BETWEEN THE SPIRIT AND THE SOUL
Scripture Reading: 1 Cor. 2:14-15; 1 Thes. 5:23; Heb. 4:12; Luke 1:46-47; Matt. 10:38-39; 16:24-26; Mark 8:35-36; Luke 9:23-25; John 12:25
If we are going to know our human spirit, we must see the difference between the spirit and the soul. The most important passage showing us the difference between the spirit and the soul is 1 Corinthians 2:14-15: “A soulish man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he is not able to know them because they are discerned spiritually. But the spiritual man discerns all things, but he himself is discerned by no one.”
A SOULISH MAN
Verse 14 tells us clearly that the soulish man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God. The soulish man can never know anything about God. There is no possibility for the soulish man to know God, but the following verse says that the spirit, the human spirit, knows. With the soulish man there is no possibility to know God, but with the spiritual man there is the full possibility. So by these two verses you can see the difference between the soul and the spirit. If you are a man of the soul, you can never know anything of God. If you are a man of the spirit, then you know the things of God. By this passage we can see the difference between the spirit and the soul, yet so many Christians today still insist on saying that the spirit and the soul are synonymous terms. However, 1 Corinthians 2:14-15 shows that with the soul there is no possibility to know anything of God, but with the spirit there is the full possibility.
If you are a man of the soul, you are just in darkness with the things of God. You have to be a man of the spirit. Then you will know the things of God. These verses reveal a great difference between the soul and the spirit. There is no possibility for us to know anything of God if we are a soulish man. What is a soulish man? A soulish man is a man living by the soul and in the soul. The difference between being soulish and being spiritual is the very difference between the soul and the spirit. We cannot say that the spirit is the same as the soul. If we say this, we are in darkness. We all must be very, very clear that the spirit is absolutely different from the soul. Are the ears the same as the eyes? The eye and the ear are not synonymous terms. You cannot say this. The eyes are the eyes, and the ears are the ears. These are two different organs, two different parts of your being. In like manner, the soul is not the spirit. The teaching of dichotomy, that man is of two parts, is absolutely unscriptural.
SPIRIT AND SOUL AND BODY
Second, we have 1 Thessalonians 5:23. We must open to the Word and read it. Do not listen to any man’s opinion. Do not listen to any man’s word. Come back to the Word of God and read it: “The God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This verse clearly mentions that we have three parts—the spirit and the soul and the body. Two conjunctions connect three things. There is no ground to say that the spirit is the soul. We all must give up the human teaching of dichotomy and come back to the Word of God.
In 1954, when we were in Hong Kong, we had a conference. An American brother who was a missionary to Japan came to Hong Kong to attend the conference. After the conference he came and said that he was really impressed with the conference, the atmosphere, and the messages, but he did not agree that the spirit was different from the soul. To him the spirit and the soul were synonymous terms.
Then I asked him about 1 Thessalonians 5:23: spirit and soul and body. I told him that if he said that the spirit was the soul, then I would say that the soul was the body. Anyhow, he said that whatever 1 Thessalonians 5:23 said, he would not admit that the spirit and soul are two different parts of our being.
JOINTS AND MARROW
Hebrews 4:12 says, “The word of God is living and operative and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit and of joints and marrow, and able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The word divides the spirit from the soul just as the sword divides the marrow from the joints, which are the bones. The marrow is not the same as the bones. The marrow is something within the bones, the joints. In the same principle the spirit is something within the soul. It is easy for people to see the bones. But it is not so easy for people to realize what the marrow is. You have to break the bones to get to the marrow. In like manner, the spirit is under the covering of the soul, but it is absolutely different from the soul.
THE SPIRIT HAVING EXULTED AND THE SOUL MAGNIFYING
Luke 1:46-47 says, “Mary said, My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has exulted in God my Savior.” My soul magnifies, and my spirit has exulted. These verses again clearly show the uniqueness of the soul and the spirit. The spirit first exults, and then the soul magnifies the Lord. Again, if we are going to know the spirit, we have to see the difference between the spirit and the soul.
DENYING THE SOUL
In the teaching of the New Testament, especially in the Gospels, it always tells us that we have to deny the soul, to lose the soul, but it never tells us that we have to deny the spirit. In the Epistles we are always told that we have to walk according to the spirit, live in the spirit, and do things by the spirit. In the Gospels there is the denying of the soul; then in the Epistles there is walking according to the spirit (Rom. 8:4). The New Testament does not tell us to walk and live and do things in the soul.
Matthew 10:38-39 says, “He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his soul-life [the word here in Greek is psuche, meaning “soul”] shall lose it, and he who loses his soul-life for My sake shall find it.” Then Matthew 16:24-26 says, “Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his soul-life shall lose it; but whoever loses his soul-life for My sake shall find it. For what shall a man be profited if he gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul-life? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul-life?” The soul must be denied.
Then Mark 8:35-36 says, “Whoever wants to save his soul-life shall lose it; but whoever will lose his soul-life for My sake and the gospel’s shall save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul-life?” Luke 9:24-25 says, “Whoever wants to save his soul-life shall lose it; but whoever loses his soul-life for My sake, this one shall save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world but loses or forfeits himself?” Matthew 16 says “forfeits his soul-life.” Luke 9 says “forfeits himself.” That means to deny the soul.
John 12:25 says, “He who loves his soul-life loses it; and he who hates his soul-life in this world shall keep it unto eternal life.” In all the four Gospels the Lord told us again and again that we have to lose the soul, to deny the soul, but we cannot find a word telling us that we have to lose the spirit or deny the spirit. On the contrary, the Epistles charge us to walk according to the spirit, to do things in the spirit, and to pray in the spirit (Rom. 8:4; Rom. 1:9; Eph. 6:18). In the teachings of the Gospels we are told to deny the soul, to lose the soul, but in the teachings of all the Epistles we have to take care of the spirit, walk in the spirit, do things in the spirit, and pray in the spirit. So there is a big, big difference between the soul and the spirit.
(Our Human Spirit, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)