1 Jan 2003

Difference between soul and spirit?

Submitted by theshovel
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Can you explain the difference between soul and spirit? I have been researching this and have found two different people use the very same words to say that (1) soul and spirit are different entities and (2) soul and spirit are two words for the same thing concept. I'm trying to work through something here, and if you already have info on it on the site, let me know. God is Spirit. We cannot commune with God via the avenues of the flesh, i.e., the mind, the soul, the body. The things of the flesh cannot understand the things of God. One of the problems I have had is trying to fellowship with God through my intellect and knowledge. My spirit is a very unexercised, dormant part of me. My body, mind, and soul have until now completely overshadowed my spirit. I have no idea how to communicate with God through the Spirit. Can you comment on this? Thanks. Valerie

Hi ya Valerie!

I've written a little something about this somewhere, but not sure where. I personally think that some try too hard to make their technical distinctions between soul and spirit as if some hidden secret is found in therein. It is the Word of God - Christ - that is able to divide them, not our understanding of the technical differences.

Consider the verse in Hebrews:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

You know, we jump on that soul vs. spirit thing as if it's imperative to understand the distinction, and yet I don't recall too many people being too concerned about the distinction between joints and marrow. By the way, I'm told the joints and marrow kinda blend together so that you can't tell where one starts and the other ends. And also what about those thoughts and intentions of the heart. Do we believe we are supposed to get so stinking introspective so that we have to dissect these things? I remember all the legal technicalities hidden under that crap, like, Well, I didn't MEAN it, I simply just THOUGHT it.. This is the stuff of mind games.

The real point in all this is that Christ is the one able to make such otherwise impossible distinctions. I don't think we need to worry about it one bit!! :) As it is, there's not all that much written about the distinction of soul and spirit in the New Testament letters.

As far as communing with God ... we do!! And it's because of the one who is able to make those distinctions!! In 1 Corinthians, Paul not only speaks of the spirit of GOD he also refers to the spirit of a MAN. And the spirit of the man understand the thoughts of the man just as the spirit of God understands the thoughts of God. Do you see the way Paul uses it here has nothing to do with making the distinction between the spirit of a man versus the soul of the man, but only the fact that the spirit of the man understands his own thoughts?

The point being that the spirit of man cannot understand the things of God anymore than another man cannot know my thoughts. Those supposedly hard and fast rules that some insist on about soul vs. spirit just don't fit. Most of the time we simply need to throw out that axiom that says, "All things being equal", because all things are not equal in the sense being demanded by Scriptural interpretations of words and their uses.

So, in other words, you can research these intellectual distinctions and yet the very principles of interpretation would demand it ain't necessarily so that even the use of the word spirit has to mean exactly the same thing as the word spirit in another place in the Bible. The way the words are used are just as important as the words themselves. I think there's an awful lot of wrangling with words over this stuff, especially when those making the distinctions often have so little insight on the reality of Christ being their life. Yeah, like right, I'm going to worry about those viewpoints!! booo, hissss!! :) All too often those who teach grace simply carry over their old viewpoints and demand they MUST be understood to understand the grace of Christ. I don't think so.

My question to you, then is, where does the Spirit of God in you begin and your spirit end? Can we even think in those terms if we have been made ONE ... you know, like, IN UNION!!! How would you even determine that your spirit is a very unexercised, dormant part of yourself? Actually, I witness His life working mightily in you through reading your letters and posts ... and not just because of a few obvious things you might speak of, but simply because I am witnessing a real life happening in you. It simply comes out even when you don't think it's there!! I'm talking about simple things like gut-level honesty in so openly laying things out despite the fact that you think in doing so it will reveal how unspiritual you are. hahaha! No, no, no, I can't help but to see real life in action. :)

I have no idea how to communicate with God through the Spirit.

Well, young lady, you are not alone!!! :) Wasn't it Paul who said that the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses because we don't even know how to ask for what we should?

And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; Romans 8:26

I don't for a moment think Paul was limiting this to some prayer time. And he wasn't leaving himself out regarding his own sharing in this weakness, for he made it very plain that he learned that the power of Christ was revealed through his weaknesses.

