In 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Paul prayed, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless.” Paul here put together the three elements that make up a complete human personality, listing them in descending order from the highest to the lowest: first, spirit; second, soul; third, body.
The spirit is the part of the human personality that was directly breathed into man by God at creation. It is therefore capable of direct union and communion with the Creator. In 1 Corinthians 6:17, Paul said, “He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” It would not be correct to say “one soul with Him.” Only man’s spirit is capable of direct union with God. In the original pattern of creation, man’s spirit related upward to God, his Creator, and downward to his own soul. God communicated directly with man’s spirit and, through man’s spirit, with his soul. Together, man’s spirit and soul expressed themselves through his body.
Let me give you three definitions of the functions of spirit, soul, and body—definitions that are simple but no less helpful. The spirit is God-conscious. The soul is self-conscious. The body is world-conscious. Through the spirit, we are conscious of God. In our souls, we are conscious of ourselves. And through our bodies and their senses, we relate to the world around us.
When the spirit of man is brought back into union with God, it is rekindled to become a lamp. The Holy Spirit comes in and fills up that lamp, shedding light on man’s whole inner being. (See Proverbs 20:27.)