There is much confusion in the body of Christ about this question primarily because most believers do not distinguish between the soul and the spirit. They are certainly NOT the same, nor are they interchangeable. Hebrews 4:12 points out the distinction, clearly suggesting that if we are to walk in the spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh—if we are to walk by faith and not by sight—if we are to crucify the flesh–then the soul and the flesh must be divided by the two-edged sword of the word of God.
In order to answer this question, we also need to have a sense of the differences and similarities between our soul and our spirits. There are quite a few similarities. Though the body is mortal, the spirit and the soul are both eternal. As the body is finite and material, both the soul and the spirit are invisible and without natural substance. As the body has five senses, the spirit and the soul have senses also.
The spirit is heaven bound. If it were not for the soul, the spirit would “fly away.” The body is earth-bound. The two meet and correspond with each other through the activity of the soul. So a basic definition of the soul is that the soul is the mediator between the spirit and the body—an interpreter. A control center, if you will, with the brain of the body as its command center.
A person who is alive yet brain-dead, is one whose spirit is still in his body but his soul has left. A body without a soul is dead so they turn off the plug and the spirit flies away. However, when the spirit leaves and the soul remains in the body, as long as the spirit does not travel too far into “outer space,” the soul keeps the body intact and alive. Out of body experiences are called astral travel by occultists. However, every day, the spirit often takes “little trips” through day dreaming and deeper forms of altered states of consciousness.
When the body is asleep, the soul is busy keeping things in order.
For example, when you are sleeping and your body gets the urge to urinate, the spirit will create a toilet in a very imaginary way. Because I take a water pill at night, this happens to me frequently. The soul tries to “help out” and I see the toilet in the spirit, but something always goes wrong. In a dream, I see myself making the effort, but the sensation in my body continues to increase and my soul continues to try to work things out in my mind, but a mental picture of urinating does not help the situation. So my soul simply wakes up my body and says, “hey Pam, you’d better get your body up before we have an accident in this bed.”
This little example shows how when you are sleeping, the body is at rest and therefore is at its weakest. The spirit and the soul often fight for control, at times manifested as a strange dream. Demons also try to send their messages to the soul and God will also communicate in dreams, but only to your spirit. While the spirit operates in the unconscious realm of intuition, the body in the conscious realm of the natural world, the soul functions in both realms. For this reason, the soul and the spirit of a born again, saved person must be divided, for God will only speak to your spirit.
Here is the thing. When the Holy Ghost draws us to Jesus, our spirits immediately become “born again.” That which is flesh is flesh. Flesh is a mixture of soul with the body. Flesh is also a mixture of soul with the spirit. So when God “saves us,”
He gives us a NEW SPIRIT. All of the darkness that was in our spirits BEFORE the Holy Ghost translates us out of darkness into God’s marvelous light, our spirits were depraved and contaminated with evil. That is why when we slept, we had so many nightmares. The evil that we saw was merely a reflection of our own dark spirits, contending with demons.
When our spirits are born again, all things pass away, all things become NEW. We become a “new creation.” God’s light comes into our spirits and our spirits become the temple of God. Our spirits are ALWAYS eternal, both before salvation and after it. Before the new birth, our spirits are in captivity to Satan. As soon as we say “yes” to the invitation of Jesus, our spirits are immediately changed, justified, sanctified, seated in heavenly places. We are “translated” or brought out of Satan’s dark jail into the marvelous light of Jesus Christ. To be sanctified is to be set apart for God’s use—a vessel of God. To be justified is to be treated as though we never sinned. We are washed and cleansed. We are seated in heavenly places immediately, with our prayers having immediate access to the throne of God.
I know that rebirth is immediate because the Lord allowed me to actually SEE the process at the moment of the rebirth of my own spirit. I was laying on my back on my couch in a birthing position, legs wide open as in labor. Contractions began to occur but they were not in my womb. They were in the chest/belly area, the seat of my spirit. As I lay there, I saw a light, like the hand of God, go into that area, as if it was gently massaging me there. I had about 4 deep “birth pains” and then “voila!”
Hard to explain. All I know is that the old gospel song which asks “how did you feel when you come out the wilderness? Did your hands look new and your feet too?” Yes, Lord! lol. I actually felt like I had just been born for the FIRST time. It was like I had no existence before that day on 3/29/1977 at 4pm on a Monday! I was crying and laughing at the same time! What joy unspeakable. I have felt the joy of the Lord many times, but never like the day that my spirit was made new and I was born again.
However, the soul said, “Hey, Pam. You are 33 years old. Life goes on. Let’s get real, here, okay?”
Yep. My un-renewed soul showed up the next day, March 30. It was my favorite aunt’s birthday. I’d never missed sending her a card or buying her a gift. So I wanted to call her. The Holy Spirit said “No, Pam. Today is God’s day.” I struggled real hard that day. The Lord told me to sit and think on nothing but Him for the entire day. Try as I might, it was real rough. I wanted to go see about my aunt. As I sat there, my mind thought of all the things I could be doing. I remember thinking, “the toilet needs to be cleaned.” I wanted to get up from being before the Lord to clean my toilet. It was the strangest thing because my flesh is not fond of house cleaning. By sundown, I was a sobbing mess!!!
That is how the Lord showed me that even though my spirit was born again, the salvation of my soul had to be “worked out.” How? By the renewing of my mind.
I’m just going by memory here but this is how the salvation of our souls is worked out. We present our bodies—-all 3 parts–as a sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God as a reasonable service. Where our soul and our bodies are concerned, we are not to be conformed to this world. Instead, we are to allow ourselves to be “transformed” by THE RENEWING OF OUR MINDS.
With a renewed mind, the salvation of our souls is worked out. Why? Because the soul consists of the mind, the intellect, the emotions, the feelings, ie. the individual, human personality that makes each of us different—one from the other. There are no souls that are the same. So the renewal will affect each of us differently.
Each soul is an “I AM.” However, God is the I AM THAT I AM.” So the working out of the soul’s salvation often involves wrestling not only with principalities and powers but with God Himself. The Holy Ghost, though the Comforter, He is also the taskmaster. He helps us to put to death the deeds of the flesh for we can not work out the salvation of our soul’s without the Holy Ghost. He will put us in situations in order to break the “self” aspect of our soul because the soul is “all about self.”