Trends towards holistic health have made body, mind, and spirit buzz words. Doctors are more likely to acknowledge mental impacts on physical health, counselors are more likely to recommend yoga or other physical exercises, and churches are more likely to offer counseling or physical health programs. The problem with the holistic trend is that it often does not address all three parts together, body-mind-spirit, and when it does, they typically are not ordered the way God designed.
“May the God of peace make you completely whole — may your entire spirit-mind-body be kept healthy until the coming of our Lord Jesus the Messiah.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23
The God of Peace
God’s desire is for us to be completely whole, every part of us healthy. Christian thought usually acknowledges this, but puts off wholeness for when Jesus returns – seeing heaven as when we’ll finally be healthy. But the verse above clearly indicates that God’s plan is for us to experience health now, on earth as it is in heaven. And the way this complete wholeness, this health is to come is through the God of peace.
Greek εἰρήνη (eirene): Strongs G1515 to bind together what’s been separated
Hebrew שָׁלוֹם (shalom): Strongs H7965 the spirit that destroys chaos
Peace isn’t just ignoring problems, it’s restoring what’s broken. Peace doesn’t come through avoidance, it comes through brave engagement with what’s hurt. When we think of disease in the body or mind, chaos and separation are good terms to describe what is happening. I also want us to look at what happens when our bodies, minds, and spirits get out of alignment with each other and with God and how the God of Peace makes us completely whole.
Tripartite Man and the Body Mind Spirit Connection
“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” Genesis 1:26 (HCSB)
We know that God is a triune being – Father God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit. So when he said, “let Us make man in Our image,” that includes the triune nature of God. Tripartite means consisting of three parts.
Our physical beings with senses of sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste. Jesus is our picture of the body. He came in physical form, lived as a human, felt what we felt, died physically for our salvation, and was resurrected physically for our restoration.
Our mind, will, and emotions comprise the soul – the home of our imaginations, creativity, memories, thoughts, and affections. Some even refer to this aspect of our being as the tripartite soul because of these three components. Father God is our picture of the mind, will, and emotions. Scripture is full of emotional language, sharing his thoughts with us, his feelings, and his desire for his people.
Our personal spirit that communes with God, experiences the fruits of The Spirit, receives conviction, and engages in prayer, worship, and fellowship. We are filled with Holy Spirit but we also have our personal spirit. Holy Spirit is our perfect example that our personal spirits connect with.
Soul vs Spirit
Even with the distinctions above the differences between soul and spirit can be confusing. I use the term mind instead of soul when referring to this component of our being because of the way soul and spirit are often used interchangeably without clarity on their distinctions.
You can make soul vs spirit as confusing or simple as you’d like. There are plenty of theologians that parse every verse reference and even try to claim there is no distinction between soul and spirit (dualism) but the trinitarian nature of God and the fact that he says he made us in his image, leads me to firmly conclude that there is a distinction between the spirit and soul.
Use the term you prefer for this aspect of our being – mind, heart, soul – I’m not hung up on terminology. But understanding the tripartite nature of our being is important for rightly ordering them for the wholeness God designed us for.
Rightly Ordering Body, Mind, and Spirit
“You see, you are a spirit, you have a soul, and you live in a body. You have emotions, you have thoughts, you have a will, and you have a conscience. You are a complex being! And Jesus came to heal every single part of you. There’s not one part that He doesn’t want to make completely whole.”
If God wants us to be completely whole – then we can trust he has a plan for how that can happen. And part of that plan is the ordering of our bodies, minds, and spirits.
Body, soul, and spirit. Body, mind, and spirit. Body, mind, and soul. Spirit, mind, and body. Body-mind-spirit – there are so many different ways we see this concept written out and rarely is it really explained. Most often though, we hear them listed as body, mind, and spirit, with no real attention to the order.
When I say spirit-mind-body I am referring to the tripartite nature of humanity. I write it spirit-mind-body instead of body, mind, and spirit as a representation of the three-part whole they comprise. We each have three parts, but we are one person. If we think of only our body and mind, or only our spirits, we neglect parts of ourselves. Ignoring those aspects of our being doesn’t make them go away; they don’t get healthy on their own. We must engage all three together as parts of our whole.
