What You'll Discover in this Episode:

God’s Word Divides Soul and Spirit

This phrase, “piercing even to the division of soul and spirit” is an interesting one.  Scripture, at times, uses the terms “soul” and “spirit” almost synonymously to refer to the immaterial part of man.  

But they are not interchangeable terms in every way.  There are times when the scriptures separate them, making it very obvious that these are two separate issues. We know from the context here, for example, that soul and spirit are not just two words saying the same thing.  

How do we know that? Because the Word of God is piercing even to the division of soul and spirit. The Word of God separates soul and spirit, distinguishing between the two. 

There is an enormous need in the American church world for the Word of God to cut deeply to the dividing of soul and spirit. Because the Word of God has not been given its place to rightly divide these things, there is much confusion over soulishness and true spirituality.

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  • I like the examination of the piercing Word of God. I’ve often hear people read this verse, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12)…and they often stop at the first part, that it is “sharper than any two-edged sword”. We really miss out on a lot if we stop there! Pastor Jeff, you pointed out that we tend to exalt PHD’s and degrees or certifications above the Word of God; we consider people experts in human behavior and forget about the importance of addressing things beyond behavior modifcation. Like you mentioned, John 6:63 reminds us that what we seek to do in the flesh profits nothing. I know that by God’s grace he can redeem anything, but what a waste it is to place our efforts and trust in formulas and procedures (I’ll admit, I am a fan of how-to’s and to-do’s, and too often without the Truth of His Word) and supplement or altogether ignore scripture, rather than seek to see His Spirit do a work in us from the inside out. I think people like the instant gratification of seeing immediate results instead of allowing the refining process to produce true and lasting fruit. What a great reminder to consider the power and sufficiency of scripture as we seek to counsel and disciple others. I keep thinking about Proverbs 3:5-6. It is not up to us to figure everything out and rely on our knowledge or resources bu to truly trust in God and His word. Not our understanding, but His.

  • In counseling I think it is so important to consider what we are discipling in those we speak to. Are we cultivating soulish understanding or Spirit truth? They can be deceptively similar. We can work toward a goal with the methodology of training man’s mind, or we can work toward the same goal through the use of the Word, cultivating the Spirit of truth. We have will power, which can help make some change, but as Christ followers we must draw from the will of the Holy Spirit. Our mind, emotions and will are our soul, in Christ we can live in the Spirit, drawing on His resources rather than relying on our own resources.

  • Hebrew 4:12 tells us that God’s Word is sharper than a two-edged sword. Because we don’t understand what a two-edged sword is, we lose some of the meaning of the verse. The Word is so sharp it goes even to the soul and spirit. There is a distinction between the soul and spirit. The soul is the independent self life and needs to be renounced. Jesus tells us the spirit gives life. The difference between soul and spirit is the difference between man at work and God at work. We need to distinguish between the flesh and the spirit. John 6:63 reminds us we are beneficiaries of His grace.

  • Thank you Pastor Jeff for this pod cast about the Word of God being more sharper then a two – edge sword. The Word of God is living and powerful it can cut down deep to our soul in our life it can go deeper then a two edge sword. I agree with how he says the Word of God is the final authority the source of life it gives us direction and shows us how to get to the core of what’s in your heart. God’s Word can divide our soul and spirit and help us get to the core of everything. Many times when I’m confused or feeling lost and have no direction I go to the
    Word of God and it helps me get the direction I need to get back on track and the Holy Spirit also leads me thru the Word at times I’m feeling lost and confused.

  • I liked what was said about the two edged sword. What does it mean to be a sharp two edged sword in the world today? Maybe a surgeon’s knife, a weapon for war, but whatever it can compare to, the fact is it is demonstrated how the Word can cut deep into a person’s heart, as deep as is needed. The philosophies and analyzing of the world can seem like they would pierce our hearts and be able to rightly determine truths, but to quote Pastor Jeff, they are “pathetically dull” and can’t really cut anything. So, with this perspective, where should we look to determine truth?

  • Thank you Pastor Jeff for sharing this insight. In fact, the Lord has been reminding me lately that His Word is sharp and far more powerful than any and all forces against me. The visual reminder shared during the podcast about the two edged sword being an effective instrument of protection in war is a great reminder and helps to put this verse into perspective. I pray to remember this truth as I go through daily life. First remembering that we are at constant battle against the one that lives to kill, steal and destroy us, then to remember that I am equipped with the sharp and powerful Word of God.

