20:38).

As Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft notes, those who are dear to us do not stop loving us just because they die. Rather, through Christ their love is purified and strengthened. Their vision and understanding increase, and they are no longer limited by infirmity or even time.

The link, of course, is Christ. Those who are with the Lord in heaven and the faithful who are still alive on earth are united to one another through their relationship with Christ in what is known as the communion of saints.  The communion of saints (communio sanctorum), when referred to persons, is the spiritual union of the members of the Christian Church, living and the dead, excluding therefore the damned. They are all part of a single “mystical body“, with Christ as the head, in which each member contributes to the good of all and shares in the welfare of all.

Christ is truly present by His Spirit in His mystical body, the Church, and He is also present at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Through Christ we are united to one another in a way that goes beyond the limits of this world. We are “related” to other Christians by familial bonds that are even stronger than flesh and blood.

Our loved ones and indeed all the saints in heaven are able to “look out” for us and pray for us. Two caveats in all this. First, I’m assuming here that the “deceased loved ones” are indeed with the Lord. I’m not saying this to scare you, but rather to emphasize the importance of our staying connected to Christ.

This should also be a reminder to all of us to pray for our deceased loved ones, who may be in Purgatory and benefit from our prayers. Too often we make presumptions about the status of our deceased loved ones and miss opportunities to pray for them.

Second, heaven is the greatest of homecomings, and surely we will join all our friends and loved ones and indeed all those who are alive in Christ. So there is rightness in looking forward to being reunited with those who have gone before us. At the same time, the joys of heaven far exceed our limited imaginations.

As wonderful as it would be, say, to be with our deceased parents, or spouse, or children again, that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what God has in store for those who love Him!

What Does It Mean to ‘Honor Your Father and Mother’?

The commandment to “honor your father and your mother” appears often in the Bible. (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16; Matthew 15:4; Ephesians 6:2, 3) It involves four key actions.

  1. Appreciate them. You honor your father and mother when you are thankful for all they have done for you. You can show your appreciation by valuing their guidance. (Proverbs 7:1, 2; 23:26) The Bible encourages you to view your parents as your “glory,” that is, to be proud of them. Proverbs 17:6. We believe that even after death, in Heaven with the creator as angels your parents are still your glory but not devils.
  • Accept their authority. Especially while you are young, you honor your father and mother when you recognize the authority God has given them. Colossians 3:20 tells young ones: “Be obedient to your parents in everything, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.” Even young Jesus willingly obeyed his parents.—Luke 2:51. It would be false to think that when your parents go to heaven they lose the authority of a parent over you. In their spiritual form they still have authority over their children.
  • Treat them with respect. (Leviticus 19:3; Hebrews 12:9) This often involves what you say and how you say it. True, some parents at times act in ways that make it hard to respect them. Even then, children can honor their parents by avoiding disrespectful speech and actions. (Proverbs 30:17) The Bible teaches that speaking abusively of one’s father or mother is a serious offense. Matthew 15:4. When they ascend to heaven they deserve even more respect.
  • Provide for them. When your parents get old, they may need practical support. You can honor them by trying your best to make sure that they have what they need. (1 Timothy 5:4, 8) For instance, shortly before he died, Jesus arranged for the care of his mother. John 19:25-27. In heaven, your parents still deserve to be honored.