Man - a Triune Being

Frederick William Grant

We are now prepared for the question, What is this part of man which dwells in the body? Or, What is the physical constitution of man as defined by the Scriptures?

The answer from 1 Thess. v. 23, is, that he is "spirit and soul and body" "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God that your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." The prayer is, manifestly, for the sanctification of the whole man to God, and to emphasize it, as it were, it is, that man is divided into his three constituent parts, and the sanctification of the whole man is interpreted to be the preservation blameless before God of "spirit, soul and body."

Of course this is denied on the part of those who hold that the body is the whole man; but it is also denied by many others who are far enough from holding their views. It is a point therefore, which must be seriously weighed, and satisfactorily as possible decided, before we are entitled to take is as a settled thing.

The objections of Annihilationists need not detain us very long, as few indeed seem to have looked at the text in question. The comment of Ellis and Read upon it is a remarkable specimen of their style of reasoning, as well as (apparently) of how little they are themselves convinced by it. "This cannot mean," they say, "that man has two ghosts. Perhaps it may mean your disposition, and life, and person, the whole compound nature of man, for spirit sometimes means person."* I should think, as they have evidently translated "spirit" as "disposition" already, that according to their interpretation, body ought to mean "person," and also, that it would be in far better accordance with their views. But they can scarcely expect others to be satisfied with what evidently fails to satisfy themselves, for they add, in defiance of all criticism: "And 1 Thess. v. 23 may also have been a little amended by some officious copyist"! (p. 21). But even so, they are not yet satisfied, and, having in the meanwhile forgotten that "spirit" means person, they further add: "And the spiritual nature, be it remembered, does not naturally belong to man, but is superinduced as a subsequent and peculiar development in the cases of those who have submitted themselves to Christ" (p. 22).

*Bible vs. Tradition, p.21.

Mr. Roberts, disavowing "the uncertain and contradictory statements" of Ellis and Read, tries to paraphrase the three words in the text by "body," "life" and "mind." In this statement of his, "life" and "mind" answer, respectively, to soul and spirit. But that they are not equivalents, according to his view, is evident. We have but too lately been listening to his theories of thinking flesh, to be able to accept his identification of the mind with the spirit. Truly, as these may be identified, his views do not identify them. His own words in this connection are: "Thought is a power developed by brain organization, and consists of impressions made upon that delicate organ through the medium of the senses, and afterwards classified and arranged by a function pertaining in different degrees to brain in human form, known as reason." Plainly, then with him, mind is only a power inherent in the flesh, though spirit be needed to give vitality to the brain, just as it would be for the muscles. It is "the flesh that thinks," as he quotes with approbation further on.

So, also, is "life" with him not the equivalent of "soul." Of course he often has to interpret it so, but he is inconsistent with himself in doing this. "Soul," again, is for Dr. Thomas and himself but "body" and the body cannot be the life of the body. Soul is the body's life, and, therefore, in a secondary sense, is used for it in Scripture. In Dr. Thomas' theory, no basis is left for the secondary meaning. The life is with him simply the result of the ruach or breath of life upon the body. It is not a third constituent that could be set side by side with the body and the spirit.

There is then no "combination of body, soul and spirit as constituting the whole man" in Mr. Roberts' system, anxious as be is to be apostolic in doctrine, and have it appear so. Combination of body and spirit for him make the living soul, and the combination of these two cannot become a third principle along with these. There is no third constituent this way, and even one of these is only "an element of the atmosphere."* These are the three things, then, that the apostle prays may be sanctified or preserved blameless, the body, the breath of life, and the vitality produced by it!† It is plain then that Thomasism and the apostolic statement do not agree.

*Elpis Israel, p. 30

†"In this sense," says Mr. R., " we stand as stoutly as Mr. Grant by 1 Thess. v. 23.;" awhile afterwards adds, "Mr. Grant is guilty of creating as a scientific analysis of human nature the fervent HYPERBOLIC of an apostolic benediction"! Why stand stoutly by a mere exaggerated expression?

With the last sentence quoted from Ellis and Read Mr. Morris is in near agreement. He also interprets "spirit" here of a new and spiritual nature. Of John iii. 6 he says, "‘That which is born of the flesh' is a child, constituted of soul and body; but ‘that which is born of the Spirit' is a new and spiritual constituent of personal being. He who is born of the Spirit is constituted of a spirit and soul and body.' "*

*What is Man. p. 57.

