A.J. Gordon: Union with Christ

A_J_GordonA. J.”Gordon (1836–1895) was an American Baptist preacher, writer, composer, and founder of Gordon College and Gordon–Conwell Theological Seminary. In his book In Christ: The  Believer’s Union with His Lord, he described the whole nature of man as spirit, soul, and body.

The significance of this in unsaved man’s depravity:

“The whole course of the divine life is from Christ to self, and not from self to Christ. To begin an expiation in one’s own sufferings, hoping that it may end in fellowship and union with Christ’s sufferings, is not only to transpose, but completely to vitiate the order of grace. There is nothing of ours, soul, body, or spirit, that is without blemish.” (p. 41)

The significance of this in appreciating the believer’s union with Christ:

“Our high endeavor is not to shape our actual life in the flesh into conformity to an ideal life that is set before us in Him. It is rather to reduce our true life now hid in Christ, to an actual life in ourself. And so the summons of the gospel is, not that we behold what is possible for us in Christ, and reach forth to it ; but rather that we behold what is accomplished for us in Christ, and appropriate it and live in it. Risen with Christ, the first-fruits of our spirits already carried up with Him into glory, our life hid with Him in God, how shall not our heart [our affections] be where our treasure is? (pp.64,65)

The significance of this in the believer’s hope of bodily resurrection:

“As our whole nature, body, soul, and spirit, died in Adam, so must our whole nature, body, soul, and spirit, be made alive in Christ before our blessedness can be complete. And if we are in the Lord, our physical restitution is assured to us with equal certainty with our spiritual. For not only is it true that “he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit,” but equally that we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” [1 Cor. 6:17; Eph. 5:30] (p. 85)

In Christ: The  Believer’s Union with His Lord  (Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1872).

Bold font- emphasis added

Adoniram Judson “A. J.” Gordon (1836–1895) was an American Baptist preacher, writer, composer, and founder of Gordon College and Gordon–Conwell Theological Seminary. He pastored churches in Massachusetts, wrote 16 books and was a  speaker in D.L. Moody’s Northfield conventions.

Adrian Rogers: Three Dimensions of Marriage

Pastor Adrian Rogers’ biblical peaching has been highly regarded and continues to bear fruit through the radio ministry of Love Worth Finding. In 1989 he preached a message titled: “Marriage: The Real Thing.” The primary Biblical text was 1 Thessalonians 5:23:

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (NKJV).

The sermon outline was:
1. Union of Bodies
2. Union of Souls
3. Union of Spirits

This is an example of how discerning the three aspects of man’s makeup can have, and should have, practical implications. Here is an excerpt from Dr. Rogers’ message:

“When God made us, He made us in His image. And, God is a triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit … And there are three parts to your nature: you’r e body, soul, and spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 [quoted].
For a long time, I didn’t know the difference between spirit, soul, and body. I knew the difference between body and spirit, but I didn’t know the difference between spirit and soul. I thought they were basically the same thing – just an invisible part of a man, maybe synonymous … But, the Bible teaches there is a difference between spirit and soul … The Bible says in Hebrews 4:12 that the Word of God is quick and powerful… and the divides between soul and spirit. What is the difference? …  With your body, you have physical life and physical relationships;… With our soul, we have psychological life. The Greek word for soul is psyche; it is the word we get psychology from and so, with your soul, you have psychological life … Our spirit is that part of our nature that truly makes us in the image of God, for the Bible says “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24). And with our spirit, we have spiritual relationships.  We know God through the spirit. The Bible says that when we get saved, God’s Spirit [bears] witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). And, the Spirit of God dwells in Christians, The Holy Spirit in the human spirit – that’s what makes us a Christian.
Now plants… have a body, but they don’t have a soul. Animals have a body and soul, but they don’t have a spirit. Only man has a spirit–and woman, of course… What does this have to do with marriage?… You are to be one, physically, one psychologically, and one spiritually….”[1]

This is another example of a prominent preacher affirming the biblical doctrine of man as spirit, soul, and body and applying it to the Christian life…in this case, Christ-centered marriage.

