Central Truth: Man is a spirit, he has a soul, and he lives in a body.
For years I searched for a satisfactory explanation of what it means to believe with the heart. I read Mark 11:23 which says, “For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.” Romans 10:10 also talks about believing with the heart. “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness …”
The word “heart” that is used in these scriptures does not refer to the physical organ that pumps blood through our body and keeps us alive. That would be believing God with our body. We couldn’t believe with our physical heart any more than we could believe with our physical hand or finger. The word “heart” is used to convey a thought.
Notice how we use the word “heart” today. When we talk about the heart of a tree, we mean the center, the very core. When we talk about the heart of a subject, we mean the most important part of that subject, the very center of it, the main part around which the rest revolves. And when God speaks of man’s heart, He is speaking about the main part of man, the very center of his being, which is the spirit.
Man Is a Spirit
I Thessalonians 5:23
23 And 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.
The terms, “spirit of man” and “heart of man,” are used interchangeably throughout the Bible. We know that man is a spirit because he is made in the image and likeness of God, and Jesus said, “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24). It is not our physical bodies that are like God, for the Bible says that God is not a man. Remember that there is an inward man and an outward man. Man is a spirit, he has a soul, and he lives in a body.
Paul said in his letter to the Romans, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Romans 2:28-29). According to this text, the heart is the spirit.
Speaking to Nicodemus, Jesus said, “… Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). Nicodemus, being human, could think only in the natural, and therefore he asked, “… How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (verse 4). Jesus answered, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (verse 6). The new birth is a rebirth of the human spirit.
Then in the fourth chapter of John’s gospel we read where Jesus told the woman at the well in Samaria, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). We cannot contact God with our body or with our mind. We can contact God only with our spirit.
I Corinthians 14:14 says, “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.” The spirit is not the mind. Some people mistakenly think that the mind is the spirit. However, as this verse indicates, we know that when we speak in tongues, this does not come from our mind, or our own human thinking, but from our spirit, from our innermost being, from the Holy Spirit within our spirit. Paul went on to say, “What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and with the understanding also …” (verse 15). In other words, Paul was saying that his spirit is the real him.
The Inward Man
Paul also said, “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (II Corinthians 4:16). Paul pointed out that there is an outward man and an inward man. The outward man is the body. The inward man is the spirit, and the spirit has a soul.
In I Corinthians 9:27 Paul said, “But I keep under my body, and bring it unto subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” If the body were the real man, Paul would have said, “I keep myself under, I bring myself into subjection.” He refers to his body as “it.” “I” is the man on the inside, the inward man that has been reborn. We do something with our body. We bring it into subjection. The man we look at is not the real man; it is just the house we live in.
We can now more easily understand Paul’s writings to the saints at Rome:
Romans 12:1, 2
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
In this epistle Paul was not writing to unbelievers but to Christians. He addresses his letter, “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints …” (Romans 1:7). Although he was writing to men and women who had been born again, yet he said that they needed to do something with their bodies and their minds. The new birth is not a rebirth of the human body but a rebirth of the human spirit. And the infilling of the Holy Ghost is not a physical experience but a spiritual experience.
Paul said we have to do something with our bodies. We have to present them to God a living sacrifice. We have to get our minds renewed with the Word. Notice that this is something that we do, not God. God gives eternal life. He offers us His Spirit. But God doesn’t do anything with our bodies. If anything is done with them, we will have to do it. The Word says that you present your body unto God. Nobody else can do it for you. The Word says that you are to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Our minds are renewed through the Word of God.
We know that man is a spirit, made in the image and likeness of God. Some people believe that man is just an animal. However, if that were true, it wouldn’t be any more wrong to kill a man and eat him than it would be to kill a cow and eat it. Man has a physical body that he is living in, but he is not an animal. He is more than just mind and body. He is spirit, soul, and body. He is a spirit, he has a soul, and he lives in a body.
That is what makes man different from animals. Animals do have souls, but they are not spirits. There is nothing in them that is like God. God took something of Himself and put in man. He made the body of man out of the dust of the earth, but He breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life. The word “breath” or “ruach” in the Hebrew, means breath or spirit, and is translated “Holy Spirit” many times in the Old Testament. God is Spirit, so He took something of Himself, which is spirit, and put it into man. When He did, man became a living soul. He wasn’t alive until then, but he became a living soul. He became conscious of himself because the body was dead without the spirit.
Animals have souls, for the soul possesses intellectual and emotional qualities, and animals have these. But it is all physical, and when the physical is dead, all is gone. Our souls, our intellectual and emotional qualities, are not based upon the physical, but upon the spirit, and when the body is dead they still exist.
19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
In this passage of scripture we have a very vivid illustration of man’s three parts – spirit, soul, and body. Notice that verse 22 says, “… the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.” Who was carried away? (The beggar – not his body, but him.) His spirit is the real person. His body was put in the grave, but he was in “Abraham’s bosom.”
The rich man also died. His body was put in the grave, but “in hell he lift up his eyes.” Although Abraham’s body had been in the grave for many years, the rich man saw him. He also recognized Lazarus. Therefore, in the spirit realm, man looks very similar to what he does in this life. He cried out to Abraham, “Have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember …” Man is a spirit, and he has a soul. We see in this scripture that his soul is still intact. He can still remember. He has emotion. He was tormented. He was concerned about his five brothers still living (verses 27, 28).
God is a Spirit. He became a man, for Jesus was God manifested in the flesh, living in a human body. He took on a physical body and when He did He was no less God than He was before. We know that man leaves his physical body at death, and when he does he is no less man than he was when he had his physical body, as proven by the story of the rich man and Lazarus.
We cannot know God through our human knowledge, through our mind. God is only revealed to man through his spirit. It is the spirit of man that contacts God, for God is a Spirit.