Have you heard a preacher or pastor describe who we are like this?
“You are not the real you. You’re spirit is the real you and you just happen to live in a body” OR “you are a spirit who has a soul and lives in a body”
Please know that the preacher is regurgitating one of the oldest heresies the church has battled. Gnosticism arose out of Greek thought that split the physical from the spiritual. The Father was this mysterious unknown being who produced spiritual beings that had attributes of Christ and represented a higher spirituality. The goal in Gnostic thought was to attain this higher spirituality through secret knowledge. Anything that was physical was bad, evil and essentially didn’t matter. The ultimate goal was for the real you, the spirit, to be released from your body.
This was heresy for obvious reasons; it destroyed the personhood of God, the basis of redemption through Christ, and our humanity. This was not who God made you to be, a spirit being in a casing that didn’t matter. We are whole people. Now there are two views of humanity
Dichotomy: humans are made up of two parts – body and soul. The immaterial part is our soul and interchangeable for spirit.
Trichotomy: humans are made up of three parts – body, soul and spirit. I do have problems with this view because it splits our humanity up in ways that resemble Gnosticism. It also removes the part that connects with the Spirit of God from our humanity.
I believe the dichotomist position is more faithful to our human makeup according to the creation account. The important thing to realize is that our bodies matter and are just important as our souls. This is why death is an enemy because it rips us in two, sending the body back to the earth and the soul to heaven. If the goal is for our spirits to leave our body to go to heaven then we don’t sound too different from the Gnostic. But heaven is not the ultimate goal because our bodies will be resurrected and in that glorified state believers will spend eternity in the new Jerusalem, with God dwelling there (Revelation 21). The last enemy to be conquered is death (1 Corinthians 15:26). In fact, 1 Corinthians 15 is directed to the resurrection of the dead, of which Christ demonstrated the first fruits (vv 20-23). Here is a thorough and very good article on the topic.
So the next time you hear somebody divide our humanity like that, pay better attention to what else they say. Chances are if they are regurgitating a heresy of early times, they are woefully unaware or unconcerned about the foundations of the Christian faith. In fact, I am saddened how much Gnostic thought has pervaded contemporary Evangelicalism. But more on that next time.