Bible Q&A: What’s the Difference Between the Spirit and the Soul?

Question: Can you give me some clarity about the spirit and the soul? Are they the same thing? Or are they different?  

Answer: There’s a longstanding debate about the relationship between the soul and the spirit. Sometimes they seem to be the same. For example, in Mary’s song she says, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47). But other times the soul and the spirit seem to be distinct.

The Inner-Life from Two Sides

For example, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). While the soul and the spirit may be distinguished, they are closely bound up, rather like joints and marrow.

I’ve found it helpful to think of soul and spirit as your inner-life viewed from two sides. Your soul speaks of your inner-life in relation to your own experience: your mind, heart, will, and imagination. It also includes your thoughts, desires, passions, and dreams. But your spirit speaks of the same inner-life in relation to God: your faith, hope, love, character, and perseverance.

When the Spirit and the Soul Are Tested

Throughout your life in this world, your soul and your spirit will be subjected to great strain. You will be tested and tempted. You will face great trials, and sometimes you may wonder, How can I stand under this pressure? How will I sustain my faith?

Here’s the important question: Have you committed your soul and your spirit into the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ?

If your soul is committed to him, then you can trust him in relation to your soul. He will guard your soul when your mind is spinning in confusion. He will guard your soul when your emotions are rising like waves on the sea.

If your spirit is committed to him, then you can trust him in relation to your spirit. How will your faith survive the pressures of life? Because Christ will guard your faith. How can you continue to have hope? Because Christ will guard your hope. How can you continue to love? Christ will guard your love. He will guard all that you have entrusted to him.

Here’s the picture: Nothing in your hands can ever be secure. But everything in his hands must always be secure. So the way of victory in your life is to get everything out of your hands and into the hands of Christ.

[This article is an excerpt from Pastor Colin’s message “Final Security” from the series One Thing I Know.]
[Photo Credit: Unsplash]

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Colin Smith (@PastorColinS) is senior pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition.

Date Posted: May 9th, 2018