Some believe people have three distinct natures: body, soul and spirit (tripartite view). Others believe we are made of only two parts: body and spirit (bipartite view). They believe our spirit is the internal part of us (a.k.a. heart/soul), while our bodies make up the external part of us.

At a glance, the first Great Commandment (Mark 12:30) seems to teach a quadripartite view of humans: heart, soul, mind and strength. All four of these are components of your life, not compartments of your life. We don’t just have a heart, soul, mind and body. We are the sum of those things.

These four dimensions were meant to be integrated into, not separated from each person’s life. Perhaps this explains why each of the Gospel writers lists them a little differently.

Sometimes there is a clear distinction between the heart, soul and mind. But much of the time they are used interchangeably in the Bible. Look at 1 Thess. 5:23: “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. And may your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (CSB). Here Paul uses the phrase “and may your whole…” as if he is describing the three dimensions as the summary of a person’s being.

God wants all of you. Every part.

  1. Loving God with your heart

God gave every person on the planet a physical heart. It is the organ that keeps our life-giving blood pumping to the rest of our body. Putting it bluntly, we are physically dead without our physical hearts. Likewise, we are spiritually dead without our spiritual hearts.

Our spiritual hearts became fully redeemed when we surrendered our lives to Jesus. My heart was desperately wicked before Jesus transformed me on June 12, 1980. The moment I cried out to Him for salvation, I got a brand-new heart (spirit), which is the reality for all Christians. Since my salvation more than 40 years ago, my heart has been undergoing an endless process of sanctification, which is the slow roll to spiritual maturity.

The Bible uses the word “spirit” interchangeably with “heart.” We see this in Ezekiel’s use of a common Eastern writing method called parallelism. In this writing or speaking style, the same idea is emphasized by repeating it using different terms.

Throw off all the transgressions you have committed and get yourselves a new heart [leb] and a new spirit (ruah)” (Ezek. 18:31, CSB).

Since Western thought usually associates the heart with feelings, you might be surprised to find out the most common Hebrew use of “heart” (lebab) is in reference to our thoughts, not our feelings. It is why Jeremiah said, “I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Jer. 31:33b, CSB). The same is true of the Greek term (kardia), depending on its context.

Our hearts are more than just a place where our thoughts and feelings reside. My heart is who I am, and your heart is who you are.

  1. Loving God with your soul

The term “soul” is often used as a synonym for the individual person and is often translated in the Christian Standard Bible as “life” (104 times), or as “person” (38 times). All humans—lost or saved—have souls because God has breathed life into us all. Gen. 2:7 states, “Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being” (CSB).

The Greek term for soul is “psyche,” from which we get the English word “psychology.” While the heart is the eternal part of our lives that is fully redeemed, the soul is the internal part of us that is constantly being restored and renewed. The Hebrew term for soul (nephesh; breathing creature) refers to our physical life, which God has given to all of us.

The life (soul) of every living thing is in his hand, as well as the breath (physical) of all humanity” (Job 12:10, CSB).

Every human soul is valuable and made in the image of God. Some assume their soul will take prominence in the afterlife. But your soul is your life right now … today. Perhaps this assumption comes from this commonly misinterpreted Bible passage about the soul: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26, KJV).

This passage is not talking about losing your eternal salvation. It is talking about losing yourself in this earthly life. Your soul is your life, and you must entrust your soul to your Savior daily for your sanctification.

Is it well with your soul? Does your interior life need some rearranging?

  1. Loving God with your mind

The term “mind” was not in the original Shema that Moses spoke and wrote. Perhaps this is because the Hebrews made no real distinction between the heart and the mind. They believed our hearts are where the real thinking happens.

I assume Jesus added “mind” to His recitation of the Shema because the Greco-Roman culture, His followers were born into, viewed the mind as the place from which our thoughts originated. Our current Western culture assumes the same. At the end of the day, we see little difference in Scripture between a person’s mind and heart.

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6–7, CSB, emphasis mine).

God still promises to guard the hearts and minds of those who love him. Mental health is no less important than physical, spiritual or emotional health.

  1. Loving God with your strength

In my opinion, “strength” is primarily a reference to the strength of our physical bodies. This Greek term (ischys) for strength can mean will, might, force or power. The Hebrew equivalent (koah) refers to a person’s physical energy.

Perhaps you have noticed ministry takes a lot of energy. Sometimes, I don’t know whether I feel drained physically, mentally or emotionally—I just know I’m exhausted. Even as I type this, my voice is completely gone. I lost it on a Saturday and had to tag in a pastor on my staff to preach my sermon. I was tempted to power through on Sunday morning, but my wise wife talked me off of that silly ledge.

We all want to glorify God with our bodies, loving Him with all our strength. King Josiah apparently figured it out, and so can we:

Before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength according to all the law of Moses, and no one like him arose after him.” (2 Kings 23:25, CSB, emphasis mine).