Lesson 2 - The Human as a Spiritual Being - Part 2:
Functions of body, soul and spirit
In the West, the 19th and 20th Centuries have taught us to venerate our minds and thinking. We distrust all that airy-fairy, spooky stuff like intuition and spirits. Reality is what we can see and touch and reason out. We consider ourselves to be a mind looking out from a body in which it lives and moves through the real, physical world. Any other reality is nebulous and somehow different - the stuff of our private inner thought world.
However, this is not a Christian worldview. When we look at God's revelation in the Bible we have to agree that true reality is where God is, and that what we perceive is only a small part of that reality. If true reality is the realm of God, who is a Spirit, then it is only perceived in any completeness by spirit. We should get used to thinking of ourselves as a spiritual being in touch with God's reality, with a body which interacts with the physical part of God's reality, via our mind which joins the two together. The mind receives revelation from God's realm through the spirit, and from the physical realm through the body's senses. It processes and stores information and carries out actions - physical, mental and spiritual - under the direction of the spirit.
We will look in more detail at the functions of body, soul and spirit later.
Be wary of simplistic tripartism. Distrust such simple comparisons of the human tripartite nature with the Holy Trinity, or with chemical phases such as ice, water and steam. We are whole beings, with body, soul and spirit. As Selwyn Stephens says, "We are a spirit, we have a soul, going around in a body." Be wary of Greek dualism. Spirit is not always good and flesh always bad - both are essential for human life, and inseparable. The Greeks separated out the spirit/soul/mind and the flesh/emotions/desires, but the Hebrews understood human nature as a whole entity. For a human, the spirit, soul and body are all essential and inseparable. Thinking about them separately is only a simplification which enables us to focus on their different functions.
What does it mean to live? - Part 1
Let's begin with some questions:
Is the Bible a book which teaches us how to live a good life acceptable to God? Is a Christian someone who tries to live a good life in obedience to what the church teaches? Did Jesus come to earth to be an example of how we should live?
The answer to all these questions is NO!
These are some of the things our society believes that a Christian is, and there is some truth in them. All major religions try to teach people how to live. They give a set of moral and ethical codes. Yet no one seems to be able to keep them.
Then why did Jesus come? What does it mean to be a Christian?
Jesus did not come to show us how to live. He came to make it possible for us to live! (John 10:10)
Again, Jesus said:
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me you would really know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." (John 14:6-7)
Does he mean that if we know what Jesus is like then we will also know what God the Father is like? The next verses tell us that even the disciples, who had been with Jesus for several years by then, didn't understand him.
Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."
Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father.'" (John 14:8-9)
They, and often we, do not understand this, because Jesus is talking about something new to them, and probably to us. To know Jesus does not mean to know about him. It does not even mean to believe what we know about him. It does not even mean to act upon what we believe about him, although many Christians think that they are doing really well if they get to this stage.