The Soul: Immaterial Part of Man
2) It is through our physical body that we rule nature. Unlike the immaterial angels man has a physical body, and from that he is to from that vantage point rule physical nature. He is to exercise dominion over all the creatures. Thus we are to see that there is a connection between the material part of man and an immaterial part, and that these are united in one person and the totality of that person is said to be in the image of God. He represents God in the universe. We can’t emphasize one over the other; they are both important. John 14:9—Jesus is emphasizing, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” The point is that in the incarnation everything that God was in terms of being infinite is scrunched and packed down into the highest possible expression of deity in finite form, and that is in the person of Jesus Christ in His humanity. Colossians 2:9, we are told that in Him all the fullness of deity dwells in Him in bodily form. It is not just the fact that He is God but that He is in a truly human body that is important. So man rules nature through his body and mans dominion rule was lost at the fall. Because of the fall man could never exercise his dominion as God originally intended. That dominion rule is going to be recovered through the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and that dominion is ultimately going to be exercised when the Lord Jesus Christ returns at the second coming. This is seen in 1 Corinthians 15. In the process of the Church Age each individual believer is going to be spiritually matured through the exercise of ruling. As we learn to rule our flesh, which includes mastery of the sin nature under the power of the Holy Spirit, and then working outward in all of the dimensions of life around us. Even Jesus Christ (and He was sinless) had to be matured in this same manner of exercising authority—He learned obedience through the things which He suffered. Jesus didn’t have to be disobedient or ever disobey anyone to learn obedience any more than we have to learn that murder or some other crime is wrong by having committed that crime. We learn these things in the process of our growth and in the same way, the Lord Jesus Christ in His humanity, learned to exercise dominion and apply doctrine to every area of life as He was prepared to go to the cross. In 1 Corinthians 15 we see how powerful the implications from the creation are. Picking up the context from verse 22,
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.”
Look at the way this is expressed. It is very similar to the expression of man’s exercise of dominion in Genesis chapter one where man is to rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. He is to rule over every dimension of the creation. Here we see that history culminates when a human being (this isn’t talking about Jesus Christ in His deity, it is emphasizing Jesus Christ in His humanity) will fulfill that dominion mandate. This is why Jesus is given the title of Son of Man [son of Adam] in Scripture. It emphasizes the fact that He is the son [descendant] of Adam and that He is fully human and in the one who lives out the command given to Adam and fulfills God’s plan where Adam failed. The second part is that man rules nature. One important point from this, going back to the importance of the union of material and immaterial, and that is that the soul is never to be understood or thought of as having some sort of independent existence. Some of our ideas about the soul really have their historical roots in Platonism, and for Plato there was an idea known as the preexistence of the soul. So for Plato the soul could exist all by itself and the body, therefore was not that necessary; it was just something the soul had to live through for the period of migration on the earth before it eventually returned to the world of the ideal. This is why the physical world and its importance was downplayed in Platonism, Gnosticism, and later Docetism. But we look at Scripture and we realize that the soul must always be united to some sort of body. There is no independent existence of the soul. Cf. Luke 16.
3) All human beings are made from Adam’s single body. When God created the human race He did not, as in the case of animals, create male and female individually. He started by creating the male and then the female is taken from the male, so that every single human being goes right back to Adam. Adam is our representative head and he is our physical head. This makes the human race unique among all of God’s creatures. This is why God can send the Lord Jesus Christ to die on the cross as the representative for the race because there is a genetic unification in the human race that makes it possible. That can’t happen for angels because each angel is created differently and in distinction, so that there is unity among the angels.
4) Man in his immaterial nature reflects his creator. Do not misunderstand. This is not saying that man in his body reflects the creator, but in his immaterial nature. The immaterial part of man reflects God, and it is going to be housed in a material body that has to be the best possible expression of that which is the representative and the reflection of God. We are to represent God and reflect His character in ruling the creation.
There are some basic issues that have to be covered. The first is what the components are in the human being. This is otherwise known as dichotomy vs. trichotomy. The second has to do with the location of emotion: whether it is in the soul or the body; whether it is material based or immaterial based. The third is the nature of the soul itself.
