Foundational to the teaching of spiritual warfare, we must realize that man was created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26). God is a triune being (consisting of three in one), and man is also a triune being: comprised of spirit, soul, and body. The apostle Paul wrote to the church, “I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23). Notice the order that is given: first spirit, then the soul, then the body. Man is first and foremost a spirit being. This is counter-cultural to all that is extolled in the western world, where man celebrates comfort and materialism, and the physical body is given more focus and esteem than the soul; and certainly more than the spirit.
Hebrews 4:12 compares the word of God to a double-edged sword, “piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.” So here scripture asserts that we can separate our own thoughts and feelings about things to tune in to what God is saying about them.
(Incidentally, the Greek word for soul in this passage is transliterated psyche, from which we get our stem word “psych.” Psychology, as we know, is the study of the mind).
The tabernacle in the wilderness, built to God’s specifications, consisted of the outer court and inner court, and within the inner court was the Holy of Holies. The tabernacle was a type. (A type is a real person, place event or thing which has a spiritual counterpart in the New Testament (i.e. the ark built by Noah that sheltered the righteous from the flood was a type of Christ; the Israelites crossing the Red Sea to escape Pharoah’s army was a type of baptism – see 1 Cor. 10:2). Among other things, the tabernacle was a pattern of man’s being: body, soul, & spirit. (see Hebrews 8 and 9 for more on this).
Inside the tabernacle, the inner part is actually made of two parts, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. It is the same with man. Man is actually made up of three parts: body, soul and spirit. The Holy of Holies in the tabernacle was the part in which God actually dwelt, just as our spirits are the part of us where God dwells by the Holy Spirit, if we have been saved (1 Cor. 3:16, 1 Cor. 6:19). The spirit is what we use to communicate with God. Our body is that with which we contact the outside world. And in-between the body and spirit is our soul, determining whether body or spirit will have dominance (Romans 7:23; Galatians 5:17).
Only the priests were allowed to enter the Holy Place, and only the high priest was allowed to enter the holiest of all – and only once a year on the Day of Atonement. When Jesus died, the curtain separating the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom, signifying that by Christ’s death man could forever have direct access to God!
Scripture says “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). We have been given incredible access to God! How easy it is for longtime Christians to treat that commonly.
One way to think of the spirit, soul, and body is this:
a. The physical body – contacts the world (physical realm)
b. The spirit of man contacts God. (Only a spirit can contact a spirit)
c. The soul of man contacts the Intellectual realm (reasoning of man)
Most nonbelievers (particularly in the West) are unaware that they have a spirit. They feed their soul (mind and emotions) and their bodies are usually pampered, yet inwardly there’s a restlessness and a dissatisfaction. Many world-renowned poets and philosophers and artists throughout the centuries ended up committing suicide, and I believe that in more case than one, it is because they reached the limit of their soul’s secular understanding, and it left them only with despair and disillusion.
However, many Christians as well are dwelling in the realm of the soul (that is, the intellect, will, and emotions) and have not understood or moved to the realm of the spirit. Paul, writing to the church in Corinth, said this: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).
Churches are often plagued with leadership that is soulish only, and not spiritual. Instead of listening and hearing from God, decisions are made on the best ideas of mere men. Committees are formed, programs put in place, and the church relies essentially on test markets and other business models to bring people in its doors. I remember a couple years ago when I read a best-selling book by an evangelical minister on how to grow the church. In one section, he actually used charts and corporate diagrams to show how it could be achieved!
Paul, again speaking to the church in Corinth said, “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom…my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:1, 5). Paul relied entirely on the Holy Spirit. He didn’t formulate his best arguments nor lay out his best doctrinal arguments. He simply testified of Jesus Christ crucified, and expected that the power of the Holy Spirit would transform the individuals to whom he was preaching – spirit, soul, and body.
God does not need our soulish efforts. He wants us to rely solely on Him. Here are some ways in which we may find ourselves in the soulish realm, but need to move to the spiritual:
Is this teaching on spirit, soul, and body new to you? Please take a moment to ask God in what ways He may be calling you to move from the soulish to the spiritual realm.