A Question on “Spirit” vs. “Soul”

A Question on “Spirit” vs. “Soul”

Question: What’s the difference between the “spirit” and the “soul” of a person?

Using the biblical analogy in Hebrews 4:12–13, the soul is to the spirit what the bones are to the marrow. This is why the two words are often conflated, since we would more frequently speak of the outward and visible (the bone or the egg) than the inward and invisible (the marrow or the yolk).

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:12–13, emphasis added)

First Thessalonians 5:23 also clearly distinguishes the spirit and the soul:

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our spirit is our deepest identity, and that is what is declared holy and righteous and is now seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly places (Colossians 3:1–4). This cannot possibly be said of the soul, since our minds, emotions, wills, aspirations, and imaginations are not yet perfected. This is why I often speak of life in this world as a “soul-forming process.”

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