Holding to Truth

holding to truth in love for the building up of the Body of Christ

Podcast: How to Know the Difference Between the Soul and the Spirit


How can you know the difference between your soul and spirit?

Welcome to this Holding to Truth Podcast! Hi. I’m Tom Smith and in this podcast we’ll be considering one of our favorite topics on this blog: “The Difference Between the Soul and Spirit in the Bible.”

Click the link to listen to this podcast.

First, I’ll give four reasons why knowing the difference between our soul and our spirit is so important to our Christian life.

Second, I’ll show how God created us with three parts—spirit, soul, and body and how the soul and the spirit are different.

Third, I’ll mention a couple of ways we can practice to discern our spirit from our soul in our daily lives.

Four reasons why it is important to know the difference between the soul and the spirit

  1. To be born of God or born again is matter that takes place in our spirit; so our spirit is the residence of the Holy Spirit–John 3:6.
  2. To be assured of our salvation depends not only on faith in the Scriptures but also on the Spirit’s witnessing with our spirit that we are children of God–Rom. 8:16.
  3. To have a living contact with God, who is Spirit, we must use our spirit–John 4:24.
  4. To receive life from our Bible reading and study we must use our spirit by means of prayer to touch the Spirit as the essence of God’s word–John 6:63; 2 Tim. 3:16.

These four reasons should impress us with our need to learn to discern the difference between the soul and the spirit. But to grasp this difference, we need to see from the Bible how God made us with three parts.

God made us with three parts–spirit, soul, and body

First Thessalonians 5:23 tells us that we’re made of three parts–spirit, soul and body. This verse says,

“The God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We can illustrate our three parts with a bull’s-eye diagram of three circles:

The parts of man--body, soul, and spirit

  1. The outer circle refers to our body. Our body is our outer part containing our five senses with which we contact all the things of the physical, material realm.
  2. The middle circle refers to our soul. Our soul is our inner part containing our mind, emotion and will with which we contact all the things of the psychological realm.
  3. The inner circle refers to our spirit. Our spirit is our innermost part with which we contact God and substantiate all the things of the spiritual realm.

Our soul and spirit can be divided or discerned

Hebrews 4:12 says,

“For the word of God is living and operative and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit and of joints and marrow…”

From this verse we can pick up at least three points:

  1. We’re made of three parts: our body of “joints and marrow,” plus our soul and our spirit.
  2. Our soul and spirit are different because they can be divided.
  3. There is a practical way to divide, or discern, our spirit from our soul–God’s living Word.

Two ways we can apply to discern our spirit from our soul

Contact God’s living Word with prayer 

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that God’s living word is able to cut through our soul to divide it from our spirit. We should practice this every day by coming to the Bible in a prayerful way.

By reading a few verses or a chapter with prayer or pray-reading, God’s word will slay our troublesome thoughts and feelings enabling us to get to our spirit where we can enjoy fellowship with God. Try it every morning and evening.

Since the Spirit is the essence of God’s word, we should practice to contact the Scriptures with our spirit by means of prayer so that we touch its essence and receive the divine life contained in it.

Call on the name of the Lord Jesus 

First Corinthians 12:3 says, “No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit is now in our spirit, when we call on the Lord’s name we’re both in the Holy Spirit and in our spirit in which He dwells.

Whenever we feel inwardly dry or empty it’s good to call on His name–“Lord Jesus! Calling on the Lord will usher you into your spirit to enjoy fellowship with the Lord who lives there (2 Tim. 4:22).

“Lord Jesus, thank you for showing us that we were made with three parts–spirit, soul and body. Lord, teach us how to discern our spirit from our soul by praying with Your word and calling on Your name. Remind us to contact You in our spirit every day so that we enjoy You as our life and life supply and grow in our Christian life.”

If you’ve been helped to know the difference between your soul and spirit and discern the two in your experience, please confirm in a short comment. If you have questions about discerning soul and spirit, feel free to share that in a comment as well.

References and Further Reading:

About Tom Smith

Hi. My name is Tom Smith. I'm the writer behind Holding to Truth in Love, and I love the Lord Jesus and His life-giving Word. Please feel free to send me an e-mail through the contact page if you have any questions. I hope you'd take a moment to subscribe to the Holding to Truth blog. Then you'll be sure not to miss a post. Thanks!

12 Replies

  1. Edgar Hovhannisyan

    Amen! Wonderful! Thank you, dear Tom!

    1. I do confirm that i was helped to dissern my soul from my spirit thru those two ways: pray-reading God’s word and calling the name of the Lord. That time i was a student and Christians on campus helped me in this. Also, healthy felloship with Christians who know their spirit and live in the spirit has greatly helped me as a young person to know God and enjoy God in my spirit. Thank You, Lord, for this truth.

  2. Louise

    So enjoyable! Thank you for sharing…

  3. I came upon this audio excerpt from the Life Study of Philippians by Witness Lee, and it made me think of this podcast.

    “There is a big, big, big, big difference between the spirit and the soul”, when he was discussing the errors of different translations confusing the two terms. One to not use because of such errors: NASV.

    Not only do we need to exercise our spirit to enjoy the Lord, but eventually we need to allow Him to spread to our soul, that we could be “like-souled” (2:20) or “joined in soul” (2:2) because He has entered our mind, emotion, and will. Without this, it is impossible for Christians to be practically one.

    1. Tom Smith

      That’s right. “There is a big, big, big, big difference between the spirit and the soul.” We may take the distinction as a matter of symantics–like we’re just playing with words. But there is a practical difference between our spirit and soul that has a dramatic affect on our experience and enjoyment of Christ. By contacting the Lord in our spirit and with our spirit (2 Tim. 4:22), we’ll enjoy Him, He’ll grow in us and He will spread into our soul–our mind, emotion and will–to transform us (2 Cor. 3:18). This not only benefits us but more importantly carries out God’s purpose to gain a church that it the Body of Christ, the fullness of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23).

  4. titus

    thanks. for answering my questions.

  5. Racquel Shelton

    Hi Tom,
    I really like your 3 tiered circle that separates spirit from soul. I’ve created a modified version of that which I’d like to put in my book. May I have your permission?

    1. Tom Smith


      I’m glad you like the post with the 3 tiered circle that separates spirit from soul. I think you should be alright in using this diagram. However, it is not something that I invented or can take credit for. I got it from The Economy of God by Witness Lee, Chapters 3 and 6. You can read it online at: ministrybooks.org. Also, Mary McDonough, in her book God’s Plan of Redemption illustrates our three parts with the same diagram. Possibly others have done the same. So you should be alright to use them.

      1. Racquel

        Thanks Tom!

  6. Kathy

    Thank you, Tom! I now know there is truly a difference between soul and spirit. I, too, thought symantics. I enjoyed your podcast and look forward to more!

    1. Tom Smith

      Glad you enjoyed the podcast. Discovering that our spirit is different from our soul and learning to use our spirit is an awesome advance in our Christian life. It is with our spirit that the Spirit witnesses, assuring us that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16). It is by setting our mind on the spirit that we enjoy life and peace (v. 6). It is by walking according to this spirit that we satisfy God’s righteous requirements (v.4). It is also in our spirit that we can have the effective prayer and defeat God’s enemy (Eph. 6:18)…and so much more. I hope you’ll take a moment to check out the links to the verses and footnotes I’ve referenced. They are very enlightening. May the Lord, grant us a clear discernment of our spirit from our soul so that we can advance in Him to fulfill God’s purpose.

  7. Thank-you for this podcast, Tom. It is so clear from the Scriptures that man was made with 3 parts. It makes me wonder how the spirit and soul could have been confused so much.

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