What Is the Difference between the Soul and the Spirit?

The blog for Bibles for America features a concise article on the meaning of the human spirit and soul in the New Testament: What Is the Difference between the Soul and the Spirit?:

“The terms soul and spirit have been discussed at length in philosophy and literature, and in the writings of various religions. They’re sometimes used interchangeably because people believe they’re the same thing. But what does the Bible say? Are they different? And why does knowing if they’re different matter? In this post, we’ll look at verses and notes in the New Testament Recovery Version to see the soul and spirit are different. We’ll also discuss why knowing they’re different is important in our relationship with God.” https://blog.biblesforamerica.org/difference-between-soul-and-spirit/

Bibles for America is a non profit ministry, founded in 2020, that distributes free copies of The Recovery Version of the New Testament and Christian literature across the U.S. The Recovery Version is a translation of the Bible by Living Stream Ministry (LSM.org) that is published with extensive footnotes and cross references that clarify a Christ-centered, deeper life understanding of Scripture.

By the way, The Christian Research Institute (a.k.a “The Bible Answer Man” broadcast) devoted an issue of their Journal to retract their previous condemnation of Nee/Lee/”Local Church” (authors that Living Stream Ministry publishes).

A similar blog post by Bibles for America is “What Is the Human Spirit According to the Bible?”

“‘God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truthfulness.'” (John 4:24 RV)


Charles H. Spurgeon on the Soul/Spirit Distinction

“Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834 – 1892) was a British Particular Baptist preacher who remains highly influential among Christians of different denominations, among whom he is still known as the “Prince of Preachers”. Spurgeon was to 19th century England what D. L Moody was to America… A strong figure in the Reformed Baptist tradition,…Spurgeon preached to around 10,000,000 people, often up to 10 times each week at different places” [Amazon.com].

His book, The Soul Winner (Fleming H. Revell, 1895) is a biblical, theological and practical volume of 15 chapters originally prepared for the students at the Pastors’ College.

Like all evangelical he used “spiritually” as an adverb to describe the work of the evangelist and the nature of regeneration of the lost person:

“There are some of us who have, by God’s grace, been so richly blessed that we have all around us a large number of persons who have been spiritually quickened through our instrumentality, people who have been aroused under our ministry, who have been instructed and strengthened by us, and who are all doing good service for God” (p. 65).

But we see it as very significant that this leader also believed in the holistic trichotomy of man. He referred to man’s regenerated spirit as a noun and distinct from the soul.

“Regeneration, or the new birth, works a change in the whole nature of man, and, so far as we can judge, its essence lies in the implantation and creation of a new principle within the man. The Holy Ghost creates in us a new, heavenly, and immortal nature, which is known in Scripture as “the spirit”, by way of distinction from the soul. Our theory of regeneration is that man in his fallen nature consists only of body and soul, and that when he is regenerated there is created in him a new and higher nature—”the spirit”—which is a spark from the everlasting fire of God’s life and love; this falls into the heart, and abides there, and makes its receiver a partaker of the divine nature.” Thenceforward, the man consists of three parts, body, soul, and spirit, and the spirit is the reigning power of the three…” (p. 11).

Note that, although regeneration impacts the whole person (as holistic trichotomy affirms), the new creation” of 2 Corinthians 5:17 is a regenerated human spirit. We also appreciate his observation that the [new human spirit] spirit is the reigning power of the three [body, soul and spirit] which has important implications for sanctification.

Spurgeon mentioned implications of this trichotomous view for evangelism. He considered it harmonious with his Calvinistic theology, teaching the sovereignty of God in salvation: “‘The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be [Rom. 8:7]’ A new and heavenly mind must be created by omnipotence, or the man must abide in death” (p 13). He also quoted 1 Corinthians 2:14: “But the natural man [literally “soulical man”] does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (p.12).

Spurgeon observed that “this God-begotten spiritual life in men is a mystery… “(p.13) because it takes place in the realm of the spirit–and perhaps because it is not as explicitly taught in the Bible prior to the progressive revelation of the New Testament. (See “mystery” in 1 Corinthians 15:51; Ephesians 3: 1-6).

Considering this example from another well-respected pastoral leader, we would hope that some theological seminaries and biblical counseling organizations would be less dogmatic and exclusive in their view of man as only a dichotomy of body and soul.


Page numbers are based on the free PDF edition at http://thesoulwinner.org/ebooks/

In Man as Spirit, Soul and Body, I present the case that man’s spirit before regeneration is not non existent, but dead toward God (Eph. 2:1-4). Unsaved man still has enough faculties of intuition (Rom. 1:20,21) conscience (Rom. 2:15), and creativity (Eccl. 2:1-26) to indicate that there is a human spirit that dignifies him above the animal kingdom.