Image for Understanding the interaction between our spirit and soul

Understanding the interaction between our spirit and soul

Renew / Know Biblical Truths
The Bible makes a distinction between our spirit and our soul. All our spirits will eventually return to God but because of sin, our souls will be destined for hell. On the cross, Jesus made an atoning blood sacrifice for every soul. Yet not every soul will go to heaven. It is only those who have been baptised in Jesus’ name and whose spirits have been joined with the Holy Spirit that will be saved. The Holy Spirit affirms who are truly God’s children and, therefore, whose souls can be united with God forever.


Note: This is the third in a four-part series on our spirit, our soul, the connection between our spirit and soul, and our flesh. It is advisable to please read the introductions to the human spirit and soul before proceeding. 

Ecclesiastes 12:7 ESV  and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Matthew 10:28 ESV  And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Leviticus 17:11 ESV  For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

1 Corinthians 6:17 ESV  But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.

Ephesians 1:14 NLT  The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.

As a quick recap, the human spirit is God’s breath in us (spirit also refers to wind or breath) by which we are able to feel, think, and make choices. Our spirit gives us an understanding of God and His will for us. When our spirits learn to live by spiritual insights from the Holy Spirit, we become “spiritual persons” who have the mind of Christ.

Job 32:8 ESV  But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.

Job 27:3 ESV  as long as my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils,

The human soul is “a living being, life, self, person, desire, passion, appetite, emotion” according to the original Hebrew word for soul, nephesh (Strong’s Concordance:  נֶפֶש  5315. nephesh). The soul is guided by mankind’s most basic carnal and sinful instincts. 

Ezekiel 18:20 ESV  The soul who sins shall die…

Those who live by the dictates of their soul are what the Bible calls, “natural persons”. Natural persons are unable to spiritually discern the things that are of God because they rely on the carnal mind. Only God’s Word and the Holy Spirit can teach and give us the mind of Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV  The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Both our spirit and soul can feel strong emotions 

Although different, the human spirit and soul share some similarities.

For one, both our spirit and soul can feel strong emotions.

Our spirits can be anxious (Daniel 7:1), bitter (Psalm 106:33), broken (Exodus 6:9), crushed (Proverbs 15:13), grieved (Isaiah 54:6), haughty (Proverbs 16:18), troubled (Genesis 41:8), vexed (1 Kings 21:5), and so on.

Our souls can feel bitter (1 Samuel 22:2), distress (Psalm 31:7), hatred (2 Samuel 5:8), thirst/longing, hunger (Psalm 107:9), troubled (Psalm 6:3), unsteady (2 Peter 2:14), vexed (Judges 16:16), weak, weary (Jeremiah 31:25), and so on.

We are called to rule our spirit and not get carried away by strong emotions, and to not give in to the passions of our flesh that wage war against our soul. Our physical body can send strong signals that we all need to learn to master, rather than be mastered by. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can defeat the carnal desires of the flesh.

Proverbs 16:32 ESV  Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

Romans 6:16 ESV  Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

Galatians 5:16 ESV So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

Both our spirit and soul can wilfully turn away from God 

Secondly, both our spirit and soul need to be sanctified and purified because both can sin and rebel against God.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 ESV  Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:22 ESV  Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,

Our spirit, which is connected to our heart (i.e. motives and emotions), can resist the Holy Spirit. Our spirits need to be willing to obey God’s Spirit.

Acts 7:51 ESV  “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.

Psalm 51:11-12 ESV  Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Our soul, which is normally driven by the passions of our flesh, can spurn God’s commands and wilfully sin.

1 Peter 2:11 ESV  Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

Leviticus 26:15 ESV  if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 

Both our spirit and soul can exercise a will of their own. This can result in opposing desires. That is why it can sometimes feel as if there is an almost tangible battle inside us and feel “torn”. The Holy Spirit may convict our spirits to move in a certain direction that pleases God, while the appetite of our souls will crave passions that please our flesh instead. This is every believer’s struggle with sin until we learn to submit both spirit and soul to God’s kingship.

Matthew 26:41 ESV  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Jesus also had a spirit and a soul while He was on earth but He never sinned. He knew how to commit both His spirit and soul to God the Father and humbly follow His will. This is how He overcame sin.

John 11:33 ESV  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.

John 12:27 ESV  “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.

Our spirit receives wisdom from God, the human soul relies on the carnal mind

Every genuine believer’s spirit is joined to the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 6:17 ESV  But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.

Isaiah 11:2 ESV  And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

Every follower of Jesus needs to obey the Holy Spirit because only He can give us a mind to understand, the spiritual eyes to see, and the spiritual ears to hear God’s truths. Our carnal minds cannot grasp God’s eternal truths. A “natural person” can memorise the text in the Bible for years, but still remain spiritually deaf to God’s voice.

Deuteronomy 29:4 NIV  But to this day the LORD has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.

Not all of God’s thoughts are recorded in the Bible. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to reveal what God’s thoughts are regarding our lives. This takes a level of seeing, hearing, and understanding because the Holy Spirit may reveal His thoughts through dreams, visions, words of knowledge, prophecies, and so forth. Unlike us, God is multi-dimensional and unlimited in His expressions. The Holy Spirit will reveal God’s unfathomable plans and deep secrets to His children in different ways.

1 Corinthians 2:9-11 NLT  That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit.

The Holy Spirit does not only give us knowledge, He also teaches a believer through experiences. The kingdom of God is not just a matter of talk but of power, and power is something that is to be experienced. The “natural person”, however, cannot understand all of this.

1 Corinthians 4:20 ESV  For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.

Therefore, when a natural person reads Jesus’ promise that we will “cast out demons, speak in new tongues, remained unharmed by poison, or heal the sick by laying hands on them”, their soul will resist believing.

Mark 16:17-18 ESV  And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

This is because a person’s soul is heavily influenced by their own personal thoughts and experiences. Hence, rather than trust God to liberate their spirit to experience the Holy Spirit’s power in their lives, a natural person will do their best to bring God down to their size, in order to match their own understanding.

This is the area where Satan is most active — to blind people through unbelief so they are unable to see the glory of Christ in their own lives. The devil plants insidious lies and suggestions that tempt our souls to disbelieve God’s Word, to reduce Him to a human status,  and to chase after all that is in the world.

2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV   In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

1 John 2:16-17 ESV  For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

The human soul does not have the ability to understand God’s thoughts, if it were not for the breath of God in us i.e. our spirit!

The Holy Spirit seeks to purify both spirit and soul, evil spirits seek to corrupt the soul

This overview of the human soul and spirit helps give us insight into how evil spirits can continue to operate in those who have received the Holy Spirit.

Evil spirits cannot usurp the human spirit that is joined with the Holy Spirit, but they can corrupt us spiritually by tempting us to follow the wiles of our souls and to chase after the things of this world. As long as our souls are enslaved to anything from this world, we are not fully God’s.

Mark 8:36 ESV For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

This is why God is faithfully working to purify both our spirit and soul so that we may kept blameless ahead of Jesus’ return to earth. May we all repent of our unbelief and worship God in spirit and in truth. He will transform us into spiritual persons. He who calls us is faithful, He will surely do it!

1 Thessalonians 5:22-24 ESV  Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

James 1:21-22 ESV Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

John 4:23 ESV But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.


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