You and Who You Are
Tim Temple


In Romans, chapter 7, beginning with verse 15, we have a cry of the Apostle Paul's that describes probably the heart of every one of us who know Christ as Savior, and we want to begin our study of man and his nature by looking at Romans, chapter 7, beginning with verse 15:

Romans 7:

15For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
16If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
17Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
18For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
19For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
21I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
22For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
23But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
24O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
25I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

As I mentioned before, probably every one of us identifies with this cry of the Apostle Paul, and these verses illustrate something that is a part of every human being, saved and unsaved—the sin nature. The sin nature by way of definition is the ability and even the tendency to disobey God, the ability to commit sin. Every human being, saved and unsaved, has that sin nature—not only the ability to commit sin, but in fact the tendency, left to ourselves, to commit sin.

Two subjects are of immediate primary importance in any study of Bible doctrine, the subject of you and the subject of God. Since most humans are terribly self-centered, I think the best place to start studying basic Bible doctrines is with the doctrine of man, what the Bible says about us as human beings.

Turn to I Thessalonians, chapter 5, where we have a biblical statement of the make-up of man. This is a verse that we could easily overlook because it is just a part of the conclusion to this little short letter that Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, but the fact that it is an inspired statement of Scripture validates the fact that man is a tripartite being. Notice down in verse 23 where, concluding his letter to the Thessalonians, he says:

I Thessalonians 5:

23And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole [notice now] spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul's deepest concern was that his spiritual children grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and that they remember that the day is coming when they will be perfect in His presence. When we and they are in Heaven, either at the time of the Rapture or through death, we will be blameless before Him because of what He has done. We are looking at this verse because he mentions the entirety of the human being, the totality of the human being—the spirit, soul and body. These verses give us the outline of the nature of man: spirit, soul, and body. I am using the word man in the anthropological sense. It includes male and female. Maybe it would be better to use the term human being , but that just seems to me to be kowtowing too much to women's lib, so I am going to be speaking of man throughout this lesson. Please don't be confused by that or offended by that. When I am talking about man, most of these references are to the human being, the nature of man and woman—spirit, soul and body.

Everybody knows what the body is, and there is no need for us to elaborate on that. Whatever else we may say, actually the body is the vehicle for the operations for the other two parts of the person. The body is really the vehicle for the operations of the mind, emotion, will and spiritual sensitivity of the person. But the essence of a person, the real being of the human being, is in those other two parts, spirit and soul.

Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 12, talks about the nature of the Word of God, and it says:

Hebrews 4:

12For 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.

What this verse tells us as a secondary application is that the soul and the spirit are very hard to distinguish, and it is probably impossible for us from a human standpoint to make a clear distinction between those two as we study it. Only the Word of God can make that distinction, but there is a difference between the two. So I want us to look at some passages from the Word of God since the Word of God distinguishes between those two better than any human reasoning can. I want us to look at some Scripture that speaks about those two parts of the human being.

The Human Spirit

One of the thirds of the make-up of man is the spirit. Everywhere the Word spirit appears in the New Testament is a translation of the Greek word pneuma which literally means “breath,” but it is almost always translated “spirit” in the New Testament. The real essence of the nature of the spirit is given to us in Romans, chapter 8, verse 16. Here we find a definitive use of the word spirit and a use of the word that explains what the human spirit is all about. Romans, chapter 8, is talking about our relationship to God and the part that the Holy Spirit plays in that relationship. Notice verse 16, where we read:

Romans 8:

16The Spirit [that is, the Holy Spirit] itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

Notice that verse again: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” An interesting thing is that God has a spirit as a part of His makeup and man has a spirit as a part of our makeup. God said, “Let us make man in our image after our likeness,” so God has His Holy Spirit and man has a human spirit. The function of the human spirit becomes immediately clear. God gave us as human beings a spirit so that the Holy Spirit can communicate with us. So the function of the human spirit is to be a channel for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God bears witness with our mind. Is that what it says? The Holy Spirit bears witness with our intellect? No. The Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God and that will be an important distinction to keep in mind as we move a little further into our study. It is the Holy Spirit Who assures us of our salvation, and the part of the human being through which the Holy Spirit works is the human spirit. The human spirit is that part of man which gives him the capacity to know God.

The spirit of man in my opinion—I can't prove this from Scripture, but based upon what God tells us here in Romans, chapter 8, verse 16—is really dormant until that time when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, places us into the Body of Christ and begins to communicate with us. Every human being has a spirit. Saved and unsaved have a spirit, but it is only made useable when the Holy Spirit first communicates with us and begins to make us a part of the family of God.

