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TH 502 Humanity, Angels and the Personal work of Christ - Dr Steve Tracy - Human_ConstComp

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Constituent Parts

Steve Tracy

Phoenix Seminary

TH 502, Fall 2008


Since the Christian life and ministry largely revolves around anthropology, more specifically, helping individuals change their behavior and thought processes, it is critical to understand how humans are made.  What makes up a human being? 

What do we appeal to in preaching/teaching?  What parts of human beings are we to minister to, and in what way?

Soul (Do we have a soul, or are we a soul?)

Soul (nephesh in Hebrew, psuche—yuch v in Greek) is a broad and somewhat fluid term in Scripture.  It can refer to "living being " (Gen 2:7), "life principle" (Gen 35:18 "as her soul was departing"; Ps 33:19 "to deliver their soul from keep them alive"), "person" (Lev 26:11 "My [God's] soul will not reject you"; 1 Sam 1:26 "as your soul lives"), or immaterial spiritual aspect (1 Peter 2:11 "abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul"). 

Theologically, soul refers to the immaterial entity created by God which is united to a body, gives it life, and exists after a human dies (Matt 10:28; James 5:20; Rev 6:9; 20:4).  Often in the Psalms soul implies one's inner core being (1 Sam 18:1 "the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David"; Deut 30:2 "obey Him with all your heart and soul"; Luke 2:35 "a sword will pierce even to your own soul") but also seems to indicate one's whole being (Ps 62:1 "my soul waits in silence"; 103:1 "Bless the Lord, O my soul"; 143:6 "my soul longs for Thee"; cf. also 2 Sam 5:8 "hated by David's soul": Heb 10:38 "My soul has no pleasure in him"). 


Spirit (Hebrew ruach and Greek pneuma—pneu'ma) refers to the immaterial part of humans, whereas soul often refers to the whole person.  Humans are not a spirit, but have a spirit.  Spirit can refer in Scripture to "wind" or "breath of air" (Gen 3:8; Job 41:5), and refers to the breath which gives life to the body (Gen 7:22; Job 27:3).  As a principle of  life, animals are also described as having a spirit (Gen 6:17; 7:15).  Life comes from God, particularly through the Spirit of God, so Scripture speaks of the breath (spirit) of God which gives human life (Job 27:3).  Scripture indicates that God breathed into the first man the breath of life, and man became a living being (soul) (Gen 2:7). 

Spirit is often used to describe some of the same immaterial aspects of humans that soul describes, for it is the center of thinking (Is 29:24), emotions (Gen 26:35), and inner spiritual life (Ps 34:18; 51:10).  Spirit also describes the immaterial, immortal human element which survives death: Eccles 12:7 "then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it; 1 Cor 5:5 "deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus"; 1 Pet 3:18 "having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit." 


In the OT, leb and lebab are used to indicate "heart."  These terms typically indicate the innermost or hidden part of something, be it the sea (Ps 46:2), or the heaven (Deut 4:11).  Anthropologically, heart in the OT indicates the central physical organ, and thus the seat of physical life (Gen 45:26— Jacob's heart fainted).  Psychologically, heart is used in the OT to indicate one's inner personal life ("search me, O God and know my heart —Ps 139:23.

This aspect of heart includes: the source of motives and passions (Job 36:13 "the godless in heart lay up anger"), the center of the though processes (Ps 4:4 "meditate in your heart"; 14:4 "the fool has said in his heart"), and the source of conscience and emotion (Ps 39:3 "my heart was hot within me"; 143:4 "my heart is appalled within me").  Thus, in Proverbs, the heart is declared the seat of: wisdom (2:10), wicked imaginations (Prov 6:18), lust (6:25), understanding (8:5), deceit (12:20), folly (12:23), bitterness (14:10), sorrow (14:13), knowledge (15:14), pride (16:5), and joy (15:30).  In view of the fall, the heart (and hence the person) is deceitful and desperately sick (Jer 17:1-10). 

In the NT, kardia (kardiva) is used with  spiritual and psychological connotations, often to indicate the inner, core (and hence hidden) part of a human.  Sin is committed in the heart (Matt 5:28); out of the heart proceed evil thoughts and acts (Matt 15:19); forgiveness must come from heart (Matt 18:35); we are to love God with all of our heart (Matt 22:37).

