Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions About Christianity, Answered Honestly!

What is the Difference between
the Soul and Spirit?

-by Tony Warren

Ihere are many Reformed Christians who have asked, "What is the Difference between the Soul and Spirit?" There are some who hold that there is really no difference. Others think that they are totally different. And still others believe that they are intimately related, but slightly different. There really is no simple answer to this question because soul and spirit are so closely tied together, and the two words often employed in varying senses and different contexts. But I fall into the category of believing that the soul and the spirit are intimately related, but also slightly different in their attributes. Thus it can be very confusing when attempting to discern the precise differences between the two. While the soul and spirit are both the immaterial parts of our humanity, I believe that the spirit is actually a contributing "part" of the soul. Much like the flesh is a contributing part of the body. The soul represents our individual being and identity and has more of a connection to our body, and is sometimes used to identify the body (Leviticus 5:2-4; Romans 13:1). We can look at it as the spirit being a conduit to the soul, and the soul to the body. Your soul is the essence of your being, dictating who you are. While your spirit is more an animator of the mind in order for us to understand and connect with God the Spirit of God. So the two are both parts of our spiritual existence, working in harmony and in unity with each other, and yet slightly diverse in their workings. Much like in a computer the operating system is software working within the architecture of a computer, and an application is also software that works within the operating system software to get things done, but is also different from that OS software. That is of course an imperfect analogy, but you get my point. They are both an immaterial aspect of the body, but there is a difference. In other words, a human being has a spirit, a soul and a body. But a human being also "is" a soul (1st Peter 3:20) encompassing the whole psyche. But in this way, they are not a spirit, they possess a spirit.

What is the Difference between the Soul and Spirit? First let's break these words in their original languages. The Hebrew word translated soul is [nephesh], taken from the Hebrew word meaning to take breath (naphash). And by extension it can imply life (breath of life), which is also why the word can be used to refer to either a person (Joshua 2:13, Exodus 21:23), or living creatures (Genesis 1:21). So whenever the word soul is used in scripture, it can refer to the whole person or to a creature--either in this world, or in the afterlife. The soul or immaterial being or psyche encompasses the faculties such as mind, intellect and consciousness. This does not mean that creatures have a soul or spirit in the same sense as humans, or that they were created in God's image, it simply means that they are souls [nephesh] or they have a spirit [ruwach] that is a living/breathing existence.

Ecclesiastes 3:21

  • "Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?"
This illustrating the spiritual difference between man and other creatures. That the destination of man's spirit is upward. It is part of the soul that goes to stand before God their creator in heaven. While the destination of the spirits of the creatures of the earth is downward, to return back to the dust of the earth. The two diverse destinations because the souls and spirits of animals are not as of man, who was created in the image of God. Thus a man's soul and spirit is accountable, even as they are held in bondage to sin in the spiritual prison (1st Peter 3:19) or captivity of the body. An animal's spirit merely ceases to exist upon its death. In other words, the end differs widely from animal to human. The spirit of mankind goes upward in the soul, of which it is intimately related. Anything with the breath of life, including animals, are referred to living [nephesh] or souls (Genesis 1:20-24). By contrast, the word spirit refers only to the immaterial being. The Hebrew word for Spirit is [ruwach], and like soul, its meaning also pertains to breath. Likewise in the New Testament Greek, the word translated soul is [psuche] meaning breath, and the word translated spirit is [pneuma], meaning to breathe or take breath. And so with such similarities it is easy to see how soul and spirit so intimately related, might be thought to be one and the same thing. But the soul relates more to the flesh, while the spirit to the higher communion with God.

1st Corinthians 15:45

  • "And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit."
Here we see the first Adam equated with the living soul [psuche] relating to the flesh, while the last Adam (Christ) equated with the living [pneuma] relating to the higher, non-fleshly, non-carnal nature. Soul and spirit are not used here by chance or un-ordered luck, they are God inspired to show the difference between Adam that sinned in his soul, and the Spirit of Christ who redeems man from that sin (Micah 6:7). The Spirit witnessing to our spirit, to save our souls. We see that the soul usually pertains to the conscious entity within the body. It is breath that has given life to our soul or conscious existence when we were born. That soul includes our personal makeup, or that which makes us different from every other individual. In other words, the body is the outward shell of you, but it is not all of what defines who you are. Each and every human being given the breath of life by God has a "unique" consciousness or soul, and that soul is intimately connected to the life blood of the flesh and body. If you shed man's blood, the breath of life ceases from that body and you have a corpse. That is to say, when the soul leaves, there is the death of the body. For without this breath of life, the soul cannot exist within the body, and the body cannot exist period.

