The first chapter of Genesis provides a basis for understanding the Trinity. It’s where God said “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” ( ).
Since the Bible describes man in great detail, we must be able to find out some things about Him from what it says about us. (We don’t need to be too concerned about humanizing Him because the Bible is strikingly clear about the ways that we’re not like Him.)
Various Scriptures mention our spirit, soul and body; but 1 Thessalonians 5:23 lists the three of them all together. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The verse suggests that those three “entirely” and “completely” describe us. Let’s see how they also describe Him –and take a peek at His relationship with us.
Spirit: We know that God has a spirit –it’s the Holy Spirit. He hovered over the earth at its creation. The phrase “hovered over” alludes to waiting for new life to begin –like a mother hen brooding, waiting for her chicks to hatch.
There’s a grand metaphor within the creation story. (We’ll dig deeper into that later.) It begins with a picture. The earth (or ground, or soil) represents each person. The Holy Spirit hovers over us –eagerly waiting for our submission so that He can join with our spirit as a new, born-again creation ().
Body: God has a body –it’s Jesus. He revealed that He was the One that salvation came through. He is the Lamb that had to be slain in order to make perfect peace between us and God. He is the Groom of the bride in .
That marriage is laid out in Ephesians chapter five. It talks about Jesus considering us holy and blameless –and then presenting us to Himself as perfect in every way.
Soul: God also has a third part. It’s not named but it’s identified by His creativity, His desires, His emotions, His determination, His wisdom, His love. If we were talking about a person, then we would call those attributes of the soul. The Bible correlates them with the Father.
It was in the garden that He told both Adam and Eve, while they were still together in one body, that mankind was not to take on the role of judging good and evil –that was only for Him to do. Of course I’m referring to eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I typically call that tree the tree of death because of the result. However, without that result there would be no need for eating the fruit from the tree of life (Jesus’ flesh and blood: ).
By the way, good and evil mean “valuable” and “worthless.” And they are determinations from His viewpoint; not ours. Don’t get me wrong. Judging was fine –for selecting which tasty fruit to eat and what names to give the animals. It’s fine for us too –in regard to picking a route to travel or job to undertake. But deciding who and what are good or evil is beyond our realm of authority.
Nonetheless, as Eve’s children we follow in her footsteps. It’s in our nature to divide almost everything, especially people and events, into those two categories. The ones we like, we call good, better, greatest, etc. And those we don’t like, we condemn as evil, bad, horrible…
Do you remember the story inabout Jesus’ last days when He was approaching Jerusalem? The people in a Samaritan village rejected Him. Two apostles traveling with Him (James and John) asked, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them? But He turned and rebuked them.” It wasn’t for them to judge. That’s His role and He will decide everyone’s value on Judgment Day.
Here are some more terms that the Bible uses to characterize us besides spirit, soul and body. Let’s look at how they fit in this framework.
Flesh (or Sin Nature): The flesh describes our connection to this world –our environment. It’s the part of us that’s stimulated by, and responds to what the body’s five senses encounter. (Like seeing a tragedy or finding an old friend, hearing slanderous words or a complement, smelling something burning or freshly baked bread, tasting sour fruit or a sweet desert, touching a hot stove or a loved one’s hand.)
Heart: The heart is the part of the soul that contains conclusions formed through life’s experiences –and to a lesser degree, those gleaned from others. Regardless of any noble outward appearances, our natural human heart is wholly self-serving. When speaking about it Jeremiah said, “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” ( )
Mind: The mind is synonymous with the soul. It’s where thinking is done and choices are made. It evaluates perceptions from the flesh and conclusions from the heart. Although those two dominate what goes on, there is a third influence to the mind. It’s our human spirit –which communicates with God’s Spirit.
Old and New Man: The old man, or natural man, is a picture of who we are when we’re born into this world. That famous passage describes us as having been born of the water which gushes from the mother’s womb. We have no tie to God –only His desire for us to join Him.
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.” (John 3:5-7)
When we’re born-again –born of the Spirit– we become a new man –a new creation in Christ. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Those who have received God’s gift of eternal life also experience the whole Trinity. The Holy Spirit communicates with us through our spirits –revealing “even the deep things of God” (). We are the products of the Father’s design, the cause of His angst and the recipients of His love. And it’s Jesus who came and described the way for us to be joined with God (the Trinity) forever.
It was in Genesis that the Father related that “It is not good for the man to be alone.” We usually think of this in terms of a man marrying a woman. It has a deeper implication though. We need companionship –we need God.
To make that a reality, the differences have to be resolved. The heart that Jeremiah says is so wicked must be replaced by a new heart. God puts it within us at new birth (). And our minds are renewed on a continual basis so that we may know Him –and trust Him– more each day ( ).
Jesus bought for us an incorruptible body for the day of redemption, our soul is reconciled with the Father through the Son, and our spirit is the only connection we have to God.
Although we journey through life with an undesired companion –our flesh– God uses it to reveal our need for Him. Only after we leave this world will it die away. Meanwhile, it keeps us humble so that we can be effective ambassadors for Christ –telling everyone we meet that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:19).