The Triune Nature of Man

.... We know that God created man is His own likeness or similitude, so there is a Scriptural reason to believe that a ‘scale model’ of the Trinity exists within each one of us as well. If this is the first time you’ve considered such a possibility, it may be stunning to think about. But if this is true and the same Triune nature is inherent within us, because we were made in God’s image, then maybe we can understand a little more about the Godhead itself by exploring man’s lesser reflection – sort of like performance tests that are run on a scale model. This does not mean that man will be able to create or redeem or show other Divine capabilities, that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re only talking about our basic essence as a living being, our structure so-to-speak. So by using this ‘back door’ approach, let’s see what the Scriptures have to say about man as a triune being and afterward try to correlate this to God Himself as the ‘true pattern’ from which we were formed.

.... Our first order of business is to see whether man is a triune being, and that is really a pretty easy case to make. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Paul describes the three parts of man – something we call the tripartite man – and he tells us that man is constituted of spirit, soul and body.

.... Now in this passage spirit, soul and body are mentioned together, but throughout both the Old and New Testaments anyone can see the spirit, soul and body of a man constantly being mentioned separately. So this should come as no surprise to anyone. But now our task is to see if the spirit, the soul and body of man are distinct as far as personal distinctions, yet the same in regard to their basic essence – that they are nevertheless one, as we would see in the Godhead.

.... First let’s look at the personal distinctions, and the first thing I’d like to explore is the distinction between spirit and the body, or the flesh. In Galatians 5:17, Paul says that the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, and these two are contrary to one another. So if your spirit is trying to lead you one way, and your flesh is trying to lead you another way, there’s clearly a distinction between the two – in fact, in our own human case, there’s are actual differences. So we can easily see that our flesh and our spirit have distinct ‘personalities’.

.... Next let’s go to Romans 7:23, and in this passage we’ll see a distinction between our body and our soul. Now our body is our flesh, and our soul is our mind and our seat of emotions. And here’s how Paul describes the distinction:

.... "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members."

(Romans 7:23)

.... So here we see another sort of ‘war’ going on. We saw a moment ago that our body was warring against our spirit. But Paul says that it is also warring against his mind – his soul – so in the same way that there is a personality distinction between the body and spirit, there’s a distinction between body and soul – they are actually contrary to each other. And once again, in the case of man who is imperfect, this not only shows distinctions but actual differences.

.... Now the last distinction we need to show is the distinction between the spirit and the soul of man. Are there personal distinctions between them? Consider 1 Corinthians 14:14, where Paul is saying this:

.... "For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful."

(1 Corinthians 14:14)

.... In this passage there is a clear distinction between the spirit and the understanding – the spirit and the soul of man. Our spirit is pursuing one area of understanding – praying – but in our soulish area of understanding, within the mind, we’re just not attaining to it, we don’t yet understand it. So once again, because of a difference, we see a distinction between ‘personality’ of the spirit and the soul. Let’s sum up what we’ve discussed so far:
.... Within each man there are three parts: spirit, soul and the body. We see that the body is distinct from the spirit because it is contrary, the body is distinct from the soul because they’re contrary, and the spirit and the soul are distinct from each other, in areas such as understanding, and maybe it goes even further than that. But in any case, each of these three ‘persons’ is clearly shown to have an influence on our lives. Yet we must also keep bear in mind an essential difference:

.... It is easy to see personal distinctions within man because we are limited, imperfect and sinful. Man constantly contradicts himself for these reasons. However, if we are talking about personal distinctions within the Godhead, well, God is not constrained in such ways. He is not limited, but omnipotent; He is not sinful, but sinless; God is perfect, and He is complete and full within Himself in every possible way, and He knows all things. So within the godhead there may still be personal distinctions but there are not necessarily going to be any differences between those personalities. Each member of the Godhead would be utterly full and complete, absolutely perfect, and therefore absolutely identical to one another as far as personal distinctions go. So even if they are distinct, they are not going to be different from each other.


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