Genesis 2:7

  • "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
Before God gave the breath [naphach] of life, the body was just a lump of clay. But after God's miraculous creation process of giving the body breath, man became an inimitable living soul [nephesh]. So the soul, as contrasted with the spirit, is more nearly connected to the unique conscious life existence within the body--the living exhibition of our conscious being that defines us as individuals. As such, the breath of life or soul maintains the earthly body. When the soul is gone from the body, then life is gone from it.

Genesis 35:18

  • "And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin."
The living soul does not exist apart from the body, except there is the death of the body. In that Genesis declares the soul was departing, we know that there is a soul in people that exists separate from and independent of the body at death. For it doesn't say that her body departed [yatsa] or went away, only her soul. This signifying that body and soul are two distinct entities. When one takes their last breath, the conscious soul or existence departs from the body, and the result is the cessation of life in that body. Death is not the extinction of the soul (Matthew 10:28), but of the body in its separation and disunion from it. The Soul is in fact the conscious life within the body. And the word is sometimes translated life to illustrate this--for example in Leviticus chapter 17:

Leviticus 17:11

  • "For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul."
All the words in bold there are the same Hebrew word [nephesh], for as I said earlier, the soul is intimately tied to the life of the body. While the spirit is intimately related to the soul within the body, but not so tied. The salvation of Christ is the life of our conscious soul, but not of our mortal body. It is the spirit of God in us that saves our soul (James 1:21), as it witnesses with our spirit unto sanctification of the soul while we are here on earth in the body. The soul/life of the flesh is in the blood because it is by Christ's shed blood that the transgressions of our souls are atoned for. Likewise, the soul being the consciousness of being within us, can be vexed or made bitter or sad by outward circumstances specifically because it is so connected to the body. For example we read in 2nd Kings:

2nd Kings 4:27

  • "And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told me."
In the consciousness of her inner existence she was vexed or made bitter in the flesh. It is the soul that comprises the uniqueness of who we are in the flesh. That is why even after receiving Christ, in our spirit we may have an earnest desire to do the will of God, but in our soul (our whole being) we often struggle with sin because the soul is the life blood of the the flesh (Leviticus 17:11). In our humanity we are carnal or naturally evil, and the life of our souls are also tainted as a result (Romans 7:24). This can pull us toward the flesh and evil as this flesh wars against the soul so connected to it.

1st Peter 2:11

  • "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;"
The lusts of the flesh war against our soul because the soul is the breath of life and identity and conscious existence within it. And when unsaved it is our spirit (so in communion with the soul) that gives in and moves the soul to turn to these lusts. But if we are saved, being resurrected in our spirit, we will want to do the will of God and so this spiritual warfare will overcome the soul and bring us into condemnation. But make no mistake, it is there and it is our spirit that helps the soul prevail over the body. For even though we are resurrected and made perfect in the spirit, the soul is warred against by the flesh all through our journey of Christian growth. Just as (under inspiration of God) the Apostle Paul states:

Romans 7:20-25

  • "Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
  • I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
  • For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
  • But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
  • O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
  • I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."
In the inward man, in His spirit, he delights in the law of God. But there is another law of his body that is warring against his soul. And it is seeking to bring his mind and soul into bondage to the lusts of the body. But being a saved man, the Apostle had the mind of Christ (1st Corinthians 2:16) via the Spirit of Christ, that in his soul's existence he serves God. Even though in the flesh, he finds himself sinning, with a desire that his soul depart (2nd Corinthians 5:8) that body of death. The soul is moved by the spirit to choose the law of God as what is important, over things of this world that are of little spiritual value.

