Trinity of Man
Does scripture support a tri-nature part of humanity?
Looking at how we are created, in the image and likeness of God…makes one ponder does that mean we also have a tri-nature like God?
In some ways, we think of humans as body, and we shouldn’t look over the fact that there is an immortal soul with each human.
Some biblical dictionaries will define both spirit and soul as the same. However closely related they are, the soul and the spirit are not the same. I will attempt to use scripture to show the distinction.
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
If we are created in the image and likeness of God, the Trinity, would it not make sense that we (humans) are tri-nature also?
In this thought, we have a spiritual nature distinct and separate from the body. But we can also find scripture to point that soul and spirit are separate.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 (ESV)
23 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.
Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow (body), and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Life is not ultimately physical and the body is not the whole man. And we might add that neither the body in itself, nor the soul in itself, nor the spirit in itself makes up the whole man, but he is “spirit and soul and body.”
So in the New Testament, we find a tri-nature human (body, soul, spirit) being acknowledged just as God is triune as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Let’s take a closer look at each factor of the human: body, soul, and spirit.
What is the body?
soma - the physical being
Lexham Theological Wordbook - The physical substance of an entity that gives it a concrete reality in physical space. With reference to humans, the body can designate the whole person, especially in a physical sense, whether living or dead.
We can find scripture which shows, due to the penalty of sin, the physical body is now temporary and appointed to die.
19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
3 You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” 4 For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. 5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: 6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.
27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
What will be judged?
The spiritual relationship one has with God.
59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
pneuma - breath
From the word meaning wind or breath, any non-corporeal being. Spirit refers to a living “intangible essence” with rational, emotional, and volitional attributes. The Bible primarily uses the concept of spirit for the non-material living essence of human beings. Neither Hebrew nor Greek has a word that exclusively means “spirit”; rather, the concept of spirit is primarily expressed with words that also mean “wind” (Gen 8:1; John 3:8) or “breath” (Gen 6:17; 2 Thess 2:8), such as רוּחַ (rûaḥ) or πνεῦμα (pneuma). In Hebrew, rûaḥ can refer to the wind, the breath of a living being, or the spirit as the living essence of a creature.
We see by this definition that the spirit can have several meanings. “S”pirit is the Holy Spirit of God. “s”pirit can reference the spirit of man or an evil spirit such as a demon/agent of Satan. Let’s take a look at the spirit of man, and where it was derived.
Where did man receive his spirit?
7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
God breathed his own breath into our lungs giving us life (nepesh - whole person). I would even go so far as to say that during the fall, the communion of the spirit ended.
In his unfallen state the ‘Spirit’ of man was illuminated from Heaven, but when the human race fell in Adam, sin closed the window of the Spirit, pulled down the curtain, and the chamber of the spirit became a death chamber and remains so in every unregenerate heart, until the Life and Light giving power of the Holy Spirit floods that chamber with the Life and Light giving power of the new life in Christ Jesus.
2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
How is it spiritual communion with God restored?
If sin separated us from God, then acceptance, belief, and repentance restores.
9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
And the love God shows towards His creation, and the restoration of our spirit with His Spirit can be seen here:
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Upon profession of faith, our spiritual bond is restored /regenerated and will be made perfect at the event of the resurrection.
4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
psyche - inner self, heart, mind; a psychological faculty.
Do we have a soul, or are we a soul?
Man not only has a living soul but he is a living soul. The Hebrew ideal of man was threefold: (1) The body, or material part. (2) The vital part, seat of sensations, passions, etc. (3) The sentient, thinking, or spiritual part.
It is the soul that is the sphere of activity where Satan operates making his appeal to the affections and emotions of man.
Some may refer to the “soul” as our “conscience”, the place where our emotions, sensations, and passions are attached.
It is in the soul where fleshly lusts, desires, and appetites arise:
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
Lexham Theological Wordbook - The soul is the life-force of the person and often refers to the whole being. It needs to be sustained in order for life to thrive, and it is the seat of desires, emotions, and the will. The soul can be in intimate relationship with God or be under God’s judgment.
46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
She could not praise the Lord in her soul until she had recognized God in her spirit as her Savior.
3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
The Hebrew word translated “restoreth” is said to mean quite literally “turneth back.” At no time had David lost his salvation, but there were times when his affections and desires were turned from the Lord, as in the case of his sin with Bathsheba. Having become one of the Divine Shepherd’s flock, he testified: “The Lord turneth back my soul.”
28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
In the end, we must be focused on one thing - restoration of our spirit with God.
19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”