[1] From the Adrian Rogers Legacy Collection, Resources for Pastors.
Under 1 Thessalonians 5:23


The New Self

Sometimes those who are dogmatic in rejecting trichotomy imply that the view of man as spirit, soul, and body is naive or symptomatic of a lack of higher education.

Consider Dr. Ken Boa, President of Reflections Ministries.

“Kenneth (Ken) Boa is engaged in a ministry of relational evangelism and discipleship, teaching, writing, and speaking. He holds a BS from Case Institute of Technology, a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary, a PhD from New York University, and a DPhil from the University of Oxford in England. He leads four weekly Bible studies in the Atlanta area, including two men’s fellowships and one at Christ Church of Atlanta.”[1]

In his exposition of Colossians, he teaches on “The New Self” in chapter 3.

In minutes 13-17 Dr. Boa explains the new self with the illustration from Hebrews 4:12. What the marrow is to the bone, the human spirit is to the soul. He agrees with the ontological distinction of spirit and soul.

Dr. Boa is the author of a dozen books, including Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation (Zondervan).

[1] https://kenboa.org/about/ken-boa/

Clarence Larkin Charts

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thess. 5:23 “Larkin was born October 28, 1850, in Chester, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Clarence Larkin was an American Baptist pastor, Bible teacher, and writer. Larkin was converted to Christ at the age of 19 and then felt called to the Gospel ministry. The Clarence Larkin Books and  Clarence Larkin Charts have been extremely helpful resources for Christians since they were first published.  … During the last five years of his life, Larkin’s books became in great demand and and that made it necessary for him to give up the pastorate and devote his full time to writing. Some of the more detailed are books in themselves. They reveal Larkin’s vast knowledge of the Bible and phenomenal insight into prophecy.” [clarencelarkincharts.com] This is his chart on the design of man: c59 [ For more on pastor Larkin, see www.larkinestate.com A full set of downloadable diagrams is at BlueLetterBible.org

The Brain: Marvel and Metaphor

God has created us with amazing brains (which hopefully our minds use quite a bit). It is marvelous. (However, an examination of the physical aspects of the brain, its amazing design (such as the the right and left hemispheres) and functionality is a separate study.)

Material and immaterial aspects: brain and mind

The physical brain is obviously in the material aspect of a person, yet the mind comprises the immaterial side.

A materialistic worldview denies the spiritual aspect of life. Yet even scientific research shows the inadequacy of materialism. Heather Zeiger observed,

“The results of experiments with OCD, phobias, depression, and the placebo effect do not make sense to materialists because the mind seems to affect the physical brain. However, we know from Scripture that the mind, or the soul, is an essential part of our being. James 2:26 and Luke 8:55 show us that when the soul leaves, the body is dead, and when the soul returns, the body is alive. Also, passages such as Matthew 26:41 and Romans 8:10 and 11 tell us that our spirit can affect what our bodies do and keep us from sinning. Passages about the resurrection such as in 1 Corinthians 15 discuss the distinction between our spirit and our physical body.” [1]

Non-physical aspects of man

In a more precise understanding of how we are made, the immaterial aspect of man has two distinguishable parts–soul and spirit (1 Thess. 5:23).

The human spirit is distinct from the soul. Note the need for spiritual revelation in addition to the natural mind: “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man [literally, “soulish man]” does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:11 -14).

Hebrews 4:12 affirms, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow…”  In the immaterial side of a person, the human spirit can be conceived as “in” –yet distinct from–the soul. Similarly, the marrow is in the bone, yet not all bone is marrow.

In the passage about the proper use of spiritual gifts the apostle Paul states, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful” (1 Cor. 14:4). In this scenario, the human spirit is engaged in speaking an unlearned language that is not intelligible in the natural (soulical) mind.

Illustrations of material and immaterial aspects of man

Although no analysis or illustration completely describes the nature of man, illustrations can be useful. The most familiar one is that the believer is compared to the Old Testament Temple–God’s dwelling place. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19). The Tabernacle and (later) Temple had an outer court, Holy Place and Holy of Holies. These illustrate the human body, soul and spirit respectively. See the section of BiblicalPsychology.net devoted to the symbolism of the Tabernacle.

A contemporary illustration of body, soul and spirit is the design and function of the “brain machine” known as a computer.

