Man is a Spirit

Man is more than just a body.

May the God of peace sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

Paul’s blessing to the Thessalonians shows us that there is more to man than meets the eye. He’s more than a physical body, a brain, and some electrical impulses. He’s a three-part being with one foot in the material world, and the other in the unseen spiritual world. The Word shows us that the spirit is the superior nature of man’s being.

Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; … So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26, 27)

In Genesis, the book of beginnings, it says that God set out to make man in his image and likeness. We understand that God doesn’t have a physical body. He doesn’t live in a house in Texas or Tennessee, or drive a car to work. He is a spirit, John tells us. And this means that man must be a spirit, too. We see this in the creation account.

then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground,and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7, KJV)

The first phrase of Genesis 2:7 tells us that God formed Adam from the dust of the ground. Later in the same chapter, in Genesis 2:19, we see that he made the animals from the ground, too. From these two facts, we can deduce something about Adam at this stage of his creation. We know that animals have a soul. They have an awareness of their surroundings, other animals, and the world. They have a seat of personality. They get mad, they whimper, they get sad, they get frisky, they play around. It was the same with Adam.

But what set Adam apart from the animals was what God did next. He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, the breath of his own spiritual materiality. This was the acme of creation. Adam, the Word says, became a “living soul.” God’s spirit filled out Adam’s flesh cell-for-cell with the materiality of spirit. The Word called him a “living soul” because his soul was now encased in spirit. He made him eternal—existing forever.

This spiritual man, this hidden man of the heart, is the superior part of man’s being, and God meant it to be the dominant part of his being, too.

We can discern the distinctions between the inner man and the outer man more clearly from some of Paul’s writings in the New Testament. In Philippians, he demonstrates how the inner man is the dominant man.

I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. (Philippians 1:23, 24)

Paul is writing from prison, contemplating death, and he says something most of us would find odd. He says he is hard pressed between dying and continuing to live on. Most of us see death as an end, but not Paul. He saw it as a separation, a severing of his inner man from his physical body, not a cessation. Death was another step in his walk of salvation with the Lord. 

How did he come to think this way? He was well aware of man’s spiritual nature. And not only that, he considered his inner man to be the real man. He would still continue to exist, live, and function well after his physical body had died and returned to dust. 

In his letter to the Corinthians he related how the inner man was superior to the outer man.  

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)
…but though your outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16, KJV)

Paul recognized his body was aging and would eventually expire and pass away. That’s because of Adam’s sin. When Adam sinned in Eden, he caused his spiritual nature to inherit corruption. This corruption seeped all the way down into his body, rendering it doomed to death (Genesis 5:3). But, Paul says, his spirit was being continually renewed. That’s because he had been born again.

Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." (John 3:3)
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Cor. 5:17)

When a man is born again, or born from above, his physical nature isn’t changed or transformed. He still has the same body he has always had. It’s his inner man that is recreated after God’s own image and God’s own nature. And it is with this reborn spirit, which has been made alive and made dominant who God leads with his own Holy Spirit.

Photo: "Peter Paul Rubens 083" by Peter Paul Rubens - The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

GospelPeter Smythe