Dichotomy or trichotomy. These are traditional theological terms that have been used for centuries. There is one view in church history that said that man is trichotomous—in three parts. The other view is that he is dichotomous—two parts. In trichotomy, which is the view of the early church, man is comprised of three parts: body, soul and spirit. In dichotomy, man is composed of two parts: the material and the immaterial, not body and soul. In trichtomoy the view is that man is comprised of the body, the soul, and the spirit; that the soul has different components to it, and that would include self-consciousness, mentality, volition, and conscience where the norms and standards are stored in the soul. The spirit is that immaterial element which makes it possible for the elements of the soul to relate to God and to understand the things of God. In trichotomy we recognize that when Adam sinned he died spiritually. That means something wasn’t active or present once he sinned that was there before he sinned. In dichotomy the belief is that all the terms you find in Scripture—soul, spirit, heart, mind—are all virtually synonymous and interchangeable terms, and that you can’t go into the Scripture and make distinctions between these terms, because the dichotomist would argue that there are many places where the terms are used in an overlapping manner. The argument for trichotomy: 1 Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” The two key words that must be understood from this verse are “natural man” and “spiritually.” In the Greek the terminology that is used for “natural man” is not a term that would normally be translated “nature.” It is the word PSUCHIKOS which has to do with the soul; it means soulish—“the soulish man.” The “spiritual man” is the Greek word PNEUMATIKOS. So there is a contrast here between the two men. Jude 19, “These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the [being devoid of] Spirit,” uses this same word PSUCHIKOS. The context of Jude 19 is a contrast between believers and unbelievers. The phrase “devoid of the spirit” is correctly translated, “not having spirit.” There is no capital S in the word “spirit” in the Greek text. It is a decision of the translator whether the word should have an upper case or lower case S. Since the context is believer vs. unbeliever it is not talking simply about “devoid of the spirit,” it should be understood in contrast to PSUCHIKOS and not having lower case spirit.
The reason for saying that is if we look at 1 Corinthians 2:9ff there is a quote from the Old Testament in Isaiah. Paul goes on to talk about the special revelation given through the Holy Spirit. So whatever Paul says about soulish men and spiritual men in the context of 1 Corinthians 2 must also be true of Old Testament believers. Now Old Testament believers were never filled with the Holy Spirit. They weren’t indwelt by the Holy Spirit; that is unique to Church Age believers. The point is that if we are going to take a quote from the Old Testament and make application to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, whatever is said has to be true as well for the Old Testament believers. Therefore this can’t be a discussion between having the Holy Spirit and not having the Holy Spirit, but must be the human spirit vs. not having the human spirit. God creates man with a human body and then a human soul. The human soul is comprised of self-consciousness, mentality, conscience and volition. Then there is another immaterial part, the human spirit, and they are so interconnected that you can speak of one as the whole unity by talking about one. You can use either word to describe the whole. What we have in the Old Testament is a presentation of man being created with a physical body and an immaterial part, and that immaterial part has components. One component is the human spirit, which allows the self-consciousness to relate to God in terms of God-consciousness, the mentality to think God’s thoughts after Him, the conscience to appreciate and understand the absolute norms and standards revealed by God, and the volition to choose to follow God in terms of positive volition. But when Adam sinned that immaterial part of man’s nature was lost. It died; it disappeared. So that the self-conscious, the mentality, the conscience and the volition could not longer relate to God. They no longer had the capacity to relate to God so they are left out to figure life on their own, apart from divine input.
When someone puts their faith alone in Christ alone then they are born again, and God the Holy Spirit creates and simultaneously imparts to them that human spirit so that they go from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive. That new human spirit acquired at regeneration is what enables them to learn the Word of God again and to grow and advance in both the Old and New Testaments. However, in the New Testament we have the Holy Spirit who is the one who teaches when we are in fellowship with Him. That explains the difference between trichotomy and dichotomy. Problem passages: Luke 10:27, “And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.” The dichotomist says there are different elements there; they are all treated differently. But that is not true. There is a progression in that verse: “all your heart” has to do with the inner core of the soul. The problem with most dichotomists is that they fail to realize that when you have different terms such as these (heart, mind, conscience) they all relate to components of the soul. The same thing can be said of the Old Testament. Ecclesiastes 3:21, “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” There the word “spirit” [ruach] is used in just a general sense to refer to the immaterial part of man. This is where people get into trouble. That is, when they say the soul and the spirit, and they learn there is these three parts and then try to go into every passage and make every time they see the word “spirit” equal the human spirit. You can’t do it. In the Old Testament there is a much more generic use of these terms than in the New Testament. The New Testament gives us precision so that we can understand this tripartite make-up of man. Same thing in Luke 1:46, 47, when Mary is praising God. This is Hebrew synonymous parallelism and you don’t want to go in and try to make a distinction between the soul and the human spirit in that passage. They are just used in very generic terms. Remember, there are eight different ways these words are used and they don’t always mean the same thing in every single context.
How do we know that there are distinctions? Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit.” Here the writer of Hebrews makes it clear that there are times when there is a distinction between the soul and the spirit; they are not synonymous terms. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “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.” He sees that there is a distinction there between spirit, soul, and body. The conclusion is that the Bible makes it very clear that man is made up of three parts. The other immaterial components comprise the elements in the soul—the nature and make-up of the soul.