The physical brain is like a computer’s hardware Humanity has used their brains to invent an inferior brain-like machine, the computer, that has become a huge part of modern life.

The soul is like a computer’s software.  The machine is useless without installed programming–software. Software is similar to the the human soul (made, will, and emotions).

The human spirit is like electricity.  Without electricity the hardware and software have no “life.” As electricity is distinct from the computer’s software, likewise, the human spirit is distinct from the soul.

A science course observes, “Both [a computer and the brain] use electrical signals to send messages. The brain uses chemicals to transmit information; the computer uses electricity. Even though electrical signals travel at high speeds in the nervous system, they travel even faster through the wires in a computer. Both transmit information.”[2]

Christian psychiatrist and Bible teacher, Dr. Tim Jennings, uses this computer analogy (hardware, software and electricity) to illustrate the distinctions of body, soul and spirit.[3]

The human brain is a marvel. 

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well” (Psalm 139:14 NKJV).

The brain is also a metaphor when compared to a computer, and the computer can illustrate the interdependent (yet distinct) body, soul and spirit.

by John Woodward

[1] The Spiritual Brain” by Heather Zeiger, July 5, 2008

[2] (secular} https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/bvc.html

[3] Cited from Dr. Jennings seminar, “God and Your Brain.” See ComeAndReason.com

For More on the marvels of the brain, see Cross-Wired Mind: A Study for Finding a Right Relationship with God through the Mind He Intended Us to Have, by Mary Kay Thomas at http://fbcproctorville.com/

Interchangeable Terms: An Explanation and Defense

One of the criticisms of the view of the trichotomous nature of man is that sometimes soul and spirit are used interchangeably. Although there is a consensus that the connotation of man’s “spirit” relates to God (who is Spirit) and soul connotes the psychological aspect (as indicated by the English term “psychology”), there is resistance to believing that man’s spirit and soul are ontologically distinct. Note that the primary use of these terms as nouns in Scripture (pneuma and psuche is consistent with their familiar use as English adverbs and adjectives.

The dichotomist view is that the nouns spirit and soul are merely synonyms. There is a difference in emphasis and function of man’s immaterial side. One of the main reasons for this view (that became mainstream after Augustine) is that sometimes these terms seem to be used in a synonymous or interchangeable manner.

The Reason for overlapping usage of spirit and soul

The reason for occasional overlapping of these terms is that, conceptually, just as the immaterial aspect of man is “in” the body, so the human spirit is “in” the soul. This model can be illustrated by concentric circles.

So, if a reference that may be expected to use the term “spirit” may use “soul” instead, this would not contradict a more precise meaning of these terms.

A biblical illustration of the subtle distinction of spirit and soul is the Old Testament Tabernacle (and later, the Temple).

The Tabernacle was one building, yet with two distinct rooms. Only a curtain separated them. Similarly, the believer, who is a “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19) has two aspects of his immaterial being–soul and spirit. The whole Tabernacle would be considered The Holy Place, yet the innermost room was distinct as The Holy of Holies.[1]

A Defense of Trichotomy in light of some overlapping of terms

In another post (Sept. 4, 2022), Lehman Strauss made the case for man as spirit, soul and body by noting that he is made in God’s image. God is three-in-one, the Trinity. Now we consider a parallel between our biblical evidence for God being Triune and man as a triune being created in His image.[2]

If some interchangeable use of soul and spirit disproves man as trichotomous, the same argument could be used to dispute the doctrine of the Trinity (and we accept the biblical view of God as triune). Consider these theological basics.

God is one: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” (Deut. 6:4).

The first person of the Godhead is the Father (John 5:16-45). The Father and the Son are distinct ontologically, yet are one God (Heb 1:1-3; John 11:1,14).

The Father and the Son are ontologically distinct from the Holy Spirit. “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16,17).

The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct persons in the Godhead. “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:16; see Acts 1:4,5).

Now we observe that the names of the Godhead are sometimes used interchangeably.

The Son is prophetically called “The Everlasting Father” in Isaiah 9:6. In John 10:30 “Jesus declared ‘I and My Father are one.'” John 14:8,9 records, “Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, “Show us the Father”‘?”

