Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), by Watchman Nee

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Adam existed by the breath of life, which is the spirit. The spirit has God-consciousness; it knows God’s voice, fellowships with God, and has a very keen knowledge of God. After Adam fell, his spirit became dead.

At the beginning, God said to Adam, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2:17). After Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they continued to live a few hundred years. This shows that the death that God spoke of was not only physical death. The death of Adam began from his spirit. What kind of death was this death? The scientific definition of death is to be cut off from all fellowship with the environment. When the spirit dies, the spirit loses its fellowship with God. When the body dies, the spirit cuts off fellowship with the body. Therefore, for the spirit to be dead does not mean that the spirit is gone. It merely means that the spirit has lost its keen knowledge of God and is dead to God. Spiritual death means that there is no more fellowship with God. Consider, for example, a dumb person. It is not that this person does not have a mouth or two lungs. He cannot speak because there is some problem with his mouth. His mouth is dead to the human language. When Adam disobeyed God, his spirit died. The spirit was still there, but it was dead to God and had lost its capacity. When man sinned, this sin corrupted the keen intuitive knowledge of God that existed in man’s spirit so that he became dead to the things of the spiritual realm. Thereafter, man may have religion, morality, education, ability, power, and mental and physical health, yet he is dead to God. He can speak about God, conjecture about God, and even preach about God, yet he is dead to God. He can no longer hear or feel the voice of God’s Holy Spirit. This is why many times in the New Testament, God refers to those who live in their flesh as dead people.

The death in the spirit of the first man gradually spread to the realm of the body. Although after his spirit died, he still lived for a long time, during that time death was operating in him. It continued to work in him until his spirit, soul, and body all became dead. At that time, a body that could have been glorified and changed was turned back to dust. When the inner man within him became disorganized and fallen, his outer body was destined to death and destruction.

From that time on, the spirit of Adam (as well as that of all his descendants) was suppressed by the soul. Soon after, through the soul’s suppression, the spirit was merged with the soul, and the two parts became closely knit together. This is why the writer of Hebrews said in 4:12 that God’s word has to pierce and divide the spirit from the soul. The reason that the two have to be divided is that they have become one. Since the spirit became so closely knit to the soul, man began to live in an idealistic world. He began to act according to his intellect or his feelings. At that time, the spirit had lost all its power and senses, and had become dormant. Originally, the spirit had the ability to know God and serve Him. Now it had lost all its ability to function and had fallen unconscious. Although it was still there, it was as if it were not there anymore. This is the meaning of the expression in Jude, "soulish, having no spirit" (v. 19). (In verse 19, the spirit does not refer to the Holy Spirit but to the human spirit, because the expression immediately preceding it says "soulish." Since the soul is human, the spirit following this expression must also be human. The position of the article in Greek also confirms this.) This does not mean that man’s spirit no longer exists, for Numbers 16:22 clearly tells us that God is the "God of the spirits of all flesh." Every person in the world still has his spirit. But this spirit is covered up by his sins and cannot fellowship with God.

(Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)