    In addition I find it interesting that you brought up the fact that many in the church are living a life with mere outward behavior modifications. I work and live at a bible college where I disciple and counsel many of the students. The more time I spend with many of them the more I notice how well they put on the mask, speak the Christian lingo and wear the Christian culture like a trend. Unfortunately there is little to no true convictions or heart work taking place. This results in a lot of disappointment and self condemnation when they mess up because unfortunately they’ve been relying on their own strength to remain within the “christian conduct guidelines”. I’m praying they come to realize that the flesh profits nothing and they need Jesus to fill and redirect their lives. They need His Holy Spirit to transform them and fill them.

    • You state the problem so well. Too often people “wear the Christian culture like a trend”. I see it modeled in our churches and especially evident in our youth. They are living out the warning in 2 Timothy 3:5. Living a form of godliness, but denying its power.

    • Hey Brittany! 🙂 What a great reminder it is that God is the one that transforms, and a relief that He is the one doing the work from the inside out. It is a good reminder that we carry a weapon-sharper that any two-edged sword! I just keep thinking that soldiers needed training to carry a weapon like that! How sweet it is to think that God equips us for even intense battle, and at the same time is working on our hearts and souls to be more like Him.

  • The double edged sword was a prize possession to a soldier in that day. It illustrates the versatility of the Word of God as it relates to the spiritual warfare that we are a part of today. The sharpness and power behind it is of God as we use it to attack principalities powers of the enemy. But it first must be applied to our own lives before we can properly use it ourselves. It divides the spirit from the flesh. It cuts deep and exposes our thoughts and the real intents of our hearts. When we allow it to do surgery on us we can grow and mature, learning to use it to help others.

    • Yes, we tend to give too much credit to the tactics of the enemy and they are no powerful or sharp. And yet we often don’t seek the one thing that is most powerful and sharpest, the Word of God.

  • We are not able to comprehend and understand intellectually, all the mysteries of our Lord and HIs ways but through the Holy Spirit, we can receive Revelation. Only the Spirit gives us spiritual life (John 3:6) without the work of the holy spirit we cannot even see our own need for the Spirit, his love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness (John 14:17) made available through the cross and the death of His Son. All spiritual renewal begins and ends with only God. As He reveals the truth to us and works within us, we can now respond to that truth and live in that confident hope.

  • The Word is Sharp! It is important to know that there is a difference here when the writer says that it is “living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword…” The easy interpretation is incomplete. It is easiest to assume that living, powerful, and sharp are all meant to say convey the same thing like if I said my car was “fast, quick, and speedy.” However, there is nuanced differences between them, and they all add collectively to the description of what God’s Word is and is meant for. It is alive, powerful and it is sharp too. It is sharp in that it can help you to separate and discern what is spirit, and what is flesh… what is of God and what is of the Enemy. The Word helps us to see into the deeper things hidden behind the scenes. We are called to discern things, test the spirits, and compare what is taught to us to the living Word. It will then help us to separate what’s what.

    • Excellent points, Alejandro.

      I was in a discussion yesterday with a couple pastors about how do people discern whether or not they are deceived, or are walking in darkness. Clearly, most of them don’t know that they are walking in darkness or that they are deceived because, well, there are deceived.
      However, if we test all things by the Spirit and the Word of God we can determine if we are being deceived, even if we have been unaware. The Word of God is sharp and is able to discern, and I love how you acknowledged the importance of using Scripture to discern what is spiritual and what is of the flesh.

    • You make a great point. Slowing down and reading those words again slowly brings out a depth of meaning for each one. Too often society as a whole is swung by an emotional response rather than testing their feelings and truth by the Word of truth.

  • Another great podcast Pastor Jeff, thank you! I love the reminder of how decisive the Word is and what a gift that God has given us in it. There are so many seemingly gray areas in our culture, and things that also are directly in opposition to moral rightness. Our God gave us His word so that we can truly know what is right and wrong, and, help to reaffirm the things that the world would have us question. Anytime I am confused on an issue, I know the Lord has an answer for me.

    • April, I am convinced that trying to help others as well as ourselves without the wisdom of the Word of God is completely futile.

    • Thank you for sharing April. I am in total agreement! I am so grateful that the Lord has given us His Word. The world is so loud and constantly pushing agendas that are more and more hard to ignore as we constantly have our phones in our hands, our computers in our faces and our TV’s on. The importance of staying in our Word and guard our eyes, ears and mouths from the chaos and confusion in the world is so vital. If it weren’t for the Word of God that gives us clarity, peace, reassurance, guidance and everything else we need, we’d be sinking rapidly.

