Why is the distinction between Soul and Spirit so blurred?

The Difference Between the Soul and Spirit in the Bible.”

First, I’ll give four reasons why knowing the difference between our soul and our spirit is so important to our Christian life. Second, I’ll show how God created us with three parts—spirit, soul, and body and how the soul and the spirit are different. Third, I’ll mention a couple of ways we can practice to discern our spirit from our soul in our daily lives.

Four reasons why it is important to know the difference between the soul and the spirit

  1. To be born of God or born again is matter that takes place in our spirit; so our spirit is the residence of the Holy Spirit–John 3:6.
  2. To be assured of our salvation depends not only on faith in the Scriptures but also on the Spirit’s witnessing with our spirit that we are children of God– 8:16.
  3. To have a living contact with God, who is Spirit, we must use our spirit–John 4:24.
  4. To receive life from our Bible reading and study we must use our spirit by means of prayer to touch the Spirit as the essence of God’s word–John 6:63;2 Tim. 3:16.

These four reasons should impress us with our need to learn to discern the difference between the soul and the spirit. But to grasp this difference, we need to see from the Bible how God made us with three parts.

God made us with three parts–spirit, soul, and body

First Thessalonians 5:23 tells us that we’re made of three parts–spirit, soul and body. This verse says,

“The God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We can illustrate our three parts with a bull’s-eye diagram of three circles:


  1. The outer circle refers to our body. Our body is our outer part containing our five senses with which we contact all the things of the physical, material realm.   1 Cor. 3:13.
  2. The middle circle refers to our soul. Our soul is our inner part containing our mind, emotion and will with which we contact all the things of the psychological realm. 1 Cor. 2:14.
  3. The inner circle refers to our spirit. Our spirit is our innermost part with which we contact God and substantiate all the things of the spiritual realm. 1 Cor. 2:15.

Our soul and spirit can be divided or discerned

Hebrews 4:12 says,

“For the word of God is living and operative and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit and of joints and marrow…”

From this verse, we can pick up at least three points:

  1. We’re made of three parts: our body of “joints and marrow,” plus our soul and our spirit.
  2. Our soul and spirit are different because they can be divided.
  3. There is a practical way to divide, or discern, our spirit from our soul–God’s living Word.

Two ways we can apply to discern our spirit from our soul

Contact God’s living Word with prayer 

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that God’s living word is able to cut through our soul to divide it from our spirit. We should practice this every day by coming to the Bible in a prayerful way.

By reading a few verses or a chapter with prayer or pray-reading, God’s word will slay our troublesome thoughts and feelings enabling us to get to our spirit where we can enjoy fellowship with God. Try it every morning and evening.

Since the Spirit is the essence of God’s word, we should practice to connect the Scriptures with our spirit by means of prayer so that we touch its essence and receive the divine life contained in it.

Call on the name of the Lord Jesus 

First Corinthians 12:3 says, “No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit is now in our spirit, when we call on the Lord’s name we’re both in the Holy Spirit and in our spirit in which He dwells.

Whenever we feel inwardly dry or empty it’s good to call on His name– “Lord Jesus! Calling on the Lord will usher you into your spirit to enjoy fellowship with the Lord who lives there (2 Tim. 4:22).

“Lord Jesus, thank you for showing us that we were made with three parts–spirit, soul and body. Lord, teach us how to discern our spirit from our soul by praying with Your word and calling on Your name. Remind us to contact You in our spirit every day so that we enjoy You as our life and life supply and grow in our Christian life.”

Part three tomorrow: The Personal spirit of Man.



5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nickel Boy Graphics
    Apr 10, 2017 @ 16:44:20

    I enjoyed reading this, and read a couple of parts more than once! Nice diagram too. I do have a question, and now just seems to be the best time to ask it, though it may be answered in your next post.

    When Jesus talked about being “born of the Spirit,” does that mean before then we have no spirit, we have a spirit that it just hasn’t been given “the breath of life” so to speak? Or do we have a spirit but it’s evil and corrupt and against God? (I sort of think the evil and corrupt and against God things come from the soul part as that involves thoughts and emotions.) I guess this also gets to the question, when we sin is that something that happens with the spirit or the soul?

    Sorry…that turned out to be more than “a question”!


  2. Mannyr
    Apr 10, 2017 @ 21:01:56

    Good questions hopefully i can answer.
    “And you, though dead in your offenses and sins, in which you once walked according to the age of this world…”
    “Dead in offenses and sins” means that it was not just a matter of outwardly disobeying God and being forgiven by Him. Rather, the issue of man’s sin was that our spirit became deadened, that is, it lost its function.
    “Dead refers to the deadness of our spirit, which pervaded our entire being and caused us to lose the function that enables us to contact God.”Ephesians 2:1.
    Our spirit was created to enable you to contact God, receive God and have fellowship with God.
    However, after the fall, man’s spirit was deadened, losing its original function of contacting and receiving God. (The only part of our human spirit that was preserved was our conscience which enables God’s Spirit to convict us–John 16:7-8.)
    “Tune in for the rest of the story.”
    Your question was: I guess this also gets to the question, when we sin is that something that happens with the spirit or the soul? Answer, Both.


  3. Nickel Boy Graphics
    Apr 10, 2017 @ 21:45:24



  4. youngearth
    Apr 12, 2017 @ 04:30:38

    The diagram has helped crystallize my understanding between body, soul, and spirit. I can visualize the fruit of the Spirit as being aligned like a wheel on the innermost portion of the soul in the diagram: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Only the illumination of the Spirit can produce this good fruit in a consistent way always pushing outward into the Soul. In contrast the absence of the Spirit causes the rotten fruit of the flesh to be exposed which are antonyms of the fruit of the Spirit: hatred, misery, anxiety, irritation, cruelty, wickedness, unfaithfulness, harshness, and an unrestrained lifestyle. These unrighteous qualities originate from the sinful nature of a fallen spirit that is disconnected from the Living God.

    “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
    Galatians 2:20


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