What are man’s spirit, soul, heart, mind and brain?

Question: “What are the differences between a man’s spirit, soul, heart, mind and brain?”

Bible Answers

God is tripartite -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit - and man also has three parts - spirit, soul and body. …and may your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thes. 5:23).  Some falsely believe that spirit and soul are one, but this verse (as does Hebrews 4:12, Luke 1:46-47), makes it clear that spirit and soul are not the same but are separate.

Man consists of physical material, a body that can be seen and touched.  But he is also made up of intangible material that cannot be seen or touched, their spirit and soul.  The spirit is our communication channel to God through the Holy Spirit. Our soul is the essence of who we are and includes our: intellect, will, emotions, conscious, heart and mind. These exist beyond the physical life span of the human body and are eternal.  


The word "Spirit" can be defined as that part of a man related to worship and divine communion with God.  It is through our spirit that we have “God-consciousness” and a relationship with God.  And it is the means through which spiritual gifts are given and manifested by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10-15).  Our spirit is also called the inner man having a still small voice.  

Adam received a body and then a spirit. …the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7).  Our spirit is God’s life in us.

But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).  Our spirit translates the things of the Spirit of God for our physical benefit.

Our spirit provides three main functions. They are:

1.  Conscience (Roman 9:1, 8:16). The conscience is the part of the spirit which distinguishes right from wrong and is not influenced by the mind or soul.

2.  Intuition (Mark 2:8). It is through a believer’s intuition that he receives the revelations of God and the movements of the Holy Spirit. This includes interpreting spiritual truths. A believer must take care to listen to the speaking of his conscience and the teaching of his intuition less he miss what God has for him.

3.  Communion is related to the worship of God. The soul is not competent to worship God by itself.  According to John 4:24, God is a Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.  A man worships God in spirit, under the influence of the Holy Ghost.  He brings all his affection and desires to God; and he worships Him in truth, with every passion of his heart, guided and regulated by the truth of God’s Word.  As Jesus said, Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth (John 17:17).

Our spirit is renewed when the Holy Spirit comes and joins with our spirit at the start of salvation. His primary function is to reproduce the life of Jesus in the believer.

Upon death, …the spirit shall return unto God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7).  As our Creator, God gives each of us a spirit at the beginning of life, and our spirit returns to the Lord the moment we die.  Some claim that both the spirit and soul, together, go to heaven or hell, but there is no indication in the Bible of our spirit going to hell if our soul goes to hell, only that our spirit returns to God. There is no known reason for our spirits to go to hell as the functions of our spirit; conscience, intuition, and communion with God would not be needed in hell.   

On the cross Jesus said, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit! (Luke 23:46).  He turned His spirit over to the Father even though His soul went into hell for three days.

Can the spirit contain evil

2 Corinthians 7:1 tells us that our spirit can be corrupted by the sins of our soul after salvation. let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit. Consequently, the sins of our soul can corrupt our spirit, and not be pleasing to God. However, the solution is repentance, and when this happens, God again purifies our spirit and soul to be perfectly clean, just as when we received Jesus as Lord and Savior.  

He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:5-7).


The Hebrew word for “Soul” is nephesh, meaning life, self, heart, appetite, desire, feelings, passion, or strength; and in some translations—mind.  The Greek word for “soul” is psuche, meaning breath, human soul, affection, will, vital force, self.

While our spirit provides conscience input from the Holy Spirit, our soul’s conscious (conscience is often used in place of conscious) comes from the input of our experiences and judgement of what we determine to be right or wrong and can be in opposition to the conscience urging of our spirit. First Corinthians 2:11 indicates that our spirit can know what our soul cannot. Our soul knows by reason or by circumstance, but our spirit perceive without these, receiving form the Holy Spirit.  

The Son of man is not come to destroy men's souls, but to save them. Luke 9:56. Jesus came to save the soul of man; He did not say that He came to save the spirit of man that goes to the Father.  After death and judgment, the soul will go either to heaven or hell.  The soul is eternal, invisible. Matthew 10:28 confirms, Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body [eternal body] in hell.  This verse refers to only the soul being destroyed.  It says nothing about the spirit being destroyed with the soul and body.  Judgment is of the soul, not the spirit, as the spirit does not sin.  It is the soul that goes to heaven or hell, …the soul that sins, it shall die [go to hell] (Ezekiel 18:4).

receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls (James 1:21).

let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death (James 5:20).

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls (Hebrews 10:39).

obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:9).

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne (Revelation 6:9).

The soul makes up a person’s whole personality (heart, conscious, mind and emotions). The intellect, thought, ideals, love, emotion, understanding, decision, choice, memory, and other qualities are all associated with the soul. The Bible makes it clear that the soul and spirit are the primary intangible aspects of humanity, while the body is the physical container that holds them while on earth.

The three main parts of the soul are:

What is the soul

The Bible does not clearly state what the soul is but does tell us that God made it. As the Lord lives, who made our souls (Jeremiah 38:16). Our soul has many similar characteristics to our spirit, the Holy Spirit, and to angels, who are spirits, eternal and invisible. Are not all angels ministering spirits (Hebrews 1:14).  While scripture does not specifically say what our soul is, it likely is spiritual.  

Your soul is the real you

Your personality, thinking, affections, desires, memory, and feelings all make up your soul.  Our soul is the center of who and what we are.  

