The Difference Between One’s Spirit and One’s Soul

My little darling wiped her tears away on her sleeve. She hugged me and repeated what I had said, “You will never leave me, Opa.” Then she said, “You will always be in my heart.”

newmeWhat is the difference between a spirit and a soul? Do human beings possess a soul while other living creatures do not?  I’ll tell you the truth. I don’t rightly know. Even though I have studied Scriptural passages about this, I remain a bit confused. Nevertheless, I can tell you what I have chosen to believe. I believe that human beings have a spirit, but we are not spirits. Animals too, I believe, whether they have a soul or not, have spirits. Surely they do. They have personalities, do they not? Have you not heard of a spirited horse? Have you not enjoyed the company of a friendly pet, or been worried by a bad tempered dog?

In humans, according to Scripture, the soul and the spirit are connected, but separable (Hebrews 4:12). The soul is who we are, that which lives on apart from our physical selves. The spirit is the nature of our soul, what some call our heart – as in tender hearted or hard hearted.

What does it mean then to be spiritual?

Spiritual, I believe, is the adjective form of the word, “spirit,” which is a noun. The word “character” could serve as a good synonym. It is almost always used, however, in reference to what people believe beyond the secular, the scientific, the physical world.

According to the New Testament,  only believers are said to be spiritually alive (1 Corinthians 2:11;Hebrews 4:12;James 2:26), while unbelievers are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-5;Colossians 2:13). In Paul’s writing, the spiritual was pivotal to the life of the believer (1 Corinthians 2:14;3:1;Ephesians 1:3;5:19;Colossians 1:9;3:16). The spirit is the element in humanity which gives us the ability to have an intimate relationship with God. But (John 4:24) confuses things, I think, by calling God himself a spirit.

The word “soul” can refer to both the immaterial and material aspects of humanity. Unlike human beings having a spirit, human beings are souls. In its most basic sense, the word “soul” means “life.” But  beyond this essential meaning, the Bible speaks of the soul in many contexts. One of these is humanity’s eagerness to sin (Luke 12:26). Humanity is naturally evil, and our souls are tainted as a result.

A few months ago, while we were walking together hand-in-hand, my darling little great granddaughter started weeping after she told me that she loves me. I asked her what was wrong. She said that her mommy had told her that I was getting old – that someday I would die. “I’m really going to miss you when you die, Opa,” she said.

I stopped, got down on my good knee, the one that God gave me, took her little hands in mine and said to her, “Honey, someday I will die, yes. But I’m never going to leave you.”

“How can that be, Opa?”

“I will live on forever in your heart, sweetheart. As long as you remember me and the things that we have talked about , the things that I am teaching you, I will be alive in the most important way. Our love will survive, and our love is the best part of us.”

My little darling wiped her tears away on her sleeve. She hugged me and repeated what I had said, “You will never leave me, Opa.” Then she said, “You will always be in my heart.”

From a child and from what I wanted her to believe, I discovered what I believe about the difference between one’s soul and one’s spirit. Our exchange as we walked that day is what led me to research what the Scriptures say about it. So my soul may go to heaven when I die, and my spirit will go with me. But my spirit will live on too in the memories of those who will have known me while I still had a physical life.

Whether you believe as I do or not, please feel free to leave me a comment about this. 

Published in: on February 24, 2015 at 9:01 am  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Whether or not you believe in an afterlife or heaven, no one can denigh that our spirit lives on in the hearts and minds of those people we have contact with.

  2. Thanks Opa!

  3. And you are always in our hearts too, Dad.. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Well written…

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