If you assume they are both the same thing then reading the Bible can be a confusing exercise in frustration. But understanding the difference between the two really helps unlock much of the New Testament.
Three Part Beings
The Bible teaches that each of us has three parts: spirit, soul and body.
Paul mentions all three in one verse.
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.— 1 Thessalonians 5:23
Our body is the easiest part to understand because it’s the part we see. Our body is the flesh and bones we walk around in.
Everything physical is our body. Our skin and bones, muscles, nerves, blood, hair, etc., all make up our bodies.
This is the part of us that decays over time and will eventually cease functioning when we die.
Our soul is our mind, will and emotions. This is the part where we think and feel. It’s where we plan and organize, the part of us that stays focused or gets distracted. Our soul feels pleasure or perceives hurts from others.
Our soul can be energized or discouraged. It’s where we form words to communicate with others. And it’s where our personality comes to life.
It is in our soul that we become anxious or we rest peacefully. It’s where we worry about bad things or meditate on good things.
We are all created as spiritual beings too. Because our spirits are intangible and usually have no direct manifestation in this world, this part gets overlooked and discounted by many folks.
It is in our spirit that the Spirit of God comes to reside when we become new creations upon accepting the payment Jesus made for our sins. When that happens our spirit comes to life because it is finally connected to its intended power source.
The Bible teaches that our spirit is made perfect and sealed the moment we are born again.
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise— Ephesians 1:13
Together Spirit Soul and Body
When we put it all together we begin to see that at the very center of our being is our spirit which is surrounded by our soul. Then the whole package resides in these earthly bodies for this life.
We are a spirit with a soul that resides in a body.
It is our spirit and our soul that are immortal and will live forever, long after our earthly bodies are dead and buried.
In the meantime as believers we are in the process of renewing our minds and transforming our souls so that they line up more and more with our already perfect spirits. The only way to do that is to learn the Truth found in scripture to such a point that we “own” it. Then we will find we change naturally and behave in godly ways without working at it.
The effort is in putting the time to learn what the Bible truly says about who we are in Christ once we’re born again. When we’ve done that, the rest of the change comes almost effortlessly.
Difference Between Soul and Spirit Opens Scripture
Now that you see the difference between your soul and your spirit, take another look at the New Testament. I think you’ll find that many things you didn’t understand before make a whole lot more sense now.