THE CREATION OF MAN
Genesis 2:7 says, "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." In the beginning, God created the figure of a man with the dust of the earth and then breathed into his nostrils "the breath of life." When the breath of life came in contact with man’s body, the soul was produced. The soul is the consummation of man’s body and his spirit. This is why the Bible calls man "a living soul." This "breath of life" is man’s spirit, the source of man’s life. The Lord Jesus tells us that "it is the Spirit who gives life" (John 6:63). This breath of life comes from the Creator. Yet we should not confuse this spirit, which is the "breath of life," with the Holy Spirit of God. There is a difference between the Holy Spirit and the human spirit. Romans 8:16 shows us that the spirit of man is different from the Holy Spirit; the two are not the same. "The Spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God." The word "life" in the expression "the breath of life" is chay; it is plural in number. This tells us that God’s breathing produces two lives, a spiritual one and a soulish one. This means that when God’s breath of life entered the human body, it became the spirit. At the same time, when this spirit came in contact with the body, it produced the soul. This is the source of the two lives, the spiritual life and the soulish life, within us. But we should make a distinction here: this spirit is not the life of God Himself; it is merely "the breath of the Almighty [which] hath given me life" (Job 33:4). It is not the entrance of the uncreated life of God into man. The spirit that was received in the beginning is not the life of God that we received at the time of our regeneration. The life which we received at the time of our regeneration is the life of God Himself; it is the life represented by the tree of life. This spirit of man is eternal, but it does not have the "eternal life."
"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground." This refers to man’s body. "And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." This refers to the fact that man’s spirit comes from God. This man then became "a living soul." This speaks of man’s soul. When the spirit caused the body to come alive, man became a living soul, a living person with his own consciousness. A complete person is a tripartite being, a person with a spirit, a soul, and a body. According to this verse, man was created with two independent materials—spirit and body. When the spirit entered the body, the soul was produced. The soul is the result of the union of the spirit and the body. The body was dead, but when it met the spirit of life, a third entity was produced, the soul. Without the spirit, the body is dead. When the spirit came, the body became alive. When the spirit is in the body, something organic is produced. This something that is organic is called the soul.
Here it says that the man became "a living soul." This signifies not only that the soul is produced from the union between the spirit and the body, but that after the soul is produced from this union of the spirit and the body, both the spirit and the body are incorporated into the soul. In other words, the soul and the body are fully joined to the spirit, and the spirit and the body are incorporated into the soul. Before Adam fell, his spirit and his flesh were of course not in conflict with each other daily as it is with us today. The three elements of his being were fully in harmony one with another. These three were mingled together. The soul served as the linking chain, the seat of man’s personality, making it possible for man to exist independently. The soul is the consummation of the spirit and the body, the totality of the elements within man. After man’s spirit and body were fully integrated, man became a living soul. This soul is the very result of the union of the two things; it is man’s own personality. We may consider an incomplete illustration: if we put a drop of ink into a cup of water, the ink and the water mingle together and become ink-water. You can say that it is ink; it is indeed ink. You can also say that it is water, for it is still water. The ink and the water are integrated together and have become a third thing—ink-water. (Of course, the soul produced from the union of the spirit and the body is an independent and insoluble element, just as the spirit and the body are.) In the same way, the spirit and the body were two independent elements, but after they combined, the combination became a living soul.
God characterizes man by his soul because in His creation man’s characteristics lie in his soul. This is similar to the angels being characterized by their spirit. Man is not only a body, and he is not only a body with the breath of life, but he has become a living soul. This is why later on in the Bible we see God calling man a "soul"; He did not call man a man, but He called him a soul. The reason for this is that a man is judged by his soul. The soul represents the man and expresses the characteristics of his personality. The soul is the organ of man’s free will, and both the spirit and the body are incorporated into it. It has a free will. If it chooses to obey God, it can make the spirit the master of everything, according to God’s design. But it can also suppress the spirit and take as its master the part that it likes. The three things—the spirit, the soul, and the body—are like a lighted electric bulb. Within a bulb, there is the electricity, the filament, and the light. The body is like the filament, the spirit is like the electricity, and the soul is like the light. Electricity is the source of light, and light is the consequence of electricity. The filament is a physical material for conducting electricity and for emitting the light. When the spirit and the body combine together, they produce the soul. The soul bears the characteristics of the combination of the spirit and the body; it is the product of the union of the two things. The spirit is the motivating force behind the soul, while the body is the means to express the soul. This is like electricity being the source of light, while the filament is the means through which light shines.
However, we should clearly remember that in this life the soul is man’s consummate expression, while in the next life and in resurrection the spirit will be man’s consummate expression. This is why the Bible says, "It is sown a soulish body, it is raised a spiritual body" (1 Cor. 15:44). Since we are now joined to the resurrected Lord, through Him the spirit can control our whole being. We can control our being because we are not joined to the first man Adam, who was a living soul, but to the last Adam, who is the life-giving Spirit.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 12: The Spiritual Man (1), Chapter 2, by Watchman Nee)