Understanding the Spirit & the Soul:
Their Similarities and Differences
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit,” Heb 4:12.
From this passage we see that the writer in trying to show just how powerful the word of God is, uses the dividing of the spirit and soul as an illustration of it’s power. This therefore, leads us to understand that the spirit and soul are so closely identified with each other that it takes nothing less than the power of God’s word to distinguish between the two.
Just how close are the spirit and the soul?
In the verse above, the word “soul” is the Greek word “psuche” (pronounced psoo-khay) and means “breath”. The word “spirit” in the Greek is “pneuma” (pronounced pnyoo-mah) and means “a current of air.”
How’s that for similarity? One is a breath and the other is a current of air.
Now, at first glance these two words seem to mean the very same thing and in a sense they do. Is there any real difference between a breath and a current of air? Not on the surface but let’s look more closely, shall we?
From the World Book Dictionary a breath is a vapor and a vapor is “something without substance”. So the soul is something without substance! What can we deduce from this statement? We can see that the human soul is real, it has being, but no physical properties! Which simply means that it is not tangible, it can’t be experienced by the five senses. And in this regard it is the same as the spirit.
The human spirit is called “a current of air”. What is a current of air? Air is synonymous with life and a current is defined as a flow or stream. Therefore, “a current of air” is “a flow of life”.
What is the human spirit? A stream or flow of life!
Becoming ‘Born Again’ is described as the re-creating of a human spirit and the reconnecting of that spirit with God, so that the life of God can flow into that spirit. God designed the human spirit to be a conduit for Him to flow through. It is the interface that connects God to man and vice-versa! Not only this, but it also allows communication to take place. It’s the mechanism in man that allows him to communicate with God!
This is his spirit! A device created by God from a portion of His own Spirit, which allows man to harmonize, synchronize and communicate with God!
It is through this harmony and synchronization that we can communicate with God. He is a Spirit and can only harmonize with another spirit, therefore the human spirit is that aspect of man which can relate to God. It is that component which can feel what God feels, understand what God means and will to act in agreement with Him.
The human spirit then, is the seat of emotions, intellect and will as they relate to God and the spirit realm.
The following scriptures support this:
Luke 1:47 says, “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior and 1Sa 1:15 states, “…I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit…” The human spirit is capable of emotion.
So, the spirit has feelings.
1Co 2:14 says, “…neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (understood)” and from Job 32:8 we get, “But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. Showing that the spirit is capable of intelligence.
So, the spirit has intellect.
And finally, Ro 1:9 declares, “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit…” and Isa 26:9 says, “…with my spirit within me will I seek thee early…” Clearly showing that within the human spirit there is volition, the capacity to choose or decide.
So, the spirit has a will.
What about the soul? We just saw that it is intangible, made up of the same ethereal material that the spirit is made up of. But how does it differ from the spirit?
According to the bible Ps 35:9 says, “…My soul shall be joyful in the LORD…” and Mt 26:38 says, “…My soul is exceeding sorrowful…” showing us that the soul can feel emotion.
So, the soul has feelings.
Ps 139:14 says, “Marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well and Pr 19:2 says, “…That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good…” Showing us that the soul is capable of intelligence.
So, the soul has intellect.
And Ps 62:1 says, “Truly my soul waiteth upon God” and Rom 13:1 declares, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers”. Now, “to wait or be subject,” indicates the capacity to choose or decide which leads us to acknowledge, that the soul is capable of volition or the capacity to choose.
So, the soul has a will.
What does this mean?
It means that the human soul is also the seat of emotions, intellect and will, but only as it relates to this natural realm and other human beings!
In addition to this, we must also understand that the soul and the mind are one and the same thing. The word “soul” translated from the Hebrew is “Nephesh” and means “mind or mental creature.” So, when we speak about the soul of man we are speaking about his mind. This is where the average person gets confused, they say soul and REALLY mean spirit.
Fiction books and movies don’t help either. But the Bible is very clear on this. Even the New Testament word for “soul” is translated from the Greek word “psuche” (pronounced psoo-khay) from which we get the word “psychic” which refers to our “mental processes.”
So, there’s nothing overly mysterious about your soul – It’s your mind! Your emotions, intellect and will… Plain and simple!
In summary here’s what we have:
~ Definition, Function and Purpose of the Human Spirit ~
The spirit is the God-conscious mechanism in man. It is the seat of the emotions, the intellect and the will as they relate to God and the spirit realm.
The human spirit is synonymous with the nature of man.
The condition of his spirit is the condition of his nature and his nature determines his eternal destiny. God designed the spirit to make humans conscious of God, to make us aware of the One who created us and to provide a means of communication with Him.
The human spirit harmonizes with the spirit realm and receives and transmits impulses of a spiritual nature. It allows man to talk to God and hear from God! It is a stream of life, a conduit for God to flow into and inhabit us!
That’s the purpose of the human spirit… to be an interface between God and man, allowing God to indwell and empower us and to provide an efficient, accurate means of relating to Him!
~ Definition, Function and Purpose of the Human Soul ~
The soul is the self-conscious mechanism in man. It provides the connection between his spirit and his body. God designed the soul to make him aware of his spirit on one end and his body on the other.
The soul is a perfect interface!
It communicates with the spirit on one side and with the body on the other! It harmonizes with the intellectual/emotional realm and receives and transmits impulses of an intellectual and emotional nature.
For instance, it allows human beings to communicate with each other by putting thoughts and feelings into words and then communicating those words verbally or otherwise. That’s part of the purpose of the soul… to allow effective communication between human beings!
But it goes further than this!
Not only does it allow communication between human beings but the human soul also communicates with the human spirit! This is the very reason they are so closely aligned. They were designed to interface with each other. For instance, when God speaks to you He doesn’t speak Japanese, English or French; He speaks the language of God.
Your spirit understands the language of God perfectly so when God speaks to you, your spirit understands exactly what God said in His own language. But, your soul needs to interpret the information into your native language so that it makes sense to you.
Therefore, because of the interface between your spirit and soul your mind can become fruitful with the knowledge that’s in your spirit. You would then proclaim, “God said such and such to me”. Not realizing that an extremely delicate and technical transfer of information from the spirit realm to the natural realm just occurred, all because of the function of your soul.
So, the purpose of the soul, apart from human to human communication is also to interface with the spirit, interpreting communications from God and making logical sense of it in order to take effective action!
God inhabits the spirit realm and we inhabit the physical, so, for communications that originate in the spirit realm to be received and acted on in the physical, there must be some mechanism linking both realms and providing a conduit for such communications to travel through.