Some Bible scholars believe that man is a duality until the time of salvation, then God gives him the human spirit. He becomes a tripartite being at that point. That is all right if you want to believe that. It is really not of great importance as long as you do realize that a believer has three parts. A believer has a human spirit through whom the Holy Spirit communicates. I believe that man is a tripartite being even when he is unsaved because the Holy Spirit communicates with unbelievers as well. Did you realize that? The Holy Spirit begins to draw us to God before we are ever saved. Before we ever accept Jesus Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit communicates with us and it is the human spirit through which He communicates, so we do not receive a spirit when we get saved. We have a spirit there, but it is dormant until the Spirit of God begins His first drawings with our human spirit and begins to communicate with us. At the point of salvation, the human spirit is activated and comes to life and becomes a continual part of man.

One of the reasons that I am elaborating on that is that what this means is that an unsaved person is operating only at two-thirds of his full capacity. There is a whole third of the makeup of the human being that is not operative until the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts and begins to first draw us to Christ and then as we accept Christ as Savior, we begin to live out Christ's life through us.

We think about children or adults with learning disabilities or mental handicaps and we think of this in kind of a sad way. We love those people and we appreciate them, but we think that it is sad that they don't really have their full capacity. Do you know, an unsaved person is in just as sad a shape? An unsaved person can only at best operate on two-thirds of his capacity because he is not using that one-third which God has given him. So that is the spirit of man, and I am taking them in the order they are listed in I Thessalonians, chapter 5, verse 23, and I will say more about that in a minute.

The Soul

The second part of the makeup of man is the soul. The spirit is that part through which we communicate with God. The word soul is a translation of the Greek word psuche . It is the word from which we get our English word psychology , and in fact that helps us understand the function of the human soul because the function of the human soul is to understand those psychological kinds of things about life, to understand the intangible aspects of existence. That is what psychology is all about, isn't it—the study of the mind and the study of the intangible things? So the psuche , the soul, is that which gives us the ability to understand those kinds of things—to not only understand, for example, that there is a difference between daylight and darkness, but to understand the implications of that and to understand not only that males and females are attracted to each other, but to understand the ramifications of all of that. This is really what sets man apart from the animals.

Incidentally, let me insert here that the Scripture does not say that man is an animal. One of the brainwashing techniques of the humanist is to refer to man and the other animals . Man is not an animal. Man is a special creation of God. God created man to have dominance over the animals that he had created. He created man to have dominance over His whole creation and man is not one of the other animals. He is a separate creature. In the broadest sense of the term he is an animal, but not in the sense that the animals with which we are familiar are. The thing that sets man apart from the animals is his ability to operate with thoughtfulness and to see the nature of things. The animals operate only on instinct. They can be trained to do some amazing things, but a horse who does tricks in the rings hasn't really thought through why he is doing that except he just knows he will get more treats if he does it well and he knows that his trainer will reward him with more petting or more food or whatever, but he can't think it through beyond that. He doesn't understand all the response from the crowd and TV ratings and all those kinds of things. Animals operate on instinct and on training, but they don't have the ability to reason and think things through and come to a conclusion other than those very simple reasonings that “if the master hits me with a crop, that means I had better run faster because if I don't, he is going to hit me again.” They can reason from cause and effect but not in the sense the human being can with logical understanding of intangible things.

There is an important distinction for us to make at this point. With the soul, it is possible to understand the concept of God and the concept of worship and the concept of eternal life and all those things that are part of God's revelation to us because those are intangible things. Those are things that we can't demonstrate in the test tube. Those are things we can't put our hands on. Those are intangible things. Those are psychological things, and with the soul it is possible for an unsaved person whose spirit is dormant to understand the concept of God and the concept of Heaven and the concept of Hell and the concept of salvation; but it is only with the spirit that we can actually know those things. It is only with the spirit we can actually come to know God. It is the human spirit through whom the Holy Spirit works. That is the difference between the human spirit and the human soul and, as I pointed out earlier, it is very difficult to make that distinction.

It seems that there is a great deal of overlap there, but that is why unsaved people can be very active and involved in church and not know Jesus Christ as Savior at all. That is why people who don't even have Jesus Christ as a part of their value system can be devout worshipers of Allah, Mohammed or Buddha. Joseph Smith, Jim Jones, people who don't even accept Jesus Christ can still worship because they can understand the concept of commitment to a higher power. So it is very hard to make that distinction as to why people can worship who are not even saved, but that is the difference. God speaks to us by His Spirit through our human spirit, and yet those concepts that God speaks to us about are understandable in theory through our human soul. There is a very careful distinction that we need to make.

