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What is Man? – Soul

The Reading:  Genesis 2:1-17

“God breathed … and he became a living being” (v.7) RSV

Last week we concluded with the statement that man is a living soul.  It is therefore true that he does not have a soul.  This may seem somewhat odd.  It is however mainly a matter of terminology.  In the Creation story “God breathed into his (Adam’s) nostrils the breath of life; and he became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7).  The word “being” in Hebrew is nephesh, which means ‘soul’.

If we were in danger at sea we would send out a mayday message, S.O.S.  This message means ‘Save Our Souls’.  We would not be requesting a trip to Heaven, but a trip back to terra firma!  In other words, ‘soul’ means body, mind and spirit: the whole person.

Yes, as the image of God, each one of us has been made in a Trinitarian mould.  Our minds represent the Father, our bodies represent the Son, and our spirits represent the Holy Spirit.  Yet each of us is only one person: a soul.

Now we know that our three aspects are often at war with one another.  Sometimes our body won’t do what our mind requires, or vice versa.  And sadly, our spiritual aspect is sorely neglected.  St Paul put it well when he wrote, “I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15).

Our trouble is that through our rebellion against God we tend to be led by our bodies (desires, passion and need for self-survival), and after the body comes our mind with which we try to overrule our wayward body, and our spirit lags behind, neglected and weakened; whereas we were designed to be ruled by our spirit, which would inform and transform our mind, which would in turn rule our body.  We are fearfully and wonderfully made, but now fearfully marred and out of control.  The spiritual needs to come first. God can change this!

Oh Lord, thank you that I can be restored into your Trinitarian image.  Restore me by your grace.  Amen. 

Explore More

1  Who was ruled by his bodily desires?

    Genesis 25:29-34

2  How is the right order restored in us?

    Galatians 5:16-18

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