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

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Verse 14 says, "But 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."

Soulish men are those who have not been regenerated and who do not have a new spirit. They do not have an intuition; what they have is only the mind, emotion, and will of the soul. They can reason, judge logically, and express what they like, but they cannot "receive the things of the Spirit of God" because they do not have a regenerated spirit. In man’s intuition God reveals His things to man. Even though a soulish man can think and observe, he lacks the capacity of the intuition. As a result he cannot receive what God reveals. Whatever man originally has is useless. Although man has many things in himself, none of them can replace the work of the intuition. God has not intentionally tried to be particular. He has not purposely exalted the spirit and intuition, which He gave to man through regeneration, above everything that man originally possessed. However, because man is dead in his spirit toward God, He cannot communicate Himself and His things to man. There is not a single organ in man which can receive God’s things. Among all the things which comprise a soulish man, there is not one which can fellowship with God. Even the mind, intellect, and rationality that is highly esteemed by man is as corrupt as man’s lusts; none of them can understand God. Not only is it impossible for unregenerated ones to fellowship with God with their mind, it is even impossible for the regenerated believers to fellowship with God without using their regenerated spirit. It is equally impossible for believers to use their mind and observation to understand the things of God because it does not change in function after regeneration. The mind is still the mind, and the will is still the will; these cannot become the organs for fellowship with God.

Not only is a soulish man incapable of receiving these things; he also thinks that they are foolishness. This again turns us to man’s mind. According to man’s mind, the things that are known through intuition are foolish because they cannot be rationalized. They are far beyond human feelings and contrary to the worldly mentality. They even contradict man’s common sense. Our mind likes what is logical and analytical and what suits its natural psychology. However, none of God’s acts are according to human law. Therefore, they are foolishness to him. The foolishness spoken of in this chapter refers to the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus on the cross. The message of the cross not only speaks of a Savior who died for us, but of all the believers who died with Him. Everything that belongs to a believer’s self has to pass through the death of the cross. If this is only an idea, the mind may receive it; but if it is something to be put into practice, the mind rejects it.

Since the soulish man cannot receive, he cannot know. Receiving is first, and knowing is second. Whether or not a person can receive is determined by whether he has the Spirit. Whether or not a person can know is conditioned on whether he has an intuition. He must first have the Spirit before he can receive the things of God. If he has the Spirit and has received the things of God, the intuition has a chance to know these things of God. Other than the spirit of man, no one can know the things of man. A soulish man cannot know because he does not have a new spirit. Hence, he does not have the intuition to know.

(Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), Chapter 20, by Watchman Nee)