Matthew 6:25

  • "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?"
God here again illustrates the life of the body is closely and deeply connected to the soul. In fact, the Greek word that is translated "life" there is [psuche], the exact same word that is translated soul. So we are to take no thought for our mortal existence in our soul (breath of life of the body), because the truth is that your soul [psuche] is more than that life connection to the body, but a life connection to the spirit. God is telling us here that there is the spirit that should overrule the soul (whole body of your life being) in what is truly more important. Will you take more thought for your soul's life existence on this earth, or for your spiritual well being that is more than the physical relationship to soul? The mortal connected to the soul is not what we should sets our hearts upon, but the spiritual kingdom of heaven.

Now might be a good time to look at the places in scripture where both words soul and spirit are found together. We see the first instance of this in the book of 1st Samuel.

1st Samuel 1:15

  • "And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD."
To be of sorrowful spirit indicates she was sad or anguished in her spirit. While to pour out her soul indicates she offered up her whole existence. How do you pour out your soul? It is an idiom that illustrates emptying [arah] out the life blood (Leviticus 17:11), or the whole existence of a person. To lay it all before God. As opposed to the spirit, the soul represents the whole immaterial life existence of a person. We can have a haughty spirit or a humble spirit, we can be in high or in low spirits, because the spirit is identified with our immaterial energy that transcends the physical and is often manifested in our labor, outlook, attitude, direction, understanding, receiving and the way we deal with issues. Two words, two slightly different meanings, but both working in harmony together within the body. The Spirit being an intimate part of the soul, our body's life existence.

Isaiah 26:9

  • "With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness."
The desire of his soul is in his whole life's existence or being. While his seeking is of the spirit, which is the liveliness and animator of the actions of his soul. The two distinct words soul [nephesh] and spirit [ruwach] illustrating their similar but slightly different processes within the body. For example, we can effectively have the Spirit of Christ witness to us, but we cannot have the soul of Christ. For the soul is the one, individual, inimitable existence of being specific to each entity. Which is how the Lord can be in Heaven, but also within each and every Christian always. Because His Spirit is with us. Not that He's divided His soul up into a million parts. Likewise when God speaks of His Servant in whom He delights, the soul identifies the delight of his whole existence or being, and the spirit the energizer and animator for mankind.

Isaiah 42:1

  • "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles."
God's servant because it refers to the coming Messiah who humbled Himself and was made in the likeness of man (Philippians 2:6-8) in order to be the suffering servant unto the death of the cross. Revealed to be Christ of course in Matthew chapter 12:


  • "Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles."
In whom His "soul" is well pleased reveals that it is in the delight of his whole existence or being. While His Spirit put upon Christ, is denoting His active force of power or righteous animator that will reveal the truth of the law to the Gentiles. It is His Spirit power that reveals the gospel to the Gentiles, not His soul. Which is why God can also give us of His Spirit, but not His soul. The fact is, the spirit of God bears witnesses with our spirit to uplift our souls and bring them into harmony with God's divine purpose for living our lives. Soul and spirit synchronized and working as one, in agreement with God's divine plan for us.

Luke 1:46-47

  • "And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
  • And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour."
So what is the difference between the soul and spirit? Mary is not stating that two different parts of her are happy, because the soul and the Spirit of the saved work in solidarity, in unison, one acting upon the other. We have to know that it is not by chance, accident, luck, happenstance or coincidence that God often inspires these two "different" words used together this way. It is to alert us to the subtle differences in what is being said. In Mary's soul [psuche], or her whole being, she magnifies [megaluno] or perceives the Lord as larger/greater (Sanctification), to His glory. While her spirit [pneuma] rejoices or was filled with joy concerning God her Saviour. In her soul existence the Lord is magnified, while in her spirit she rejoiced in God the Saviour of her soul (Lamentations 3:58; James 5:20). I believe that we all are one unit made up of three (purpose) components, which are the body, the soul and the spirit. The spirit is the animator of the soul, which connects it to the body. So is there a difference between soul and spirit? The answer is yes, albeit a fine distinction. We can see these illustrated as subtle difference in passages such as Hebrews chapter 4. There God makes the distinct division between the soul and spirit and the joints and marrow to signify these truths. Body, spirit and soul.

