What Is the Heart according to the Bible?

If you search online for heart, you’ll find millions of articles on the physical heart, complete with photos and diagrams. You can read detailed explanations of its function in the body and how it works. You’ll also find an abundance of information on caring for your heart so you can live longer. 

But we also know we have a heart that’s different from the physical organ pumping blood through our body. We consider that heart to be the source of our feelings like love, compassion, loyalty, or sorrow.

But what does the Bible say about our heart? In this post, we’ll look at what the heart is according to God’s Word, and the importance of our heart in our relationship with the Lord.

What does the Bible say our heart is?

The Bible defines our heart across many verses, not just in one single verse. It can be easy to miss. 

In a previous post we discussed how God created us with three parts: spirit, soul, and body. So where does our heart fit in? 

The Word of God shows us that our heart isn’t a fourth, separate part of our being. Instead, our heart is a composition of all three components of our soul—our mind, emotion, and will—plus the most important part of our spirit—our conscience. Let’s take a look at some key verses that reveal this.

1. Matthew 9:4

“And Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, Why are you thinking evil things in your hearts?”

Thinking is an activity of the mind, but the Lord Jesus asked the scribes why they were thinking in their hearts. This shows that our mind is part of our heart.

2. Acts 11:23

“Who, when he arrived and saw the grace of God, rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain with the Lord with purpose of heart.”

To purpose is to decide strongly to do something, which is an exercise of our will. So this verse shows that our will is part of our heart.

3. John 16:22

“Therefore you also now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from you.”

Rejoicing is related to our emotions, but here we see that our heart rejoices. This shows us that our emotion is also part of our heart.

4. Hebrews 10:22

“Let us come forward to the Holy of Holies with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience indicates that our conscience is also part of our heart.

This is further confirmed by the phrase “if our heart blames us” in 1 John 3:20. Since our conscience blames, or condemns, us when we’ve done something wrong, this verse also makes it very clear that our conscience is part of our heart.

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The importance of our heart

The verses above show us that our heart does much more than we might have thought. In addition to sensing the wide range of human emotions, our heart thinks, decides, and perceives right from wrong. 

Now let’s look at two reasons why the function of our heart is so important.

We love with our heart 

Jesus said in Mark 12:30: 

“And you shall love the Lord your God from your whole heart.” 

If we didn’t have a heart, we couldn’t sense love or love in return. God created us with a heart so we could have a loving relationship with Him. So in a very real sense, our heart is at the center of our relationship with God.

Our heart is the gateway of our being

Besides being the center of our relationship with God, our heart is also the gateway, or doorway, of our whole being. 

In the book The Economy of God, author Witness Lee explains this role. On page 75, Lee says:

“Our relationship with the Lord is always begun and maintained by the heart. Of course, to contact the Lord is a matter of the spirit, but this must be initiated and maintained by the heart, for our heart is the gateway of our whole being.”

For our heart to be the gateway of our entire being means what we allow in and out is determined by our heart. For example, we can close our heart to certain people and open it to others. 

Continuing on page 75, Lee says:

“In other words, the heart becomes both the entrance and the exit of our being. Whatever enters into us must enter through the heart. Whatever comes out from us must proceed through the heart.”

When we consider our experience of salvation, this point becomes clear to us. As we heard how the Lord Jesus died on the cross for our sins, we were convicted of our sinfulness; at the same time, we began to appreciate Jesus and what He did for us. We sensed the depth and sweetness of His love for us. So we opened the doors of our heart to believe in Him and accept Him as our Savior. At that time, we received Him in our spirit and were born again with His divine life. But it was our heart that was first touched and opened to let Him in.

Our heart and our relationship with the Lord

We were created by God in such a marvelous way! We have a spirit to contact, receive, and contain Him as life, and a heart to love Him. He wants to be our life and He wants us to love Him with our whole heart

As we read in the first excerpt above, our relationship with the Lord is begun by our heart. It’s also maintained by our heart. This is why the condition of our heart is so important.

With any relationship, when a problem arises, we need to address it. We shouldn’t think the problem will go away by itself. Maybe we have a certain attitude toward the other person, or certain negative thoughts about them. Maybe we’ve said or done something that hurt the other person, but we’re unwilling to make amends. To leave such things unresolved can only result in damaging the relationship.

In the same way, in order for us to be in harmony with the Lord and enjoy a loving relationship with Him, we need to address any problem that arises between us and the Lord. Such problems are always on our side and involve our heart.

In fact, many difficulties in our Christian life that prevent us from progressing are really issues in our heart—that is, in our mind, emotion, will, or conscience.

For instance, we might have a problem in our heart because our thoughts about a certain matter don’t match the Lord’s thoughts. Or maybe the feelings we have toward someone don’t correspond with the Lord’s feelings. Perhaps we insist on going our own way because our stubborn will is hardened. Or we may have a problem in our conscience because we haven’t dealt with things that have offended and displeased the Lord. With our heart in such a state, how can our relationship with the Lord be sweet and harmonious?

Now we can see how important it is to be aware of the condition of our heart in order to maintain our loving and warm relationship with the Lord. When a problem arises between us and the Lord, we can simply turn our heart to Him and pray, “Lord Jesus, I open my heart to You. I don’t want anything to come between You and me. I love You, Lord.”

In this post we’ve briefly discussed what the heart is according to the Bible. To learn about how to address the condition of our heart, we encourage you to read chapters 6-8 of The Economy of God by Witness Lee. You can download this tremendously helpful book from anywhere in the world here

We also encourage you to explore these specific posts to learn about much-needed healthy practices to care for our heart: How to Keep Our New Heart Pure, Loving, and Soft toward the Lord and What Does It Mean to Love God with All Your Heart?

And if you live in the US, you can read the verses mentioned in this post with their accompanying insightful notes in the New Testament Recovery Version by ordering a free copy here