    • Right! April this is a good thought. That with all the confusion and gray areas in our world. What a blessing to have the word that brings clarity even down to the joints and marrow of our being.

      I will admit even though I know God has a word in everything sometimes it is hard to find out what I need a word on or where to find it. But even then he is faithful and there is so much hope in the assurance that we KNOW he has the answers.

  • Great insight into the battle of the Spirit and the flesh.

    “The soul is the arena of the flesh of man, the intellect, the will, the personality, that’s the part of man that needs to be renounced, the self life, that independent self life, that’s independent from God, needs to be put death and renounced. That Christ would be at work in me and that I would have the mind of Christ and not leaning on my own understanding, intellect and ability.”
    “The Spirit gives life the flesh profits nothing.” John 6:63.

    We need to draw on the resources of God his Holy Spirit, the life of God over the fleshly resource of self.
    Great warning about not depending on the soul or fleshly resources especially if we are in ministry it could be easy to stray back into fleshly reliance and quench the work of the Holy Spirit.

    God must receive the glory that is due to him, not man.

    • Great Job restating that quote from Pastor Jeff. That same line of sentences spoke to me as well. The Self-Life is what we are called to give up in order to have a Christ-Focused life that will be fulfilling and enjoyable. Its just as Jesus said it, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it”(Matt 16:25). The best thing we can do for ourselves is stop focusing on ourselves and find life in Christ. It is a “battle” as you put it. I think that might have been part of what Paul was thinking about when he said that the Word was a sword.

      • Ya very true Alejandro I found what Jeff said extremely powerful.
        I want more of Christ in my life and less of self so using the word of God is the way to put off self and put on Christ. Ephesians 4:22-24. (Not many churches teach this)

        The word is so powerful that it divides the soul and Spirit so the word reveals to us the fleshly issues that we have like pride, doubt, sins and we can repent and turn to Christ again and again for his help.

        Even yesterday I felt this fleshly battle, I was shopping for some new jeans and I looked in the mirror and the flesh was telling me how bad I look ha, ha. The flesh is strong to bring discouragement that would cause us to back off from reaching out to the lost.

        Anyway I said: “I am significant in Christ” Standing, reading the verse Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

        We can used bible verses to strengthen, build ourselves up in Christ.

    • What a blessing it is that God’s resources are multi-faceted! His Word is a weapon and a refining tool. He uses it to equip us and by His Spirit sanctify and change us. I love that brought up the reminder to draw on His resources instead of our fleshly desires. We already know they are insufficient, and that His resources are perfect and in abundance. And what a great reminder that it is always for His glory, not ours. (and yet, even in His glory He still refines and blesses us!)

  • Amen! This podcast was so powerful, thank you Professor for the many points you made. I agree that the word of God is powerful unlike any other source, particularly when it is applied by the Holy Spirit. I love the description of the two edged sword and thank you for going back historically to give us a greater understanding of its power. The Bible is described as that, powerful, sharp, and able to cut and divide.

    I also agree regarding the distinction between a soul and spirit. I think from personal experience when I look back on my Christian walk, I can see the times when I have attempted to minister in my own ways and in my own strength. Yet, it ended in discouragement, frustration, disillusionment, and exhaustion. When God ministers through me it is by His Spirit and not my might, and the fruit is always good if I am walking in the Spirit.

    Yes, I believe an education can be beneficial and a degree is a worthy thing to be sought, but it is no match for a born-again believer who is committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and to His will before all else.

    • Hi Tom. I agree with you that I am sure as we all reflect on the way we try to do things in our strength, we become frustrated, discouraged and exhausted. It is a powerful reminder that we need to be dependent on the Holy Spirit. When we are in the spirit and relying in Him, we are able to accomplish so much more for the kingdom and all the negative feelings are gone as we are filled by Him. I am thankful for this reminder as we continue to grow and learn from His word and messages lies this!

    • Right Tom. often in the past I have opened my eyes finding myself off the road in the middle of the weeds. only to realize I put myself there under my own power. Then it’s time to get right, get back on the road and follow the Spirit.

    • Hi Tom… I can relate to what you said in regards to looking back, “when I look back on my Christian walk, I can see the times when I have attempted to minister in my own ways and in my own strength. Yet, it ended in discouragement, frustration, disillusionment, and exhaustion.” Many times along the way I have done this same very thing…Was that God telling me to lay hands on that individual and pray for them, or was that my flesh/soul? Is this the Holy Spirit prompting me to give my money away, or am I feeling sorry for someone? Did God actually prompt me to give a word, or is my pride/soul rising up…again? It is true, hindsight is always 20/20, and the latent power of the soul is very real. Praise God for His patience, and for His blessing…even in our ignorance He shows Himself faithful.

