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God’s Design for Man

By​​ Rick Moffett


Note –​​ All quoted scriptures are from the New American Standard​​ Version of the​​ Bible unless otherwise noted.​​ 


Unanswered Questions


Man has an innate desire to know and understand​​ the​​ answers to​​ some​​ basic questions concerning his existence,​​ such as, “Who am I?”, “Where did I come from?”, and “What is my destiny​​ or purpose?”.​​ Although​​ not obvious​​ to most, how​​ you​​ answer these questions​​ can​​ have a great impact on how​​ you​​ live​​ your​​ life.​​ Also​​ important is the need to comprehend​​ how our Creator​​ designed​​ us. Am I composed of just a body? Are my thoughts and feelings part of my body or are they something altogether different?​​ 


The scriptures frequently​​ use the terms​​ body,​​ soul,​​ and​​ spirit​​ when referring to man​​ or something about him.​​ While​​ you can look in the mirror and see​​ your physical​​ body,​​ it’s​​ those unseen “parts”, spirit and soul,​​ that​​ are not​​ so easy to distinguish.​​ There are instances in the​​ Bible​​ where​​ the​​ terms​​ spirit​​ and​​ soul​​ can​​ seem to be​​ used​​ interchangeably, while at other times they appear to be​​ completely different.​​ Unfortunately, the​​ Bible​​ gives​​ no​​ clear​​ definition​​ for​​ either​​ of them.​​ 


What Difference Does It Make?


So, how do all these “parts” of man fit together,​​ and does it really matter?​​ While it may not seem important at first, it absolutely matters if you are to make sense​​ of​​ many of the key truths discussed in the​​ Bible. For example, God warned Adam not to eat from the​​ Tree of the​​ Knowledge of good and evil.​​ God​​ said that the day he ate from this tree, he​​ would surely die​​ (Gen. 2:17). Most of you know this story. Genesis chapter three tells us that he (and Eve) did eat from this forbidden tree. But, after they ate, we see Adam and Eve moving around in the garden performing various tasks (attempting to hide from God,​​ and​​ making fig leaf coverings for their nakedness); they also exhibited various emotions (fear, shame, and guilt). This is not what you might expect from​​ a​​ dead​​ person! So,​​ did they turn into some kind of zombies​​ or​​ was God lying when he warned Adam of the consequences of eating from the​​ Tree of the​​ Knowledge of good and evil?​​ Or did​​ they really​​ die?​​ 

Note​​ –​​ in the​​ Bible, death often refers to separation rather than​​ annihilation​​ (non-existence).​​ 


And what happens when we receive Christ by faith? We are said to be “born again”​​ (John 3:3);​​ and​​ that​​ we are a “new creation”​​ (2 Cor. 5:17). But,​​ we still have these same bodies with many of our​​ sinful​​ thoughts​​ and​​ behaviors.​​ How can this be?​​ Understanding​​ how God, in​​ His infinite wisdom​​ designed you and me, will help you better understand the answers to these questions, as well as many other misunderstandings in the​​ Bible. It can also help you recognize​​ and avoid​​ the schemes of Satan so​​ that​​ you can walk in the victory God intended for you.​​ 


Predominate Views


There are​​ two predominate positions concerning​​ the make-up of​​ man​​ -​​ ​​ 

1)​​ Man consists of a body and a soul/spirit. The soul and the spirit are considered to be​​ essentially​​ the same. This view is​​ generally​​ referred to as the​​ dichotomous view.​​ 

2) ​​​​ Man consists of​​ a​​ body,​​ a​​ soul,​​ and​​ a​​ spirit. The soul and the spirit are​​ NOT​​ considered​​ to be the same. This view is referred to as the​​ trichotomous view.​​ 


Why the Confusion?


It’s easy to see that man has a body; on that most agree. But it is the subject of the soul and the spirit where we find the greatest disparity.​​ So, let’s take a look at how the words​​ soul​​ and​​ spirit​​ are used in the​​ Bible.


