Insight of the Week

Spirit vs. spirit vs. Soul

How do we distinguish the Spirit (capital “S”) from the spirit? This is a question that deserves a legitimate answer; one that can be understood by Christians and non-believers alike. One refers to the Holy Spirit – a member of the triune Godhead – while the other is the human spirit, or our personality. While the Spirit is operative within the believer, the human spirit resides in any religious person. It may not be related to Christianity at all. Can the Holy Spirit change our own spirit?

Sure it can! Don’t you agree that as we yield to the Spirit, it transforms our lives (or, at the very least, our attitudes)? In a sense the Bible is a history of the human condition, so the dual nature is present.  Man can be viewed in his bodily dimension (in Greek, soma), but also as spirit (pneuma) and even soul (Hebrew nephesh). When we are first born, we inherit human qualities from our biological parents. When we are born again, that new birth enables another nature to be experienced – life inherited from the Spirit of God.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans he mentions that “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (5:5). Read that sentence again. Isn’t that incredible? Professor Samuel Moffett once declared, “The goal of God’s Spirit is the alignment of the individual man with God’s saving activity.” This is simply something we cannot do on our own. This is simply admitting that self-reliance takes a backseat to reliance upon God.

What about the soul? Do we each have a soul? Are we each a soul? Does it even matter? It seems that Scripture uses the terms spirit and soul interchangeably at times. Our beings are spirit, we live in a physical body, and we each possess a soul. Can our spirit be born again? Yes. Can the soul? I don’t believe so. Put differently, the person inside is spirit, while our soul consists of our mind, will, and emotions. Scripture supports this premise:

1 Thess. 5:23 – May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Heb. 4:12 – 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.

Got all that?

Simply meditate on this: If you have been born again, the Holy Spirit dwells within you. And if that’s the case, the Father and Son also dwell within you. The indwelling of the Spirit ultimately leads us to fulfill our commitment to Jesus Christ – a Savior who nailed all our iniquities to the cross.

In Christ Alone,

-Matt