Connecting Soul And Spirit

What Is the Spirit?

Our spirit is God’s life in us.  It is our channel of communication with God through the Holy Spirit.  It is what makes true worship of and communion with God possible.  The spirit gives a “God-consciousness” to every believer.  It translates the things of the Spirit of God for us as His children (see 1 Corinthians 2:14).  It is the means through which spiritual gifts are given and expressed by the Holy Spirit within us (see 1 Corinthians 2:10-15).  It is often referred to in the Bible as a “still small voice.”

Body soul spiritI’ve been very intentional to avoid what might open the door to controversy regarding differing doctrinal views.  This book isn’t about that.  It’s about helping individuals find hope in Christ to move beyond the shame and brokenness of their lives.  Respectfully, I believe that man’s spirit is renewed at the point of salvation, not necessarily replaced, as some believe.  Regardless which theological camp we land in, the principal point is that, in Christ, God gives us a new spirit.  And from that, He desires to reproduce the life of Jesus within us.

Numerous Christian writers concur that our spirit is comprised of three elements:  conscience, fellowship, and intuition.

  1. Conscience – For us to discern right from wrong, to distinguish good from bad (see Romans 8:16; 9:1).
  2. Fellowship – For us to contact God and to commune with Him (see John 4:24; Romans 1:9).
  3. Intuition – For us to have a sense within our spirit of what our soul cannot perceive, regardless of reason or circumstance (see 1 Corinthians 2:11).

What is the Soul?

Our soul is the essence of who we are – the core of our physical, human being.  It is comprised of our inborn, God-given temperament.  In the Hebrew language, the word nephesh would be translated “soul” or “breath of life.”  These symbolize the non-visible life force within us that animates our physical body.

As is the spirit, the soul is also comprised of three parts:  mind, will, and emotions.

  1. Mind – For us to think, consider (see Psalm 13:2), know (see Psalm 139:14), and remember (se Lamentations 3:20). In the mind we have thoughts, ideas, concepts, reasonings, understanding, knowledge, and so on.
  2. Will – For us to have purposes and choices (see Job 7:15; 6:7), and to make decisions (see 1 Chronicles 22:19).
  3. Emotions – For us to experience emotional feelings, such as love (see 1 Samuel 18:1; 2 Samuel 1:7) or hate (see 2 Samuel 5:8), to like or dislike, to be joyful (see Isaiah 61:10; Psalm 86:4) or grieved (see 1 Samuel 30:6; Judges 10:16).

When we are saved (born again), our spirit is instantaneously renewed, but our soul is not.  “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT).  While salvation does not make our soul new, a new hope and desire to serve and love God infuses into our mind, will, and emotions.

If we had received a new soul at the time of salvation, we would likely have lost all of our emotions, knowledge, and memory in that moment.  In Christ we received a renewed spirit.  But the Bible (in Romans 12:2) says our soul is to be “transformed by the renewing of our mind.”  As we continue on this journey, this renewing progressively develops our faith and trust in God.  It is through the internalizing of God’s word that we are sanctified and transformed into the image of Jesus.

Separate But Inseparable

Jesus makes it clear in the “Greatest Commandment” how spirit and soul, both distinctive in themselves, are intimately linked together within us as His followers:

“’And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Mark 12:30-31 NLT).

This passage illustrates how God’s love is manifested in and through both our spirit (“love the Lord your God”) and our soul (“love your neighbor as yourself”).  But how are the two connected?

The Heart Is the Conduit

The soul and the spirit are mysteriously tied together by what the Bible calls the “heart.”  It’s obvious that God was not referring to our physical, flesh-and-blood heart when He included this term within the pages of His word.

Throughout the Bible, writers seem to reference the heart in ways that pertain to matters of belief, behavior, conscience, moral character, courage, will, understanding, passions, intention, desire, and so on.  Although we tend to assume these characteristics are all positive, they are actually value neutral.  The “condition of our heart” is examined by honestly considering our answers to these two probing questions:

  1. Who am I giving the power to define my beliefs?
  2. In what ways are these beliefs effecting others?

The only One who can give us a new heart is the One who created us in the first place!  Our human nature is the problem within us, not the solution!  It would be ludicrous to think a wooden stick could be used to sharpen another wooden stick, wouldn’t it?  Likewise, our nature cannot sharpen our own nature.  It requires something (actually Someone) much stronger and sharper to make is new.

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