Tripartite Scripture Passages
The Bible, primarily the New Testament, reveals a number of Scripture passages that reflect the tripartite composition of man, i.e., spirit, soul, and body, which is best expressed by the apostle Paul in the book 1 Thessalonians, and by the writer of the book of Hebrews.
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)
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, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Understanding that man’s composition includes a physical body presents little difficulty with most students of Scripture, but there appears to be a quandary by others over the other two segments — spirit and soul.
And although the Greek words utilized and translated spirit (pneuma) and soul (psuche) throughout the New Testament may be also translated and/or utilized to represent something other than a structural component of man, it should be noted that the two are never confused or misused by the Author of Scripture and which may only be properly understood as essential elements of man when considered within their context.
Note the following descriptions of “soul” and “spirit” from Salvation of the Soul (one of many books by Arlen L. Chitwood posted in their entirety on www.bibleone.net):
The Greek word translated “soul” throughout the New Testament is psuche. This word has to do with “the natural life” of the individual. The soul is the seat of a person’s emotions, feelings, and desires pertaining to his man-conscious existence.
The Greek word translated “natural” in 1 Corinthians 2:14 is psuchikos, a form of the word psuche. Psuchikos is the “natural” or “soulical” life (self-life) that man has in common with the animal kingdom.
The soulical man is dominated or ruled by his soul, which includes all the experiences, desires, emotions, sensations, likes, and dislikes within the personal, natural life of the individual. Such likes, dislikes, etc. will vary from individual to individual, but all emanate from the soul-life of man.
The soulical man is alienated from God and, thus, possesses no way to grasp spiritual truth. A man must be born from above — made alive spiritually — before he can possess spiritual discernment.
The Greek word translated “spirit” throughout the New Testament is pneuma. This word is used in the New Testament referring to the Holy Spirit, man’s spirit, angels (both fallen and un-fallen), a state of mind or disposition, wind, and breath. Examples in Scripture of the last four are Luke 8:55; John 3:8; 1 Corinthians 4:21; 2 Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 1:7; 1 Peter 3:19.
Man’s spirit is the seat of the higher divine life pertaining to his God-conscious existence. The Greek word translated “spiritual” in 1 Corinthians 3:1a is pneumatikos, a form of the word pneuma. The spiritual man is one who is controlled by the Spirit of God acting through his own spirit (through a spirit made alive by the birth from above).
The spiritual man, unlike the soulical man, controls his emotions, feelings, and desires pertaining to his still-present, man-conscious existence. He brings his unredeemed body under subjection and exerts control over the soulical man. This, of course, is not performed within his own power, but within the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is an experience open to redeemed man alone, to an individual who has been made alive spiritually.
Unredeemed man, on the other hand, although a trichotomous being, fails to rise above the dichotomous animal kingdom in his natural or soulical existence. He lacks a redeemed spirit with the accompanying, indwelling Holy Spirit. He, with an inanimate spirit, is spiritually dead. And, consequently, he remains alienated from God. Thus, an existence outside the soulical (natural) for unredeemed man is not possible.
Furthermore, the tripartite nature of man is outlined in this book, Salvation of the Soul, as follows:
The Tripartite Nature of Man
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)
Man is a tripartite being comprised of spirit, soul, and body; and the salvation of man within its complete scope (past, present, and future) pertains to the salvation of man with respect to his complete being. In the study of Scripture it is revealed that each of these three parts of man is subject to salvation at different times. Thus, to understand salvation in its complete scope, one must first understand certain things about man’s tripartite nature. Then, salvation in relation to this tripartite nature becomes the issue.
The first chapter of Genesis reveals that man was created in the “image” and “likeness” of God. The word translated “God” in the Hebrew text of this statement is Elohim. This is a plural noun, which, in complete keeping with related Scripture, would include all three members of the Godhead — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (e.g., cf. John 1:1-3).
Since Elohim is a trinity, for man to be created in the “image” and “likeness” of God, he too must be a trinity. Unlike the dichotomous animal kingdom (created apart from the “image” and “likeness” of God) possessing only bodies and souls, trichotomous man (created in the “image” and “likeness” of God) is a triune being. Man not only possesses a body and a soul, but he also possesses a spirit as well.
