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The Fine Line Between Soul & Spirit

By pastorbillwalden

Sub Title – Are You Primarily A Soulish Person, Or A Spiritual Person?  body-soul-spirit

God sometimes teaches us with illustrations and visible examples.  Jesus used illustrations of farming and nature to make his points.  The Apostle Paul spoke of athletics and the military, as well as alluding to the human body.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews also used the illustration of the human body to present a spiritual truth.

Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV) For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The writer of Hebrews speaks of the nature of God’s Word; that it can cut through our thoughts and intentions.  It can reveal our true motives compared to what we might be saying.  We may verbalize something that is a 90% good thought with a 10% selfish motive.  To the human listener, it may sound 100% good, but God’s word opens us up like a surgeon, and shows us what’s inside of us.

The writer makes two comparisons; he compares two groups of two things that coexist but are not the same.  He says that soul and spirit can be divided, and he says that joints and marrow can be divided.  A consideration of the dividing of joints and marrow will show us a spiritual truth, so we will start there. We’ll start with that which is visible and knowable.

Marrow grows in the bone.  It is not bone, but it grows in the bone. I won’t go into what bone marrow does, but suffice it to say this: marrow grows in the bone but it is not bone, it is marrow.

Here is where things get amazingly interesting: Marrow is separated from bone by a porous membrane one cell thick.  That is the thinnest of membranes possible.  There is virtually almost “nothing” separating bone from marrow, but it is separated, and one is not the other.  I spoke to four physicians about this, including an oncologist and a retired surgeon who teaches.

The writer of Hebrews uses that anatomical truth to illustrate this spiritual truth:  Soul and spirit are as close as they can be, but they are not the same thing.  They almost are the same thing, but they are not the same thing.

That observation begs for definitions, and this is where things can get tricky, but here is what I think.

The soul of a man is that which pertains to all the intangible aspects of that natural (not born again) man. The soul speaks of desire, thoughts, passions, emotions, and the appreciation for art, music, movies.  The soul wants things, rejects other things, likes and hates things, feels things, etc.  It is that part of you that isn’t physical.  It’s that part of you that gets really happy or miserably sad.

The soul can be moved by a good movie, inspired by the Olympics, or enraged at injustice.

Here is another verse that seems to point to the triune nature of man.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NKJV) Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Some say that body and soul are synonymous while others make a differentiation. I am obviously in the camp that believes humans are triune creatures: body, soul and spirit.

For all that the soul is… it isn’t spirit. The spirit seems to be that part of man that is made alive when one becomes “born again”.

John 3:3-8 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4  Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5  Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

I’ll leave you with this observation, and try to develop in more in my next article, but I’ll end with this thought:  If soul and spirit both exist, but are different, then how can we know the difference between a soulish experience and a spiritual experience?

I think that many people wrongly interpret soulish experiences, thinking they are spiritual experiences.

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[…] Before reading this article, please be sure to read my previous article on this subject,which is found here.   […]

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