Question: Could you please explain to me whether the soul and spirit are the same? If they are, why does the Word make a distinction between the two?
Response: First Thessalonians 5:23 clearly states, “I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless….” How might one differentiate between the soul and spirit? Hebrews:4:12 tells us that the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the “dividing asunder of soul and spirit.” There is a distinction between soul and spirit and it takes an extremely sharp (i.e., supernatural) instrument to discern it. Consequently, any attempt at human definition must fall short. The soul is said to include the mind, the will, and the emotions. Jesus, in His humanity, said that His soul was “exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death…” (Matthew:26:38. See also Job:10:1, Psalm:119:28, Zechariah:11:8, etc.).
Some might point out that Jesus was also troubled in His spirit: “When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you that one of you shall betray me” (John:13:21). It is clear that the spirit addresses issues beyond the mind, the will, and the emotions.
When He was dying on the Cross, Jesus committed His “spirit” into His Father’s hands (Luke:23:46). As for the human spirit, we know that at death it returns to the Lord who gave it (Ecclesiastes:12:7; 2 Corinthians:5:8, Philippians:1:23). It was “souls” that stood before God. “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God” (Revelation:20:4). Although Scripture gives us no exact definitions of soul and spirit, from the verses quoted and many others, we are assured that they are different parts of the makeup of humans.