I shall be obliged to reserve to another chapter the consideration of what "spirit" is, and whether his proposition, that it is never applied to man as such "in a substantive sense," is warranted by Scripture usage. That the new nature of the children of God is "spirit," according to our Lord's words, is what none can with appearance of truth deny; but, upon the face of what he says himself, his explanation of the text in this way is thoroughly inconsistent and untrue. For the "flesh," he says, in the words of the Lord, John iii. 6, is "the whole natural man, and the entire offspring of the natural man, soul and body" (p. 37). The apostle then puts down this soul and body, of which nothing good can come, side by side with the new and spiritual nature, which (still according to Mr. Morris' citation of Gal. v. 17, 22-25) it lusts against, and is contrary to, - praying that they may be sanctified together! If this be his deliberate doctrine I cannot tell. It is the doctrine of his follower, Mr. Graff,* who has only carried out his views to their necessary conclusion. Whether or no, I would refer him to Rom. viii. 6-8 for his answer, that "the mind of the flesh† is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed CAN BE," and that is why "they that are in the flesh cannot please God." Even the one who in the seventh chapter could say, "with the mind I myself serve the law of God," had to add, "but with the flesh the law of sin," and if soul and body have this character, poor hope would there be of their being "preserved blameless to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ!"

*In "Graybeard's Lay Sermons." ‡In the margin "minding" ).

The grossness of this mistake lies in its materialism. Even Mr. Morris, little as he would like to be identified with this, cannot see in the "flesh" anything less material than the body, although perhaps in connection with the soul, which he allows to be in it. All is referred to man's physical constitution, but with this glaring inconsistency with Scripture, that, whereas the word of God condemns the flesh, with its utter evil, to hopeless destruction, Mr. Morris' doctrine puts the old nature along side of the new, to be sanctified.

Now, in the text as to which I have been speaking, I Thess. v. 23, it is plain by the terms "soul" and "body," which are used, that the physical constitution of man is spoken of: and it must be equally plain that "spirit," therefore, also refers to his physical constitution. The very pains which Ellis and Read have taken in their interpretation to blot out all thought of the body in the passage, is a proof of it. It would have been an incongruous jumble, indeed, to have said "disposition, and life, and body;" and they felt it. Body in Scripture in such a sentence requires "soul" as its natural antithesis. "Body and life" make no sense, for the sanctification of the body and its vitality (which life here must mean) is scarcely such. And if, according to Dr. Thomas, it is the "flesh that thinks," and the brain is the fleshy tablet of the heart, let the body be sanctified, and all is done. And it will not avail to say that the body needs spirit and soul to make it capable of sanctification, for that still leaves it true that the body is the only part that can be sanctified, and there would be no sense in talking of the sanctification of the mere agency in giving it life.

But still - and this is the only question we need further ask at present - may not the "spirit" here refer to the new and spiritual nature, which, confessedly, the child of God has? I answer that, as far as this passage is concerned, the fact that the apostle prays for the sanctification of the spirit, is proof positive that the new nature is not meant.* For the Scripture doctrine is that, inasmuch as "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," "whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." I am well aware that I touch here upon ground not familiar to many a Christian; nor can I do more than touch upon it either. I would only say that the one born of God is here looked at simply in his character as so born. The flesh is not seen, being, indeed, in the believer, but as a foreign thing: "Sin that dwelleth in me" (Rom. vii. 17), in that sense, not myself. The new nature owns no brotherhood with it. As born of God the believer does not sin - cannot. The new nature thus, as proceeding from God, is altogether according to God. He could not communicate a half-evil thing: "that which is born of the spirit is spirit " - partakes, i. e., of the nature of Him from whom it came. Mr. Morris himself says of it most truly: "All the moral qualities of it answer to the moral perfections of God." If so, sin cannot come from it, because it is of God; and, as born of God, we cannot sin. Therefore you cannot talk of sanctifying it. It is of God: therefore already wholly good.

*The new nature is "spirit" but never called "the spirit."

And " spirit" is not here the "motion of the soul, as Mr. Morris elsewhere strangely defines it, for the soul is mentioned apart, and there would be no sense in speaking of the sanctifying of the soul and of its motions. Sanctify it, and its motions will be sanctified.

We return then with confidence to our first conclusion: "Spirit and soul and body" are the man. The ample confirmation of this by every part of Scripture will come out as we now take up in detail these constituent parts.

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