WHAT PART OF US IS JUSTIFIED AT SALVATION? OUR BODY? OUR SOUL? OUR SPIRIT?
by Shawn Brasseaux
“At time of salvation, when the Bible says we are justified by grace through faith, can you tell me which part of our being is justified? Is it our spirit that is justified, or our soul, or both? In your writings, you always mention ‘soul salvation’ at the time of salvation. What about the other parts of our being—our body and our spirit? In short, can you tell me what happens to our spirit, soul and body at the time of salvation?”
Thank you for these questions. I will try to briefly answer them for you here using the Scriptures. While we may get technical, please study these verses on your own and prayerfully consider them.
Whenever I write about “soul salvation,” I am referring to deliverance from the penalty of sin (spiritual death—hell and the lake of fire). Hebrews 10:39 talks about “the saving of the soul.” (That is what I mean by “soul salvation.”) I do this because I am distinguishing between other “salvations” in Scripture. For example, in the Bible, we read about being saved from false teaching (1 Timothy 4:16), salvation from misery (Romans 8:24), salvation from this physical world when Jesus Christ physically removes us from the planet (1 Thessalonians 5:9), we Christians being saved from the seven-year Tribulation period (2 Thessalonians 2:13), salvation from daily sins (Romans 5:10), and so on. These “salvations” are unrelated to being delivered from hellfire (“soul salvation”). Another way to say or write “soul salvation” is “salvation unto justification and eternal life” (that is longer, obviously).
In order for you to better understand this issue, I will introduce the Bible’s definitions of “spirit” and “soul.”
“SPIRIT” AND “SOUL”
Since they are both invisible, both the “inward man,” and both inside the “outward man” (physical body), we sometimes use the terms “spirit” and “soul” interchangeably. Still, the Bible distinguishes the two, and we would do well to differentiate them, especially in this discussion. Hebrews 4:12 says, “The word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Paul wrote, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The soul and the spirit are separate and distinct, and they are certainly not to be confused with the physical body. They are both invisible, which makes them hard for us to separate, but God can tell them apart.
The word “spirit” in the Bible usually refers to “the mind, a mental disposition, an attitude.” Here are a few examples:
- Ephesians 4:23: “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;”
- 1 Corinthians 6:17,20: “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit …. glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
- Romans 12:11: “fervent in spirit” or Rom 1:9: “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son….”
- 1 Peter 3:4: “But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”
- Galatians 6:1: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”
- Ephesians 2:2: “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.”
Again, usually, when the Bible talks about the “spirit” of a human, it refers to the mental attitude or mindset of a person, their memory, et cetera.
First Corinthians 2:9-16 is helpful in understanding the “spirit”/mind of man: “ For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God….  For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”
The Bible links the spirit with the mind and knowing things—here, the mind and the spirit are the same. Any two humans can communicate and understand one another because they both have a human mind, a human spirit. But, a lost person cannot communicate with God and understand His Word because the lost person does not have God’s mind or God’s Spirit. The Bible says, however, that we as Christians do have the mind of Christ because we have the indwelling Holy Spirit who explains the Scriptures to us as we read them. We will talk more about this later.
The spirit is what we know—memory, thoughts, et cetera, but the soul is the “real” us. Our soul is our seat of emotions, our heart, our will, what we use to have faith in things, et cetera. The soul is the part of us whereby we put into practice our spirit (the things we know). “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness” (Romans 10:10a). Again, the “heart” is part of the soul. While we can know many things (spirit), only the things we have faith in will be brought down into the soul. The way God communicates with us is through our spirit (for God is a Spirit; John 4:24, and also 1 Corinthians 2:11-16). We can then accept by faith what He says, bringing that information into our soul, or we can just have a head knowledge of it (in the spirit) and it will do us no good because it is not put into practice by faith. Once the soul (will) makes a decision, whether to follow God’s Word or do whatever it wants, a physical action will result.
Here is a brief review of what we have discussed thus far.
“Spirit” and “soul” are both called “inward man” (2Corinthians 4:16) or “inner man” (Ephesians 3:16)—these are invisible entities. The physical body is the “outward man” (2 Corinthians 4:16)—this is the visible entity.