Jesus is Elohim manifested in the flesh; and having been made in the “likeness” of man (but apart from man’s fallen nature), He, as man, must also be a trinity (John 1:14; Philippians 2:7). This tripartite nature of Christ, in whom “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9), was clearly revealed at the time of His death.
At this time Jesus yielded up His spirit, which went back into the presence of His Father in heaven (Luke 23:46; cf. Ecclesiastes 12:7; Acts 7:59); His soul went into Hades, the place of the dead, housed inside the earth at that time (Acts 2:27); and His body was removed from the Cross and placed in Joseph of Arimathaea’s tomb (Matthew 27:57-61). This threefold separation persisted until the soul and spirit re-entered the body at the time Christ was raised from the dead.
Thus, God, Elohim, is a trinity; Jesus, Elohim manifested in the flesh, is likewise a trinity; and man, created in the “image” and “likeness” of Elohim, can only be a trinity as well. Accordingly, a complete redemption provided by the triune God must, of necessity, pertain to man as a complete being. Man’s complete redemption must encompass spirit, soul, and body.
1) Past, Present, Future . . . Spirit, Soul, Body
When man sinned in the garden in Eden, the complete being of man — spirit, soul, and body — became in a fallen state. God had commanded Adam concerning the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). After Satan had deceived Eve into eating of the fruit of this tree, she then “gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” Immediately following this, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Genesis 3:1-7).
At the time of the fall, Adam and Eve lost something; and it is clearly stated in Scripture that both immediately recognized this fact. That which they lost could only have been a covering of pristine glory that had previously clothed their bodies, for they, following the fall, found themselves in a twofold condition:
2) Separated from God.
God is arrayed in a covering of “light,” connected with “honor and majesty.” And man, created in the “image” and “likeness” of God, could only have been arrayed in a similar manner prior to the fall.
Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, You are very great: You are clothed with [“You have put on”] honor and majesty. (Psalm 104:1)
Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, who stretch out the heavens like a curtain. (Psalm 104:2)
Recognizing the loss of this covering, realizing that they were naked, explains why Adam and Eve immediately sought to clothe themselves following the fall. They tried to replace the covering that had been lost with a work of their own hands, with fig leaf aprons. And then, apparently realizing the utter inadequacy of this covering, they, in their fallen state, sought to hide from God.
God, finding Adam and Eve in this condition, completely rejected the works of their hands. God completely rejected their feeble efforts to atone for their own sin by seeking to replace the covering of pristine glory with fig leaves.
Then, to bring His fallen creature back into a right relationship (although not in complete keeping with their previously un-fallen state — something still future even today), God provided a covering consisting of animal skins (Genesis 3:21). This necessitated death and the shedding of blood; and herein lie basic, unchangeable truths concerning the state of fallen man and the means that are necessary to effect his redemption.
Unredeemed man is a fallen creature, alienated from God; and two things are necessary to effect his redemption:
1) Divine intervention.
2) Death and shed blood.
These truths have forever been set forth in the opening chapters of Genesis and can never change.
(Two different words are used for “naked” in the Hebrew text of Genesis 2:25 [before the fall] and Genesis 3:7 [after the fall]. In the latter [3:7], the word has to do with absolute nakedness, but not so in the former [2:25].
Remaining within the way a person dressed in the East at the time Moses wrote Genesis, and at later times as well, the word used relative to nakedness pertaining to Adam and Eve preceding the fall [2:25] could be used to describe a person clothed in a tunic [inner garment] but lacking the mantle or cloak [outer garment]. In the preceding respect, prior to the fall, Adam and Eve were clothed in the Glory of God but had yet to possess the regal outer garments worn by kings [fulfilling the reason for man’s creation — to rule the earth (Genesis 1:26-28)].
Then, following the fall, no longer clothed in the Glory of God, Adam and Eve were no longer in a position to be further clothed in regal garments, realizing the purpose for their creation. They, apart from the inner garment [the Glory] could not wear the outer garments [royal apparel].
