1 Thessalonians 5:23: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The three aspects of man: the spirit, the soul, and the body.
Body: soma (Greek): the lowest part of man, the physical man, the fleshly or natural man.
Soul: nephesh (Hebrew), psyche (Greek): inner nature or man, the person or one’s self. Includes the mental, emotional, sensual, and passionate. Soul also refers to the life one has as a person. The soul or life is in the blood.
Spirit: ruah (Hebrew), pneuma (Greek): wind, force, or breath. Also rendered as breath: neshamah’ (Hebrew).
References for above definitions: Unger’s Bible Dictionary; Webster’s Bible Dictionary; Hayford’s Bible Handbook.
The spirit is the life force, wind, or breath found in all living creatures or souls. This would include both animals and humans. God imparts the breath or spirit of life into all creatures. At death the spirit leaves the body and goes back to the true God who gave it. Upon expiring, all conscious thoughts, purposes, and plans cease and the body goes back to dust. Only God can restore or give back one’s spirit.
Genesis 2:7: “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath or spirit of life, and man became a living being (soul).”
Genesis 6:17: “For behold, I, even I, will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy and make putrid all flesh under the heavens in which are the breath and spirit of life; everything that is on the land shall die.”
Genesis 7:21-22: “21 And all flesh ceased to breathe that moved upon the earth — fowls and birds, [tame] animals, [wild] beasts, all swarming and creeping things that swarm and creep upon the land, and all mankind. 22 Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils were the breath and spirit of life died.”
Job 12:9-10: “9 Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this, 10 In whose hand is the life (the soul) of every living thing, And the breath (the spirit) of all mankind?”
Job 27:3-4: “3 As long as my life is still whole within me, and the breath of God is yet in my nostrils, 4 My lips shall not speak untruth, nor shall my tongue utter deceit.”
Job 34:14-15: “14 If [God] should set His Heart upon him [man] and withdraw His [life-giving] Spirit and His Breath [from man] to Himself, 15 All flesh would perish together, and man would turn again to dust.”
Psalms 104:29-30: “29 When You hide Your Face, they are troubled and dismayed; when You take away their breath (spirit), they die and return to their dust. 30 When You send forth Your Spirit and give them breath, they are created, and You replenish the face of the ground.”
Psalms 146:3-4: “3 Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no help. 4 When his breath leaves him (his spirit departs), he returns to his earth; in that very day his [previous] thoughts, plans, and purposes perish.” (Refer also to Ecclesiastes 9:5-6)
Ecclesiastes 3:19-21: “19 For that which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts; even [in the end] one thing befalls them both. As the one dies, so dies the other. Yes, they all have one breath and spirit, so that a man has no preeminence over a beast; for all is vanity [emptiness, falsity, and futility]! 20 All go to one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. 21 Who knows the spirit of man, whether it goes upward, and the spirit of the beast, whether it goes downward to the earth?”
Ecclesiastes 8:8: “There is no man who has power over the spirit to retain the breath of life, neither has he power over the day of death.”
Ecclesiastes 12:7: “Then shall the dust [out of which God made man’s body] return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return to God Who gave it.”
Zechariah 12:1: “Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens and lays the foundation of the earth and forms the spirit of man within him.”
Matthew 27:50: “And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit.”
Luke 23:46: “And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘ Father, into Your hands I commit (commend) My spirit!’ And with these words, He expired.”
John 19:30: “When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, It is finished! And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”
Acts 7:59-60: “59 And while they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘ Lord Jesus, receive and accept and welcome my spirit!’ 60 And falling on his knees, he cried out loudly, ‘Lord, fix not this sin upon them [lay it not to their charge]!’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep [in death].”
1 Corinthians 5:5: “You are to deliver this man over to Satan for physical discipline [to destroy carnal lusts which prompted him to incest], that [his] spirit may [yet] be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
James 2:26: “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”
Revelation 11:11: “But after three and a half days, by God’s gift the breath of life (the spirit of life) again entered into them and they rose up on their feet, and great dread and terror fell on those who watched them.”
A person’s spirit can be refreshed and cleansed.
1 Corinthians 16:18: “For they gave me respite from labor and rested me and refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Deeply appreciate and thoroughly know and fully recognize such men.”
2 Corinthians 7:1 & 13: “1 Therefore, since these [great] promises are ours, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that contaminates and defiles body and spirit, and bring [our] consecration to completeness in the [reverential] fear of God. 13 Therefore we are relieved and comforted and encouraged [at the result]. And in addition to our own [personal] consolation, we were especially delighted at the joy of Titus, because you have all set his mind at rest, soothing and refreshing his spirit.”
A person’s spirit is a what connects one with God the Father and Jesus Christ.
Mathew 5:3: “Blessed [happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous — with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions] are the poor in spirit, [the humble, who rate themselves insignificant] for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!”
Romans 8:16: “The Spirit Himself [thus] testifies together with our own spirit, [assuring us] that we are children (sons) of God.”
Galatians 6:18: “The grace (spiritual favor, blessing) of our Lord Jesus Christ [the Anointed One, the Messiah] be with your spirit, brethren. Amen [so be it].”
