SOUL: -- The use of words in any language can be confusing because each one has many applications. Many words in English have as many as 5 to 10 definitions because of the setting in which they are used.

This is no less true in Greek. We know that many Greek words have specific meanings, but they have many different uses. Baptism is an example. The word is applied to "water" baptism for the remission of sins, to Holy Spirit baptism to inspire the apostles, and the baptism of fire as an expression of God's eternal wrath.

Until Bible students grasp this fact, they will struggle with words like "soul" and "spirit," as well as other New Testament terms. Soul, for example, means "life," but it describes different kinds of life. Nephesh the Hebrew word for "soul" or "life" denotes the life of an animal which ends in death (Gen. 1:30) and the life of God which is eternal (Isa. 1:14).

Of man "soul" sometimes describes physical life that can be killed and spiritual life that no man can destroy (Jos. 10: 30,31; Matt. 10:28). Man can end the physical life of a man, but cannot snuff out the spiritual life that returns to God Who gave it (Ecc. 12:7).

SPIRIT: -- The word "spirit," as the term "soul," has a specific meaning, but denotes a variety of physical phenomena. The word essentially means "wind" or "breath" and is sometimes used to refer to those very matters. Jesus used the Greek word pneuma, the word for "spirit," when He spoke of the "wind" blowing (Jno. 3:8). It is also translated "breath" when Paul speaks of Jesus slaying the lawless one by the "breath of His mouth" (2 Thes. 2:8).

But much more than wind or breath is intended when Jesus commends His "spirit" into the hands of God for safe keeping or when Stephen prays, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Lk. 23:46; Acts 7:59). It obviously , in these cases, describes the inward man that returns to God (Eccl. 12:7), is conscious beyond the burial of the body, and rests in Hades until the time of judgment (Lk. 16:19-31).

The same word is also used by New Testament writers when they speak of the Holy Spirit, Who is identified as a person and referred to by the personal pronoun "He" (see Matt. 28:19; Jno. 16:7).

Only the context can determine the different uses and meanings of "soul" and "spirit" when applied to man to denote his physical or spiritual life.

By L.A. Stauffer in Son Rays, Vol. 29, No. 21, August 19, 2007.

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