1 Thessalonians 5:23
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly…
I. THE THREE-FOLD NATURE OF MAN. In ordinary language, which the Scripture itself does not hesitate commonly to adopt, a two-fold division of our nature is recognized — man is said to be made up of body and soul. By the word "soul" are understood both his moral and intellectual faculties — those points in his being which distinguish him from other animals, and to cultivate which is the proper business of his life. It is thus used to signify the highest part of his nature; and therefore in the language of those who know the true objects of his highest faculties, and the exalted state to which they might be raised hereafter, it expresses his immortal part in contradistinction to that which is to perish with this present life (Matthew 10:28). But as the notions generally entertained respecting the highest part of our nature were in many respects highly erroneous — as our relation to God as our Maker and Father was lost sight of, and further, as ceasing to regard Him as the great object and centre of our being, men naturally lost all clear and lively hopes of immortality, the word "soul" in its common acceptation among the Greeks was inadequate to express the loftier and more enlightened conceptions of a Christian, with respect to his best faculties and their most perfect state. We find, therefore, in several passages of the New Testament that a third term is employed in addition to those of body and soul, and intended to express something superior to the soul in its common sense, as the soul is superior to the body. The third term is "spirit," which, in the signification now alluded to, seems applicable to Christians only, and to denote that perfection of human nature which it was the object of the gospel to accomplish — an understanding that should know God, and affections that should love Him; or, in other words, a spiritual creature capable of enjoying communion with the Father of Spirits, and from that relation being naturally immortal. Thus, then, when this three-fold division of our nature is mentioned, the term "body" expresses those appetites we have in common with the brutes; the term "soul" denotes our moral and intellectual faculties, directed only toward objects of this world, and not exalted by the hope of immortality; and the term "spirit" takes these same faculties when directed toward God and heavenly things, and from the purity, the greatness, and the perfect goodness of Him who is their object, "transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
II. THE PERFECTION OR BLAMELESSNESS OF THIS TRIPLE NATURE. With the government of the body all are engaged at some periods of their lives, and some through the whole of their lives. All more or less can understand the temptations to indolence and comfort, and to the indulgence of intemperance and sensuality, How many thousands there are who live like Esau! Their appetites are keen, and their enjoyments lively; the body is alive, while the soul and spirit are almost dead; and therefore the man lives what may be called an animal life; but as a man with a soul, and much more as a Christian with a spirit, he is in the lowest state of degradation, neither fit for the life that is to come, nor yet for the life of a reasonable being even in this present world. To keep down the body, therefore, and bring it into subjection, was the object of fasting and mortification; but what is specially wanted is to raise and strengthen the soul and spirit, that the body may be able and ready to aid them in their work, which it cannot do unless it be itself sound and vigorous. The soul is commonly strengthened by the growth and cultivation of the powers of the understanding, and by the various objects which attract the mind as we come forth into actual life. But the perfection of the soul must not be preferred to that of the spirit, any more than that of the body to that of the soul. The excellence of our spirit is to feel and hope as spiritual and deathless creatures. When this takes place, how beautiful is the sight to behold the spirit, and soul, and body, each healthy and strong, and each working in its proper order to perfect its own happiness, and thereby to advance the glory of the Triune-One!
(T. Arnold, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.