This distinction is made very clear to us in I Corinthians, chapter 2. Here we have a distinct statement of that very point. Notice verse 14:

I Corinthians 2:

14But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Notice very carefully what he says: “The natural man (the unsaved man) does not receive the things of the Spirit of God…they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them for they are spiritually discerned.” The thing that is really significant to notice here is that the word natural in the first line of verse 14 is one of the translations of the Greek word psuchikos and what it says is “the soulish man cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God. The man who is operating only on the level of the soul, the man whose soul dominates his existence, cannot understand the things of God. He cannot receive the things of God. They are foolishness to him.”

You know, there is an interesting thing that has developed over the last few years in the field of computers. If you know anything about them, you know that desktop computers have disc operating systems and some computers have this kind of disc operating system and others have other systems. The significant things is that a computer that has MS DOS operating system will not operate on another system. Even though in the computer in which it was written, it made perfect sense, it was totally readable, if you take that disc and put it in another operating system, it is just jumbled hash. That is what this verse is talking about. The man who operates only on the soulish level can understand the things of God and he can talk about the things of God in theory. He can attend church and he can even say he got a blessing, but to really understand those things in his heart and in his mind and make them part of his life, they are just so much hash on the screen because he is operating on a different operating system. That is where the spirit and the soul functions of the human being come into very important play with each other. The man who operates only on the level of the soul can only theoretically understand those things.

The Body

The third part of the makeup of man is the body. As I said we are not going to talk a lot about that, but there is something significant that we need to mention. Having said what we have about the spirit and the soul, this has a bearing on the body. There is no need to elaborate on the senses of the body. You are all familiar with touch, taste, sight, smell, etc., but the point is that those functions of the body, all those physical senses that we are familiar with, are affected and directed by the other two parts of our being. Our activities in our physical bodies, whether you realize it or not, are affected and even directed by our spiritual condition and our emotional condition. They are directed by our spirit and our soul. Everything we do in the physical body is determined or at the very least affected by the stimuli coming into our soul and our spirit.

I mentioned a while ago that I Thessalonians, chapter 5, verse 23, lists them in the order that we have talked about them. We have talked deliberately about the spirit first, the soul second and the body third. I think it is deliberate that God has listed them in that order in I Thessalonians. There are no oversights with God and the Scripture is verbally inspired. I believe that God had Paul write those terms in exactly that order for this reason: The spirit ought to be the dominant influence in the human being and it comes first. The spirit ought to be the thing that feeds the soul, the mind, emotion and will and through that, the soul then feeds the body.

Many people, even Christians, have either the body or the soul in first place. It is a very simple and easy mistake to make. Probably the tendency of many people is to have the body in first place, but if our body is our main concern, then life is centered around what feels good. I will eat whatever I want to because it tastes good. I will sit down as much as I want to because that feels better than walking. I will walk whenever I can because that feels better than running. In fact, I will drive if I possibly can. Our whole life is centered around what feels good. That is our physical senses—what pleases me with my eyes, what I like to look at. I will order my day and I will order my acquaintances and I will order my world based on the senses of the body. If the body is in first place, then the life is going to be circumscribed by those things that affect the body.

By the same token, if the soul is in control of the life, then life is centered around the emotional aspect of life—what makes me feel good. There is some overlap there, of course. What is comfortable to the body also makes me feel good, but this is more from the standpoint of what makes me feel at ease mentally, what brings me peace, what brings me satisfaction, what brings me happiness. Listen, if the soul is in control, if all we are doing is trying to take the path of least resistance and make the fewest people mad at us, then life becomes just a continual search for happiness and a continual avoidance of any kind of conflict even at the expense of the standards of the Word of God. So it can be a terrible mistake for a Christian to have either the body or the soul in first place. It is God's order that the spirit come first and our first priority in life should be to feed the spirit, to exercise the spirit. We think first about feeding the body, but the most important thing we can do is feed the spirit as we feed on God's Word. We think first about exercising the body, but the most important thing we can do is to exercise the spirit so that we will be perfectly fit and in keeping with God's Spirit as He communicates with us.

The spirit affects our emotional condition, our understanding of intangible things, and those two working properly together then enable us to use the body properly. Again, another illustration of it is the kinds of things we have been seeing among Christian leaders in the past few years. The reason, at least in the cases that have become the most famous, is simply the matter of satisfying the demands of the body. “This is something that feels good and is enjoyable and I will do it. I don't care what the standards of God's Word are.”

It is easy for us to say, “Look at those guys and what they did.” As we are going to see in just a moment, every single one of us can and, to one extent or another, do those same kinds of things. So we need not be too critical. It is a matter of getting things out of priority and out of God's order—his spirit, his soul, and his body.

