Tri-chotomy of Man
Three Aspects of Man: Body,Soul and Spirit
The elements of the human person have been much in debate. By this I mean there is great discussion among Christian thinkers as to whether or not the human being is made up of two parts, such as body and spirit, or three parts - such as body, spirit, and soul. Those who would argue for a two part human would say that there is no difference between the soul of man and the spirit of man. But for others the distinction between soul and spirit, although difficult to ascertain, is clearly presented in holy Scripture.
It is very clear that the Bible presents the human person as having three parts: we call this tri-chotomy of the human person. What I mean to say here is that the human being is a trifold creature made up of three separate and distinct parts: namely, body, soul, and spirit. The following two passages from the Word of God should establish this point beyond further debate:
1 Thessalonians 5 :23 " ... the very God of peace sanctify you wholly: and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Hebrews 4:12 "For the Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, …"
As is seen, the apostle Paul when writing to the Christians at Thessalonica made a sharp distinction between the three parts of the human-being. Here, in this passage he speaks of the Christians being preserved in their spirits, souls, and bodies. Furthermore, when the writer of Hebrews speaks on the subject of the discerning power of the Word of God, he has no problem in admitting (even if many theologians cannot) that the Word of God can indeed find the dividing line between the soul and the spirit of man. From these two texts it should be clear to the disciple that man is indeed a three part being. So that we may conclude that the tri-chotomy of the human-being is proven by Scripture.
Time, Space, and Matter.
Furthermore, all who have a cursory awareness of their surroundings must give witness to the three-ness found in all of God’s creation. Creation is made up of time, space, and matter (substance, mass). In time there is present, past, and future; space possesses length, width, and heigth, as does matter. In that creation is made up of time, space, and matter, and further, in that time, space, and matter all have three parts, it is an undeniable conclusion that the Creator has left His brush strokes upon the canvas of His creation; because, we know from holy Scripture that the economy of the Godhead is divided into three parts. These three parts of God’s economy we know as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Since this truth is undeniable, and since we know that man is made in the likeness of God, then we would expect the economy of man to also manifest three attributes. So then, just as God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so is man body, soul, and spirit.
It gives one cause to pause and reflect upon the goodness and love of our God: He fashioned His crowning creation in His own image and likeness.
The apostle Paul tells us, in his letter to the Romans, that we may understand the Godhead through the things that God has created. Romans 1:20. "For since the creation of the world His indivisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."
We have already seen that all creation (time, space, and matter) reflects the three-ness found in God Himself.
Narrowing our investigation into the things that are made, it would be interesting to consider three things: man himself, and the two elements of creation that are essential to his existence. The two elements that I am speaking of are water and the sun. Consider, first of all, man. As we have already seen from such passages of Scripture as 1 Thessalonians 5:23, and Hebrews 4:12, man is a three-part being: consisting of body, soul, and spirit. Consider, secondly, water. The chemical symbol for water is H2,O. This chemical can be found in three different modes: liquid, solid (ice), and gas (vapor). Although the chemical takes three different and distinct forms it remains H2,O. The substance is unaltered although the modes of its existence are different. The apostle Paul informs his readers at Rome that the Godhead, or the nature of deity, may be understood through things the deity has made. Because water is the most basic element on the planet which we call our home it is logical for us to look for the fingerprints of the creator there. Therefore, the deity, though one being, exist in three separate and distinct modes that we know as the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. Remembering that we are told in Genesis 1:26, 27 that mankind has been created in the very image and likeness of his Creator. So if we can conceive of God by understanding, let us say, water (H2O), then we may understand man by understanding God. The three-ness of God is found in all of His creation - man most of all. Consider, thirdly, the star we call the sun. If God may be understood by things that He has made truly the sun, that brings the dawn of each of our days, should be considered when one considers the creation. Truly, here we find the brushstrokes of the master; for, in that, God is indeed Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the sun (His creation) is manifested to the universe as star, rays, and effect (heat).
CONCLUSION By beginning with the premise that God exists in three modes without His substance being altered or changed (and this being demonstrated throughout creation), it becomes, then, a matter of course to move to the conclusion that man exists in three modes without any alteration to his substance of humanity. In this way (by existing in body, and soul, and spirit) man is a mirrored image of his creator.
Having established from both Scripture and creation that man exists in three separate and distinct parts which we call body, soul, and spirit, it remains for these parts to be identified and in some way define. With this in mind the following definitions are offered:
- Body: the physical being of a person.
- Soul: the inner self; consisting of will, emotions, and intellect.
- Spirit: the God nature that resides in all men; called at times the conscience. This nature lies dormant in unregenerated man, but is awakened to new life in one who has received the re-generating of the Holy Spirit.
Bishop J L Hayes