SPIRIT – memory, vocabulary, frame of reference, and perception. The spirit is what makes us “God-conscience”—it is how we interact with God. In a lost person, the spirit is dead (in Adam, our spirit is dead). See Ephesians 2:1-3. A lost person’s spirit is still there (they still think, they still remember things, they have a vocabulary they use), their spirit still functions, but that spirit cannot function as God intended. Their spirit cannot communicate with God: their spirit is dead and God is living. They do not think like God, they do not use God’s Word as a frame of reference for living, they do not have any real and full sense of right and wrong, et cetera. In Christ, when we trust Jesus Christ alone as our personal Saviour, our spirit is regenerated, or given life. That is the “regeneration” of Titus 3:5. Again, please read Ephesians 2:1-3. In Christ, our spirit is made alive so we can then understand what God says, think like God thinks, and so on (1 Corinthians 2:10-16). Again, that is the “mind of Christ.” As we read God’s Word, He daily cleanses our minds (Romans 12:1-2). You may also see Romans 8:16 and Ephesians 4:23.
SOUL – heart, conscience, will, and emotions. The soul is what makes us “self-conscience”—it is how we interact with ourselves. In a lost person, the soul is darkened (in Adam, our soul is darkened). “Their foolish heart was darkened…” (Romans 1:21). God wants to give us light, spiritual light, and that spiritual light will enable us to see what is good in God’s sight, and by faith, we can go do that (thus doing God’s will). “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psalm 119:105). “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). In Christ, our soul is enlightened, and this will cause us to act differently (good works instead of sins).
BODY – the physical body acts out what information we have stored inside, in the spirit and soul. The body is what makes us “world-conscience”—it is how we interact with others. The physical body manifests our heart and mind, whether it is good (righteous deeds) or bad (sins). As Romans 6:16 says: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” In Adam, a lost person, he or she cannot behave right in God’s sight. That is what sin is, but remember, sin starts inside before it is manifested outside by the physical body. God has to deal with the body, the soul, and the spirit if He is to use a person. Unlike what people do in religion, He does not simply reform their outward behavior. He changes their inside so their outside will be different. Thus, God put to death these physical bodies, these “bodies of sin,” He crucified them with Christ. Romans 6:6: “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Actually, we Christians are really walking dead people—we are dead with Christ and yet we are alive with Christ. In God’s mind, these physical bodies are dead. It is Christ’s life now living in us. One day, God will give us glorified bodies, bodies like Jesus Christ’s, and He will do this at the resurrection, the Rapture, when Jesus Christ comes to get us and brings us back to heaven with Him. That is the “redemption” of Ephesians 4:30, Romans 8:23, and Philippians 3:20-21. Those glorified bodies, which we will indwell, will then be able to enter heaven! For now, we must remain in these physical bodies that are prone to sickness and physical death. In due time, God Himself will give us new bodies!
The best way to conclude is to think about it like this:
How the world works—The world communicates with us through our fleshly (physical) body, which then reaches our spirit, and if we believe it with the heart, it gets into our soul. We read about this in James 3:15… “earthy, sensual, devilish.” (Physical/earthy body, sensual soul, and devilish spirit). This is contrary to how God designed us to function.
How God works—God wants to communicate with us through our spirit because He is a Spirit (John 4:24), that we then believe/trust that information and put it into our heart/soul (Romans 6:17), and that will motivate our physical body to move and do righteous works (Romans 6:17-23). See 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
To answer your question in short, at salvation, our dead spirit was regenerated, our darkened soul/heart was enlightened, and our physical bodies were crucified. While our spirits and souls are redeemed, bought out of Satan’s domain, no longer under sin’s control and in sin’s darkness, our physical bodies have yet to be redeemed…they are still biologically, genetically, connected to Adam (a sinner). God will take care of our physical bodies at the Rapture, when Jesus Christ returns to take us His Body back to heaven with Him (see 1 Corinthians 15:51-55; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Philippians 3:20-21)—that is the resurrection. Hope that explains it!