God the Father is “spirit” and “holy.” “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). “Holy Father…” (John 17:11).

The Holy Spirit is sometimes called the Spirit of Christ. “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Pet 1:10,11).
“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you…” (Rom. 8:9,10)
“And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Gal 4:6. See Gal. 2:20).

The Son is described as life-giving spirit. “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam [Jesus, Son of God] became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45).

Although the names of the Godhead are sometimes used interchangeably, God’s unity is maintained: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name [singular] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).


Since the occasional interchangeable use of the terms Father, Son (Christ) and Holy Spirit does not disprove God’s triune nature (the Trinity doctrine), even so, some interchangeable use of soul and spirit does not disprove man as triune (ontologically spirit, soul and body). [3]


[1] For more on the symbolism of the Tabernacle and sample quotations from five authors, see this blog site’s heading–“The Tabernacle.”

[2] The three aspects of man need not require a de-emphasis of his fundamental unity. We maintain that man is one in personhood, with two separable sides, yet three distinguishable aspects — holistic trichotomy. Just as the dichotomist can emphasize the holistic nature of man while accepting the biblical teaching that he has a material side and immaterial side (e.g., 2 Cor. 5:8), so the trichotomist can and should be holistic as well.

[3] This conclusion is based on inductive biblical theology, the testimony of expositors, and is consistent with the view of the early church (before Augustine).

Man is Made in the Image of the Triune God

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

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground [material aspect], and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life [spiritual aspect]; and man became a living being [psychological aspect]” (Gen. 2:7). Yet man is considered one in personhood.

One of the implicit evidences of man as spirit, soul and body is that he/she is made in the image of God, who is triune. Dr. Lehman Strauss included this reasoning in his series about “Dead and Afterward.” He affirmed:

Man is a triune being because he is created in the image of God. “God said, Let us make man in Our image” (Genesis 1:26). We know that God is a Trinity. The Holy Trinity is clearly set forth in the Apostle Paul’s benediction that closed his Second Corinthian Epistle: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen” (2 Corinthians 13:14). Our Lord Himself said, in what we call “The Great Commission”: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). Created in the image of God, man is likewise a trinity. He has a spiritual nature that is separate and distinct from the body in which it dwells.

The two following passages from the Bible clearly establish the fact that man is a triune being composed of spirit, soul, and body:

I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

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, and of the joints and marrow (body), and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

In spite of the erroneous teaching of “Jehovah’s Witnesses” and of other false sects that “no man has a soul,” the Bible states emphatically that man was created a trinity of spirit, soul, and body even as the eternal God is Himself a trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The trinity of man is an essential part of the image relationship between him and God. 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.” This must be seriously considered and definitely agreed to before we can comprehend with any accuracy the subject of life after death…[1]

Although God’s three-in-one nature is not conclusive proof of man’s triunity, it should be considered supporting evidence in favor of holistic trichotomy.

[1] Lehman Strauss, an excerpt from “Man A Trinity (Spirit, Soul, Body)”

Lehman Strauss (1911-1997) taught Old Testament history for eight years at Philadelphia Bible Institute, and for 18 years served as pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in Bristol, Pennsylvania.

The Meaning of Man’s “Spirit” in the N.T.

Word_Study_DictionaryGreek expert, Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, was General Editor of The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. This quote is part of the article that defines the New Testament use of “spirit” as it relates to biblical psychology:

Spirit (Pneuma) B) rational spirit…element of life. 1) Generally, spirit distinct from the body and soul. See also Luke 1:47; Hebrews 4:12. Soul and spirit are very closely related because they are both immaterial and they both contrast with body (soma) and flesh (sarx). Scripture, however, introduces a distinction between the two immaterial aspects of man’s soul and spirit. They that they cannot mean the same thing is evident from their mention together in 1 Thess. 5:23: spirit, soul, body. The same distinction is brought out in Hebrews 4:12. The spirit is man’s immaterial nature which enables him to communicate with God, who is also spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:14 states that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God” because “they are spiritually discerned.” What is translated “natural man” in Greek is psuchikos, or … soulish, meaning the soul of man. The soul is the aspect of his immaterial nature that makes him aware of his body and his natural, physical environment. The difference between soul and spirit is not one of substance [both are the immaterial side]  but of operation.”

