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10/7/15 - The difference between the soul and the spirit

Published: Wednesday, 07 October 2015 Written by Carlton L. Arnold

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12

This verse provides a description of man as being body (joints and marrow), soul, and spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 also identifies man as three parts: body, soul, and spirit.  It is imperative for a Believer to understand the difference between their soul and their spirit.  The soul is not the spirit and the spirit is not the soul.  The soul consists of the mental intellect and the emotions that a person uses to decide their actions.  The soul is what makes humans different from all other created beings.  The soul is what makes humans different from the angels who are spirits only – they have no souls. The soul is what gives a person a unique personality.  The soul is who a person is and gives them their individuality.  If you think about the soul in this way, one can easily see that this is where the “flesh” resides in a person’s life. 


Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.  Romans 8:5-8

The Bible speaks of “flesh” in two ways: 1) the body, and 2) the fallen part of our human nature residing in our soul.  Our free will is influenced by the flesh in our soul or by our spirit.  For example, in our soul, we intellectually decide that there is or is not a God, or we react to temptations that are appealing to the emotions in our soul. Sin takes control of who we are when the person’s will, also part of the soul, decides to give in to the soul, and not the spirit.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.  Romans 8:9

Too many Believers base their relationship with God on the condition of their soul (mentally and emotionally) and not their spirit.  God is a spirit and He deals with human beings spiritually in their spirit. Therefore, a person who becomes a Believer must realize that they are a sinner because of the flesh in their soul.  God gives the Holy Spirit to indwell the Believer to provide another source to influence the free will of the Believer.  For a Believer to hear the Spirit’s leading, the soul must be humbled or, quite frankly, told to “Shut-up.” Believers must not rely on their minds or emotions to grow spiritually.

For a Believer to grow spiritually, the soul is not the place to try to make changes. To become more Christ-like, a Believer must rely on the Spirit. Only input from the Spirit can have a spiritual influence on a Believer. A person can learn every verse in the Bible with no spiritual growth.  A person can raise their hands in worship and shout “Hallelujah!” with no spiritual growth.  Following your mind or your emotions is giving sin control of your behavior.  Following the Holy Spirit will give you life and peace.

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