Hebrews 4:12

  • "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
The word "soul" refers to the idea of our unique life entity, while "spirit" refers more to the idea of our life's thinking, point of view or attituse. Note that as the soul and the spirit appear to be one, so the joints and marrow seem as one also. But God makes a couple divisions here to illustrate that there actually is a difference or division, and that in His omniscience, He perceives that precise division. The soul and spirit (immaterial man) may seem in kind, and the joints and marrow (material man) may seem in kind, but God knows the difference. His word, as a sharp twoedged sword, is so sharp/perfect it can discern or judge the division between the soul and the spirit (appearances notwithstanding) and the joints and the marrow (appearances notwithstanding) that they are not exactly the same. As marrow is concealed as part of the joints or bones, so our spirit is concealed as a distinct part of our soul. Here God uses both words and unambiguously declares that there is a difference between the soul [psuche] and the spirit [pneuma] that may be imperceptible by man, but not such that the word of God cannot discern the division between them. The soul here denotes the immaterial conscious life existence of mankind within the body, as distinguished from the immaterial spirit that moves within it. It is also important to learn that I didn't make that distinction in Hebrews between the soul and spirit, but God's word made it. And so there "should" be no rationalizations, as indeed we see the same division and distinction made in 1st Thessalonians chapter 5.

1st Thessalonians 5:23

  • "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
It would seem that by any logical idiom of language construction that God deliberately divided these three words to show some type of distinction, to illustrate that he is talking about the whole person. In other words, that God sanctify not just of the body, but manís eternal and internal soul and spirit as well. So if we are going to claim that soul and spirit must be understood as the same thing, then we would also have to claim the spirit and body here are the same thing also. At least if we're going to be consistent. Because we clearly have three separate/divided words here. The Apostle, under inspiration of God, prays that they be wholly sanctified. And specifically, their whole [holokleros] spirit [pneuma] and soul [psuche] and body [soma] be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Once again, very clearly God distinguishes between the soul [psuche] and the spirit [pneuma] and body [soma]. They are like connecting points one to another, the spirit intimately connected to the soul and the soul connected to the life of the body. But let's look at another place where soul and spirit are found together. When Job speaks in a troubled spirit, it says he also muses in the bitterness of his soul. That's not to imply it's from two different locations, but from the spirit, "that resides with, and is an intimate part of" the soul.

Job 7:11

  • "Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul."
Job would not refrain from speaking [dabar] in the anguish of his spirit [ruach]. In other words, his speaking is with a spirit that is anguished or troubled. But he complains (muses) [siyach] in the bitterness of his soul [nephesh]. The distinction is that with his spirit he is simply troubled, but in his soul he complains or muses bitterly. Why? Because the soul is the life breath connected to the flesh, the carnal part of the body. Have you ever sat around and stewed over something and as you pondered it you became angrier and angrier? Job is like that here in musing in the bitterness of his soul. Clearly if soul and spirit were synonymous God could have just as easily inspired this to be written:

"Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak and complain in the anguish and bitterness of my spirit."
"Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak and complain in the anguish and bitterness of my soul."
"Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my spirit."
"Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my soul; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul."

But God didn't inspire any of this "unmistakable text" to be written. He wanted the exact words soul and spirit connected to the exact words speak and muse (translated complain). He wanted "that" unmistakable text to be written. To connect the anguish or troubling to the spirit, and the musing in bitterness to the soul is "not" by accident. It is to illustrate the slight distinction and application of the words soul and spirit. The soul being more intimately tied to the existence of the breath of life of the body, and the spirit more to the higher spiritual nature. So that if the spirit of man be of this world, then it will rule the soul with predictable results. The soul will lust for the things of this world, which shall bring it to ruin. As Christ alluded to when speaking of the communication to the soul.

Luke 12:19-21

  • "And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
  • But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
  • So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
What is the difference between the soul and spirit? How does one say anything to his soul? Is it not by the spirit that dwells within us? If your spirit speaks to your soul of good, it is unto God breathed treasure. And if it speaks to your soul of the lusts of this world, unto evil treasure. Again we see here that the soul is intimately connected to the body and all its carnal desires. It is only in our spirit that we speak to our souls and strive to keep our affections on heavenly things, rather than to take ease in the pleasures of this world. If we have the Spirit of God working with our spirit, then our treasure will be spiritual where we will be rich toward God. If the spirit is resurrected in Christ Jesus to sit in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), then it will move the soul to conform, which will ultimately bring the body to grow in sanctification. When God says in Hebrews, to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, it illustrates that His word reaches even to the division (separation) between the carnal nature of man's inherent soul, and his God given spirit. For the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41), because the flesh is carnal. Which is why we reign and serve God in the spirit perfectly in Christ, but in the soul (immaterial life existence) imperfectly until the day of redemption of our bodies.

