What Is the Difference Between a Soul and a Spirit?

The soul is our humanity that makes us feel emotions. It is our way to magnify God through our human limitations. The spirit is our deeper connection with the Lord when we believe in God and receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

Glory Dy
Man silhouetted by clouds and mountains

This is a question that is not easy to point out in our everyday Christian lives. While it is not so difficult to distinguish the body from the spirit and the soul, it is particularly difficult to distinguish the soul from the spirit. What exactly are their differences? Let us consult the Bible once again to give us light about these confusing concepts.

There are a few places in the Bible where the body, soul, and spirit are mentioned. One of these is in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, as written, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

If we delve into this verse, it clearly states that we are composed of three parts: The body, the soul, and the spirit. The verse also uses the word “and,” which in the original Greek language means to differ from each other. Thus, this clearly states that each part is different and plays a different role in us.

It is easy to distinguish the body as physical, which means using the five senses; the sense of sight, the sense of hearing, the sense of taste, the sense of smell, and the sense of touch.  The spirit and soul are much more difficult because they seem similar but are actually very different. They have different functions in our lives as Christians, as it is written in Hebrews 4:12,

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.

It is obvious in this verse that the two are separate and what is apparent is that the Word of God divides these two parts from each other.

Let us imagine a circle and on two levels. The outer level is the body, followed by the soul and the core is the spirit. Now, let us discuss the function of the soul to understand the importance of it and then discuss the spirit in detail.

The Function of the Soul

The soul is basically our mind, our emotions, and our will. It is who we are as human beings. But it is also used to express God. As written in Luke 1:46-47, Mary’s Song, “And Mary said: My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

In this verse, we can see that Mary uses her soul to glorify God and then uses the spirit to rejoice in what God has done to save her. Glorifying God is a human behavior and human responsibility. We express our humanity to God through our soul, and we magnify His power and presence through our soul.

Although we express God’s magnanimity in our soul, we can never express God’s power through our soul because it is our humanity. We can do good works and be godly and still fall short. We can never express God’s love for us through our soul alone. We then need the spirit to express God’s love.

The Function of the Spirit

Let us go back to Luke 1:46-47. Mary rejoices about God’s love shown through His only begotten son through her spirit. This means that she enjoyed and experienced God through her spirit. The expression of God’s love is through our spirit.

While the soul is the source of our expression through our humanity, it has its limitations and the only way we can experience God is through our spirit. The soul is merely a channel.

Let us go back to our imagery of the parts. The body is the outer level, followed by the soul and the spirit is the core. The expression of love to God paved the way through the soul. We first magnify God’s power and grace, and then we express and experience it fully through our spirit.

The function of the spirit is spiritual. The spirit is the only way to connect with God, and we can only use the spirit if we believe in God and receive Him through our Lord Jesus Christ’s salvation.

In Romans 8:4, we are reminded by this as stated, “In order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

This verse demands us to walk with our spirit and that means living a life according to the spirit and not our soul. The way of the spirit is the way of God. The spirit came to us through Jesus Christ. He lived amongst us and became human and for this reason, he has given us the gift of connecting with God through our spirit.

What Does This Mean?

It is a blessing that we have three parts, the body, the soul, and the spirit. All of these parts have specific functions. The body is our physical functions and here we feel our physical senses such as the sense of sight, taste, smell, hear, and touch. The soul on the other hand is our humanity that makes us feel emotions. It is our way to magnify God through our human limitations.

Finally, the spirit is our spiritual and deeper connection with the Lord. We express our love to God and Jesus Christ through our spirit because this is one of the gifts that Christ gave us when he became human and died for our sins. And thus, we can only use the spirit if we believe in God and Christ and if we do the ways of the spirit.

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Glory Dy has been a content creator for more than 10 years. She lives in a quiet suburb with her family and four cats.


Originally published June 11, 2020.