A sampling of verses referring to man’s soul​​ ​​ 


But Hamor spoke with them, saying, "The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage.​​ Genesis 34.8​​ 

"Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.​​ Deuteronomy 4.9​​ 

For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, And the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.​​ Psalm 107.9​​ 

But I call God as witness to my soul, that to spare you I did not come again to Corinth.​​ 2 Corinthians 1.23​​ 


It is obvious from these verses that man has a soul.​​ 


Let’s​​ take a​​ closer​​ examination of​​ the word​​ soul​​ in the Old Testament.​​ It is most often translated into English from the Hebrew word​​ nepesh.​​ ​​ The Hebrew word​​ nepesh​​ occurs over 750 times in​​ most English translations​​ of the Old Testament. Now here’s where some of the confusion arises. The word​​ nepesh​​ is not easy to translate into just one English word​​ (which is true of most Hebrew words). Here is a​​ partial list​​ of some​​ of​​ the​​ many different English words​​ translated from​​ nepesh​​ -​​ soul​​ (475 times),​​ life​​ (117), person (29),​​ mind​​ (15),​​ heart​​ (15),​​ creature​​ (9),​​ body​​ (8),​​ himself​​ (8),​​ dead​​ (5),​​ will​​ (4),​​ desire​​ (4), etc. There are over 40 different English words that are translated from the Hebrew word​​ nepesh!​​ 


In the New Testament,​​ the word​​ soul​​ is most often translated from the Greek word​​ psuche​​ (also spelled​​ psyche). This word occurs​​ just​​ over 100 times in the New Testament. The English words translated from​​ psuche​​ are​​ predominately two –​​ soul​​ (58),​​ life​​ (40); others include​​ mind,​​ heart, etc.​​ 


Does man also have a​​ spirit?​​ 


It is hard to ignore that the​​ Bible uses different words in both Hebrew and Greek to differentiate soul and spirit. Below​​ is a​​ selection​​ of verses that refer to the spirit of man.​​ 


But​​ there is​​ a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.​​ Job 32.8 (KJV)

Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth.​​ Psalm 31.5​​ 

The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the innermost parts of his being.​​ Proverbs 20.27​​ 

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.​​ Ezekiel 36.26​​ 

The burden of the word of the LORD concerning Israel.​​ Thus​​ declares the LORD who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him,​​ Zechariah 12.1​​ 

The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,​​ Romans 8.16​​ 

For who among men knows the​​ thoughts​​ of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the​​ thoughts​​ of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.​​ 1 Corinthians 2.11​​ 

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.​​ 1 Thessalonians 5.23​​ 

The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.​​ 2 Timothy 4.22​​ 

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.​​ Hebrews 4.12​​ 

To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,​​ Hebrews 12.23 (KJV)


As​​ it is with​​ the soul, it is​​ also​​ obvious that man has a spirit.​​ 


The word translated​​ spirit​​ in the Old Testament​​ comes​​ primarily​​ from the Hebrew word​​ ruah,​​ and on a few occasions the word neshamah.​​ 

The Hebrew word​​ ruah​​ is​​ used 378 times in the Old Testament and is translated into several different English words –​​ spirit​​ (232),​​ wind​​ (92),​​ breath​​ (27),​​ mind​​ (5),​​ anger​​ (1), etc.​​ 


The Hebrew word​​ neshamah​​ is used 24 times and​​ is predominately translated into the English word​​ breath,​​ but in at least two verses​​ it is translated​​ spirit.​​ 


In the New Testament,​​ the Greek word for​​ spirit​​ is pneuma.​​ Pneuma is used 358 times and​​ is translated​​ into numerous different English words –​​ spirit​​ (288),​​ ghost​​ (with holy) (90),​​ life​​ (1),​​ wind​​ (1), etc.​​ 


It is​​ important​​ to​​ note that all​​ of the Greek New Testament originals were written in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS with no spaces and probably no punctuation. It was not until sometime in the second century before small letters and punctuation were used in Greek writings.​​ Many​​ English​​ Bible translators have taken the liberty to capitalize the word​​ Spirit​​ when they want to designate the​​ Holy Spirit​​ and​​ spirit​​ when they believe it refers to other than the Holy Spirit.


