You’ve probably heard that God is a triune being. He is one God, but He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But have you heard that man is also a triune being? He is body, soul, and spirit. In 2 Thessalonians 5:23, the apostle Paul says to the Christians of Thessalonica:
“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.”
Of course, there is a major difference between God’s triunity and man’s. Whereas Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each a distinct Person, the spirit, the soul, and the body can’t make that claim. But still, even with this difference clearly in mind, each one makes for an interesting subject, and with this post I’d like to say a few things about the spirit of man.
First, it is the spirit that brings life to the body. James 2:26 says:
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
I would also mention Luke 23:46 here, where Christ’s releasing of His bodily spirit leads to His immediate death:
“And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed his last.”
When you understand that it is the spirit that brings life to the body, you can understand why the Bible teaches that even animals have spirits. Ecclesiastes 3:21 describes the difference between a person’s spirit and an animal’s spirit this way:
“Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?”
Second, a person’s spirit goes back to God the Father as soon as it leaves the body. Look again at the verse I just referenced, Ecclesiastes 3:21. It says the spirit of man goes upward (to God) at death, while the spirit of an animal simply goes down to the earth, nothing more. Another relevant passage here is Ecclesiastes 12:1-8, which is the Bible’s best passage on the subject of growing old and dying. Verse 7 of the passage says:
“Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.”
Along these same lines, in Numbers 16:22 God is called “the God of the spirits of all flesh,” and in Hebrews 12:23 He is called “the Father of spirits.” These verses simply mean that God is the one who gives life to each person, and He gives this life by way of giving each individual a spirit.
Third, man’s spirit is also a center of various traits, emotions, and activities. Isaiah 29:24 speaks of those who have “erred in the spirit.” Psalm 77:6 associates the spirit with both remembering and making diligent search. In Matthew 5:3, Jesus speaks of being “poor in spirit.” John 13:21 says that Jesus was “troubled in spirit.” Numbers 5:14 links the emotion of jealousy with the spirit. Proverbs 16:18 warns that a “haughty spirit” goes before a fall. In Psalm 34:18, David sings the praises of having a “contrite spirit.” In Psalm 51:10, he asks God to renew a “steadfast spirit” within him. Finally, in 2 Corinthians 7:1, Paul encourages us to cleanse ourselves from all “filthiness of the flesh and spirit.”
In the end, perhaps the best way to think of man’s spirit is to think of it as our “life force.” I know, I know, that’s a little too new-agey, but it’s about the best I can do. The spirit is that part of us that separates us from the deceased. If you are alive, you can thank your spirit. How you feel relates back to your spirit. How you carry yourself does as well. When you hear someone say, “I feel more alive than I ever have,” you know that person’s spirit is functioning in high order.