  • What an interesting podcast. Commenting on the first thing Pastor Jeff said, there is often a disconnect between readers and the Word of God because of the lack of context surrounding a passage. Speaking of Hebrews 4:12, how powerful and sharp God’s Word is can only be understood depending on the knowledge of how useful and effective 2-edged swords are. In the author’s time, these instruments of warfare were carefully designed and meant to cut things through.

    Regarding the teaching on the soul and spirit, there is critical importance in learning how to operate out of the spirit that is in touch with God’s Holy Spirit. Operating our of the soul spells disaster to those trying to live in the way that God desires His children to walk.

  • Great podcast! A characteristic of the word of God is that it is sharp!

    We should know how to rightly divide the word of God.

    In roman times the double edge sword was an effective tool for war.
    I was impacted by the imagery of thinking of a soldier’s knife, as being compared today to a surgeon’s knife. This really portrayed a powerful picture to me. I have a roommate who is a doctor and I am always amazed by how she uses her knowledge to help people physically. It sobers me to think God has given us a sharp tool to go deep into peoples hearts, the division of the soul and spirit. A “spiritual surgeon” so to speak. Only by His grace!

    Luckily, the solution is always Jesus and what He says in the word.

    Similarly to what you say Pastor Jeff, I know a biblical counselor who mentioned to me that our culture has really created an atmosphere where they are satisfied with a quick pat answer, they lack the ability to think critically.

    We have so many quick opinions about life, but we want to go to the Source!

    • I appreciate your great insight Hannah! I agree that we are fortunate that the Lord has given us a way to learn and speak the truth even though at times it was painful. Our culture is about “quick fixes” and we lose the opportunity to grow and learn. As we grow through the trials of life, we are building and growing or faith. Yes, we do need to go to the source as it will be the only place, we can get the guidance and answers we are searching for!

      • So true Amber that the culture today wants quick fixes and loses the opportunity to learn and grow. Trials are the times for our roots to go deeper and get stronger. When we keep our eyes on Jesus through the trial our faith is increased.

    • You hit it dead on! People are so troubled and yet want answers that are easy to swallow and solutions that take minimal effort. I think this is one way that we can discern whether or not our counseling sessions with people are being effective. I think if there is a restlessness about the amount of homework, length of sessions, or weeks it takes to really process, pinpoint and develop growth then there is sure to be a pride or reluctance to change.

  • Thank you Pastor Jeff for your comments on Hebrews 4:12. A great reminder in regards to not only the “sharpness” of God’s word, but as to why we need it. I like the idea that God’s word cuts deep (meaning that it is effective), and that we as Christians can and should apply it in making this continual division between soul and spirit. It’s so easy sometimes to mix the soulish in with the spiritual or vice versa, and even sometimes to get them confused. Satan is so tricky and/or deceiving in making man’s wisdom and even worship to appear effective, beneficial, and sometimes even spiritual. The strong emphasis on learning and knowing the difference between the two, and that we keep them separated ministered to me. Even in one’s own personal quiet time and/or devotion the soulish realm can creep in. This reminds me of how important it is to pray for discernment. Lord, help us all…to walk humbly… and sincerely… according to the spirit.

    • I definitely catch your drift with what you are saying. What’s interesting to me is how very similar the topic of the division of soul and spirit is to the topic of walking with the flesh and walking by the Spirit. I am not very fluent in understanding the topic taught by Pastor Jeff, but I am a bit more confident on the topic of walking by the Spirit (please correct me if I’m totally wrong). Paul in his letter to the Galatians detailed the fruit of walking by the flesh which entailed all sorts of ways man can sin and then detailed the fruit of the Spirit in contrast. To walk by the flesh was to be ineffective in living a pure life for God whereas walking by the Spirit was man can do to live a life of purity before the Lord.