What is the Correct Translation?​​ 


So, how do we know which​​ is the correct English word to use to translate these Hebrew and Greek words? Good question! The English words selected by the translators are usually based on the context, as they should be. Context, in most cases, is the single most important factor to consider for an accurate reflection​​ of​​ the​​ meaning​​ of a word.​​ Nevertheless, there is still some discrepancy as to the best English word to use,​​ as evidenced by the many different English translations of the bible.​​ 


Often times​​ it appears​​ the words​​ soul​​ and​​ spirit​​ can​​ be used interchangeably.​​ Here are​​ a​​ few examples​​ 


Therefore,​​ I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.​​ Job 7.11​​ 

At night my soul longs for You, Indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently; For when the earth experiences Your judgments The inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.​​ Isaiah 26.9​​ 


And then in other verses,​​ soul​​ and​​ spirit​​ are obviously not the same –


Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.​​ 1 Thessalonians 5.23​​ 

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.​​ Hebrews 4.12​​ 


As stated above, there seems to be no question that man has both a soul and a spirit. The problem is in differentiating the two.​​ If you look at all the​​ Bible verses that contain both the words​​ soul​​ or​​ spirit​​ it becomes almost impossible to define them with a single definition; and as we have just seen, in some cases to even separate them.​​ Perhaps that’s what the writer of Hebrews was​​ implying​​ in​​ verse 4:12;​​ that only the Word of God (Jesus) could​​ accurately separate​​ the soul and spirit.​​ That being said, let us consider another way to look at man’s constitution​​ that may be more beneficial.​​ 


Back to the Beginning


The first book of the​​ Bible is the book of Genesis. The word genesis means “the origin or coming into being of something (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).​​ Likely​​ you​​ know, the first chapter in the book of Genesis​​ gives a day-by-day account of​​ God’s creation of the earth and all that was in it.​​ Chapter two goes back and​​ presents​​ a more detailed account of God’s creation, focusing primarily on man.​​ In​​ Genesis 2:7​​ we read –​​ 


And the LORD God formed man​​ of​​ the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.


Two things stand out​​ -​​ God was​​ both​​ the designer​​ of man​​ and​​ the giver​​ of​​ life​​ to man.

It​​ should be pointed out that​​ the​​ word translated​​ breath​​ in the phrase​​ “the​​ breath​​ of life”​​ is the​​ Hebrew word​​ neshama,​​ which,​​ as previously mentioned,​​ can​​ also​​ be​​ translated​​ spirit.​​ ​​ Thus,​​ the​​ translation could read,​​ “the​​ spirit​​ of life”.​​ An​​ example​​ of​​ neshama​​ translated​​ as​​ spirt​​ occurs​​ in​​ Proverbs 20.27 –​​ 


The spirit (neshama)​​ of man​​ is​​ the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.​​ The words in parenthesis are supplied by this author.​​ 


Genesis 2:7​​ reveals that​​ God designed man’s body from​​ the dust of the ground”. He then put​​ His own spirit into man to give him life;​​ and​​ thus,​​ man​​ became a​​ “living soul”.​​ ​​ The​​ focus​​ here​​ is life.​​ Man​​ was created with​​ life​​ in his​​ spirit,​​ life​​ in his soul,​​ and​​ life​​ in his body.​​ ​​  ​​ ​​​​ 


"The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath​​ (neshama)​​ of​​ the Almighty gives me life.​​ Job 33.4​​ 


There are many​​ treasures​​ revealed​​ throughout​​ the​​ Bible. Certainly, the most​​ encouraging​​ one​​ is​​ that​​ God​​ provided a way​​ to restore​​ His life to fallen man. He did so by sending​​ His​​ Son, Jesus.​​ Once man receives​​ Jesus​​ by faith, he receives life.​​ The life of Jesus is the greatest treasure man can have!​​ 


Life​​ on Three Levels


Though philosophers and bible commentators discuss man’s constitution as if​​ we​​ were divided into​​ distinctive​​ parts, it might be more accurate and beneficial to describe these​​ “parts”​​ as diverse levels for which we have the capacity for life. The​​ Bible indicates we function (have life) physically​​ (body),​​ psychologically​​ (soul),​​ and​​ spiritually (spirit).


Interestingly, there are three different Greek words used in the bible that are translated​​ life​​ in our English bibles. Unfortunately, the word​​ life​​ alone doesn’t capture the full meaning of these Greek words.​​ Here are the​​ Greek​​ words often translated as​​ life​​ - ​​​​ 


  • bios​​ -​​ refers to physical life​​ (body)​​ or an aspect of it.​​ It can refer to​​ how a person conducts his life​​ (1 Tim. 2:2);​​ or​​ that which is used to sustain physical life​​ (Mark 12:44; Luke 15:13); etc.


