Examining Biblical Scripture

The Soul and the Spirit Within

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2; bold – mine)

When God created man, he created him in his own image. That means we were created with a body, a soul (intellect, emotions, will) and a spirit. The difference between human beings and all other animals, birds, reptiles, fish, is that unlike any other, we have a spirit. There is no question that animals have a will; just consider dogs and cats for a moment. Dogs want to please their masters – that is their will; cats want to be pleased by their masters – that is their will (for the record, I’m very much a cat lover). As to intellect, animals – whether by instinct or intelligence – can care for their young. And all creatures have emotion, witnessed by the grieving of a dolphin or a dove that loses its life’s partner, or the soulful mourns of a coyote at dusk. But animals do not have a spirit.

The soul is often called the mind. The spirit is that which comes only from God and which was ‘lost’ in Adam’s sin. Those who are born again in Christ have their spirits renewed, and receive the Holy Spirit, who is our comforter, our counsel and who convicts us of our sin. Often in scripture the spirit is referred to as our heart, just as the soul is referred to as our mind.

To make the distinction between soul and spirit is going to be very important in coming weeks and months as we seek the renewing of our minds. I want for you; I desire that you discover the unique calling and purpose God has for you, both corporately and individually. It is God who renews our minds, and it is through His Spirit we receive counsel and revelation. What part does our spirit play? As we study scripture and digest its meaning – not by my revelation, for I am not a teacher of God’s Word – but by your own revelation from the LORD – we will learn and grow in preparation for God’s call on our lives. And we will discover that by surrendering our soul to our spirit and our spirit to the Holy Spirit, we will be better able to surrender our will for our lives to God.

As believers we have confessed our sinful nature, have made a commitment to follow Christ, and are doing our utmost to live lives worthy of the fact we’ve been called by God. But we stumble, we fail, we get up again. This will always be the way. And yet, as we study to show ourselves approved, as we surrender our will to our spirit, and our spirit to that of the Holy Spirit, we will gain and become more and more like Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. How will we know this to be true? The fruit of our lives will be changed.

So, as you go forward over the coming days, I’d like to encourage you to study the word, and choose to allow your spirit to overcome your thoughts, will, emotions at times of stress, inconvenience and challenge. Let the world see in you all that God has for it is Him we live and move and have our being.

Theological references:

  • Genesis 1:27; 2:7
  • Ephesians 4:23; 4:11
  • John 16:13
  • Hebrews 4:12
  • Luke 24:3
  • 2 Timothy 2:15
  • Galatians 5:22