      • Hi Josiah…yes very similar indeed and maybe somewhat the same. The way that I understand it is that the soul does, or can somewhat signify the carnal or fleshly side of man, (or maybe even the wickedness) and of course the spirit signifies the spirit or the spiritual part of man. So when you say that,
        “Paul in his letter to the Galatians detailed the fruit of walking by the flesh which entailed all sorts of ways man can sin and then detailed the fruit of the Spirit in contrast. To walk by the flesh was to be ineffective in living a pure life for God whereas walking by the Spirit was man can do to live a life of purity before the Lord.”
        You are absolutely correct. And yes, there is a direct conflict between the soul and the spirit, and the flesh and the spirit. However, it would seem that eventually both the soul and the flesh would have to submit to the spirit of God. Like you already emphasized, flesh and soul should be led by… the Spirit of God. “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver from this body of death? Romans 7:24

    • Thanks Jim I say amen to what you said in your statement : “This reminds me of how important it is to pray for discernment. Lord, help us all…to walk humbly… and sincerely… according to the spirit.”
      At times it is hard to discern if we are walking in the Spirit or the flesh because we have become so full of religion and church rituals.

      • Anne Marie, you are correct. We can get so comfortable with our rituals that we are not open to the leading of the Spirit. It takes the Word of God to help us to guide us into walking in the Spirit. That two edged sword will rightly divide us from our rituals and to follow the leading of the Spirit.

    • Thank you for sharing your response. This concept is very interesting and I’ve never heard it explained this way. However I do see this happening very frequently and never really had a title or explanation to give it. Many people talk about following their intuition or I see people experiencing very spiritual highs and believing they’ve tapped into something deeper that other Christians have not. I’ve always known this was off and that these people are dealing with something dangerous in the spiritual realm, deceived to believe it is the Spirit of God. I’ve always known it was a spirit and that, that spirit is not of the Lord. Considering that these individuals are in many cases lead by the desires of their soul and not the Spirit of God definitely makes sense.

    • Jim-

      Great insight here. It IS so easy for us to confuse soulish/spriritual issues, thoughts, intents, wisdom, etc. Even, as you said, in our own quiet times. We need the continual influence of the Word to properly combat this.

    • This is a great point Jim. I am hoping God gives me discernment in this area as it is hard for me to understand. The spirit brings life, joy, liberty and newness.

      It was so good to learn in the podcast that we are body, soul and spirit. It is interesting that we can steward each of these well , but that the lord is in control of all of them as we submit to Him.

    • That is so true it’s very important to always pray for discernment, and to always humble ourselves because Satan is really tricky even he can quote scripture he tricked eve in the garden. Twisted a few words around and had her believing what he was saying was true. We should always search our hearts and make sure what we are doing is in line with the Spirit and that we are not just doing what are flesh desires trying to turn things around and make everything ok, We should always go according to the Word and never try to rely on our own understand

  • I appreciate the follow up on last week’s message. It is so important that we learn that we can’t draw on our own ability instead of fully relying on the Lord. This belief is how I was raised, and I have been working diligently to learn to stop those thoughts or feelings, so I am able to allow the Lord to guide me and be the one to help me through difficult situations. I am thankful for the reminder of the verse Pastor Jeff shared from John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”

    There are so many churches now that are teaching the “name it and claim it” ministry. It is playing mind games and really sad how the people are being led astray from the truth. I am thankful for the strong Bible teachers I listen to weekly to speak truth and help in grow as a believer.

    • The verse John 6:63 reminds me of John 15:5 where Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” In regards to John 15:5, apparently, it is irresponsible to try and live for God without the power of God. To try and live for God is akin to a branch trying to produce fruit on its own without the the stem. The source of purity and holiness rests in God. To not depend on him is to neglect the power available to us for holiness.

    • I agree Autumn with what you said “It is so important that we learn that we can’t draw on our own ability instead of fully relying on the Lord.”
      As we depend on God more and more we will see him saving and restoring lives and that’s what I long to see. But It’s all of God not ourselves.

    • This is a struggle that we all have – drawing from our own ability or leaning on our own understanding. We read about amazing works of God in His Word, but yet still struggle with fully relying on Him. The head knowledge is there, but when it comes to walking it out in faith, we often fail.

    • Autumn, I agree with you about how sad it is that people are being led astray from the truth in the name it and claim it ministry. I too am so thankful for those who teach the Word of God.

    • I agree with you Autumn that we must learn we can’t draw off of our own ability. We must instead learn to fully rely on the Lord. Our feelings and emotions are deceiving and they lead us astray. Gods Word is true and pure and is the only guide we should go by because it never changes, it never leads us astray it draws us closer to Him, and the more we are led by the Spirit the more we will die to our flesh. When we have those trials and tribulations or temptations we will be led by the Spirit and not our flesh and in relying only on God we will be able to walk humbly to him and ask for the guidance we need to stand firm against the schemes of Satan

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