Soul and Spirit
Text: I Thessalonians 5:11-23
I. Man is composed of three elements: body, soul, and spirit - I Thessalonians 5:23
A. The body is easy to define.
1. It has a physical dimension to it - Job 19:25-27
2. We understand that it is a container for something else that lives on after our physical bodies die - II Peter 1:13-14
B. However, the others — the soul and spirit – are harder to grasp - Hebrews 4:12
A. The word “spirit” in both the Hebrew (ruwach and neshamah) and the Greek (pneuma) literally means “wind.”
1. By analogy, it refers to the spirit. You cannot see the wind, but you can feel its effects. Similarly, you cannot see a spirit, but we see the effects.
2. In the Scriptures, the word “spirit” is used in a variety of ways. Its exact meaning in any particular context depends on how it is used.
B. The Holy Spirit
1. When the word “spirit” is combined with the word “holy,” we know that “spirit” refers to one part of the Godhead - Acts 5:3-4
2. Every reference to the Holy Spirit does not contain the word “holy.” - John 14:16-17,26
a. In this passage, we know what spirit is being referred to because the context defines the word
b. In other passages, the reference is harder to determine. Translators will capitalize the word “spirit” when they believe it refers to the Holy Spirit, but we must remember that translators are uninspired men and could be wrong.
(1) Just because the word “Spirit” is capitalized, do not assume it must be referring to the Holy Spirit
(2) See Romans 8:15,26-27 for a passage where people are uncertain.
3. The Holy Spirit’s name is appropriate. Unlike God the Father and God the Son, we don’t see direct interaction with God the Spirit, but we do see the effects of His work everywhere.
a. He inspired the Old Testament prophets - II Peter 1:20-21
b. Similarly, he taught and reminded the New Testament apostles - John 14:26
c. We see this promise fulfilled in Acts 2:4
d. The signs and wonders done through the power of the Holy Spirit confirmed the message delivered - Mark 16:20; I Corinthians 12:1-11
e. These miraculous signs ended when the need to confirm the Word ended - I Corinthians 13:8-13
C. Because of the direct work of the Holy Spirit in the bring of our Scriptures, the word “spirit” is also used to refer the work or the gift of the Holy Spirit
1. I Corinthians 14:30-33
a. We know “spirits” here does not refer to the Holy Spirit, who as God is not subject to any man.
b. Also the word “spirits” is plural, but there is only one Spirit - Ephesians 4:4
2. We can see the spirits of prophets in action - Revelation 22:6
3. The purpose of this gift was to build up the church - I Corinthians 14:4
a. Prophets were not grabbed by the Holy Spirit and thrown out of control in public assemblies as Pentecostals claim. Prophets were to exert control over their gift
b. Similarly, Christians were told to test the spirits to see if they were from God - I John 4:1-3
c. This testing is by comparing what was taught - I Corinthians 12:3
4. Likewise, false teachings is also referred to as spirits - I Timothy 4:1
D. This leads us to another set of spirits - Spirits of demons and angels
1. Demons, or sometimes called unclean spirits
a. Caused physical and mental infirmities
(1) Matthew 12:22 - blindness, loss of speech
(2) Mark 9:17-22 - deafness, loss of speech, convulsions
(3) Mark 5:1-5 - insanity
b. One woman prophesied by a demon - Acts 16:16
c. Demons are from Satan and Jesus demonstrated His power over them - Matthew 12:22-29.
d. Zechariah 13:1-2 - Demons and prophets would both be removed.
