What is the soul?

What makes a person a person? The Bible says a person is a being comprised of several distinct, yet related parts. The greatest command says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” (Matthew 22:37) A person is to love God with all his soul.

Scripture speaks of the soul over 400 times. The first time is in Genesis 2:7. When God breathed the breath of life into ma, man became a living soul. He became a living being. The first mention of the soul reveals that it is the life principle of a person. The soul is that which makes the body alive. When the soul departs, the body dies.

The soul is more than life. Soul is used to describe the personality, desires, intelligence, feelings and natural talents of the person. The Bible does not draw neat distinctions between the various parts of a person. The organs of a man can be easily distinguished and divided from one another. The nature of man is not so easily divided. Man has a heart, a mind, a will, a soul, a spirit, and a body. All these, and others, are interwoven together in such a way that we cannot readily distinguish where the soul leaves off and another part begins. Essentially, the soul is the part of a person that makes him who he is. Charles Ryrie said, “Soul can mean the whole person alive or after death. It can designate the immaterial part of a person with its many feelings and emotions.”

The soul is not discoverable by medical tests. An MRI or CAT scan will not reveal the soul. Nonetheless, the soul is a real part of man. The working of the soul is seen in the self-realization of a person. The ability to identify one’s self as a living being, distinct from others and from God is a result of having a soul. The ability to identify one’s self as something other than the body is evidence that man possesses an immaterial part, a soul.

Though the soul is different from the body, it is not disconnected from the body. The body and soul are directly related to one another. What affects one affects the other. A tired person tends to get angry more easily. A depressed person tends to feel tired. Man is a creature both physical and spiritual. We must not disregard the interaction between the soul and the body.

At death the soul is separated from the body. The soul immediately enters heaven or hell. Consciousness remains(Luke 16:19-31), but the person is not a whole being. This is why the Christian looks forward to the resurrection when the soul and body are reunited.

Man is a living soul who will have an eternal existence somewhere. Those who do not believe Jesus will suffer eternal, conscious torment separated forever from God. Those who trust Christ for salvation will enjoy eternal delight with Him.

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