S. D. Gordon on the Ideal Man

Samuel D. Gordon (1859-1936) served as Ohio’s State Secretary for the YMCA. “He was a widely traveled speaker in high demand. A prolific author, he wrote more than 25 devotional books. He also traveled to Europe and Asia as a missionary. A plain man, controlled by a strong desire to edify God’s people, he won the respect of the learned and at the same time the affection of the simple” (GoodReads). He is especially known for his titles on “Quiet Talks…”

In a chapter on “The Problem of Ambition,” S. D. Gordon expounded on Paul’s resolve in Philippians 3: 12-14: “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” [emphasis Gordon’s]

In this context he taught on man as body, soul and spirit with relevant insights for functioning according to God’s design:


The man we are talking about just now [the ideal man] is a trinity. There are three of him tied up together. The three are in a scale ascending from lowest to highest. At the lowest there is a body; yet though lowest it is never low; at the lowest it is high. The lowest rung of this ladder is high.

A step up is the mind. Every man has a mind, though quite a number do not seem to have suspected that fact. It is peculiar in its make-up; there is a cold-storage room for facts; a photographer’s highly sensitized plate for receiving impressions of all that comes; and a judge sitting above all to weigh and sift and give decisions and guide all below. And highest of all is the spirit which lives in the body, thinks through the mind, and holds the sceptre of the life. The true man aims steadily to have a trained body, its powers matured or rather maturing, disciplined to obey and under full control. It is to be kept steadily in its place of a faithful servant. That is a very high place, to serve faithfully the purpose intended. He does not coddle his body, nor abuse it; he is not heedless of its requirements; and, above all, he is not ignorant of its nature and needs, and does not allow it to reverse the true order and become master. This man has not attained, but he is reaching, and this is his aim.

A Double Trinity

On the next higher level is another trinity, a trinity within a trinity, for the mind is that. [Gordon uses “mind” as synecdoche–a part representing the whole.  Note his explanation of the faculties of mind, will and emotions. Paul’s term for this middle aspect of man’s basic “trinity” is soul. ] Through the five in-gates of eye and ear, taste and touch and smell, come in the impressions, the information, the facts that are put away. The intellect is the mind’s cold storage for gathering and holding all that comes. It should be kept clear, cool, and calm, ever alertly listening, keen for facts, gathering, weighing, sifting, sorting and pigeonholing them for use.

Then there is the power to feel, the faculty that is impressed by all that comes, and that gives expression to what is felt, the emotional nature. It should be kept soft so as to record quickly and accurately all that comes in. It properly is susceptible, plastic; on the one hand not stupid, nor on the other overexcited or stale. There is perhaps less training of this faculty, except narrowly in strictly professional studies, as music or art or medical skill, than of either of the other two powers of the mind. It should not be repressed, and should not be dominant. Yet to either one of those extremes does the pendulum usually swing.

There is a tendency among men to repress the feelings, especially the finer feelings. There is a tendency among women to yield unduly to the feelings and allow them to rule. Both are extremes to be carefully avoided. A tear may be as manly as rugged strength. And repressed emotion may be as womanly as the finer fibre of woman’s strength. The tears that stand simply for an emotion spending itself out are hurtful; they do but wear away the strength to help that somebody needs. The tears that tell of a motive touched and stirred into action in behalf of that which called them forth are beauteous with rainbow light.

The duty of the feelings is to note accurately all that comes in and report fully to the will above. One should aim to discipline his emotional nature that it may serve him fully. The man one should be has not reached his aim here, but he is steadily stretching up towards it.

Combined with these is the third and highest member of the mental trinity, the will. The will is the king here; the judge on the highest bench from which no appeal may be taken. It is the autocrat on the throne, with no constitution to limit its sway. There are various words used for the will: purpose is the aim or direction of the will; determination is the quality of the will, telling how much or how little the purpose may be depended upon; force is the driving power of the will, telling how much pressure or how little may be brought into play in getting the will’s will done.

The man who would be true to his being keeps all the avenues of approach open to receive all there is, his intellect quietly and steadily at its work, the feelings sensitive but well in hand, the will listening to its servants and ruling fairly over all with a gentle but very firm hand.

Then distinctly above both of these is the spirit, the living spirit who resides within this organism of body and mind [soul], animating and dominating all the powers below, and all the life.