2. Angels — literally means “messenger”
a. They are called ministering spirits - Hebrews 1:13-14
b. They live in heaven - Matthew 24:36
c. They will come with Jesus at His return - II Thessalonians 1:7
d. They carry the spirits of the righteous to their reward - Luke 16:22
e. They are not always recognized - Judges 13:16; Hebrews 13:2
f. By when they are recognized, they caused the beholder to tremble in fear - Luke 2:9
g. They are active in fulfilling God’s desires - Acts 12:6-10
h. They are not omniscient - I Peter 1:12
i. We will be similar to angels in the resurrection - Matthew 22:30
j. They are not always righteous - II Peter 2:4; Jude 6
E. The spirit of man
1. Man was made in the image of God - Genesis 1:26-27
a. God is Spirit - John 4:24
b. God forms the spirit in man - Zechariah 12:1
2. It is the source of human thought
a. A man’s spirit knows his own thoughts - I Corinthians 2:11
b. Proverbs 20:27 - A man’s spirit searches the depth of his heart
3. It decides
a. Exodus 35:21 - spirits made willing
b. Acts 19:21 - Paul purposed in the spirit
c. Psalms 78:8 - Spirits not steadfast with God
d. John 4:23-24 - Must worship in spirit and in truth
e. Romans 1:9 - Paul served God in his spirit
4. It feels emotions
a. Genesis 41:8 - his spirit was troubled
b. I Samuel 1:15 - her spirit was sorrowful
c. Mark 8:11-12 - He sighed deeply in His spirit
5. It lives on after death
a. Ecclesiastes 12:7 - The spirit returns to God
b. Luke 23:46 - Jesus gave up His spirit to God
c. Acts 7:59 - Stephen gave up his spirit to Jesus
III. The Bible does not always used the word “spirit” to refer to a being. It can also refer to what that spirit does.
A. Spirit can refer to an attitude, feeling or state of mind
1. I Samuel 16:14
a. God would not send an evil being, but He would give a troubled state of mind
b. Notice that it was not removed by the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit, but by the playing of music. - I Samuel 16:23
c. Notice too that the opposite of an “evil spirit” was being “refreshed.”
2. Judges 9:23
a. Not referring to a demon running between the two parties
b. Referring to an attitude of enmity, hatred, and distrust.
3. Psalms 34:18 - A contrite spirit. Notice that heart and spirit are used interchangeably
4. Ecclesiastes 7:8-9 - A proud spirit, patient spirit, angry spirit
5. Romans 8:15
a. Bondage - an attitude that keeps a person in sin
b. Adaption - an attitude that accepts God - John 1:12
B. Spirit can refer to a pattern of thinking and living
1. II Corinthians 12:12-18 - Walk in the same spirit
2. II Kings 2:9-15 - Elisha inherited Elijah’s pattern of thoughts, actions, and abilities.
a. Similar to John - Luke 1:17
C. Spirit can refer to our breath, or our physical life - Ecclesiastes 3:19,21
D. Spirit can refer to our health - I Samuel 30:12; Judges 15:19
E. You must carefully consider the context before ascribing the meaning to the word “spirit”. Many false doctrines have been justified by ascribing the wrong meaning to a passage.
IV. Soul in the Hebrew (nephesh) and the Greek (psuche) literally means a breathing creature, or in other words life.
A. It can refer to the natural life in the body
1. Matthew 2:20 - the word for soul is translated as life.
2. Leviticus 17:11 - The same word is translated as both life and soul.
B. It can refer to any living, breathing creature
1. Revelation 16:3 - the death of men, fish, whales, etc.
2. I Corinthians 15:45 - man became a living creature.
C. By extension, it can refer to a person
1. We sometimes say, “There was not a soul at the meeting.”
2. Acts 2:41 - About 3,000 souls were added to the church
3. Romans 2:9-10 - every soul is equated to every man
4. Hebrews 10:38 - God refers to himself as “My soul”
5. John 10:24 - “our souls” is translated as “us”
6. [illustrate by having ellipse around soul overlap ellipse around body]
D. Because our life refers to us, it can be used to refer to our spirit living after death
1. Psalms 16:10 - God will not leave His son’s soul in Hades
2. Revelation 6:9-10 - the souls of martyred Christians under the altar
3. [illustrate by having ellipse around soul overlap ellipse around spirit]
E. The soul, too, can refer to the emotional feelings, perceptions, and attitudes of man
1. Matthew 11:29 - rest for weary souls
2. Matthew 26:38 - Jesus’ soul was sorrowful
3. Acts 14:2 - Souls were stirred up to an evil attitude
F. The soul, too, can refer to the seat of will, purpose, and decision making
1. Matthew 22:37 - Love God with all your soul
2. Ephesians 6:6 - here soul is translated as heart
V. As we mentioned earlier, it is difficult to distinguish between soul and spirit- Hebrews 4:12
A. While the Bible tells us they are two different things ( I Thessalonians 5:23), yet in usage we often overlap the meanings.
B. Once again we offer the souls here the opportunity to decide whether to serve the Lord.