Since the heart is regarded in the OT and NT as the center of human personal life, the core of the real person, and the spring of motives and moral choices, Scripture often appeals to the heart.  "Let your heart hold fast my words (Prov 4:4); "love the Lord your God with all your heart" (Luke 10:27); "if you believe with all your heart" (Acts 8:37); "do not say in your heart" (Rom 10:6). 


Mind is a New Testament concept, conveyed with the Greek word nous (nou'").  It involves both perceiving and understanding as well as feeling, discriminating, and determining (cf. the Greek words phroneo and sunesis [fronevw, suvnesi"]).  Thus it involves both the comprehension of facts, as well as the assessment of the meaning and implications of those facts.  The unregenerate mind is described as darkened and ignorant (Eph 4:18), blinded (2 Cor 4:4), corrupted (Titus 1:15), depraved (Rom 1:28), hostile to God (Col 1:21), and unable to perceive spiritual truth (1 Cor 2:14-15).

Biblically, the mind is not treated as inferior to the heart or the spirit (contra the teachings of many televangelists).  ILLUSTRATION OF Kenneth Hagin teaching the inferiority of the mind over the spirit. Since sin affects our mind and our desires (Eph 2:3), and since Satan's destructive schemes have always been based on lies and the distortion of God's truth (Gen 3:1-5; John 8:44-46), the entire sanctification (transformation) process is based on a renewal of the believer's mind (Rom 12:2; Eph 4:23).  We grow as we learn to set our mind on what is biblically true and morally pure (Phil 4:8).  We are called to love God with all our mind (Luke 10:27).  We must learn to set on mind on God's interests, or else we will fall into sin and even Satanic destruction (Matt 16:23).  The believer's mind should be used to pursue holiness (1 Pet 1:13) and to understand the will of God (Eph 5:17).  Public and private worship should be directed to the mind (1 Cor 14:6-20).  In terms of Christian ethics, the mind in large measure determines the morality of debatable issues, for we are only to act if we are fully convinced in our own minds (Rom 14:5).   Corporately, the church must learn to be of one mind (Phil 1:27).  


The Greek term sarx (savrx) is used with a broad range of meanings in the NT, and has a material and an ethical use. 

Materially, is used to indicate the human body (2 Cor 4:10; Gal 4:13; Eph 2:15; Col 2:5), body tissue (1 Cor 15:39; 2 Cor 12:7; Col 1:22), and a human being (Gal 1:16; 2:16). 

Ethically, flesh refers to human existence which stands independent of and in opposition to God.  This is a sphere of existence or a way of life, and is presented by Paul as a categorical mode of existence in opposition to life in the spirit (Rom 8:5-8; Gal 5:16-25).  "Flesh" describes the natural (sinful) human tendencies, natural human reasoning (2 Cor 1:12), and proud human self-preoccupation (Col 2:18).  It is extremely important to recognize the Pauline distinction between the material use of sarx, which is morally neutral (and hence Paul uses sarx to describe the earthly Jesus—2 Cor 5:16; Col 1:22), and the ethical use of sarx, which is inherently sinful and hostile to God and to Christian sanctification.  Paul's use of sarx does not imply that matter in general or the human body in particular is evil.  Only when flesh is used ethically (sphere of existence apart from God and hostile to the Spirit) is it inherently evil (Rom 7:18 "nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh").


Platonic influences

A strong, extremely influential Greek philosophical tradition beginning with Plato taught that the body is perishable matter but the soul is uncreated and immortal, and existed before being joined to a physical body.  The body is the inferior "prison house of the soul," whereas the soul is a part of deity.  At death, the soul is freed from the body to return to the heavenly world or to be reincarnated in another body.

Gnostic influences

In the first and second centuries AD, NeoPlatonic and then Gnostic influences lead to the deprecation of the body.  This is why the Athenians reacted so negatively to the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ (Acts 17:32).  Second century Gnostics tended to go to one of two extremes, advocating either strict bodily asceticism or libertinism.  In view of this low view of the physical body, NT writers had to emphasize that Christ had a physical body (1 John 1:1; 4:2), and spirituality is not to be attained through asceticism and severe treatment of the body (Col 2:16, 20-23).  The early church was greatly influenced by this perspective of the body, leading to extreme asceticism and a deprivation of the body and all bodily appetites. For instance, many married Christians who came to Christ after they were married adopted “spiritual marriages” in which the had no sexual relations with their spouse for the rest of their lives.

