Is there a difference between the spirit and the soul?

First, it is vitally important to realize that in the Bible, there is a definite difference between the human spirit and soul. Second, it is equally important to realize that our experience of this distinction very much affects our progress in the Christian life.

So in this post we’ll consider the difference between the spirit and the soul—not mainly from the side of Bible teaching, but from the aspect of life experience. But, before we can come to our experience we must first have a base in God’s word.

In the Bible man is made with three parts—spirit, soul, and body.

First Thessalonians 5:23 says, “And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete…”

No one would say that our body and soul are the same, but some people may consider our soul and spirit to be practically the same. However, 1 Thessalonians 5:23 tells us clearly that our spirit and soul are two distinct parts.

Another verse that emphasizes this distinction is Hebrews 4:12:

“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…”

Here there are the “joints and marrow” which refer to the body plus the “soul and spirit,” revealing again that we have these three parts.

It’s also important to see that our soul and spirit can be “divided.” Hence, they’re different. They can be compared to “the joints and marrow.” As marrow is hidden inside the joints, so our spirit is concealed in our soul.

Just like we have to cut through the joints to get to the marrow, we have to cut through the soul to get to the spirit. This is why it’s often difficult initially to discern our spirit from our soul. I know this was my experience.

To illustrate this distinction, we may use the illustration of three concentric circles:

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.

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.

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.

How can we practically divide our spirit from our soul?

So let’s consider how we can apply the dividing of soul and spirit in our daily Christian life.

Often our soul is plagued with anxious thoughts, troublesome feelings, and impure intentions. It’s a “mine field” that keeps us from enjoying Christ.

Second Timothy 4:22 says, “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.”

The Lord is now with our spirit and with Him is grace—God as our enjoyment. But how do we get there? How do get through this deadly “mine field” of our soul?

We already mentioned that Hebrews 4:12 speaks of the “dividing of soul and spirit.” But the application of this dividing is by God’s living and operative word. It is God’s word, as this sharp sword, that is able to pierce our soul in order to break it away from our spirit.

In my last post, “How Bible Reading Can Change Your Life,” I referred to the awesome power of the Scriptures.  My friend’s heart was touched by God’s word to such an extent, that she could no longer remain an atheist, but chose to become a Christian.

These same Scriptures are so powerful that they can also cut through our thick soul, dividing our soul from our spirit.  God’s word can stop our anxious thoughts, calm our troubled emotions, and subdue our stubborn will. This has been my experience.

As we open the Bible, we just need to open to the Lord, and incline our heart to Him. Then read a few Bible verses and turn them into short, spontaneous prayers to Lord—thanking Him, praising or petitioning as we feel led. In this way we can enter into fellowship with Him in our spirit.

“Lord Jesus, thank you for showing us the difference between our soul and our spirit. Thank you also for giving us Your living and operative word as such a practical way to divide our soul and spirit. Lord, remind us to apply Your word by prayer, thanksgiving and praise so we may enjoy You in our spirit every day.”

I hope that this practical consideration of the difference between soul and spirit proves as beneficial to you as it has to me. Also, If you’ve received help concerning the dividing of soul and spirit, I’d like to hear from you.

For further development of what I covered in this post, you might want to read Chapter Three of The Economy of God by Witness Lee, especially the section on “Dividing the Soul from the Human Spirit.” It’s available online at


Why Read the Bible? To Slay God’s Adversary!

God’s Purpose for Man  – Image and Dominion

In this post I would like to continue my question on why read the Bible, by reflecting on God’s purpose for man. To address this truth, I am eternally indebted to the ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. Through their writings, especially the Life-study of the Bible by Witness Lee (feel free to check it out at ), I was brought back to the first chapter of the Bible—Genesis 1 and especially verse 26 which says, “And God said, “let Us make man in our image, after our likeness and let them have dominion over…all the earth…” God intended for man  to be in His image so that man might express God. (This is similar to my photo being my image to express me.) Then God committed to this man His dominion over all the earth. Dominion is to represent God. Such dominion was needed due to Satan’s rebellion which  brought God’s creation into chaos and collapse making it unfit for the fulfillment of God’s purpose. Hence, all the rebellious elements in the universe require man’s cooperation that they might be subdued and judged for God, since it was not God’s will to execute this judgment directly.

In my last post I referred to the beautifying of the bride of Christ by the washing of the water in Christ’s word. Such a beautifying function of God’s word enables God to gain the first aspect of His purpose, that is, to have man express Him. As Christ’s beautified bride we will become His corporate expression for eternity (Rev. 4:3; 21:9-11). That is, by beholding and reflecting our lovely Lord Jesus, our dear Bridegroom, we will transformed into His image from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18).  This glory is simply God expressed. Through the sanctifying by the washing water in the word we will be presented to Christ glorious, becoming a Christ-expressing church (Eph. 5:26-27).

The Killing Function of God’s Word for Slaying God’s Adversary

However, after Ephesians 5, we come to Ephesians 6, where we see not a bride but a corporate warrior covered and equipped with the whole armor of God (6:10-18). The aspect of the church as the warrior, satisfies the second aspect of God’s purpose for man, that of defeating God’s adversary by exercising God’s dominion. To accomplish the slaying of God’s adversary requires a further application of God’s word, that of the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17).

In order to apply the killing  function of the Word for slaying God’s adversary, we need to locate the enemy.  We have to realize that Satan is not merely an outward enemy attacking God’s kingdom from without, but an inward adversary (Job 1:6-12; Rev. 12:10). For example, Satan embodied in Peter’s natural opinion, his self, tried to  frustrate the Lord from going to the cross and thereby became a stumbling block to the Lord in accomplishing God’s redemptive economy (Matt. 16:21-23). The Lord turned to Peter and called him “Satan.” We have to see that we are no better than Peter. Not just our opinions, but our very self, our soul-life, needs to be denied, that we may take up the cross and follow Christ (v. 24). But how can such an inward adversary be practically dealt with. Surely, it is not by our self will. God does not want our asceticism.

Actually, it is only when in our experience, the written words of the Bible, are converted into the Spirit, becoming an instant, applied word to us that we experience the sword (Eph. 6:17). It is only by means of prayer in our spirit (v. 18), that the word becomes the Spirit as a sword to slay the inward adversary in our mind, emotion and will. We naturally love what God hates, and hate what God loves, and frequently choose our own will above His. But thank the Lord that we don’t have to try to be better. Rather, we can daily, even hourly, enjoy the killing word, slaying the adversary within us, and bringing all our rebellious thoughts into the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Praise the Lord, God’s word is so available, so we can frequently read and pray over a Bible verse, digesting it and musing over it.

I find this aspect particularly helpful, when troublesome thoughts or feelings frustrate my enjoyment of Christ. God’s word can do in us what nothing else can do. If we apply this truth, even our problems can become a catalyst to drive us deeper into God’s Word with prayer. I hope that you will try the same.