Romans 1:9

  • "For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;"
We serve God with our spirit, while in the flesh relation to our soul we may sin and have bitterness of soul. The soul is the life psyche (as life blood) of the flesh, while the human Spirit more the will or inner most drive within a person that connects him to God. So when we become saved, Christ's Spirit then witnesses with our spirit to reveal the truth of God to us, that we serve with the spirit and bring joy to our souls.

1st Corinthians 2:10-14

  • "But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
  • For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
  • Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
  • Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
  • But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
The natural man cannot have this joy in his soul because he doesn't have the spirit of God witnessing to His spirit that he live these truths. One can have the spirit (as a moving force) to do either good or evil, but only true good works of the Spirit come through Christ. The spirit of man is often revealed in his disposition, outlook, character and attitude. For a tree is known by its fruits. But our spirit can also be brought low by something like bad news. For example, I could say that "the news of his mother's death broke his spirit." But we would not say "the bad news broke his soul." Because in practice, we do somewhat understand the subtle differences between the two defining terms. The soul can be troubled or anguished in the saved, but not broken.

Genesis 45:27

  • "And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived:"
This indicating that his spirit that had previously been brought low and broken, had now been revived or had new life or energy breathed into it. It illustrates that when he heard the words and saw the wagons, his spirit was uplifted and he was encouraged by that. The uplifted spirit being that spiritual joy he felt within, that animated his countenance and brought joy to his soul. God uplifts the spirit of His people because He indwell them and bears witness with their spirit (Romans 8:16) that we are His. This is the spirit of hope and joy and confidence, our spirit made willing by the work of the Lord.

Exodus 35:21

  • "And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the LORD'S offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments."
Every one whom his spirit made willing because the spirit is the inner driving force of will within a person. And without the moving spirit, the will of man must always be to do evil rather than good. Therefore, the only ones who will do good are those whom the Spirit of God will make their spirit willing. This Holy Spirit is what God gives to those whom He saves, and is what guides them into understanding, knowing and receiving God's word of truth. Their spirit is resurrected from a spiritually dead state at the moment that they are converted, to live and reign with the Spirit of God. By contrast, the soul is gradually changed after conversion in selflessness and sanctifying through that presence and power of God's residing Spirit. Both the soul and the spirit are the non-physical parts of you, that makes you--you! When the believer's soul leaves the body, there is no more stain of sin, no connection to the flesh or carnal nature of man, therefore it can go to abide with the Lord in heaven.

I have also heard the objection raised that there is no precedent for God using a part of one thing (as spirit), that is named another (soul). But that objection is easily overruled. As we can see for example of God speaking of the flesh and the body being consumed. One being a part of the other, and yet the body is also flesh. So we understand this principle completely.

Proverbs 5:11

  • "And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed,"
The flesh is intimately related to, and is an integral part of the body, but there is a very distinct and subtle difference between the two. The body is the whole of the person's being, but the flesh is an integral part of the body. Indeed, looking at the verse above one might think flesh and body refer to the same thing, even though they are different words speaking of the same makeup of the person. And while it is true that the spirit and soul are sometimes used inter-changeably in some contexts because they are intimately related, this does not mean that they "are" one and the same anymore than the flesh and the body are the same. When we receive our spiritual bodies at Christ's second coming, our soul will then reside within that body, yet not apart from the spirit, but at one with the spirit, apart from the carnal nature of the earthen vessel.