Man's Sin Nature

That is the first part of the makeup of man, the nature of man. That is the general nature of the human being, but there is a second part of the makeup of man and that is the sin nature of man. Let's go back to Romans, chapter 5, and notice for a minute the clear statement about the sin nature there in verse 12, where we read:

Romans 5:

12Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, [now notice] for that all have sinned:

The sin nature, that ability to sin, is common to all men. Romans, chapter 7, describes the out workings of it, but Romans, chapter 5, verse 12, tells us that it is common to all men. Turn back to Romans, chapter 3, verse 23, where we see God's definition of sin:

Romans 3:

23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

I would suggest that Romans, chapter 3, verse 23, is a succinct definition of sin. What is sin? It is coming short of the glory of God, and we could easily write verse 23 with a colon instead of the word and in the middle of it: “All have sinned: come short of the glory of God.” Anything that is less than God's perfection is sin. Jesus, commenting on the Old Testament, said, “He that has offended in one point of the law is guilty of all.” To sin is to come short of the glory of God. The primary reason God gave us the Ten Commandments is to demonstrate His holiness, to show us what it would take to be able to earn our salvation. It describes the holiness of God, so sin is to fall short of the glory of God. Therefore, it is very easy to see that every human being has a sin nature. Sin is common to every one of us.

If we were to analyze all of the references in the Scripture to the various kinds of sin, the various specific sins that are mentioned in the Bible, we would find that there are three broad categories of sin, three areas in which sin manifests itself. I think this helps demonstrate how widespread it is. First, the most obvious sins, the ones that anybody would name are the overt sins. I am not taking time to look at all the references, but what I have tried to do is to look at the various specific mentions of sin in the Scripture and many of those references to sin are overt sins like drunkenness, murder, adultery, thievery—what we might call active, overt sins.

Then there are also many references in the Scripture to sins of the tongue: gossiping, maligning, judging, lying, etc. It is interesting to me that many times those sins of the tongue are mentioned in the same sentence with the sins that we think are so terrible like murder and adultery, and they are terrible, but we sort of have a two-tiered level of sins. Murder and adultery are terrible, but maligning—oh, that is not so terrible. Respectful people do that. God puts them in the same category.

Then there is the third category of sin, the ones that I think are most always overlooked—the middle sins. Those are the sins of envy and pride, jealously, bitterness, fear, worry and self pity, etc. All those things are listed in the Bible as sin. We are guilty so often of thinking of just that first category of sin, but I am telling you everything that I have mentioned here is found somewhere in the Bible, and many times in the same sentence you will have an example of each of these three categories. In God's sight, it is all sin. So when you look at it from that standpoint, you realize that even those of us who are not murderers and even those of us who have never committed adultery and don't intend to are still sinners because who among us has not had anxiety and who among us has not worried about something. Who among us has not had self pity. God lists those things as sin. Besides that, many of us have judged others and gossiped about others. You might be totally clear of those overt sins and yet be guilty of many other sins. In trying to look at the overall scope of the sin nature, we need to realize that it is common to everybody.

Something else about the sin nature is that every individual is more susceptible to some sin than to others, and a complication of that is that these susceptibilities vary from person to person. I am tempted by some things that probably do not bother you at all. By the same token, you are tempted by some things that probably don't bother me at all. The bad part is we all have temptations. I mention that because the sin nature has what has been called a positive pole and a negative pole just like in an electrical charge. The positive pole is those things that we are not affected by. There are things that are sin that up to this point Satan hasn't bothered you with. You can hear about those things and they don't tempt you to sin, but there are other things that will get me immediately. Those things that don't bother me probably do bother some of you, and those things that will trip me up immediately is my positive pole. Everybody has a positive pole and a negative pole in his sin nature.

There is a problem even with that, and that is that so very often those things that do not bother us can actually lead us to sin. Did you know that? The fact that I am not bothered by some things can actually lead to the sin of pride that I am not bothered by this and the sin of condemnation of somebody who is and the sin of judging that person and the sin of gossiping about that person. Satan is so clever. He can make use of even the strong points of our sin nature or very often that positive part of the sin nature will lead a person to depend on his goodness for salvation. The sin nature is a very tricky thing you see. Even those things that don't bother us can become the source of sin or can become the source of not trusting God for what we need.

The other end of the spectrum is the negative pole and that speaks for itself. Some temptations do affect us and that is where sin is produced. That is where overt sin is produced. It is very easy for us to fall into sin in either area of the sin nature.

