A SOULISH CHRISTIAN
Why is he a soulish Christian? We have seen how the cross works and how the believers’ flesh, the sinful nature, has been crucified on it. However, the life of the soul still remains. Although all sins come from the flesh, and the soul is merely directed by it and acts as its puppet, the soul is inherited from Adam, and though not fully defiled, it is unavoidably affected by Adam’s fall. It is true that there is a difference between the natural being and God’s life. And though the filthy flesh within a believer has died, his soul remains the power behind his living. Although the nature of sin has died, the life of the self remains. Hence, inevitably, the man is still of the soul. Now, although the sinful nature, the flesh, has died, the soul remains the power behind man’s conduct. In other words, although the flesh can no longer direct the soul, the soul remains the power behind man’s living. Now that God’s nature has replaced the flesh, naturally, all the inclinations, desires, and proposals should be righteous and no longer filthy as they once were. However, it is still the former soul-life that is executing the proposals and desires of this new nature.
This soul-life includes the mind, the emotion, the sensations, the will, and so forth. These functions (the mind, the emotion, and so forth) are the common possessions of the natural man. Hence, for one to depend on the soul-life to execute the propositions of the spirit is to accomplish the supernatural divine goodness through natural worldly strength. To put it plainly, it is to meet God’s demand with one’s self-power. At this point, on the negative side, a believer may have already overcome sin, yet on the positive side, he is still childish in practicing righteousness. There is the danger that he may fail to develop the God-given life of the Spirit which is already within him and to apply the life-power of this Spirit to execute all the dictates of the new nature. Actually, at this time, the spiritual life is still in the infant stage and is not yet mature; it is still incapable of expressing all the virtues in God’s nature. This results in a believer trying by his own natural, soulish power to fulfill all the requirements God has placed upon His children. This walk and work is a mixture of the things of God and the things of man. It is to express the heavenly desire with the earthly strength! When a believer walks in such a way, he is not yet spiritual. Instead, he is soulish.
We have to realize that not all soulish experiences are evil or filthy. The flesh, insofar as the sinful nature goes, produces filthy and sinful things, but the soul is not necessarily like this. The soul-life is simply our original life, that is, the life that makes us a living creature. This life, once detached from the sinful nature, the flesh, may not always be evil in its thoughts. Many people have their original, inborn goodness, patience, love, and gentleness. These virtues come by birth. They are part of what the soul-life possesses. However, with some, these virtues are buried under the flesh and are not seen. Still some are not as blatant in the manifestation of their flesh. Their original virtues shine out a little more than others’. After a Christian has crucified his flesh, he is in danger of one thing: executing the new propositions of God’s nature by the power of the soul-life. To speak plainly, this is to do good by our own strength. Such a one may be partially successful. This is exactly where he deviates. When believers find it effective to "exercise their self," they will think that they have reached spiritual maturity. They do not realize that they are doing good by the power of the soul. They may be doing good, but they are still soulish.
HOW TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN
BEING SPIRITUAL AND BEING SOULISH
The answer to this question is very long. Here, we can only mention something in brief. We have seen that from the time of our regeneration there are two lives within us. One is the soulish life, and the other is the life of the spirit. With these two lives, there are two natures. One is the flesh, and the other is the nature of God. We have also seen how one of our two natures, the flesh, was crucified, and the other, God’s nature, is invested with the full authority to rule over our whole being. The question of the two natures is solved. But the question of the two lives still remains. Both the soulish life and the spiritual life now live within us simultaneously. Although the spiritual life itself is very strong, the deep-rooted operation of the soulish life rules our whole being. Unless a person is willing to give up his soul-life and to allow the spiritual life to live and to operate, there will be little chance for the spiritual life to develop.
A spiritual Christian is one who allows the Holy Spirit to operate within his spirit. He accepts the Holy Spirit as a person dwelling in his own spirit and allows the life given by the Holy Spirit to supply him with all the strength he needs for his walk. All the principles of his living are no longer guided and affected by the mind or the emotion. Instead, he is living dispassionately in the spirit.
The soulish Christian is just the opposite. Although he has the spiritual life, he does not derive vitality from his spiritual life. Instead, his daily living still has the soul as its life, and he continues to be guided and affected by the mind and the sensations.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 01: The Christian Life and Warfare, Chapter 7, by Watchman Nee)