Adam, prior to the fall, never wore regal garments or held the scepter. In this respect, he never moved beyond the description given in Genesis 2:25 — a “naked” condition, “naked” in relation to the reason for his creation [lacking the outer regal garments].
Thus, if man, now separated from the Glory, is to ever fulfill the purpose for his creation, God must act. Redemption has to occur; and this, of necessity, has to include the complete man — spirit, soul, and body — with a view to not only a restoration of the Glory but to regality beyond this restoration.)
Man’s sin in the garden in Eden produced death. Man died the day he ate of the forbidden fruit. Since his body continued to live, revealing that his soul — the life-giving principle in the blood (Leviticus 17:11; cf. Genesis 9:4) — remained unchanged with respect to life (natural life), it is evident that it was his spirit that died.
The spiritual nature is that part of man that links him directly with God. “God is spirit,” and man’s worship of God must be “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24, NASB). The death of Adam’s spirit separated him from God (establishing the primary meaning of “death” in Scripture — separation from God), and this death (this separation from God) “spread to all men” (Romans 5:12). Scripture speaks of an unsaved person as being “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). With an unredeemed, inanimate spirit (spiritually dead), he is alienated from God, separated from God (Ephesians 2:12).
But once the person has been born from above, he is then spoken of as having passed “from death into life,” as having been “quickened [NKJV: ‘made us alive’]” (John 5:24; Ephesians 2:5). Possessing an animate spirit, possessing spiritual life (having been made alive spiritually), he is no longer separated from the One who Himself is “Spirit” (John 4:24).
This aspect of salvation is brought to pass by the Spirit of God breathing life into the one having no life, based on Christ’s finished work at Calvary; and once this has been accomplished, everything surrounding the work effecting this aspect of salvation has been completed, with this work existing in a finished state (as previously seen through the use of the perfect tense in Ephesians 2:8.
Thus, the salvation experience that man enters into at the time of the birth from above is a work of the Spirit, based on a previous work of the Son. It is a spiritual birth and has to do with man’s spirit alone: “. . . that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6b).
The salvation of the soul, on the other hand, should never be associated with the past aspect of salvation. Scripture carefully distinguishes between the soul and the spirit, never using the words interchangeably in this respect (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12).
And Scripture also carefully distinguishes between salvation in relation to the spirit and salvation in relation to the soul. Salvation in relation to the spirit is always dealt with in a past sense, but not so with the salvation of the soul. Rather, the salvation of the soul is always dealt with in a future sense:
receiving the end of your faith — the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:9)
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)
But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe [are faithful] to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:39)
The statements and exhortations in these verses pertain to Christians alone — those whose spirits have already been saved and whose souls are in the process of being saved, with the salvation of the soul being realized only at a future time.
The salvation of the body presents very few problems for the majority of Christians. Very few Christians contend, contrary to Scripture, that the body has either already been redeemed or is in the process of being redeemed. Scripture places the redemption of man’s body entirely in the future (Romans 8:23).
The Christian’s body is presently in a continuous state of deterioration. The body grows old and weakens with time; and the body is subject to sickness, disease, and eventually death. This must ever remain the case as long as the body remains in its present state. The “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and the unredeemed body must pay the price that sin requires.
Within this unredeemed body lie two opposing entities, each seeking dominion — a redeemed spirit, and an unredeemed soul. The unredeemed soul is housed in an unredeemed body, and the two are mutually compatible. But the redeemed spirit housed alongside an unredeemed soul in an unredeemed body experiences no compatibility with either of the other two at all. Compatibility is not possible, for “what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
This heterogeneous union is what produced the cry of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:24,
O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?
(For information on the redemption of the body, refer to the appendix — “Adoption, Redemption
of the Body” — in the author’s book, God’s Firstborn Sons.)
(End of ALC book insertion)
List of Tripartite Scripture Passages
Following is a list of New Testament passages that clearly indicate that man, who unquestionably has a body, also possesses both a spirit (Greek: pneuma) and a soul (Greek: psuche).
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (psuche).
Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit (pneuma) indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (cf. Mark 14:38)
When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life (psuche) will lose it, but whoever loses his life (psuche) for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul (psuche)? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul (psuche)? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (cf. Matthew 16:24-26; Luke 9:23-26; 17:33)
And my spirit (pneuma) has rejoiced in God my Savior.
And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit (pneuma).” Having said this, He breathed His last. (cf. Psalm 31:5; Acts 7:59)
And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit (pneuma).” (cf. Psalm 31:5)
1 Corinthians 2:11
For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit (pneuma) of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. (cf. Proverbs 20:27)
1 Corinthians 5:5
deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit (pneuma) may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
1 Corinthians 6:20
For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit (pneuma), which are God’s.
1 Thessalonians 5:23
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit (pneuma), soul (psuche), and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul (psuche) and spirit (pneuma), and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul (psuche).
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls (psuche).
For as the body without the spirit (pneuma) is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
James 5:19, 20
Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul (psuche) from death and cover a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 1:3-9
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith — the salvation of your souls (psuche).
1 Peter 1:22
Since you have purified your souls (psuche) in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.
1 Peter 4:19
Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls (psuche) to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
The following is the “Foreword” from the book, Salvation of the Soul:
The salvation of the soul is one of the most misunderstood subjects in Scripture. And it is misunderstood because of the way most Christians view salvation.
Contrary to common belief, the salvation of the soul has nothing to do with man’s eternal destiny. Biblical teachings surrounding eternal salvation are always related to the spiritual part of man, never the soulical, and are centered in one realm alone — in Christ’s finished work at Calvary.
And the salvation message, having to do with Christ’s finished work at Calvary and one’s eternal destiny, is very simple: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved [made possible through that which Christ has done on man’s behalf] . . .” (Acts 16:31).
But the salvation of the soul is dealt with after an entirely different fashion in Scripture. Rather than Christ’s past work at Calvary being in view, His present work as High Priest is in view; and rather than the unsaved being in view, only Christians are in view.
Christ is presently performing a work as High Priest, on the basis of His shed blood on the mercy seat, to effect a cleansing from sin for the kingdom of priests that He is about to bring forth. And Christ’s present work in this respect relates to Christians and to the saving of the soul.
Scripture deals with the salvation of the soul in relation to the present faithfulness of Christians, and this salvation will be realized only at the end of one’s faith (1 Peter 1:9). And a realization of this salvation is associated with rewards, Christ’s return, and His kingdom (cf. Matthew 16:24-17:5; Hebrews 10:35-39).
“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls [the souls of Christians, those who have ‘passed from death unto life,’ the only ones in a position to received ‘the implanted Word’]” (James 1:21).
Christians talk about soul-winning in connection with the unsaved. And soul-winning conferences are held with this same end in view. But this is not the way Scripture deals with soul-winning at all.
Soul-winning, as seen in Scripture, has to do with reaching those who already possess eternal life (those who have a redeemed spirit, those who have “passed from death unto life”), not with reaching those who are still “dead in trespasses and sins.” Soul-winning, rather than having to do with the free gift of eternal life, has to do with the faithfulness of the saved (resulting in works), a just recompense of reward, and life in the coming kingdom of Christ.
Soul-winning is reaching Christians with the Word of the Kingdom, reaching those who have already believed on the Lord Jesus Christ with the message concerning the purpose for their salvation.
(End of Foreword)
In this writer’s opinion it is quite unfortunate that almost all evangelical Christian entities (local churches, programs, individuals, etc.) have drifted so far from the ultimate truth (salvation of the soul) of Scripture pertaining to the “purpose for a Christian’s salvation,” which Jesus Christ personally labeled as “mysteries of the kingdom” and the “word of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:11, 19) as He endeavored to teach it to His disciples when He explained the various parables that He shared with the “great multitudes . . . gathered together to Him” on the seashore (Matthew 13).
To understand this doctrine is unquestionably the single most inspiring and persuasive encouragement for a Christian to live a holy life, honoring Jesus Christ; and, which will result in the most significant impact as he stands before His Savior in that future day at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:9-11; Romans 14:10, 12).
You are therefore encouraged to pursue this truth, the complete and comprehensive redemption program that God has designed for and offered to man.