  • psuche​​ -​​ refers to​​ psychological life​​ (we get​​ our English word​​ psychology​​ from this Greek word)​​ –​​ refers to​​ one’s thinking, emotions,​​ and​​ subsequent behavior.​​ 


  • zoe​​ -​​ refers to spiritual life, more specifically, eternal life.​​ 


Practical applications​​ ​​ 



  • The visible part of man that contains his soul and spirit

  • Interacts with the physical environment through the five senses

  • Expresses what the spirit and soul are experiencing

  • Needs water, nutrition, oxygen, rest, etc. for physical life


Soul ​​​​ 

  • Includes the functions of our​​ mind (thinking),​​ will (choosing),​​ and​​ emotions (feelings).

  • Relates to people

  • The seat of our personality - we are all born with a unique personality​​ (Psalm 139:14​​ - …fearfully and wonderfully made. (“wonderfully” means to be separate or distinct).

  • Is our “experiencer”; - where we experience life (or the lack of it).

  • Needs –​​ 

1. ​​​​ to know his identity (who I am)

2.​​ - his purpose (why am I here)​​ 


We also need to experience love, acceptance, security, significance,​​ and adequacy. These are what give people a sense of value and purpose. When these are met, a person experiences a feeling of being​​ OK and​​ complete.​​ In other words, a sense of​​ being​​ fulfilled.​​ The opposite might be described as feeling empty or that,​​ something is missing.​​ 



  • Determines man’s identity. We are either “in Christ”​​ or “in Adam”​​ - (“in” = “in​​ union with”​​ Christ or Adam).

  • That part of man that worships and communes with God (God is spirit) "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."​​ John 4:24

  • Needs – life from God.​​ 


Even though we discuss the “parts” of man and the​​ three​​ levels/realms in which we function, it is important to understand that they​​ are all interrelated, i.e., one affects​​ the others.​​ 


Examples​​ –​​ 


A​​ person may get their feelings hurt (emotions- soul) and the body may produce tears​​ (body)​​ as a result.​​ 


You start​​ thinking (mind –soul) about someone who you believe has done you wrong. Dwell on it long enough and it​​ can cause you to become angry​​ (emotions​​ – soul),​​ resulting in a rise in your blood pressure (body).​​ 


Before​​ salvation, our spirit was separated from the life of God. As a result, our minds (soul) were severely affected. Our thinking (soul) was depraved, deceived, and vain. We could not understand​​ (soul)​​ the truth​​ clearly.​​ 


17​​ So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,​​ 18​​ being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;​​ 19​​ and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.​​ Ephesians 4.17-19​​ 

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified​​ him​​ not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.​​ Romans 1.21 (KJV)


When a person receives Christ, he receives life​​ in his spirit. He is filled with peace, joy, love, etc.​​ in his spirit as well as his soul.​​ He is secure, forgiven,​​ and complete in Christ. When we renew our mind (soul) with these truths, our soul can rest. We​​ can​​ live in peace and fullness, not lacking anything.​​ 


28​​ Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.​​ 29​​ Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and​​ YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.​​ Matthew 11:28-29​​ 

6​​ Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.​​ 7​​ And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.​​ Philippians 4:6-7​​ 




Without question,​​ there are many diverse ideas as to man’s constitution and functionality. In simple terms, it is my conclusion that God designed man to be a vessel to contain​​ His life (spirit), to experience​​ His life (soul),​​ and express​​ His life (body) to the world. It is most helpful that every Christian understands​​ this in order to know their true identity in Christ and to live the victorious abundant life that Jesus came to give us.



References​​ -​​ 

1.​​ Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary​​ 

2.​​ Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words

3.​​ Theological Workbook of the Old Testament

4.​​ Principles of Exchanged Life Counseling; Laird, Carol

5.​​ Man as God Intended;​​ Fowler,​​ Dr.​​ James​​ 

6.​​ Understanding Words in Scripture Words for Biblical Studies;​​ Bratcher,​​ Dennis​​ 

7.​​ Man as Spirit, Soul, and Body;​​ Woodward,​​ John B.​​ 

8.​​ Expository Dictionary of Bible Words; Renn, Stephen D.

9.​​ Merriam-Webster Dictionary


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