Thus, this reference book agrees with holistic trichotomy: man is one in personhood with two divisible parts (material and immaterial), yet three distinguishable parts (spirit, soul and body).

“Spirit”. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. Gen Ed. Spiros Zodhiates with Dr. W. Baker, and Dr. G. Hadjiantoniou, (Chattanooga, AMG Publishers, 1993). Bracketed words added

The Spiritual Believer

Neil Anderson gives a summary of the spiritual life with spirit, soul and body discernment.

See Galatians 5:22-23: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

The spiritual person also has a body, soul and spirit. Yet this individual has been remarkably transformed from the natural person he was before spiritual birth. At conversion, his spirit became united with God’s Spirit. The spiritual life which resulted from this union is characterized by forgiveness of sin, acceptance in God’s family, and the realization of personal worth.

The soul of the spiritual person also reflects a change generated by spiritual birth. He can now receive his impetus from the Spirit, not just from the flesh. His mind is being renewed and transformed. His emotions are characterized by peace and joy instead of turmoil. It is our responsibility to choose not to walk according to the flesh, but to walk according to the Spirit. As the spiritual person exercises his choice to live in the Spirit, his life bears the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23).

As a spiritual person, your body is the dwelling place of God. We should offer our bodies as a living sacrifice of worship and service to Him. The flesh, conditioned to live independently from God under the old self, is still present in the spiritual person. But he responsibly crucifies the flesh and its desires daily as he considers himself dead to sin.

“That all looks and sounds great,” you may say. “But I’m a Christian and I still have some problems. I know I’m spiritually alive, but sometimes my mind dwells on the wrong kinds of thoughts. Sometimes I give in to the deeds of the flesh. Sometimes I entertain the desires of the flesh instead of crucifying them.”

The description of the spiritual person is the ideal. It’s the model of maturity toward which we are all growing. God has made every provision for you to experience personally the description of the spiritual person in His Word (2 Peter 1:3). You will grow as a spiritual person and glorify God in your body as you learn to crucify the flesh and be filled by the Spirit.

Prayer: Loving Lord, it is liberating to know that Your Spirit actually dwells in me. I choose to walk as a spiritual person today.

from Daily in Christ, by Neil and Joanne Anderson, June 17. Bold added for emphasis – JBW


Donald Grey Barnhouse on the Topic of Man as Spirit, Soul, and Body

This highly respected pastor, author and radio Bible teacher taught, based on inductive Bible study, that man is a tripartite being. He considered this not an insignificant issue, but an important doctrine, especially in understanding how to have victory ovet the temptations of “The World, The Flesh and the Devil.” He wrote as follows:


In this chapter, we shall show that the enemy attacks us from these different angles because man is a threefold being. We will then show the nature of the difference between these three temptations, and finally, we will show the methods set forth by the Word of God through which the Christian may have victory in each of the three spheres.

When God created Adam, the act of creation is described as follows: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). The verse reveals to us that the body was made of the dust of the ground, that the spirit came from the breath of God, and that the combination produced the soul. It would be correct, in the light of this verse, for a man to say, “I am a soul, I have a body and I have a spirit.”

There have been many theologians who have denied the tripartite nature of man. They find no difference between the soul and the spirit. However, the Word of God definitely does make such a difference, and we shall see that the difference is an important one in the psychology [in] back of the differences in temptations that come to a man. One of the most obvious verses which tells us how we are to distinguish between soul and the spirit is in the epistle to the Hebrews: “The Word of God is living and powerful, sharper than any two—edged scalpel, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and is the critic of the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).


We shall give only a brief summary of the use of the words body, soul and spirit, for it will not only be instructive for our purpose, but will also show the extent of the task. [See the PDF for the Hebrew and Greek word studies that distinguish soul and spirit.]