In God's sight all humans are sinful, even those with a very strong positive pole. Romans, chapter 3, verse 23, says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

Another thing to remember about the sin nature is that it is still present after salvation. If you have been saved more than twenty-four hours, you already know that and you can prove it from your own life. One of the most subtle heresies but one of the most dangerous—and it is a heresy—is the teaching that a Christian somehow somewhere along the line attains sinless perfection in this life. God certainly wants to sanctify us. God certainly wants to make us more like Jesus Christ. That is His purpose. That is one of His purposes in leaving us here instead of taking us straight to Heaven, but at the same time the Scripture also tells us that that process will not be fully completed until we stand in His presence.

That does not excuse us from desiring God's holiness. That does not excuse us from walking at the direction of the Holy Spirit and that does not excuse us from praying that our lives will be more like Jesus Christ today than it was yesterday. I am not downplaying any of that, but I am saying that it is the testimony of Scripture and the witness of experience that even Christians still have a sin nature and they will still commit sin. Romans, chapter 7, was written after Paul was a believer. Let's look back there and notice verse 21:

Romans 7:

21I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
22For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
23But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

You see, even believers have that sin nature, that tendency to commit sin. Before we move on to the new nature, let me say something that is extremely important for us to keep in mind as we think about our sin as Christians. I want to be careful how I say this because it could be easily misunderstood, but there is a sense in which the thing that is important is not that we sin but how we feel about that sin. Listen, if you are bothered by the fact that you still sin, then praise God for that. If you can sin with impunity, if you can sin and never give it a second thought, then there is real reason for you to question your salvation. What is important is not whether or not we sin, but whether or not the Spirit of God convicts us about that and what our response to that sin is. Again, I do not mean that it is not important if we sin. It is extremely important if we sin and it is extremely important that we ask God to forgive that sin. It is extremely important that we ask God to help us put away that sin and that we not continue in that sin. I am not downplaying any of that, but for your comfort and for your consolation, let me just tell you that if you are bothered by your sin, then that is a very good sign. Again, not to downplay the sin you and I are guilty of, but the fact that you are bothered is a sign that you are a child of God.

The New Nature of Man

The third part of the makeup of Christians is the new nature of man. In II Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 17, we read:

II Corinthians 5:

17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Obviously, when we become a Christian, we still have the same house, the same car and the same wife and the same children. When it says that all things have become new, if all that was replaced, we would all have a much easier time with evangelism. It wouldn't be too hard to bring people to Christ, but when it says that all things have become new, it is talking about the essence of life. What is the essence of life? Not the body, not the physical things. Our tendency is to first think of the physical, but God puts the spirit first. God puts the soul next, then the body. He says that all things have become new and the first priority there is the spirit and the spirit is alive. All things are new because now the Spirit of God can communicate with our spirit. All things are new because now the Spirit of God can control our thought life. Before that, everything was just a concept, but now it is a reality. Before that, we could understand God, but now we can talk to God. Before that, we could understand the Bible as literature, but now we can see it as God's communication to us. All things are new. We have a whole new set of standards. We have a whole new dimension of life and that, if we will let it, will have a bearing even on those physical things, even though God probably isn't going to give you a new car if you accept Christ right now, but He will give you a whole new nature and the Holy Spirit enables that new nature step by step and teaches us the Word of God.

In John, chapter 14, when Jesus was explaining to His disciples that He was going to go away but He was going to send the Holy Spirit to take His place, He said, “The Comforter Who is the Holy Spirit will teach you all things and bring to remembrance all things that I have said unto you.” So the Holy Spirit teaches us the Word of God and then He reminds us of the Word of God as He sees we have need of it. In Galatians, chapter 5, verse 16, says:

Galatians 5:

16This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

We have a whole new ability to serve God, not because we walk down an aisle and we accept Christ as Savior and we say, “I am going to do better now.” No, it is not that. It is because we now have a whole new ability. We have one-third of our whole being that was not in operation before that. Now not only is it in operation, but it feeds the other two parts that have always been there. We now have the ability to know the difference between right and wrong in a real sense and we now have the power to make the choice to do right and to say “no” to sin. Everything is new for the believer.

Because we still have the sin nature, of course, we still have the ability to sin. We have the ability to say “no” to God. God designed us that way because what He wants is love that we choose to give Him and obedience that we choose to give Him. God doesn't want us to be just trained animals who respond when He cracks the whip. God wants us to love Him because we choose to love Him and obey Him because we choose to obey Him. That is why He gave us the ability to say “no,” and that is why He doesn't take that ability away from us when we accept Christ as Savior. It is still possible to sin and to lose our fellowship with God, but of course, the promise of God is that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).


We have talked about the nature of man in general, the sin nature of man which applies to everybody, but for those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as personal Savior, thank God there is also a new nature, that new ability to know God.

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