Such a man is ambitious [as in Phil. 3:12-14], in the true sense of that great word. He is reaching steadily towards the highest levels.


From Quiet Talks on Personal Problems, Grand Rapids, Baker Book House 1980, chapter 3. (originally published in 1907 by Revell). Bracketed comments, italics and bold emphases added

– John Woodward

Book by Andrew Wommack

Andrew Wommack is a popular speaker and author. I recently read his book, Spirit, Soul and Body. He not only affirms this model of how we are made (1 Thess. 5:23), but testifies to the importance of this perspective in his life and ministry. Wommack recalls a time of intensive Bible study and prayer that brought him to pivotal spiritual life discoveries.

“This understanding of spirit, soul, and body was one of the first revelations I received through studying the Bible. It not only alleviated the frustration and confusion I had, but has served as a foundation for almost everything the Lord has shown me since. These important truths freed me from the bondage of much wrong thinking and enabled me to consistently experience God’s supernatural power. Personally, I cannot comprehend how anyone can truly prosper in their relationship with God apart from understanding this basic revelation” (preface).

In 145 pages the author explains and applies this understanding of man as spirit, soul and body and our new identity in Christ to salvation, sanctification, and service. It is a thorough presentation given at a popular (not academic) level.

Wommack’s Pentecostal theology is expressed at times. He also concludes that union with Christ guarantees physical healing and prosperity in this life if claimed by faith. However, we (at Grace Fellowship Int’l) would not agree with these conclusions. See:

https://gracenotebook.com/getting-out-of-the-doldrums/
https://gracenotebook.com/why-christians-get-sick/
https://gracenotebook.com/understanding-suffering-part-1/

Andrew Wommack Ministries makes some of his teaching available freely online. Man as Spirit, Soul, and Body is presented in his audio series on the Holy Spirit:
https://www.awmi.net/popular/

Distinguishing Soul and Spirit

“For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
“Hebrews 4:12 In addition to “sword,” the word in Greek was used for the knife used by the priests to slit the throats of the sacrificial lambs and for the knife (scalpel) used by a surgeon.” – The Amplified Bible

Note that when the priest’s knife would cut through the bone, the joints were distinct from the marrow. (Modern science observes the marrow to be the inner, life-giving element) . So bone was the unifying structure with joints and marrow being distinct, not just in connotation, but in reality and function. Similarly, the immaterial part of a person (like bone) is one, yet comprised of soul (joints) and spirit (marrow). And only the Word of God reveals and penetrates theses distinctions; (Augustinian theology certainly does not.)

“Hebrews 4:12 apparently indicates that soul and spirit are to be distinguished though there is difficulty in doing so. The distinction is often defined in terms of the higher and lower aspects of man’s psychical life; the soul is said to be the manifestation of the immaterial part of man toward the world, and the spirit its manifestation toward God. 1 Corinthians 2:14, 15, makes the clearest distinction between psychikoi [soulical] as men whose lives are uninfluenced by the Holy Spirit [unregenerated], and pneumatikoi [spiritual] as those who are directed by the Spirit of God (cf. Jude 19) [and regenerated by the Spirit of God – John 3:3-6]. – Encyclopedia of the Bible, “Spirit.”

This is the view of holistic trichotomy: man’s primary nature is one, having two separable elements (2 Cor. 5:8), yet man’s immaterial side has two distinguishable aspects/dimensions (1 Thess. 5:23).

RS4L Curriculum

Bloom in the Dark is ministry that promotes healing and hope to hurting people through therapeutic discipleship resources. They produce programs on BloomTodaytv.com and offer a year-long weekly recovery curriculum–RS4L.

“Unlike traditional recovery programs that only address the soul and body, RS4L combines healing strategies for all three parts of our being: spirit, soul, and body. It is specifically developed for individuals who are looking to get to the root of their pain. Whether coming out of abuse, addiction, or a painful loss, RS4L promises a journey that will completely transform how you see healing and recovery.” bloominthedark.org

Their foundational Scripture is 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. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”

“Spirit, Soul and Body” by L. Sumrall

Lester F. Sumrall (1913 -1996) was an American Pentecostal pastor and evangelist. He founded the Lester Sumrall Evangelistic Association (LeSEA) and its humanitarian arm LeSEA Global Feed the Hungry, World Harvest Radio International, and World Harvest Bible College [Wikipedia]. He ministered in over 100 countries and wrote many books.

