When God made us he gave us a body, mind and spirit. Because of our western way of viewing the world, inherited from the ancient Greeks, by way of the church fathers and thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas, and others, we tend to separate them from each other. We find it easier to understand things if we can take them apart and examine the separate components.
Of course, just like a small boy dismantling a wind-up gramophone to see how it works (which I once did), we are unable to put them back together again (as I wasn’t) because, while examining the parts we have neglected to study the relationships between them.
So, we agree we have a body, mind and spirit, but we don’t know how they go together, nor how they function in harmony. This is ironic, because none of those three parts can even exist (alive) without the others, let alone function!
The Hebrews, unlike the Greeks, understood a human being to be a whole, not a collection of parts.
Remember what happened at Pentecost – the Holy Spirit was poured out on a group of Jewish followers of Jesus. What was their response? Did they say, “Hey, this is different! Something physical just happened, tongues of fire fell. My mind can’t understand it, because I’ve never seen this before. But something changed in my spirit. I’m no longer afraid like I was a moment ago, and I am filled with a desire to praise God!”
No, I doubt if this is what they did. What it says they did do, was to go outside and praise God. And as people heard them tell of what happened they asked questions about it. So Peter, full of courage, told them that this fulfilled what Jesus, who they had murdered, had promised. And many believed in Jesus and joined them.
What was it Jesus had promised? Read John 14: 15-27 and 16: 5-15 to find out.
What does Jesus mean when he says he is in the Father and the Father is in him? And, he is in us? And, he and the Father are one? And, we will be one with each other and him and the Father?
Jesus is talking about a real joining of our spirits, both with his Spirit, with Father God, and with each other’s spirits. Our minds have difficulty with this, mainly because of all the things in this world we understand the nature of spirit least.
Is this surprising? Does a rock or a tree understand the nature of an animal? Does a man or woman understand the nature of God? No, the lesser does not understand the greater; rather the other way around. Neither does the mind understand the spirit any more than the body understands the mind.
God made humans in his image. And God is a Spirit (John 4: 24). So, it is reasonable to suppose that our being made in God’s image has to do with our spirit. This is how we are distinct from the rest of creation.
Can the part of us made from the dust of the ground understand the part of us breathed in by the Spirit of God? (Genesis 2:7)
In our Friday fellowship meeting at Beth Tephillah we looked at the relationship between knowing and doing, believing and acting, doing and being. To the Hebrew, to Jesus, to James, to the early Christians, these are the same thing! Believing is acting. Knowing is doing. Having faith is the same as obeying.
In a book by James Sire that I really enjoyed, Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life As a Christian Calling, he says:
Heart and mind are already together in the way God has made us, Whatever we are,
we are in fact one in our being … Being brings together knowing and doing, belief and obedience, for good or ill; for Christ?s disciples it will be eventually for good, of course. For when time shall be no more, our perfected, glorified being will bring
together in a perfect harmony a perfected heart, mind, body – and every other aspect of our human nature. We would do well to get on with it now. Such integration is a major aspect of seeking first the kingdom of God (p 162)
The whole point of Pentecost was to begin something. And that something is still continuing to be born and shaped – it is not completed yet. Jesus is building a people who are gathered together to be one with him and the Father and each other, and who will only do things the father is doing, and will not act in their own strength but in the power in the power of the Holy Spirit. We call this the Church.
And, as James Sire says, we would do well to get on with this form of living now! It is for now, not in heaven. “The kingdom of God is among you!” Jesus said.