The path to real progress, whether personal, social, national or global, passes through man’s self-realization. The better we know the truth about ourselves, our spiritual nature, our potential for excellence and the higher purpose of this life, the closer will we be to experience inner peace, true love and blissfulness.
Who are we? We all pretend to know; but how true is our knowledge? “Know thyself” said the ancient Greek sages; but how can we know ourselves? How does one go about it?
Since this book has the Bible as its only source and basis, we will endeavor to collect information about man from there. As with every other subject, we will search for relevant pieces of truth scattered throughout the scriptures. Indeed, the way the “word of the Lord” has been given to us is “precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little;” (Isa. 28:13a)
This, of course, is not because, for some reason, God did not want to reveal all his truths to us at once, but because men, even the great prophets, grasped it little by little, and passed it down to us line upon line. Let us, then, see what the Bible says about man.
I: Man’s spiritual nature
Man is divine and the most important “art” that he must learn in this life is the art of...
awakening and developing the inherent spiritual principle.
awakening and developing the inherent spiritual principle.
Let us see what the Bible tells us on this.
First of all, the Bible states that God created man in his own image and likeness.
“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.” (Gen. 2: 7)
The material by which God made man is soil, “the dust of the ground.” However, this body contains a living soul, the result of the breath God breathed into our nostrils. It follows, then, that we have a particle of God inborn in us, even His breath! A preceding verse confirms this: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Gen 1: 27)
According to the Bible, then, human beings, both males and females, are made in the image of God. Further down there is yet another verse that confirms this: “In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; male and female created he them.” (Gen. 5: 1b-2a)
From the above verses, we can safely conclude that there is a basic element in man that is like God. Which is this? It is our spirit! The following verse clarifies it: “Thus says God, the Lord, (…). He who gives breath to the people upon it (the earth) and spirit to those who walk in it.” (Isa. 42: 5)
So, man is a spiritual being, who lives in a physical body. The Bible also tells us that man is a little lower than the angels: “You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.” (Heb. 2: 7)
The fact that God put all the other creatures under man’s feet is also confirmed through the following two Biblical verses.
“And God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth’.” (Gen. 1: 28)
“You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet.” (Psa. 8: 6)
It is established, then, that man’s body is made of soil, yet he is a spiritual being, a little lower than the angels, and has been given dominion over all the other creatures. If man is superior to every other creature, it means that he is the only one made in the image and likeness of God, i.e. the only creature that has a moral conscience.
The Bible goes even further:
“I say: ‘you are gods; you are all sons of the Most High. However, you die as men and fall like every ruler’. ” (Psa. 82: 6-7)
Unfortunately, man is unaware of his divine nature, and thus he dies accordingly…
What else does the spirit of man do? The following verse gives us a clue: “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching everything that is in the innermost parts of the heart.” (Prov. 20: 27)
Apparently, our spirit seems to do the work of what we call ‘conscience’. We assume, then, that our conscience is a manifestation of our spirit, which is “the candle of the Lord”, a ray of God’s Spirit. The question now arises: is our candle always illuminated or do we have to set it alight ourselves in order to activate it? The answer to this will be more palpable if we liken our candle to an oil-lamp. When such “lamp” runs out of “oil”, then its light diminishes until eventually it goes totally off. Then we are talking about men with a sleepy or a sheared conscience.
The following scripture clarifies the issue further: “Surely there is a spirit in man; however, the inspiration of the Almighty gives him understanding.” (Job 32: 8)
The “inspiration of the Almighty” is the oil that our lamp needs in order to shine and search effectively our innermost being.
A bright spirit not only searches our heart and shows us the right way, but it also strengthens us. “The spirit of man sustains his infirmity; but a broken spirit who can bear?” (Prov.18: 14)
This is good news! If our spirit is strong, then it can sustain the whole man. It can heal our body and liberate our soul from bondages.
Let us now see what the New Testament says about the spirit of man:
The spirit of man is the entity that gives life to the body, for “the body without the spirit is dead.” (James 2: 26a)
The spirit is nothing less than God’s principle, the “kingdom of God”, within man: “Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17: 21b)
Indeed, man’s body is the temple of God’s spirit. Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, asked them: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Cor. 3: 16)
Continuing on the same subject, in his second epistle to the Corinthians, Paul writes: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Cor. 4: 7)
What a great spiritual treasure we carry in our body, in this earthen vessel!
