Throughout the centuries, many have wondered and discussed the terms, SOUL and SPIRIT.
Many times others have interpreted soul and spirit to mean the same thing and yet they are quite different.
But clearly there is a difference and so we must look to scripture to find out the critical differences between each.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 says,
“And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We are clearly a people who are made up of three parts — the spirit, soul, and body.
The original Greek language illustrates “and” that these three parts are seen as the text says: “spirit and soul and body.”
Hebrews 4:12 illustrates this consideration quite well as we see it said:
“For the Word of God is living and operative and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit and of joints and marrow, and able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
We can see that this verse clearly distinguishes that there is a difference and that it is important in finding out what separates each.
Based upon these two verses alone we can understand that the soul and the spirit are two distinct things.
Actually it is not only important for us to see that they are distinct components, but also to discern one from the other one.
The Hebrew text for “soul” is נפשׁ, nephesh, and it is found almost 800 in the Old Testament.
The King James Bible uses 28 different words by which to translate the original term. Nephesh can mean different things, depending upon the passage in which it occurs.
Also, in the Greek New Testament, the original word for “soul” is ψυχή, psuche, and this is where our modern word “psychology” comes from in this Greek term.
Below are several different uses for the word “soul” in the bible:
The “Soul” may refer to an individual person.
The prophet Ezekiel declared that the “soul” (i.e., the person) who sins will surely die :
“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself,” Ezekiel 18:20.
The Apostle Peter also wrote many centuries later that there were “eight souls” who were saved by water in the days of Noah.
“Who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water,” 1 Peter 3:20.
The “Soul” can refer to that aspect of man that is known by his intellectual and emotional make-up. (Genesis 27:25; Job 30:16)
This is the outward part of man that is created in the very image of God. (Genesis 1:26)
We also see that this component can exist apart from the physical body. (Matthew 10:28; Revelation 6:9)
In the Old Testament, “spirit” is רוּחַ, ruach, which is found many times in the Hebrew Old Testament.
It literally means “breath,” or “wind.” The Greek term is called πνεῦμα, pneuma, and we can find it mentioned well over 300 times in the New Testament.
It is interesting to note that the original form that is found in our English word is pneumonia.
However, both “soul,” and the word “spirit” took on different senses, depending upon it context.
The Air We Breathe
Ruach can actually refer to a person’s “breath.” The queen of Sheba was “breathless” when she viewed the splendor of Solomon’s kingdom.
The word can also refer to the “wind.”
“And when the queen of Sheba had seen all Solomon’s wisdom, and the house that he had built, and the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up unto the house of the Lord; there was no more spirit in her,” 1 Kings 10:4-5.
A Non-physical Being
The term “spirit” can be used though in a higher sense. It also is used to depict the nature of a non-material being, in this case (God.)
This is said of course because of his essence, which is spirit. (John. 4:24)
Also, angels are “spirit” in nature, but they are not deity in kind.
“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” Hebrews 1:14.
“Spirit” can be used, by way of the figure of speech known as the synecdoche (part for the whole, or vice versa) for a person himself.
John wrote: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world,” 1 John 4:1.
Note that the term “spirits” is the equivalent of “false prophets” in this text.
“Spirit” may refer to the “inward man” (2 Corinthians 4:16) that is created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), and thus be a synonym of “soul.”
A sacred writer noted that the “spirit of man is the lamp of Jehovah” (Proverbs 20:27); this is an allusion to that element of man that distinguishes him from the beasts of the earth.
Daniel said that his “spirit” was “grieved” within his body (Daniel 7:15), and Paul noted that it is man’s spirit that is capable of “knowing” things (1 Corinthians 2:11).
Paul also affirmed that Church discipline is designed to save a man’s “spirit” in the day of The LORD (1 Corinthians 5:5; see also, 1 Corinthians 16:18; 2 Corinthians 7:1; James 2:26).
“Spirit” sometimes can refer to a person’s disposition or attitude, which of course could be either good or bad.
We see in (2 Timothy 1:7) the reference to a meek and submissive spirit.
This is also seen in the scripture below:
“But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price,” 1 Peter 3:4.
~ Stephen Hanson
Stephen Hanson of In His Truth Ministries came to the LORD is a special way in 1975 and has prophesied regularly since. In these end-time birthing pangs we are reminded that judgment must first begin with the household of God. Will we be prepared and ready?