2 Timothy 4:22: “The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Grace [God’s favor and blessing] be with you. Amen [so be it].”
A person’s spirit is capable of perceiving things.
Mark 2:8: “And at once Jesus, becoming fully aware in His spirit that they thus debated within themselves, said to them, Why do you argue [debate, reason] about all this in your hearts?”
A person’s spirit can be grieved or troubled.
John 11:33: “When Jesus saw her sobbing, and the Jews who came with her [also] sobbing, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. [He chafed in spirit and sighed and was disturbed].”
Acts 17:16: “Now while Paul was awaiting them at Athens, his spirit was grieved and roused to anger as he saw that the city was full of idols.”
The Holy Spirit intercedes and pleads on our behalf, and on behalf of all the saints before God. The Holy Spirit does this when we are groaning inwardly and in weakness, and we do not know what it is we need to pray for or how to pray for it.
Romans 8:23, 26-27: “23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves too, who have and enjoy the first fruits of the [Holy] Spirit [a foretaste of the blissful things to come] groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies [from sensuality and the grave, which will reveal] our adoption [our manifestation as God’s sons]. 26 So too the [Holy] Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads on our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance. 27 And He Who searches the hearts of men knows what is in the mind of the [Holy] Spirit [what His intent is], because the Spirit intercedes and pleads [before God] on behalf of the saints according to and in harmony with God’s will.”
The Holy Spirit testifies or bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children (sons of God).
Romans 8:16: “The Spirit Himself [thus] testifies (bears witness) together with our own spirit, [assuring us] that we are children (sons) of God.”
(All of the above quotes are from the Amplified Version, unless otherwise stated)
The soul is the inner nature or man, the person or one’s self. This includes the mental, emotional, sensual, and passionate properties of a person. Soul also refers to the life one has as a person. The soul that sinneth shall surely die. When a someone dies, they as a soul or person die. A person can gain their soul (or life), or lose their soul (or life). The soul or life is in the blood.
The first man Adam was a living soul. Man himself is a soul.
Genesis 2:7: “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 (being).” KJV
1 Corinthians 15:45: “So also it is written, The first man Adam became a living soul; The last Adam (Christ) became a life-giving Spirit.” NASB
Soul refers to the person or one’s self, or souls as in many persons.
Deuteronomy 26:16: “This day the LORD your God commands you to observe these statutes and judgments; therefore you shall be careful to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Psalms 119:28: “My soul melts from heaviness; Strengthen me according to Your word.”
Proverbs 2:10: “When wisdom enters your heart, And knowledge is pleasant to your soul.”
Isaiah 53:11: “He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.”
Matthew 11:29: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
John 12:27: “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour? But for this purpose I came to this hour.”
Acts 2:41 &43: “41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.”
Acts 3:23: “And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.”
Romans 13:1: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”
Hebrews 13:17: “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”
1 Peter 2:11: “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.”
1 Peter 3:20: “. . . who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine long suffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.”
3 John 2 “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”
Soul can also mean life, or the life one has as a person.
Matthew 16:26: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul (life)? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul (life)? (Previously cited)
Mark 8:35: “For whoever wishes to save his life (soul) will lose it, but whoever loses his life (soul) for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Previously cited) (Refer also to verse 36)
1 Kings 17:21-22: “21 And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the LORD and said, ‘O LORD my God, I pray, let this child’s soul (life) come back to him.’ 22 Then the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul (the life) of the child came back to him, and he revived.”
Matthew 6:25: “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life (your soul), what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life (the soul) more than food and the body more than clothing?”
A person can lose their soul or life. Conversely, a person can gain their soul or life.
Genesis 19:17: “So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, ‘Escape for your life (your soul)! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.'”
Judges 9:17: “for my father fought for you, risked his life (his soul) and delivered you out of the hand of Midian;”
Matthew 10:28: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell (Gehenna, the lake of fire).”
Matthew 16:26: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul (life)? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul (life)?”
Mark 8:35: “For whoever wishes to save his life (soul) will lose it, but whoever loses his life (soul) for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Refer also to verse 36)
Luke 21:19: “By your patience (steadfastness and endurance) possess (win or gain) your souls.”
James 1:21: “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
James 5:19-20: “19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 1:7-9: “7. . . Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith — the salvation of your souls.”
The human soul dies and can be killed.
Leviticus 23:30: “And any person (soul) who does any work on that same day, that person (soul) I will destroy from among his people.”
Numbers 23:10: “Who can count the dust of Jacob, or number one-fourth of Israel? Let me (my soul) die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his!”
Deuteronomy 19:21: “Your eye shall not pity; life (soul) shall be for life (soul), eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”
Isaiah 53:12: “Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul (His life or life blood) unto death. And He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Ezekiel 18:4: “Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die.”
Mark 14:34: “Then He (Jesus) said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.'”
Luke 6:9: “Then Jesus said to them, ‘I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life (a soul) or to destroy?'”
Acts 2:23 &27: “23 Him (Jesus), being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; Whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. 27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades (Hell or the grave). Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”
Acts 3:23: “And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet (Christ) shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.”