The spirit, however, needs nourishment and its “food” comes from the word of God: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4: 4)
Many people identify the spirit with the mind. However, the next scripture makes it clear that these are two distinct entities: “For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of man which is in him?” (1 Cor. 2: 11a)
So then, the spirit of man is the knower while the mind with its products – the thoughts – is the object of knowing. Our spirit constantly examines our thoughts, and with a “still, small voice” whispers to us, indicating whether we are in the right path or not. How many of us and how often understand and take heed of its subtle warnings? It is my firm belief that the most important issue in human spirituality, and the most difficult one, is to be able to hear our inner voice clearly. This of course presupposes that our spirit, i.e. the inner man, is strong.
How, then, could one have a strong spirit? Mainly, by adhering to God’s principles.
Communication with God, through prayer and meditation, is another means of strengthening our spirit. Here is what Paul says: “That he (God) would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;” (Eph.3: 16)
Unlike our body, this inner man doesn’t grow old. On the contrary, through faith in God and obedience to his precepts, it is renewed daily: “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though our outward man is wasting away, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4: 16)
This is excellent news! Our spirit does not get wrinkled with age.
II: Man’s soul
There is yet another element in man that we must examine. Man has also a soul. In the Bible, and especially in the Old Testament, the words soul and heart are sometimes used instead of the word spirit, and thus it becomes difficult to distinguish the difference between them. For example, in the verse, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones” (Prov. 17: 22), one assumes that heart and spirit are the same thing.
Likewise, in the verse, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?” (Psa. 42: 2), David refers rather to his spirit; for it is our spirit that longs to be united with the Spirit of God. Indeed it is our spirit that cries out “Abba! Father!” Yes, it is our spirit that craves for the presence of God, while the soul rather pulls man to the opposite direction, yielding to the satisfaction of the senses and the desires of the flesh.
What, then, is our soul? From what the Bible tells us, we conclude that the soul is the instrument through which man relates to the material world; it is the essence of our personality, which expresses itself through the will, the emotions and the mind, although the mind, to some degree, is also related to the spirit. This is an area where the borderline between spirit and soul is not easily discernable, and one needs the revelation of the Spirit of God and the word of God in order to distinguish between them.
Let us meditate on what Paul said about this matter: “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, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb. 4: 12)
Presumably, to rightly divide between spirit and soul we need the help of the word of God, just as we need it to discern the quality of our thoughts and the intentions of our heart.
The New Testament is very clear about the tripartite nature of man. Here is the most definite verse on this subject: “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit, soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess. 5: 23)
The Bible also tells us that the soul of man needs salvation and rest, and this state can be found only in fellowship with God. Let us see what David says: “For truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. (…) For you, O my soul, find rest in God alone; for my expectation is from Him.” (Psa. 62: 1, 5)
In the following Psalm, we read: “Thus will I bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise you with joyful lips.” (Psa. 63: 4-5)
David had experienced that in God’s praise his soul found nourishment and fulfillment. Praise, then, is the best food for the soul. However, adhering to God’s will and decrees is even better. Furthermore, if our soul clings to God, then God will support us: “My soul clings to you; your right hand supports me.” (Psa. 63: 8)
The soul, however, does not seem to be eternal. Jesus talked about it: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10: 28)
It appears, then, that the soul is mortal. In Revelation, there is mention of the “second death”: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches: he who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.” (Rev. 2: 11)
Most probably, this second death concerns the soul of man.
Regarding the death of the soul and how it can escape it, we shall examine more verses in the chapter of Salvation. Here I must stress that occasionally I may have to quote a verse from the Bible more than once. This is because many subjects overlap each other, just as some of the functions of man’s spirit overlap those of the soul.
III: Man’s body
Man’s body is mortal. This is something we all very well know and don’t need the scriptures to confirm it to us. Anyway, let me quote some verses on this: “All (men) go unto one place; all are of dust, and all turn to dust again.” (Eccl. 3: 20)
However, in the next verse, Ecclesiastes wonders what happens to the spirit of man: “Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down to the earth?” (Eccl. 3: 21)
In yet another chapter, Ecclesiastes seems to be certain of what happens to the spirit after death: “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Eccl. 12: 7)
In conclusion, while our body is mortal, our spirit is immortal! It couldn’t have been otherwise, since our spirit is a part of God’s Spirit that is eternal, i.e. without beginning and without end.
Paul also confirms that our visible body is temporary, while the unseen (inner man or spirit) is eternal: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4: 18)
Yet, we do have to fix our eyes on our temporary body too, and take good care of it, because it is our precious vehicle to realize God and fulfill our divine purpose in this life. As the scripture tells us, this earthen vessel is the temple of God!