Paul felt that his teaching about the bodily resurrection was important enough to mention again to the local church in northern Greece:
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it (I Thessalonians 5:23-24).
I believe our spirit is the inner core of our “being.” It is who we are. When God regenerates us, it is in our spirit that this transformation first takes place. We are born again. We are made new. But, our spirit is not perfect even then.
I think the soul includes our mind and emotions. It is our psychology, our logic, our feelings, our “heart.” You know from experience how far from perfect each element of your soul is!
(Some people don’t believe there is any distinction between these parts. They refer to Jesus’s comment in Mark 12 about loving God with your heart and soul and mind and strength. The spirit is not mentioned there. Their view is that these terms are just descriptive of a person’s innermost being, and thus, any distinction doesn’t matter.)
Paul is referring to the “whole” individual (v. 23). And he/she is not complete without the body. The body must rise again at the coming of Christ as Paul explained earlier in 4:16-17. Paul makes an addition to his comments on the rising up of the body. So when the soul, spirit, and body are united the person will be whole again and will be without sin. God will finish the work of sanctification, declaring each Christian blameless as Christ returns.
I wonder why he makes such a point of this putting the whole person back together? One idea is that it shows us what oneness and wholeness each individual is. The individual matters. The culture that devalues the individual is ignoring this teaching. It affects how we respect others, care for them, treat them. Old people’s bodies matter; they should be kept clean. Unborn infant bodies should be handled with respect.
It also shows us how penetrating sin is since each part has to be sanctified. It teaches us that a sin like sexual impurity can’t be isolated from the soul and mind and emotions. The consequences will affect more than just the body.
This teaching also show us how important God considers our body. Why else would he piece it back together and instantly restore it?
Another application might be that one part of the whole person is not more esteemed than the other. The mind or emotions are not superior to the body. The differences are about function and wholeness and balance.
How would you apply these verses? Why do you think Paul emphasized this concept so much?
The Heidelberg Catechism, written in 1563, asks:
What comfort does the resurrection of the body afford you? Answer: That not only my soul, after this life, shall be immediately taken up to Christ its Head; but also that this my body, raised by the power of Christ, shall again be united with my soul, and made like unto the glorious body of Christ (“The Heidelberg Catechism, (Banner of Truth.org, 2013), p. 40).
Jesus is coming back and those who have loved and trusted him will be raised up in body, soul, and spirit to be with him and enjoy him forever. Do you believe it?