How do you define the aspects of man?

There seems to be no clear definition of what our SPIRIT, SOUL, MIND, or EMOTION is. Different writers seem to be loosely interchanging these. And, thru personal experience, they all seem to be intertwined. How do you define each? Understanding this will help in understanding the greatest commandment better also.

Thank you

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It is true that the Bible does not always use these terms in a way that they can be Biblically defined “hard and fast”. But it usually seems to use them, and most people usually seem to view them something like this:

the mind is the seat of reason - it can think like God does,

the heart is the seat of emotion - it can feel like God does,

the will is the seat of volition - it can feely choose like God does.

These are the triune elements of the human soul - the image of God in man - what we call our human nature.

In addition to the soul, we have inherited a fallen sin nature. I’m being careful here to distinguish the fallen sin nature from our human nature. Many people will refer to our fallen human nature - but I think that is a misperception. Our human nature, isn’t what’s sinful about us. It’s the victim that sin has damaged, broken, impaired from reflecting the divine glory that it was meant to.

I think you can easily see that if you’ll think about Adam and Eve in the garden. Before the serpent, they clearly had a human nature that was untainted by sin. Jesus had a human nature that was never stained by sin.

So the human nature itself isn’t what’s fallen about us. The sin nature is something alien - something contrary to our human nature. Humans weren’t designed for sin. In fact, sin kills humans. It dehumanizes us - causes us to not think, feel and act like God - corrupts our souls. The more our souls are dominated by our sin nature, the less human we become - the more “inhumane”. The most sinful man ever will be called the Beast.

The less dominated we are by sin, the more human we become. The only perfectly sinless Human ever was called the Son of Man.

When a man’s mind believes the truth of the gospel, his heart turns to Christ, his will says “I do” to the heavenly Groom, then the sin nature inside him - the “old man” - is nailed to the cross, and there is immediate born within him (or resurrected - both terms are Biblical), the Spirit of God which begins restoring his mind with truth, his heart with love, his will with power - begins restoring his lost humanity.

Someday in the resurrection, this will also happen to the flesh - and then the sin nature on the outside will be replaced with a glorious body, and both the inner man and the outer man will be wholly holy.

But until then, we must deal with the conflict described in Galatians 5:17 - we have the soul of a saint inside the body of a sinner - the nature of God inside the nature of Adam.

This makes a generally good working model for these terms. I hope it helps you.


Thank you for the reply. I love how you articulated your idea about the human nature. It makes a lot more sense and consistency in relation to Jesus being human, and our being humans in relation to sin and to God.
Your explanation makes it easier for me to process the idea by C.S. Lewis that we are most ourselves when we are in God because that is when we become the human God intended us to be.

But now, my questions are
1.Do we have a spiritual aspect apart from the Holy Spirit?

  1. Can we really break down the “heart, soul, mind, and strength” in the greatest commandment into its own parts with clear definitions for each, or is it just an expression
    that means the totality of our being?

Great explanation!

Do you think, in light of scripture, it’s sufficient to say that the “sinful nature” could be properly defined as: the unruly appetites and concerns of our terminal and carnal existence?

Seems this would bolt together well with scripture. In the day Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they were kicked out of the garden and their lives became terminal at that point. Naturally, their attendance to mind the things of the terminal/ temporal flesh would have become an infinitely more relevant item at that point; where previously (when they were in the garden with the tree of life) it wasn’t.

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be (Romans 8)

Thank you @timotto - I would say that when Eve believed the serpent’s lie, that corrupted her mind; when she desired the forbidden, that corrupted her heart; when she chose to disobey, that corrupted her will, completing the pollution of her soul by the sin nature that now dominated her. And when she swallowed the fruit, that corrupted her flesh - making her sinful both inside and out.

Adam too, for similar reasons that are open to discussion.

And they passed that corrupted nature down to all their offspring.

So if you’re asking your question about the sin nature relative to a lost person, then it would not just be the unruly appetites of the flesh alone. Paul says in Ephesians 2:3 that when we were lost, we fulfilled the desires of the flesh and of the mind. The “mind” in this case is what he calls the “carnal mind” in Romans 8:5-9. It’s the mind of a lost person that is fully “on board” with gratifying the flesh.