His book, The Total Man, was retitled Spirit, Soul, and Body and published by Whitaker House in 2002 (254 pages). Sumrall sought answers about the soul/spirit distinction for twenty years, asking many different leaders with little benefit. After his discoveries about biblical psychology, he concluded that discerning the spirit/soul/body design of man is very important.

The volume is written at a popular level; it is not an academic work. (There is no bibliography or footnotes.). But the author’s goal was pastoral and practical. He introduces the book, “In this study, I am going to help you understand yourself and therefore know how to live. I want to make you aware of the three-dimensional nature of the human personality. As long as you treat the human personality as a dualism [body and soul], you will never discover it. A psychologist or psychiatrist might be able to pick you to pieces, but he will not be able to put you back together again… He does not even know that man has a spirit. This is a very sad situation because man’s biggest problems are spiritual” (p. 15,16).

The practical aim may explain some lack of clarity at times. For example, early in the book, he stated that the unsaved person only has a body and soul, and gets a human spirit at regeneration (p.24). But later he ends up with the mainstream trichotomist view that the unsaved person has a human spirit that is dead toward God and needs to be regenerated (p.224,231). Similarly, he initially assigns the role of conscience to man’s soul (p.187,195). But later in the book, he agrees with the majority trichotmist view that the conscience is a faculty of the human spirit (p.230, 252).

Sumrall gives seven of the book’s forty chapters to the function of imagination, describing it as “the hidden force of human destiny.” Although he identifies imagination with the conscious mind (p.138), as a facet of creativity, he also affirms its role in Adam before the fall and in the regenerate human spirit (p.155,170).
Admittedly, sometimes the role of conscience and imagination overlap soul and spirit, like links in a chain. The case can be made that conscience is a faculty of the spirit (an aspect of being made in God’s image), yet the function of conscience is processed in the soul (and, therefore, can be desensitized or sensitized). We have the “mind of Christ” [in the new human spirit], but also need to “renew” our minds [in the soul] (1 Cor. 2:16; Rom. 12:2).

Although Sumrall doesn’t quote sources, he refers to Watchman Nee’s writing (p.227). It seems obvious that he alludes to the content of Nee’s The Release of the Spirit and probably the larger volume, The Spiritual Man (which details the faculties of soul and spirit).

The author’s pastoral concern is evident in the many practical points he makes about avoiding defeat and living a Spirit-filled, God-designed life. Discipleship Counselors appreciate the relevance of an accurate, biblical model of man to personal ministry. As a leader who ministered in over one hundred countries, Sumrall’s diagnosis is worth noting: In many churches as much as a third of the whole congregation is depressed and sad. They are not living in their spirit; they are [primarily ]living in the soulical realm…God’s kingdom., which is in you, is God’s righteousness, peace, and joy” [Rom. 14:17].

The book is available from the publisher here:
https://www.whitakerhouse.com/product/spirit-soul-body/

– J.B.W.

G. Campbell Morgan

“Reverend Doctor George Campbell Morgan D.D. was a British evangelist, preacher, a leading Bible teacher, and a prolific author.  A contemporary of Rodney “Gipsy” Smith, Morgan preached his first sermon at age 13. He was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London from 1904 to 1919, pausing for 14 years to teach at Biola in Los Angeles, and returning to the Chapel from 1933 to 1943 when he handed over the pastorate to the renowned Martyn Lloyd-Jones, after having shared it with him and mentored him for some years previous. From 1911-1914 he was the president of Cheshunt College, Cambridge.” [Wikipedia]

His book, Christian Principles, was based on a series of lectures that he gave at 5th Avenue Presbyterian Church under the auspices of Bible Teacher’s Training School. In it he presents what this site terms “holistic trichotomy.” Here are sample pages from chapter 1 – “The Spiritual Nature of Man.”

Here are excerpts from chapter one, titled The Spiritual Nature of Man. See also page 3: G_C_Morgan_pg_3.

Morgan2

Morgan3 Morgan4Here is a PDF copy of the complete book: https://babel.hathitrust.org

Dividing Soul and Spirit

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:12,13) NKJV).

