Body, mind, spirit, soul, and heart – what are we made of?

The Bible uses many terms to describe man. The most common are body, mind, spirit, soul, and heart.

The body is the material, physical, external part of being human. It is our physical flesh. It is a-moral in that it is neither inherently good nor evil. It is temporary as it returns to dust when we die (Ps 104.29; Eccl 3:20). However, it is an essential part of being human, and we will be given a resurrected eternal body after death in which we will experience eternity (John 5:28-29; 1 Cor 15:52-53; Rev 20:12).

The mind refers to man’s thinking ability. It is where we invent ideas (Neh 6:8), plan the future (Pro 19:21), remember the past (Is 46:8), are convinced of truth (Rom 14:5), persuaded to understand (1 Kings 3:9; Luk 24:45), and able to discern between good and evil (Rom 12:2) and wisdom and folly (2 Chron 9:23; Rev 17:9). The mind can be unfruitful, evil, debased, corrupt, and defiled (Rom 1:28; 1 Cor 14:14), or it can be renewed and pure (Eph 4:23).

The spirit often emphasized the part of man that relates to God. It is truly the immaterial part of man. The state of our spirit determines our eternal destiny (Matt 5:3). Our spirit leaves our earthly body when we die (Matt 27:50; Acts 7:59; James 2:26), and it is out spirit that defines our relationship with God (Rom. 1:9, 8:16).

The soul of man emphasized the living aspect of our existence. The body’s state of alive or dead is determined by the soul (Gen 2:7). It appears that the soul is the basis for everything immaterial including our personality, aptitude, emotions.  It is associated with spirit in that it is immaterial, eternal, and returns to God when it leaves the physical body (Rev. 20:4).

Lastly, the heart of man seems to encompass everything immaterial about the human constitution. Your heart is your whole person – everything you are, think and do (Prov 4:23). It is at the core of human living, is inherently evil (Jer 17:9) and needs to be renewed to be acceptable to God (Rom 6:17).

It seems therefore that the human body is one distinct part of man – physical and material. All the other terms seem to be related in as much as they all emphasize different elements of the immaterial part of being a human being. It appears that Scripture uses spirit and soul as synonyms (Luke 1:46–47) and both seem to include one’s intellect (Acts 14:2 vs. Gen 41:8; and Phil 1:27) and emotions (1 Sam 1:15). Therefore, mankind is made of body and spirit/soul (including mind and heart), and these two parts together make constitute a unified human being.

In Deuteronomy 6:5 the greatest commandment of all is given in these words:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

This is therefore a call to love God with all that you are: spiritual (heart and soul) and physical (might).

Body, mind, spirit, soul, and heart – what are we made of?
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