Soul, Spirit

Genesis 46:26; 1 Peter 3:20; Ezekiel 18:4,20; Jonah 1:14; Matthew 16:25‑26; Luke 12:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:23  •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 8
The Hebrew word commonly translated “soul” is nephesh: in many instances this is translated “life” in the AV, as in Jonah 1:1414Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee. (Jonah 1:14): “Let us not perish for this man’s life,” or soul. In the New Testament the word ψυχή stands for both “life” and “soul:” “Whosoever will save his ‘life’ shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his ‘life’ for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own ‘soul’? or what shall a man give in exchange for his ‘soul’?” (Matt. 16:25-2625For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:25‑26)).
The soul, as distinguished from the spirit, is the seat of appetites and desires. The rich man said, “I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:1919And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. (Luke 12:19)). That night his “soul” was required of him. The salvation of the soul cannot be distinguished from the salvation of the person.
The SPIRIT is distinctively the higher part of man, it marks the conscious individuality, and distinguishes man thus from the inferior creation. God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life, and by this man was set in relation with God, and cannot be really happy separated from Him, either in present existence or eternally. The words are ruach and πνεῦμα, and are the same as constantly used for God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, or Holy Ghost, and for the angels as spirits, and for evil spirits.
The word of God is sharp, and able to divide asunder the soul and spirit of a man, though it may not be easy for the human mind to see the division. The apostle prayed for the Thessalonians that spirit (which is probably viewed as the seat of God’s work), as well as soul and body might be sanctified (1 Thess. 5:2323And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)). In the Epistle to the Hebrews we read of the “spirits” of just men made perfect: their place is with God through redemption. Here “spirits” apparently signifies the persons apart from their bodies.
The Holy Spirit being given to the Christian, as the spring in him of life in Christ, he is exhorted to pray with the spirit, sing with the spirit, walk in the Spirit, so that in some cases it is difficult to distinguish between the Spirit of God and the Christian’s spirit.