Hebrews 4:12 indicates that it is very difficult to distinguish between the spirit and the soul. By definition the spirit is “the vital principle by which the body is animated…the power by which a human being feels, thinks, wills, decides.” (Thayer Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 520). The soul is “so constituted that by the right use of the aids offered it by God it can attain its highest end and secure eternal blessedness…the soul is regarded as a moral being designed for everlasting life.” (Thayer, p 677). The spirit therefore, is what God gives to man, that force that sets man apart from animals, and as a result of this spirit being given, man has an external soul.
The soul is individualistic. Every person possesses a soul. When God breathed into man the breath of life in the Garden and gave man his spirit, man then became the possessor of a soul. The individuals in the Garden that possessed this soul then sinned, made a choice and disobeyed God. The individuals were accountable for their actions and punishment was meted out. Each individual is accountable before God (Rom. 2:9; II Cor. 5:10) and as such each individual will one day give an account before God.
The soul is also immortal – it will live forever. Jesus tells us that we should not fear one that can kill the physical body but the one that can destroy the spiritual body and cast it into hell. (Matt. 10:28) Thus, man’s spiritual soul, his immortal being, cannot die. The Bible says that the soul has the choice of determining where it will spend eternity. By definition the soul must use the “aids offered it by God” to obtain “eternal blessedness.”
The soul is also something of value. The Bible tells us that all souls commit sin (Rom. 3:23). Christ came into the world to save sinners (Luke 19:10). He did this by dying on the cross. Many passages tell us that He died for the sins of the whole world. This makes the soul, each soul valuable. Christ would not have come just to give us good teachings or show us mighty works. Christ came for a purpose, the saving of souls. Just as we will sacrifice all that we have to gain material wealth, Jesus sacrificed all to gain the most precious thing, men’s souls. Christ knew the importance of a single soul, and he loved the souls of all men enough to come to earth and die for each and every one of these souls.
What is a soul? It is a part of each individual that determines where it will spend eternity and being immortal will spend eternity in either heaven or hell. The soul is so valuable that Jesus died for all of the souls in the world. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)