Hebrew influences

Basar is the Heb word for "flesh," but can also refer to the body, since the Hebrews had no specific word per se for body (cf. Ezek 10:12; Is 10:18; Gen 2:21).  As with humanity in general, the Hebrews viewed the body not as a separate aspect of an individual, for humans were viewed as corporate entities. 

NT teachings on the body

In the NT, the word soma (sw'ma) is used to describe the physical human (Mark 15:43; Jude 9) or animal corpse (Luke 17:37).  Paul speaks of the "body of sin" (Rom 6:6), but this refers to either a personification of the pre-Christian old self which needs to be put away, or else it refers to the human body as controlled and conditioned by sin and used as a vehicle for its expression.  In Rom 7:24 Paul speak of the "body of death," which refers to the moral/spiritual result of sin being repeatedly expressed through the body.  When a person is a slave of sin (and sin is expressed through the body) the body becomes a body of death.  This stands in sharp contrast to the creative plan of God, which was for the body to be the source of life (Gen 1:28).

Application—birth control, use of body for sinful purposes, etc.

While the NT often describes the connection between the body and sin, it does not view the body as inherently sinful.  Rather, it is viewed as weak and corruptible, subject to physical decay.  Thus, in 2 Cor 4 Paul speaks of the believer having a treasure (the gospel) in earthen (common and frail) vessels (v. 7).  Though these bodies are weak and in the process of decay (v. 16), through them we can reveal Jesus (v. 10).  Ultimately, we should care for our bodies and use them to glorify God because they are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19-20). 

God also affirms the sanctity of the human body by promising that He will transform our mortal bodies to create new, glorious bodies (1 Cor 15:39-44; Phil 3:21).  Thus, what is left of our physical bodies will be resurrected (1 Cor 6:14; 1 Thess 4:16) and refashioned into an eternal body fit for heaven (Phil 3:21 "who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory").  Since God will someday transform these weak bodies into glorious bodies like Christ had after His resurrection, we should not use our bodies to sin but to honor the Lord (1 Cor 6:13-15).  Thus, we need to ask how we are using our bodies to honor Christ.

Ministry Implications of the Human Constitution:

1.         Given the biblical emphasis on religion of the heart (as opposed to externally focused legalism), we must constantly check our spiritual condition.  Are we going through the motions, or are we loving God and serving Him from our hearts?  We must constantly examine our hearts, to see if at the core of our being where no one can see it, there is spiritual disease and sin.  We must constantly evaluate our motives to discern the true (heart) motivation.  Often (some would say inevitably) due to our sin nature, our motives are mixed, and a sinful motive may lie at the core of our behavior (cf. Larry Crabb's work).

2.         Given the manner in which the body, while not being inherently evil, is the instrument of sin (the vehicle through which the fleshly nature is exercised—Rom 6:12-13 "do not present your body parts [members] to sin, as instruments of unrighteousness"; Col 3:5 "put to death your earthly members" (nekrwvsate ou\n ta; mevlh ta; ejpi; th'" gh'"), we must emphasize self control over the body.  We must teach specifically how believers can avoid using their bodies as instruments of sin.  Scripture has far more to say about the connection between body and sin than we generally acknowledge.

3.         Since the Scriptures do not teach that the body is inherently evil, and that in spite of the fact that the body is mortal and corruptible our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we should respect our bodies and treat them with care.

4.         We must acknowledge the pervasive contamination of every aspect of our being (heart, body, mind) by sin.  As we consider humanity and the human condition, we must constantly grapple with the fact that every facet of our being is corrupted by sin and in need of healing and spiritual renewal.

5.         When we observe or experience bodily pain, sickness or death, we should constantly be reminded of two facts: (1).  Any and all physical corruption of the body is the result of sin.  (2).  Bodily disease and death is only a temporary situation.  God is going to give every believer a new perfect body with which we will enjoy God for all eternity.

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