But the way most of our society lives, is with the mind directing the body and the spirit nowhere to be seen.
The mind is really great at absorbing information, feelings, warning signs, and social cues – all the data that’s constantly thrown our way. But the mind is also pretty bad at discerning what all that information means and living from a heavenly perspective.
As our minds try to handle all this data, our bodies end up feeling a bit bullied and confused not sure what to do with all the mind is asking them to do. Our bodies are good at keeping us alive, and when the mind keeps giving them bad intel on what’s needed to do that we end up with things like panic attacks, auto-immune diseases, and other forms of sickness.
“For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set controlled by the Spirit finds life and peace. In fact, the mind-set focused on the flesh fights God’s plan and refuses to submit to his direction, because it cannot! For no matter how hard they try, God finds no pleasure with those who are controlled by the flesh. But when the Spirit of Christ empowers your life, you are not dominated by the flesh but by the Spirit. And if you are not joined to the Spirit of the Anointed One, you are not of him. Now Christ lives his life in you! And even though your body may be dead because of the effects of sin, his life-giving Spirit imparts life to you because you are fully accepted by God. Yes, God raised Jesus to life! And since God’s Spirit of Resurrection lives in you, he will also raise your dying body to life by the same Spirit that breathes life into you!”
A lot of times Christians and non-Christians alike try to fix the problem of the mind not knowing what to do by bringing their spirit into the equation as well.
The only problem is that if our spirit isn’t given its rightful place of authority we end up with a toxic mess of spirit and mind competing for control and our body really has no idea who to listen to.
As Paul explains it in Romans 7:15 “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” (NASB)
And Jesus cautioned in Matt 26:41 “Keep alert and pray that you’ll be spared from this time of testing. You should have learned by now that your spirit is eager enough, but your humanity is weak.” (TPT)
To fix the toxic competition between mind and spirit we need our spirit to be in charge, taking its rightful authority over both the mind and body – helping the mind discern all the information it is taking in, and helping our bodies know they are at peace.
But simply having the spirit in charge isn’t enough, we also must stay connected to God so that our spirits are fully alive in Christ – getting constant downloads from Holy Spirit of wisdom and understanding beyond our own understanding. Non-Christians may be engaging their spirits, but they are disconnected from His Spirit – spiritually dead (Colossians 2:13).
We can only set our minds on things above when our spirits are in charge.
“Yes, feast on all the treasures of the heavenly realm and fill your thoughts with heavenly realities, and not with the distractions of the natural realm. Your crucifixion with Christ has severed the tie to this life, and now your true life is hidden away in God in Christ. And as Christ himself is seen for who he really is, who you really are will also be revealed, for you are now one with him in his glory!” Colossians 3:2-4 (TPT)
The heavenly plan for complete wholeness is for us to be rightly aligned, connected to the God of peace
This flow from God to our personal spirits, to our minds, to our bodies is part of creation order. It’s the authority structure God created for us to live in health – each of our beings rightly ordered in submission to God. When our bodies or minds begin to take charge and direct us that is when we fall into chaos – out of sync with peace.
This order and submission to God’s authority is also an important spiritual boundary. As I evaluate alternative health practices, energy healing, all the things that Christian culture often labels New Age and avoids – I’m looking at the order of authority. What makes something out of bounds is often not the action itself, but the ordering of the physical and spiritual. God designed us for the spiritual to reign over the physical. There is a problem is any time we use the physical in an attempt to control the spiritual.
For example: essential oils are often used to aid a myriad of physical issues. A physical tool being used to effect physical results. Crystals can also be used physically for physical issues, but it depends on the practitioner how the crystals are viewed. Some view them as having physical properties that are beneficial just like essential oils, but others view the crystals as having power, an effect on the spiritual. It’s not the crystals themselves that are good or bad – it’s the ordering of body and spirit and the submission to God’s authority.
You’ll notice that in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 it orders our being as spirit-mind-body. Health, complete wholeness from the God of Peace, flows from our spirits to the rest of our being. Let us be careful not to reverse that order.