James 5:20: “let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”
Revelation 6:9 “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the alter the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.”
Revelation 20:4: “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”
Animals are referred to as souls. Animals as souls also die.
Genesis 1:20-21 & 24: “20 Then God said, ‘Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures (living souls).’ 21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing (living soul) that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 24 Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth the living creature (living soul) according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind;’ and it was so.”
Numbers 31:28: “And levy a tribute for the LORD on the men of war who went out to battle: one of every five hundred of the persons (souls), the cattle, the donkeys, and the sheep;”
Genesis 7:21-22: “21 And all flesh ceased to breathe that moved upon the earth — fowls and birds, [tame] animals, [wild] beasts, all swarming and creeping things that swarm and creep upon the land, and all mankind. 22 Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils were the breath and spirit of life died.” (Previously cited, Amplified Version)
Revelation 16:3: “Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature (living soul) in the sea died.”
Humans (as souls) have no superiority over the animals. As the one dies, so does the other.
Ecclesiastes 3:19-21: “19 For that which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts; even [in the end] one thing befalls them both. As the one dies, so dies the other. Yes, they all have one breath and spirit, so that a man has no preeminence (superiority) over a beast; for all is vanity [emptiness, falsity, and futility]! 20 All go to one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. 21 Who knows the spirit of man, whether it goes upward, and the spirit of the beast, whether it goes downward to the earth?” (Previously cited, Amplified Version)
Souls have blood.
Genesis 9:5-6: “5 Surely for your lifeblood (the blood of your souls) I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life (the soul) of man. 6 Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.”
Jeremiah 2:34: “Also on your skirts is found the blood of the lives (souls) of the poor innocents. I have not found it by secret search, but plainly on all these things.”
Ezekiel 22:27: “Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people (souls), and to get dishonest gain.”
The life or soul is in the blood.
Genesis 9:4: “But you shall not eat flesh with its life (its soul), that is its blood.”
Leviticus 17:11-12 & 14: “11 For the life (the soul) of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the alter to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul. 12 Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘No one among you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood. 14 for it is the life (the soul) of all flesh. Its blood sustains its life. Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the life (the soul) of all flesh is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.'”
Deuteronomy 12:23: “Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life (the soul); you may not eat the life (the soul) with the meat.”
Jesus gave up His life or soul as a ransom for all. Jesus’s soul would also represent his shed blood, which was poured out on our behalf.
Psalms 16:10: “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol (the grave). Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”
Isaiah 53:12: “Because He poured out His soul (His life or lifeblood) unto death.”
Matthew 20:28: “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life (His soul or lifeblood) a ransom for many.”
John 10:15: “Even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life (My soul) for the sheep.”
Acts 2:27 &31: “27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades (Hell or the grave). Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.”
There is a distinction between spirit, soul, and body.
1 Thessalonians 5:23: “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.”
Hebrews 4:12: “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.”
Job 12:9-10: “9 Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this, 10 In whose hand is the life (the soul) of every living thing, And the breath (the spirit) of all mankind?” (Previously cited)
(All of the above quotes are from the New King James Version, unless otherwise stated)
Understanding the truth found in God’s Word, concerning the distinction between the body, the soul, and the spirit, helps to clarify much of the doctrinal error and misconception that has existed over the centuries. Much of this confusion was due to the infiltration of pagan-Greek philosophy (ex. Plato and Socrates), which had found its way into the early church by the fourth century. Here are some examples:
1. The confusion in the belief that the soul and the spirit are one and the same.
2. That at death, the spirit or soul (being immaterial, divine, and immortal) departs into an invisible world or after life of blissful consciousness.
The Encyclopedia Britannica states: “Christian concepts of a body-soul dichotomy originated with the ancient Greeks and were introduced into Christian theology at an early date by St. Gregory of Nyssa and by St. Augustine. . . The early Christian philosophers adopted the Greek concept of the soul’s immortality and thought of the soul as being created by God and infused into the body at conception.”
None of this pagan philosophy is taught in the Old Testament or the New Testament. What we find in scripture is:
1. That the the spirit, the soul, and the body are distinct.
2. That the spirit is simply the breath or life force that returns to God at death.
3. That the soul constitutes the person (being) or the life we have as a person. This would include all of the mental, emotional, sensual, and passionate properties that a person possesses.
4. That the soul or person is mortal and can die or be killed. Conversely, the soul or person can be saved and gain eternal life.
5. That the body is simply the physical or natural man that is also mortal and dies.
The Apostles clearly foretold that there would be an apostasy or falling away from the faith and that this would occur after their passing. This falling away from the faith or apostasy was a result of false teachers, pagan philosophy, and teachings of demons that infiltrated the church during the first four centuries. (See also Acts 20:20 & 30, 1 Timothy 4:1-5, 2 Timothy 4:3-4, & 2 Peter 2:1-3)
The preponderance of the above scriptural evidence gives testimony to the truth, regarding the spirit, soul, and body as found in God’s Holy Word.
*Additions in brackets with red print are intended for clarification or represent variations in renderings from other translations or the original languages.