Is there a difference between a person’s soul and spirit?
This question arises from such passages as 1 Thess. 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12. It relates to the immaterial part of man.
Three theories have been advanced:
Pre-existence. Transmigration of souls underlies this theory.
Creation. Soul and spirit are created at birth (or, in the Case of Adam, at creation).
Traducian. Soul and spirit are generated the same as the body.
The distinction generally made between body and soul is: body relates to the temporal part of man and that which is related to it such as life, physical activity, and mental activity such as emotion; spirit relates to that part of man related to worship, communion, and divine influence, i.e., the eternal part of man.
Scripture does not always distinguish between the soul and spirit. It attributes the same function to both. Cf. Mark 8:12; John 11:33 and 13:21 with Matt. 26:38 and John 12:27; 1 Cor. 16:18 and 2: Cor. 7:13 with Matt. 11:29; 2 Cor. 7:1 with 1 Pet. 2:11; 1 Thess 5:23 with Heb. 10:39; James 5:20 with 1 Cor. 5:5 and 1 Pet. 4:5.
The dead are referred to by both terms. Cf. Gen. 35:18; 1 Kings 17:21; John 10:17; Acts 2:27, 31; 20:10; Rev. 6:9; Rev. 20:4 with Matt.27:50; John 19:30; Acts 5:5, 10; Heb. 12:23; 1 Pet. 3:18.
God is said to be soul (Isa. 42:1; Jer. 9:9; Amos 6:8; Matt. 12:18; Heb. 10:38) and spirit (John 4:24).
However, soul and spirit are not always interchangeable. For example, the soul is said to be lost, but the spirit is not. The Spirit bears witness with our spirit, but not our soul (Rom. 8:16). See also, 1 Cor. 2:14-15 and Jude 19 where “sensual” is defined as “having not the Spirit.”
When no technical distinctions are in view the Bible is dichotomous (soul and spirit); otherwise is it trichotomous (body, soul, and spirit). See Matt. 10:28; Acts 2:31; Rom. 8:10; 1 Cor. 5:3; 6:20; 7:34; James 2:26; 1 Pet. 2:11; 1 Thess. 5:23.
You Must Hear the Gospel
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
You Must Believe
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You Must Repent
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You Must Confess
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
You Must Be Baptized
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
You Must Be Faithful Unto Death
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)