ESV - 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
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In my opinion the spirit of man is what keeps his physical body and his soul alive. Every living organism has a corresponding spirit enabling it to exist and function in the physical world. All spirits must originally come from God, who is a divine spirit. The soul is what discriminates human beings from animals. It would include our sense of identity, both the conscious and sub-conscious mind, our emotions, and our conscience. We know that body and soul can die in the first and second death (Rev 21:8). What then becomes of the spirit isn't clear. According to Ecclesiates 12:7, the spirit returns to God, but this verse may be including the soul along with the spirit. As Michael says above, the distinction between soul and spirit can be confusing. For example, those who experience near death and return are able to see and hear what has happened to them during their experience. Are their spiritual eyes and ears part of the soul or part of the spirit?
I believe it is Biblical to suggest that our soul is where we find the uniqueness of our humanity as expressed by our personality, creativity, ability to reason, etc. Our "spirit " however is the fulcrum from which the human "will" is initiated, either actively,or passively. Biblically speaking, because a human being is "spiritually dead" apart from Christ, one does not have the "will " to respond to the good news of the Gospel unless or until God literally breaths the Life of His Spirit into the human soul, and we are hence, "born of the Spirit" of God. At that point, one is free to respond in obedience to God's Word, since it is "spiritually discerned" as expressed in the New Testament by the apostle Paul. I think this distinction between soul and spirit is powerfully important and profound because it illustrates at its' very core why a truly "born-again Christian can continue to struggle against sin. (Corinthians 7).In essence, our "soulish" or "old nature wills to keep us in sin's bondage, however, our "new will" by the power of the Spirit of Christ in us gives us the discernment and ability to overcome sin and understand and execute the perfect will of God.
The human soul is the mind, will, emotions and conscience created in each human being at the moment of conception. This soul is what makes each human being a unique creation of God. The human soul is inexplicably linked to the human spirit. We see souls worshipping God in heaven (Revelation 7:9-10) and crying out to God for justice to avenge their blood (Revelation 6:9-11). The human spirit is the image of God placed inside each human being (Genesis 1:27). This "image of God" reflects the "character" of God in each human being. Tragically, on the day that Adam and Eve disobeyed God and committed sin, their human spirits died (Genesis 2:17). This original sin has infected every human being since then. Every one of us are born spiritually dead and separated from God (Ephesians 2:1;). But thanks be to God who has provided the way of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. The moment any human being puts their faith in Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour and Lord of their life, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of them and He breathes life into their dead spirits so they are "born again" spiritually (Colossians 2:13). The Holy Spirit's work inside each Christian includes restoring the "image of God" in each one of us that God intended at creation (2 Corinthians 3:18). We won't experience the full revelation of this image until we receive our glorified new bodies at Jesus second coming. Once we have been set free and saved from the penalty, power and presence of sin, then the human spirit will fully reflect the image of God and radiate his glory.
I inherently do not disagree with any of the above statements. However, it depends on one's thought on anthropological aspects and the make up of man. There are many adamant dichotomists who believe that man is made up of only two parts immaterial and material. Predominately, this thought is stronger in the Reformed camp of theology. Many such as Calvin, Hodges, and others firmly believe that the soul and spirit are just the immaterial part of man but are not divided. Some would even go as far to say that the trichotomous view is blasphemy. They view that there is no such division between the soul and spirit of man. Personally, I am more of a trichotomous position in how I look at mankind. Precisely, as one of the key Biblical teachings on this positions comes from Hebrews 4:12. The point is that there are different views on this topic. I believe that the spirit is what keeps us alive and is the direct connection to God. It is the truest center of our being. The soul I believe houses our conscious, emotions, self awareness, thought, logic, the person hood of man. During the fall of man the spirit died within us and we became disconnected from God. Also, our soul fell and our logic, judgement, emotions, and our ability to relate to God cognitively was also damaged. The day we are truly saved through Jesus and accept Him as our Savior we are reborn of the spirit and we are sealed by the Holy Spirit until our redemption is fulfilled according to Ephesians 1:12-14. Additionally, our mind/soul is renewed by hearing the Word of God. Paul admonishes us to renew our minds in Romans 12:2. Therefore, I believe that becoming a new creation in Christ is not just a spiritual aspect but also a soul aspect of renewal. However, one has to admit to neatly package the difference between the soul and spirit is not an easy task and we should be humble enough to admit we truly do not understand on this side of heaven how they are different or the same.
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