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Before this question is answered, you must understand the makeup of each human being. We know from the Bible that man is created in God’s own image (Genesis 1:26-27). What does this mean? Just as God is a triune Being, so we also are triune in nature. We have God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—three parts in one Person, in one God. For us as people we are a spirit, we have a soul and we live in a body. The Scriptures tell us:


1 John 5:7:  For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word*, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.

*The Word is another name for Jesus Christ (John 1:1, 14).


1 Thessalonians 5:23:  Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (See also Hebrews 4:12)


The spirit is the innermost part of a human being and is what separates us from the animals, as this is the part of man which enables us to have a relationship with God. The spirit has a persona of its own and is dead in sin (though alive in action) until we get saved, then it is rejuvenated (Born Again, or Born Anew), and becomes the place where the Holy Spirit resides in us.


The soul houses the life force, the mind, the intellect, the will, the emotions, and the heart (not the physical organ). It is the interface between the spirit and the body, much as the keyboard is the interface between a computer’s software and the person using the device.


The body is the “house” or “tent” that the soul and the spirit live in (2 Peter 1:13-15). Through it we are connected to the outside world by our five senses. Is this the flesh? Partly, in that our body is vulnerable to physical frailties as well as possessing basic drives which, outside of Christ, can and often are fulfilled immorally. But the flesh also includes our fallen nature, which pervades the whole being of a lost person and lingers in the body and soul of the saved person. Now, back to the heart.


There has been—and sometimes still is—confusion as to what is, exactly, the heart. In the Bible we find the terms soul and spirit used interchangeably and the words heart and mind used interchangeably with soul and spirit. Furthermore, in the Old Testament Hebrew there is no word for mind, there being several words in that language meaning heart, soul, or spirit and are sometimes translated as “mind.” Why? In the Old Testament there is not as clear a revelation of the structural details of man as there is in the New Testament. One consistent point we can hold onto, however, is that the heart throughout the Bible has been considered to be the seat of one’s character. Knowing this can clear up some of the confusion. An unsaved person’s heart is full of evil:


Jeremiah 17:9:  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?


That’s plain enough for what Jeremiah is describing about the general condition of the heart, what we know as the heart of the lost. However, in the totality of the subject of the heart, there is still more clarification needed. Consider these Scriptures:


Ezekiel 36:26-27:  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.


2 Corinthians 3:2-3:  You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, the heart.


2 Corinthians 5:17:  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.


In the Ezekiel passage the prophet is not speaking of the flesh as it is understood in the New Testament. Rather, he is contrasting a hardened or dead heart (of stone) with a living (fleshly) heart that God can mold, shape, and work with. In the verses from 2 Corinthians 3 the apostle Paul is making a contrast between the inanimate (tablets of stone) and the living (tablets of flesh—the heart). The puzzle comes in at 2 Corinthians 5:17 and the way some believers interpret it. Some say that in all things becoming new, we have a completely new heart and that the flesh is gone. This is partly but not completely correct. Remember, the Holy Spirit rejuvenates and dwells in our spirit once we are saved, and that the spirit has its own persona. It has its own mind, will, and emotions; its own heart, you could say. No, we do not have two hearts—more on that in a moment. Remember also that the flesh still pervades the soul and the body of the believer.


Though our triune nature is relatively simple to illustrate and comprehend, there are aspects of it that are complex. Again, the heart is the seat of one’s character. The mind contains the heart. We use our minds to make decisions with. As saved individuals we are instantly saved from the penalty of sin. We are being saved from the power of sin—this is sanctification. We will one day be saved from the very presence of sin when we get a perfect and indestructible body, our soul also having been perfected.


The mind contains the heart, the soul bridges the spirit and the body, and the inward man in Christians is born again. Our “inward” heart and our “outward” heart are really two parts of the same thing. Sanctification is the setting apart for use by God, but it involves more than a change of function. It also involves an ongoing upgrade: Separation from sin. As we grow in Christ our conduct should become more and more holy, more and more Christlike:


Romans 12:1-2:  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.


By reading the Word daily and meditating on it, by regular prayer, and when possible by fellowshipping with other growing believers, this mental transformation takes place. Over time the thinking of the mind, the functioning of the soulish part of our being, begins to match more closely that of the inner man. By some believers saying the old nature is totally gone when a person gets saved is one of the worst kinds of legalism. It invites doubts about one’s salvation every time there is even a sinful thought, much less a sinful action. Our loving heavenly Father never meant for us to live in constant doubt of our salvation, but to be settled on its reality and to start growing in Christ. That way we can both grow closer to Him and be a blessing to others.


We do gain a new heart when we are born again. The flesh is gone from the inward (spirit) man but not the rest of our being, so as long as we live there will be a part of us that will want to sin, and the flesh and the Spirit will war against one another (Galatians 5:16-18). The inward man, being rejuvenated and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, will want to obey God. Just as the soul and the spirit, though two distinct parts of us, are inseparable from who we are, so the soulish and spiritual aspects of our heart form two distinct areas but are all one heart.


As the heart is the seat of our character—who we are as individuals—and since we as believers are born again, our character must be made to become more Christlike. If our relationship with Jesus is growing the way it is supposed to, this transformation will happen. It may take place slowly or quickly, but it will happen. And when you do sin, confess it, get back up, and keep marching forward for the Lord (1 John 1:9). You are not lost, but a work in progress.




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