…Man is a soul, and as a soul he conserves his own identity though he may have the same name as other men. John Smith on Third Avenue does not get himself confused with John Smith on Fourth Street. The Post Office department may send their mail to the wrong addresses, but if they are sober, they get to their right homes. So do the animals, for our Lord pointed out “the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests” (Matthew 8:20), and we know from observation that each goes to his own home and it is never confused with any other. Evidently an animal or a bird has an individuality as distinct as that of man. The soul is self-consciousness.


The soul, which is the self, the ego, the I, has a spirit… This is what was breathed into Adam when he was created, and this is that which distinguishes man from animals.

No man, be he ever so low in the scale of human intelligences, ever failed sooner or later to recognize that there was something about him and superior to him. Aristotle said that “man is by nature a political animal”; Seneca said that “man is a social animal,” and in another place, “man is a reasoning animal.” Chrysostom said “man is a gentle animal,” and Augustine called him “an earthly animal.” There may be a measure of truth in all of these, but it would be far closer to the truth as revealed in the Scriptures which use the word “soul” and “spirit” to say that man is a religious animal. We substantiate the use of the word “animal” by the usage of the word “soul,” and we substantiate the word “religious” by the usage of the word “spirit.”…


There is, indeed, a great need for a detailed study of spiritual psychology (note the union of our two words in that phrase), but this is sufficient to establish the fact that man is a soul and that he has a spirit. We do not need to expand the fact that he also has a body. It is, indeed, the body that is the foundation that holds the other two in place so that if the body be destroyed the soul and spirit depart.

Why, then, do some theologians claim that there is no difference between soul and spirit? For much of popular theology is founded on the dichotomy of man into body and soul, rather than on the Biblical trichotomy of body, soul and spirit. Perhaps an illustration will explain. When man was created, he was somewhat like a three-storied house. After the fall, he was more like those houses which had gone through bombing: the third story had fallen into the second; the walls of the second were gaping so that a passerby might see the debris of the two–the house might still be fit for dwelling. When Adam sinned, the Spirit of man fell down into his soul. The two are almost inseparable in the unregenerate.

There is no adjective in our language for the word soul. Previous students have seen the need for such a word, and the great dictionaries give us soulish, but mark it obsolete for more than a century. In the Greek of the New Testament there is such an adjective. The spiritual concepts of lost men are really soulish concepts. They rise from the natural (soulish) man that receiveth not the things of the spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14). We do not need to press the obvious analogy that the body is like a cracked wall. In view of the confusion of soul and spirit in the unsaved man, is it not comprehensible that philosophers and theologians have thought that they were one and the same? It is the Word of God that divides the two asunder.


When a man is born again, the work of the Holy Spirit plants within him a new spirit. It is a new third story that is held from above by the power of God. As the old man was three-stories held up by the body, and always bearing downward by what we might call a soulish, gravitational pull, so the new man is three stories with the center of his being in the new spirit and is always being pulled upward by a spiritual, magnetic attraction. The Christian life is the development of the forces of the new spirit so that their influences come to combine the whole soul and being of the Christian. “I” am crucified with Christ, means that the old soul has to be dealt with in the only way that will bring any change. “Nevertheless I live” means that the life from above is penetrating the fastnesses of the soul and that the sphere of victory is being enlarged constantly in the life of the believer.

Satan’s entire strategy is, therefore, directed to continuing the confusion of soul and spirit and of using every artifice possible to increase the pull of the flesh which lusteth against the spirit [Gal. 5:16]. Because of the tripartite nature of man, the devil has arranged his attacks to assault each phase of man’s being. Against the body, he brings the temptations of the flesh. Against the soul he brings the temptations of the world. Against the spirit, he comes himself, even though through one of his lesser agents, seeking to win the allegiance of the old spirit to a worship of himself. It is thus important that we distinguish sharply between the three types of temptations. Failure to do so is in itself a victory for the enemy.

from The Invisible War: The Panorama of the Continuing Conflict Between Good and Evil, chapter 21, pp. 172-175. Bold font added for emphasis – JBW
By Donald Grey Barnhouse
(Zondervan, 1965)

Donald Grey Barnhouse (March 28, 1895 – November 5, 1960), was an American Christian preacher, pastor, theologian, radio pioneer, and writer. He was pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1927 to his death in 1960. He earned degrees from Biola University snd Princeton Theological Seminary. (Wikipedia)