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 Thessalonians 5:23
There is a doctrine in Christianity that a man is a triune being, consisting of three parts – spirit, soul and body. There are many teachings and theories have been built on this doctrine, such as: “The spirit is holy, but the soul is dirty”, “The spirit cannot sin, but the soul can”, “The mind of Christ is in the spirit, but the carnal mind is in the soul.” etc. Actually this doctrine has been built upon only one verse, which is in the Paul’s letter to Thessalonians.
The Jews — writers of the whole Bible — actually believed in duality of man: the outward man, that is seen and the inward man that is not seen. (2 Cor 4:16) If our outward man is so complex, consisting of so many parts and members that even scientists couldn’t learn everything about it, then how much more complex is our inward man. When we divide our inner man into two parts we act as a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (Jas 1:8)
Then why did Paul write about the spirit, soul and body in that verse? And how is it the word of God divides soul and spirit? (Heb 4:12) First of all, Paul wrote his epistle to Thessalonians, who were Greek. Greeks believed that a man is a triune being and Paul just wanted to assure them that their soul and body are holy as well as their spirit. That is why he told them: “God of peace Himself sanctify you completely”. To the Jews Paul wrote that the word is able to divide something that a man isn’t. But we try to do it anyways saying: “Is my desire from God or from devil, from the spirit or from the flesh, from my heart or from my mind? etc.”
I do not say that a man doesn’t have a soul. I just want to make a point that out inward man is much more complex then we can imagine. It’s like our outward man, consisting of many members. I just don’t want to create any new doctrine here. Let us just look at the Heavenly Man, Lord Jesus Christ.
When Jesus was born and walked on earth, He had the spirit (Luke 23:46), the heart (Mat 11:29), the soul (John 12:27), the will (John 6:38) and flesh (John 1:14). Jesus didn’t divide His inner man. He always said that everything what He says or does, it’s His Father speaks and does. (John 5:19) The separation came when He took upon Himself our sinful nature and said: “…not My will but Yours” and “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken Me?”
He took this inner separation or double-mindness that we would be whole inside. Our old man has died on the cross with all its passions, hard heart, wicked will and sinful flesh in the body of Jesus Christ. And now we have resurrected spirit, new circumcised heart, God’s desires, mind of Christ and a holy body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Praise the Lord that He sanctified us completely through the cross.