A good Christian friend of mine, who I will call Terry, asked me the following question, and I thought you might also be interested.
Please tell me about the difference between the soul and the spirit.
For me our soul is simply life itself, and is unique for each individual. In Genesis 2:7, we are told "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." To me this is saying God created a new creature that is both flesh and spirit, in that it is both a living animal and a living spirit. It is that within us, which we call life, as opposed to a rock which is a lifeless object. The living animal is the temporary part of the soul, kind of like a rocket launch pad that is to be used to launch the spirit into the limitless heavens. When we reach that outer limit of the human shell, it is jettisoned away from the soul, never to be seen again. The spirit is that part of the soul that will go on, it gives the soul the ability to love or hate, to see itself in its own environment, to feel emotions, and to act upon such emotions as is pleasing to the soul. In other words the spirit is the essence of life itself, having a free will to do as it please, as long as it does not offend a greater power. The spirit of the soul is like a small child who must learn everything, and makes decisions based on its understandings and beliefs, choosing its own destiny.
Because the soul is both flesh and spirit, it faces two possible deaths, the death of the flesh, and the death of the spirit, which the Bible calls the Second Death. We all understand how the flesh dies, when the life given spirit is taken from the flesh, the human body losses all of its power, and simply returns to the dust from which it came. It is in the spirit death, or the Second Death, that the word death has a different meaning. The Second death comes when the life giving love of the Father is taken from the spirit, and it is cast out into the outer darkness, never again to experience the loving light of the Father. You see, the spirit will exit forever, because life once created will never end, but after the Second Death, the spirit will no longer have the loving light of the Father within it ever again, nor will it be allowed in the presences of God. If we can imagine a soul without love, then we begin to imagine a little of what awaits the spirit in the Second Death.
Another way to help us understand the soul might be to look at a chicken's egg. When the egg is first laid, it is unique containing the life giving water required to sustain life. If the egg is properly cared for, it will grow into an embryo, and eventually hatch into a beautiful chicken, just like its father. We human's are similarly born within a soul that contains both flesh and the life giving water (spirit), of our heavenly Father. If we are properly nourished, then we too begin to change into an embryo, into the image of our Father. The humans, like the chicken, will remain in the confines of their shell until they take action on their own to break free. In breaking free they both become new creatures in the full image of their fathers. They are no longer just a shell having a limited amount of life giving breath, but they now stand complete, breathing on their own.
If there is no rebirth or transformation in the human soul, it will surely rot away and die, just like a spoiled egg. It is the new birth, being born again, which changes us from the embryo of flesh and spirit into a beautiful spiritual being filled only with the life giving Spirit of our Father. It is interesting to note that we humans are different from the chicken, in that when we are hatched, or reborn, we immediately realize what a wonderful gift we have received, and we don't start just looking out for ourselves, as the new born chicken would do, but we immediately turn to try to break the other shells, so that the spirits of our brothers and sisters can also break free. It is the love of the Father within us, which turns us away from ourselves to reach out for others. We try to tell them what they must do if they too are to be freed. Caring for the unborn is now our only reason for remaining in this land of clay, which is surely no longer our home.
As Genesis 2:7 tell us about the soul being made of flesh and spirit, Jesus tell us in John 3:6-7 "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." Our soul can die with the flesh, or it can be changed into a loving spirit, one that can live forever in our Father's house, but it is our choice. For me, I chose to break free from our shell of the soul, and to be born again completely in the spiritual image of my Father. We also need to remember that there are many other spirits which surround the soul, but the child of the Father will hear His voice among all of the others, and will follow His voice alone. We are to be prized above all else in heaven, simple because we are the children of the Father.
I don't know if all of this has helped, but it is how I personally see our spirit within our soul. I pray that I have helped your understanding, and have not just placed another stumbling block before you. If my inadequate words have caused more confusion, then turn to Jesus with a pure heart, and He will surely give you the light your heart seeks.
I leave you with the following scriptures;
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire:
And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, (47) And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?