But if you’re asking relative to a believer, then I’d say you’re on to something. When any of us reject the lie and believe the truth, when we detest our sin and hunger for righteousness, when we choose Christ and deny self, the gospel reverses the curse on the inside. The Spirit replaces the inner sin nature making the believer a saint.

He is no longer on board with the flesh. The Spirit within him strives against the flesh to control the will and submit to God - and he grieves over sin even as he gives into it. The spiritual mind serves God - Romans 7:25. Sin vexes the righteous soul - II Peter 2:7-9. Salvation ruins a man for sin!

So then, why does he still do it? The biggest reason is what you’ve brought up. Of course there is wordly pressure and devilish disinformation - but the “unruly appetites” of the fallen flesh are the thing that Paul seems to confront the most. You see it in Galatians 5:17 which is just a condensed version of Romans 7:14-25.

I believe that the reason genuinely born again Christians sin is because of weakness, not wickedness. That was why the disciples slept in the garden while Jesus prayed - their Spirit’s were willing to watch with Him, but they were weak to the flesh. That’s what Paul is describing in Romans 7 - the power of the flesh taking advantage of our spiritual weakness. The Bible absolutely never uses the word “wicked” to describe Christians. But it does describe us as weak often enough.

And by “the flesh”, it means everything material about us - everything made up of atoms - the body and all its juices - including the enzymes and secretions, the chemicals and hormones that affect our moods.

Your Spirit wants to be at peace, but someone makes an insulting comment, and your flesh churns out adrenaline that makes you want to swing a fist - and your Spirit starts saying, “No flesh! Down flesh! Bad, bad flesh!”

Your Spirit wants to be pure, but some bikini babe goes bouncing by, and your flesh churns out hormones that disturb your thoughts - and your Spirit says, “Bad flesh! Down flesh! No, no flesh.”

The Holy Spirit living in you will never be okay with sin. Your flesh will crave sin until the day you die - but your Spirit? Never! Because it is absolutely holy, and it will always long to be free of sin.

A gazillion eons from now, the infinitely Holy Spirit within you will be no holier than it was the day you were born again - but in your sinless and glorified body, it will finally be free to express the absolute holiness it has always longed to!

I hope this addresses what you were asking.

Do we have a spiritual aspect apart from the Holy Spirit? Yes - the soul that was breathed into mankind does not come from the dust of this world - it is the supernatural part of us that came from the breath of God.

It is what Augustine was talking about when he said that God had made us for Himself, and our souls are restless until they find their rest in Him.

It’s what has made men across the millennia and around the world gaze up in awe and wonder at the heavens, and ponder the mysteries of eternity in ways that no animal ever does.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has set eternity in the hearts of men. We’re the only thing in all of creation that is bigger on the inside than we are on the outside. That’s a physical impossibility, but the spirit within you is an entire “inner-verse” that has an infinite capacity to grow in wisdom, in wonder, in worship - in love.

Isn’t that amazing? Even the entire universe is not infinite. Even it is not eternal. But that breath of God in you will continue forever - and it will grow without limit because it is joined to the Head, which is Christ!

Can we break the heart, soul, mind and strength into clearly defined parts?

Well, like I said, it’s a generally good working model that seems to answer a lot of questions. The Bible is not absolutely clear on the definitions of each, but it seems to lean this way.

Given the conflict between the redeemed soul and the flesh, they are obviously separate entities. Given the frequent experience of your mind trying to rationalize something which your heart is feeling really uneasy about, they’re obviously separate entities. Given that your mind and your heart can think or feel things that you will is not yet ready to move on pretty fairly makes the case that your soul is more complex than some might think.

I do believe that the greatest commandment, the Shema, to love the Lord with your mind, your heart and your strength (or will) does address what theologians have long described as “saving faith”. I think Paul addresses this in II Timothy 1:12 - I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

Saving faith does have to be rooted in the facts of the gospel that the mind has come to know, the heart has come to believe, and the will has committed to.

I hope this will be helpful to you.