The Lord God formed man ...and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (1 Corinthians 15:45).

While our spirit is renewed when the Holy Spirit comes, our souls carry spiritual dirt from our past lifestyles.  This is why so many believers can continue to struggle with sin after accepting Christ. Their souls still contain dirt that needs to be removed and washed clean by the renewing of their mind (soul) with the Word of God.  

When a person is saved, their spirit is renewed. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things [in our spirit] are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).  This “all things” is the spirit, not the soul or body.  While the soul and body do not become renewed, the soul does receive a new expectation and desire to serve and love God.

If we received a new soul at the time of salvation, we would likely lose all of our emotions, knowledge, and memory, as they would be retained by the old soul.  I believe this is one of the reasons why we receive a renewed spirit, but are told to renew our existing soul by the Word of God.

The Word of God renews our soul, which is also our mind and our heart (emotions and intelligence).  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word (Ephesians 5:26). It is the truth of the Word of God that renews our mind and our soul. Renewing our mind releases our faith and trust in God. It is through the Word and the Holy Spirit that we are sanctified and transformed into the image of His Son.  

Our soul is constantly struggling to choose between the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the prompting of our fleshly desires for the world. It is through the renewing of our mind that we recognize the devil’s tricks and are able to cast them away.

As we learn to submit our mind to the Word of God, our soul learns how to submit itself, through our spirit, continuously to the Holy Spirit. Then our soul will be in tune with the ways of the Lord. Our emotions must be healed and stilled before the Lord so that we can hear the “still small voice” within to lead and guide us.  


The Hebrew word that is most often rendered “Heart” is lebab, meaning inner man, mind, will and heart. It also includes intelligence (Job 12:3, 24), mind (Dan. 1:8; 1Sam 9:19, 1Kings 4:29), purpose (Isa. 10:7), thought (1 Kings 8:47), and understanding (Job 36:5).  Man’s heart is the essence of his soul, and is the part of man that decides how he will respond to what he has learned from his spirit, soul and body; through his mind, through the Holy Spirit, through his conscious, and through his emotions. Our heart is a separate part of our soul.

Hearts that are committed to doing evil run the risk that God will eventually harden them (Ex. 7:3, Heb. 3:8). While anyone who continuously rejects God’s Word will eventually have a hardened heart, those who sincerely repent of all their sins, and confess in their heart that Jesus is Lord (Ro. 10:9) are born again and will receive a renewed heart from God. I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh (Eze. 11:19).


Man’s “Mind” is an organ of the soul, and is his computer by which he stores information gained through his six senses—the body, spirit, soul, conscious, heart, and emotions.  The mind, like the heart, is a separate but integral part of the soul.

While the human spirit is different from our soul, the heart and mind are part of the soul.  Their functions overlap and cannot exist without the others.  Even though you might be able to define a clear distinction between spirit, soul, heart, and mind, they still work together and heart and mind are part of our soul.

While God is one, He is also Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and as we are one, we are also Spirit, Soul, and Body. While it is common to think of our Soul as one, it really is Soul, Heart, and Mind.


We have a brain, which is a physical entity that controls all functions of the body.  The brain stays with the body when we die.  When we are talking about the soul/mind it is different than the brain. The mind and soul are intangible. They cannot be touched.  From the soul we derive our thoughts, will, desires, emotions and reason. If the body is hungry, it sends a signal to the brain and the mind works out a solution.

Evil spirits

Demonic/evil spirits can also remain after salvation, oppressing a person, and must be driven out as Jesus and the early church did.  The practice of casting out demons did not end when Jesus ascended into heaven, it continues to this day.  Before returning to heaven, one of the last things Jesus said was, And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils (Mark 16:17).

God cannot dwell in our souls, as our souls are open to the attack and deception of the enemy.  God created our spirit within us for Him to abide, because it is not affected either by our emotions, our intellect, or the devil.

Immature believers or believers that are still bound in demonic oppression or past hurts, have a harder time to discern clearly the quiet voice of the Lord within.  All deliverance, counseling, therapy, and inner healing, must focus on setting the person free to hear and obey the Holy Spirit.  Our mind must be renewed by the Word of God so that it can understand what the Holy Spirit is saying.

At death

When we die, our soul goes to heaven or hell, …for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:9).  And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body [eternal body] in hell (Matthew 10:28).

Our body returns to dust to await being resurrected as an immortal body and our spirit returns to God, …the spirit shall return unto God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt (Dan. 12:2).  Most of the references in the Bible to grave and sleeping are referring to the body, not the spirit or the soul.  On the day of resurrection, our dead bodies are raised immortal and are occupied by our souls, going to our final destination after the Great White Thrown of Judgement, to the heavenly city or the lake of fire.  

It is our soul and our bodies that are attacked by demonic forces. And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years (Luke 13:11), and Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic… And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour (Matt 17:15, 18).

Our loved ones will be able to identify us before we receive our eternal bodies at the final judgment. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Our essence

It is our soul that goes to heaven or hell, and it is our soul (mind and heart), that retains all that we were before we died, for it is the soul that is the true and total essence of who we are.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! (Psalm 103:1). We are our soul, and it is our soul that blesses the Lord. It is our soul that determines if it will follow our spirit and go to heaven or follow the devil’s world and end up in hell.  It is the mind of our soul that is transformed and renewed by the Word of God.

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