IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SPIRIT AND SOUL?
— by Mary A. LaClair
A woman writes a letter to the paper in which she expresses a healthy desire to differentiate between the soul and the spirit. This comes, admittedly, as a result of the passing of a beloved spouse. Confusion came to her when she consulted the dictionary for possible definitions. I’m suggesting a Bible would provide better answers, but then Scripture can also be difficult. Having earned a diploma in Theology, I offered her the following:
1) Man is a spirit, lives in a body and has a soul.
a) feeling is the voice of the body;
b) conscience is the voice of the human spirit;
c) reason (intellect) is the voice of the soul.
The ‘spirit’ of man is the hidden man of the heart: (1 Peter 3:4; 2 Cor. 4:16))*. It can be confusing when the word ‘soul’ is used to refer to that part of mankind which is unseen and eternal; yet spirit and soul are not the same. They seem to almost be interdependent, yet they are not interchangeable. It would behoove us to cultivate and improve our mind (our soul) because that is a part of what lives forever, the soul can influence the spirit which also lives forever.
Bible reading, with a prayer for understanding the New Testament, is a good place to start improving our soul and spirit, which will in turn influence and improve our body.
Our spirit is something which we can ask Jesus to inspire and to fill with His Holy Spirit.
12 For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. ASV
As for her question, ‘will we have a body like on this earth’, that answer is found in 2nd Corinthians chapter 5* and in 1st Corinthians chapter 15 verse 35+. *
As a seed falls to the ground and dies, yet gives forth a new and more glorious life form, so it will be with those who are found fit to ascend into glory, and truly, it is Jesus’ love which makes us fit. His Love is there for all who are willing to discover it.
“When you seek Me with all your heart, you will find Me.”
1 Peter 3:4 Amplified Bible (AMP)
4But let it be the inward adorning and beauty of the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, which [is not anxious or wrought up, but] is very precious in the sight of God. (emphasis mine)
But from there, you will search for the LORD your God, and you will find Him when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul. (heart and soul are two distinct facets)
2 Corinthians 4:16 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.
1 Corinthians 15:35 Good News Translation (GNT)
The Resurrection Body
35 Someone will ask,
How can the dead be raised to life? What kind of body will they have?
2 Corinthians 5:1-5
1 For we know that when this tent we live in—our body here on earth—is torn down, God will have a house in heaven for us to live in, a home he himself has made, which will last forever.2 And now we sigh, so great is our desire that our home which comes from heaven should be put on over us;3 by being clothed with it we shall not be without a body.4 While we live in this earthly tent, we groan with a feeling of oppression; it is not that we want to get rid of our earthly body, but that we want to have the heavenly one put on over us, so that what is mortal will be transformed by life.5 God is the one who has prepared us for this change, and he gave us his Spirit as the guarantee of all that he has in store for us.
1 Corinthians 15:34-58 New Living Translation (NLT)
34 Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all.
The Resurrection Body
35 But someone may ask, “How will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they have?” 36 What a foolish question! When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. 37 And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting. 38 Then God gives it the new body he wants it to have. A different plant grows from each kind of seed. 39 Similarly there are different kinds of flesh—one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.
40 There are also bodies in the heavens and bodies on the earth. The glory of the heavenly bodies is different from the glory of the earthly bodies. 41 The sun has one kind of glory, while the moon and stars each have another kind. And even the stars differ from each other in their glory.
42 It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. 43 Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. 44 They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.
45 The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.”[a] But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. 46 What comes first is the natural body, then the spiritual body comes later. 47 Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. 48 Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. 49 Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like[b] the heavenly man.
50 What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.
51 But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.
54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die,[c] this Scripture will be fulfilled:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.[d]
55 O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?[e]”
56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.
Isaiah 25:8 New Living Translation (NLT)
8 He will swallow up death forever![a]
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears.
He will remove forever all insults and mockery
against his land and people.
The LORD has spoken!
P.S. Since the soul influences the spirit which lives forever we should do ourselves a favor and learn all we can from God’s Word while we are here.
The following links are some I would recommend for further, more in depth thoughts on the difference between soul and spirit:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_8Wxnw8v5Q Dr. Creflo Dollar