Since ancient history, people have believed humans were comprised of an outer body and an inner self. The features and functions of our physical body are observed by the natural eye. The inner unseen component is often called the inner man, our spirit, our soul, and our heart. And, though unseen by our natural eye, we observe evidence of their reality daily.
All of these unseen features are indiscriminately considered to be one and the same. But actually they are quite different. How can we know this? For this blog, let’s look more closely at soul and spirit.
Three Part Beings
To begin, Scripture declares our primary being is made of three parts; one visible outer and ‘two’ unseen, non-physical parts.
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete… (a).
The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit (b).
These verses make it obvious that our inner spirit and soul are not the same. The actual difference remains a bit foggy to most of us. Let’s examine the ways Scripture reveals their unique features and function.
Soul and spirit have unique features and function.
Formation of Body, Spirit and Soul
When God created the first human, He made a body out of the earth’s natural dust. The formed body was infused with His Spirit. As the created being began to animate, a consciousness ‘became’ (began to form and develop).
The Lord God formed man of dust from the ground (flesh), and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (spirit); and man became a living being (soul) (c).
Clearly, the body and spirit are two different ‘sides’ of our make-up. The body came from the earth while spirit is from God. These features are our communicative links, connecting each of us to both the temporal and eternal realities. We can interact with and be influenced by both, simultaneously! Because of our eternal link, we really can interact with our heavenly Father.
Body and spirit are our communicative links, connecting us to both temporal and eternal realities.
Our Developing Soul
Soul, the third part of our being, is our consciousness. Another part of our inner self, soul, is formed by the function of our mind, will and emotion. It registers our natural and spiritual interactions as thoughts, feelings and understandings. During interactions with natural and spiritual activity our soul develops, formulating what we personally think, feel, and believe to be true.
The conscious soul registers our awareness of self, of others, the world around us, and the reality of God. This consciousness keeps us observing, absorbing, and reacting to our physical and spiritual interactions.
From our experiences our soul gathers, evaluates, accepts, and refuses information that comes to us. Subsequently, actions illustrate what we have accepted and believe. Our understandings in turn sway how we further think and feel about additional experiences, our relationships, and life itself. We can now see why our soul plays a significant part in the functions of our body and spirit.
Soul, the third part of our being, is our consciousness.
Consider this additional difference between soul and spirit. Scripture tells us our spirit will return to its source – to God, and our body eventually will return to the dust it came from (d). This is so for every human being.
Then, what happens with our soul? Since our spirit already belongs to God, whether we interact with Him or not, He is after the saving transition of our soul – what we think, feel and believe.
…in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls (e).
…be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable (f).
So, the real question we want to ask is: How godly is our conscious soul becoming? Our awareness of this helps to assist the saving transition of our soul.
Since our spirit already belongs to God, He is after the saving transition of our soul.
Soul’s Saving Transition
It is our soul’s thoughts (mind), feelings (emotion), and beliefs (will) that influence what we say and most of our actions. While our soul’s saving transition can begin in a moment, we want to understand it clearly involves our life long process.
…everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (g).
He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved (h).
…work out your salvation with fear and trembling (i).
But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved (k).
Our soul consciousness matures through this lifelong progression. As disciplined children, we become more than the love of God’s heart. We become the delight of His heart (m) and the apple of His eye (n).
Our soul consciousness matures through a lifelong progression.
How Soul Influences Life
Understanding the difference between soul and spirit is so valuable. We elaborate on these insights in Chapters 1-3 of Created To Relate. This book describes and pictures what our soul is, how it functions and develops, and how it influences the quality of our life for good, bad, and so much in-between.
What we think, believe, and feel affects the person we are today and the person we will become. In conjunction with our spirit and body, we really want our conscious soul to remain open to enlarging comprehensions and understandings (thoughts, beliefs, and feelings), so we do not short-change the fullness of life God intends for us today.
a) 1 Thessalonians 5:23; b) Hebrews 4:12; c) Genesis 2:7; d) Ecclesiastes 12:7; e) James 1:21; f) Romans 12:20; g) Acts 2:21; h) Mark 16:16; i) Philippians 2:12; k) Matthew 24:13; m) Psalms 16:3; n) Zechariah 2:8