Humans are both spiritual and natural. We live in both realms. We are a spirit, we have a soul, and we live in a body. With our spirit, we contact the spirit realm. With our soul, we contact the soulish realm. And with our bodies, we contact the natural realm.
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23; emphasis mine).
We get a look into the difference when we read of Jesus’ struggle in the garden before His arrest:
“Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.’
He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.’
Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak’” (Mark 14:32–38).
Jesus said His spirit was willing to suffer the humiliation and cross, but His soul was “exceedingly sorrowful, even to death” and His “flesh is weak.”
- His spirit was willing.
- His soul was sorrowful.
- His flesh was weak.
He needed make His mind up to overcome sorrow, and make His will line up with the willingness of His spirit. His soul, therefore, would be:
- His mind/intellect: He had to make the mental decision of what He was going to choose.
- His will: He determined to set His will in line with the will of the spirit.
- His emotions: He was sorrowful and pressured not to go forward.
His flesh was weak: He physically rebelled against the thought of the torment He faced.
We can also see another glimpse of the difference in Romans 12:1–2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Paul wrote that we should present our bodies a living sacrifice, and renew our minds.
- We: the spirit man.
- Bodies: the flesh/natural man.
- Minds/intellect: the soul.
Peter calls the spirit the “hidden person of the heart” (1 Peter 3:4).
The heart, the spirit, is what’s born again and receives eternal life when we accept Jesus as lord and savior. Our minds must be renewed to the word and things of God, and our bodies are to be kept holy as a living sacrifice.
Understanding the difference can help overcome the trials and temptations we face, just as Jesus overcame His that night in the garden.
Stay strong and prepared!