Daily Bible Nugget #770, 1 Thessalonians 5:23

The Nugget:

1Th 5:23  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.

My Comment:

I had always assumed from what I have heard preached in church or what I learned in passing in Sunday school that man is trichotomous–that man consists of body, soul, and spirit.

Only when I was practically forced to study deeper because of my experience of learning more about the Bible during four years of weekly studies with Jehovah’s Witnesses did I learn that the dichotomy point of view seems more consistent with what the Bible teaches.

In preparing The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge I dug even more deeply into these matters than ever before. Here are the results of that study.

From The Ultimate Cross Reference Treasury on 1 Thessalonians 5:23–

your whole. Gr. holoteleis, *S# G3648, only here and Jas 1:4 (entire); the noun in Act 3:16. Paul in this text does not use the word “holomereis, ‘in all your parts,’ followed by the summing up of those parts, spirit, soul, and body; but that it reads holoteleis, which refers, not to the parts, but to the final end, telos” (Abraham Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit, p. 491, note. Also cited by J. I. Marais, ISBE, vol 4, p. 2496), thus a reference to man as a unity.

Paul speaks here of “body,” “soul,” and “spirit” by way of periphrasis to represent the whole man. This text and Heb 4:12 appear to teach man is trichotomous, that he consists of three distinct elements: body, soul, and spirit. Yet no one argues on the basis of Luk 10:27 that man’s being consists of four or five elements: (body), heart, soul, strength, mind. Careful comparison of Scripture with Scripture will show that man is dichotomous (+*Rom 8:10), and that soul and spirit are but two different aspects of the same conscious non-material eternal part of man. That they are the same element in man is proven by the fact that the terms soul and spirit are used interchangeably (+*Gen 2:7 note). The terms soul and spirit are used with a wide degree of meaning in Scripture (see for soul, +*Mat 2:20 note; for spirit, +*Mat 8:16 note), but it is possible to affirm absolutely that the soul is not the body (+*Mat 10:28 note), contrary to the frequent affirmation of materialists like the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

That soul and spirit as they comprise the “hidden man of the heart” are immortal is absolutely affirmed by Peter (+*1Pe 3:4), for the Greek word aphthartos, rendered “not corruptible” is rendered “immortal” at 1Ti 1:17, and the closely related noun form of this word, aphtharsia, is rendered “immortality” at Rom 2:7 and 2Ti 1:10. Yet some quibble may be raised that aphthartos is best translated “incorruptible,” and that the rendering immortal and immortality is best reserved for athanasia, which occurs at 1Co 15:53, 54 and 1Ti 6:16.

Yet by the rule that things equal to a third thing are equal to each other, the Corinthian passage shows that the bodies of dead saints must put on incorruption, and the living saints who are mortal must put on immortality: but since both the living and the dead are one body (Eph 4:4) in Christ, at the Rapture (1Th 4:15, 16, 17) the final form of existence for both groups is identical. Since the dead saints are raised to incorruption and the living saints (“mortals”) are changed and put on immortality, incorruption and immortality are in this case one and the same thing in final result, and the objection that “incorruption” is not “immortality” has no force. For if the living are granted immortality, but the dead only incorruption, then living believers have an advantage over the dead in Christ, which is contrary to Paul’s argument in 1Th 4:13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, for such a concept is the very error Paul wrote to correct in the Thessalonian church.

Perhaps the term “immortality” with its meaning of deathlessness was reserved by Paul to living believers since they shall never experience physical death, and applied to their bodies, not their souls or spirits, both of which latter are never said in Scripture to be subject to natural (as opposed to spiritual) death in any case. +Gen 37:35 note. Lev 23:5 g. Jos 8:31 g. +**Mat 10:28 note. %Mat 22:37, %+*Rom 8:10, **Heb 4:12.

From The Ultimate Cross Reference Treasury on Hebrews 4:12–

Heb 4:12  For 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.

dividing asunder. Gr. merismos (S# G3311, only here and Heb 2:4). This clause is often popularly understood to support “trichotomy,” the doctrine that “soul” is distinct and discrete from “spirit,” and that man is a trinity consisting of body, soul, and spirit. There can be no proper analogy drawn between the Divine Trinity of the Godhead who are equal in power and glory and of the same substance, and an alleged trinity in the human nature of body, soul and spirit, for to which Person of the Trinity shall “body” be equated, when the body is considered inferior to the soul and spirit? Likewise, soul being considered inferior to spirit, to which Person of the Trinity shall each be equated? The analogy, when pressed, breaks down immediately, and if held, is a fruitful source of heresy, as it has been throughout church history, though not all trichotomists are heretics!

Elsewhere in Scripture man is consistently spoken of as “dichotomous” (+*Rom 8:10 note; Mat 6:25, Jas 2:26), consisting of two elements, body and soul, sometimes expressed body and spirit, the soul and spirit being the same element (+Gen 2:7 note).

Here, the text in the original does not say soul is divided from spirit, but that soul and spirit are divided from the joints and marrow, speaking of man as dichotomous. Others understand the text to mean “the piercing of the soul and the spirit, even to their joints and marrow” (Strong, Systematic Theology, p. 485), and point out it is not stated that there is a “dividing between soul and spirit” but a dividing of, indicated in Greek by “a series of genitives, each one in itself naming something which is divided” (J. Oliver Buswell, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, Vol. 1, p. 243). See related notes (Gen 2:7 note. 1Th 5:23 note). +Gen 2:7; Gen 15:17, +Rom 8:10, 1Co 15:44, Php 1:27, +1Th 5:23 note. Jud 1:19.

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One Response to Daily Bible Nugget #770, 1 Thessalonians 5:23

  1. ken sagely says:

    hello jerry good insights on this vs very good thank you. a few of my favorites
    2 Co 5.19 God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself. Jude 1 Sanctified by God the Father and preserved in Jesus Christ. John 17.17 Sanctify them through thy truth : Thy word is truth 1 Co 6.11 You are sanctified, ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus,and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Co 1.8 Who shall confirm you unto the end,that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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