Believer’s Bible Commentary observes that “[These] two verses contain a solemn warning that unbelief never goes undetected. It is detected first by the word of God. (The term used here for word is logos, the familiar word used by John in the prologue to his Gospel. However, this verse refers, not to the Living Word, Jesus, but to the written word, the Bible.) This word of God is:

  • living—constantly and actively alive.
  • powerful—energizing.
  • cutting—sharper than any two-edged sword.
  • dividing—piercing the soul and spirit, the two invisible, nonmaterial parts of man. Piercing the joints and marrow, the joints permitting the outward movements and the marrow being the hidden but vital life of the bones.
  • discerning—discriminating and judging with regard to the thoughts and intents of the heart. It is the word that judges us, not we who judge the word.”

[1]  Believer’s Bible Commentary by William MacDonald (red and bold font added)

3 D Sanctification

A devotional reading from Andrew Murray (1828-1917)

This highly respected church leader and author takes the text literally; man is spirit, soul and body.

“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. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” 1 These. 5:23,24

WHAT a promise! One would expect to see all God’s children clinging to it, claiming its fulfilment. Alas, unbelief does not know what to think of it, and but few count it their treasure and joy.

Just listen. God, the God of peace—the peace He made by the blood of the cross, the peace that passes all understanding, keeping our hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus—none other but Himself can and will do it. This God of peace Himself promises to sanctify us, to sanctity us wholly, in Christ our sanctification, in the sanctification of the Spirit. It is God who is doing the work. It is in close, personal fellowship with God Himself that we become holy.

Ought not each of us to rejoice with exceeding joy at the prospect? But it is as if the promise is too great, and so it is repeated and amplified. May your spirit—the inmost part of our being, created for fellowship with God—and your soul, the seat of the life and all its powers—and body, through which sin entered, in which sin proved its power even unto death, but which has been redeemed in Christ: spirit, soul, and body be preserved entire, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (emphasis added)

To prevent the possibility of any misconception, as if it is too great to be literally true, the words are added: “Faithful is He that calls you, Who will also do it.” Yes, He has said: “I the Lord have spoken it; and I, in Christ and through the Holy Spirit, will do it.” All that He asks is that we shall come and abide in close fellowship with Himself every day. As the heat of the sun shines on the body and warms it, the fire of His holiness will burn in us, and make us holy. Child of God, beware of unbelief. It dishonors God, it robs your soul of its heritage. Take refuge in the word: “Faithful is He that calls you, Who will also do it.” …Yes, He will do it; and He will give me grace so to abide in His nearness that I can ever be under the cover of His perfect peace, and of the holiness which He alone can give. 0 my soul, He will do it.

All things are possible to him that believes.” I believe, Lord; help my unbelief.” [1]


[1] An allusion to Mark 9:24

Biblical translation and spelling updated. From God’s Best Secrets, (Zondervan), April 26th reading.

Lifestyle of Worship

Dr. Brandon Park has developed a ten week discipleship curriculum with an app and optional workbook known as LifeCoach Discipleship. The series features five lessons per week with an accompanying brief video. http://ilifecoach.org/

On Day One of week five, the author recognizes man as spirit, soul and body as illustrated with this graphic:

The model of man and its implications for worship is explained on pages 114-118 in the workbook. The following is the video for this day:

How Can I Live a Lifestyle of Worship?

A Eulogy for Spurgeon

In 1892, the “Prince of “Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, died at age 57. At his funeral, 100,000 people filed past his coffin during to pay their respects and give thanks for his life and ministry at Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. Pastor Archibald Brown said these words at the graveside service:

“…Champion of God, thy battle long and nobly fought is over. The sword which clave to thy hand has dropped at last [2 Sam. 23:10]; the palm branch takes its place. No longer does the helmet press thy brow, or weary with its surging thoughts of battle; the victor’s wreath from the Great Commander’s hand has already proved the full reward. Here for a little while shall rest thy precious dust. Then shall thy Well-Beloved come, and at His voice thou shalt spring from thy couch on earth fashioned like unto His Body in glory [Phil 3:20,21]. Then spirit, soul and body shall magnify the Lord’s redemption…We praise God for thee, and by the blood of the everlasting covenant, hope and expect to praise God with thee. Amen.”

Note how Spurgeon was addressed as singular (personhood), as separate from his mortal body (dichotomy), yet with three distinguishable parts–“spirit, soul and body” (1 Thess. 5:23). This is another example of holistic trichotomy.