1st Corinthians 15:50-53

  • "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
  • Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
  • In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
  • For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality."
In this coming resurrection we will forever fellowship with God in our new incorruptible spiritual bodies. Ones that can inherit the true heavenly Kingdom. Our mortal corruptible bodies of flesh and blood will pass away, but in our new spiritual incorruptible bodies, resides our soul and spirit. The soul because we will still be our unique individual selves, and our spirit in communion with the Spirit of God. The soul is our conscious being in this body and the spirit is the moving will or energy within our body. That is how both wicked men and righteous men can be troubled in soul or spirit, illustrating unrest or turmoil. That is why we need obedience to the word in deferring to the Spirit of Christ within us, in order to come to correct decisions. For a troubled spirit is a tortured soul.

Genesis 41:8

  • "And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh.
Pharaoh was a wicked ruler and his spirit was troubled or in turmoil, at a loss to understand just what this curious dream meant. The dream was from the Lord but Pharaoh had no Spirit of God witnessing with his spirit to reveal truth. Only the Lord's servant Joseph, with the Spirit of God, could tell him exactly what this dream meant. This is a demonstration of how God's spirit, works with our spirit, to reveal the truth of His word. Even as it does today of His written word.

John 15:26

  • "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:"
So what is the difference between man's soul and spirit? The Spirit testifies unto our spirit that He is God, and it moves our soul to sanctification and growth in grace. Being the animator, the spirit is as the lamp of God illuminating all the inner parts of the soul in its awareness or cognizance of all man's most secret thoughts. We can look at it this way. The soul is you (whether in the body or outside), and the spirit is the spirit of you.

Proverbs 20:27

  • "The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly."
This is the spirit of man witnessed to by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:16). Because as a living soul, you can have either the spirit of Antichrist or the Spirit of Christ guiding your soul. Because the soul is your individual conscious being, and the spirit is the governing will that controls it. One soul will come before the judgment and receive of the second death, and another to go and live reign with Christ. Man's spirit and his soul are as inseparable at death as they were in life. We already saw that at death, the soul departs, and that would include the spirit that God gave man as well. That leaves only the body to decay in the dust from where it was taken.

Ecclesiastes 12:7

  • "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."
That doesn't mean that the body and spirit are all there is, anymore than the marrow and body means that is all there is. Other scriptures say clearly the soul goes to be with the Lord, so taking the whole of scripture this simply illustrates the God given spirit of life returns to its source with the soul, while the body returns to its source. For the body cannot exist without the soul and spirit (James 2:26). Dust to dust in decay of the body, spirit to spirit in our conscious individual being, which is our souls. As the body without water and food are dead, so is the body without soul and spirit.

What is the difference between the soul and spirit? Here is another analogy. If the computer architecture has operating system integrated software, that can be looked at as the soul. The integrated application software represents the spirit. And then the computer hardware is the body. The spirit is the driving force and the soul the facilitator of the hardware. You can't say that just because both OS and App are software and does similar things, that they are one and the same. No, they are intimately related and very similar in construction, but different in what they are and do. Thus the soul without the spirit would be like an operating system without defining software to drive it. It is the spirit that is the animator to drive the soul in whatever direction the spirit leads, whether to good or to evil. The soul is closest to the body architecture, closely identified with the body of life, but works as one with the spirit program. That is not to say that we effectively have both a soul and a spirit where each of those things refer to an entity that is very different within man. The soul is static in the sense that it is the very essence of "you" living within the body of flesh. So it is not malleable in that you cannot change into someone else or be given a different soul. You will always be you. By contrast the spirit is somewhat malleable in that it can be changed by God, or led by the spirit of evil. So while the soul and spirit are inseperable, except by the omniscience of God, there is a way in which we understand that we have both a spirit and a soul in which it works. The soul the individual life existence and the spirit that is in perfect communion and is its animator.

Some might protest that this isn't really important whether we know what is the difference between the soul and spirit. I have had many Reformed Christians say this to me. But I believe that, while not essential, it is important. Why else would God place the knowledge of it within the scriptures? Just to take up space? The more we understand about how the human soul and spirit work, the more we realize just how fearfully and wonderfully we are made (Psalm 139:14). And so in that hope, I pray that this scriptural consideration of what is the difference between the soul and spirit proves as edifying and spiritually beneficial to you as it has to me.

May the Lord who is rich in his assistance, charity and patience, give us all the wisdom to honorably discern His most precious word.



Copyright ©2013 Tony Warren
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Created 09/17/12 / Last Modified 05/25/13
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