Don't you worry about not knowing how to commune with God ... because the Spirit is interceding with you according to God's very desires!!! You are no longer in the flesh, but in the Spirit, not because you've done something about it but because it has already been done for you and in you. It is the mindset of the world - i.e.. the flesh - that is in enmity against God, and this is becoming more and more apparent to you. This is obvious.

Your body, mind, and soul are not in conflict with the Spirit of God within you. Otherwise, why did Paul make the comment about God's sanctification of you in the complete sense?

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is His who calls you, and HE WILL ALSO BRING IT TO PASS. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

No, no, it is the old mind of the world that is in conflict with God, not you and yours. Knowing this as reality is the grounds upon which Paul spoke of not being conformed to this world. Hoping to figure out how to commune with God is one of the oldest flesh tricks in the book. But HE has brought us into communion with Himself through Christ. Stand upon this reality, and don't let the BS trick you.

Love, Jim


This is written in such an awesome way and really is clear. Thank you! It certainly clears up teaching of the flesh that we have to grow up in our soul to the spirit. As I have heard this teaching, and was always given(red flags of alarm)because what can flesh, which is only death do? I am so thankful again for the New Mind given IN CHRIST which allows the new creation to be complete in all that HE IS. Again the separation is clear between flesh and spirit instead of the graying of trying to blend the two - which to me is another false gospel. Vivian


Here is something I would like for your to consider regarding Heb. 4:12.
When we analytically look at this particular passage we see that the “soul” is distinctive from the “spirit” and that the “joint” is equally distinctive from the “marrow”. Moreover, when looking at the soul-spirit relationship they are revealed to be divided by the greek noun “merismos” (separation – i.e. a separator).

However, when we look at the comparative joint-marrow there is no implied “separator” if we suggest that the “marrow” is defined to be the literal “bone morrow”, and as per this suggested analysis the “marrow (bone)” would then be completely enclosed within the stated “joint (bone)” itself. Therefore, by comparative analysis this would then imply that the “spirit” would be completely enclosed by the “soul” – i.e. the figurative circle within the circle.

However, this suggested construct of Heb. 4:12 seems somewhat problematic in regards to apostle Paul’s 2Col. 6:16, et.al., where he declared that “Ye are the Temple of the Living God...” Implying that the physical structural Temple of God under the Mosaic Law has now been replaced by the mortal human body as the symbolic Temple of the Living God in respect to the New Covenant of Grace.

Therefore, seeing then that the Temple of God under the Mosaic Law and the Temple of God under the New Covenant of Grace are both “trichotomous” – then by direct comparative analysis the Mosaic Temple of God consisted of the physical structure itself which enclosed the Holy Place then the Veil of Separation and then the Holy of Holies (most Holy Place).

However, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies which was “separated” by the Veil were LINEAR.

Thus, the Holy of Holies was not completely enclosed by the Holy Place – but as stated they were linear...i.e. NOT a figurative circle within a circle.

To this end, please note that apostle Paul in Heb. 4:12 did not say to the “bone and marrow” but rather to the “joint and morrow”, and as we all know a joint is where two objects (bones) are joined together – just as the comparative soul and spirit are suggested to be joined together – but divided by a “separator”.

Therefore, it can be suggested that the “marrow” (equally defined as the innermost part, etc.) is the “SEPARATOR” (i.e. figurative cartilage) between the joints like the separator of the soul and spirit – but they are LINEAR and not a figurative circle within a circle.

I said all of the above to suggest that the spirit is not completely enclosed by the soul but each is independent of the other and divided by a “separator”. Hence, they are linear.


theshovel's picture

Hello Barney, and thanks for taking the time to write.

You do make some valid points along the way, but your analytic assessment of the words and phrases takes you into a different direction than that of the writer. The people he wrote to either had entered God’s rest or they had not. It was not an ambiguous determination. The writer didn’t include the soul/spirit and joints/marrow references as fodder for scientific analysis, but to declare that even though in the mind of men the division between such things might be open to argument or speculation, the word of God cuts through it all so that it is laid bare before His eyes. Although men hide behind their own relative confusion, God knows the distinction between the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Why does your analysis leave this out?


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