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

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The main point in Hebrews 4:12 is whether we are living according to the guidance of the intuition in the spirit or under the influence of our (soulish) natural likes and dislikes. God’s word will judge us on such matters, showing us what belongs to the spirit and what belongs to the soul. Only God’s sharp sword can clearly discern the source of our living. Just as man’s knife can divide bone and marrow, God’s sword can divide the most closely knit spirit and soul. This dividing is only knowledge in the beginning and must become experience later. Actually, believers can only know by experience how the spirit and soul are divided. The believer must experience allowing the Lord to divide his soul and spirit. Not only should he desire, pursue, consecrate himself, pray, and allow the Holy Spirit and the cross to work in him, he must also gain and possess this kind of experience. The spirit of a believer must be freed in reality from the embrace of the soul. The soul and the spirit must be clearly divided, like the Lord Jesus whose spirit and soul are not mixed at all. The spirit of intuition should be entirely free to be the sole dwelling place and office of the Holy Spirit and not allow the soul (that is, the mind and emotion) to have the slightest influence. The spirit must be freed from every entanglement of the soul.

The work of the cross on the soul-life must be very real, and the restriction imposed by the cross on the soul-life very definite. The soul-life must suffer loss in experience. The faculty of the soul must maintain a position under the rule of the spirit.

A believer must have experiences of the soul and the spirit being divided to the point where the spirit is no longer surrounded by the soul. Only then can he become a spiritual believer. A spiritual believer differs from other people in that his entire being is ruled by his spirit. The rule of the spirit is not only the rule of Holy Spirit over the soul and body. A believer’s own spirit rises up to be the head of his entire being by the Holy Spirit’s working through the cross; instead of being ruled by the soul and the body, the spirit has the strength to fully control the soul and body.

The dividing of the soul and spirit is an indispensable work on the negative side in order for a believer to enter into spiritual life. This is a spiritual preparation. Without this, the believer will always be influenced by the soul, and the spirit and the soul will often be mixed in his living. Sometimes he has a spiritual living, but sometimes he is governed by the mind and emotion, or he may even live by the natural life. The expression of life is not pure. A mixture of the spirit and soul is the life principle of a believer who does not have a pure spiritual life. This keeps the believer in the position of being soulish. His own life will suffer loss, and God’s Holy Spirit will be unable to use him to do important work.

If there is an actual dividing of the believer’s spirit and soul, and he walks according to the spirit, not according to the soul, then whenever his soul reacts, he will sense it immediately, as if he is being defiled, and struggle to break the soul’s power and influence. The natural life is truly defiled and can defile the spirit. After the dividing of the spirit and soul, the intuition of the spirit will be very sensitive. Whenever the soul acts, it immediately suffers pain and resists. Even when others act in their soul, it immediately feels unpleasant. Even when it is the object of the soulish love or emotion of others, it will be annoyed as if it cannot bear with them. Only when the dividing of the believer’s spirit and soul becomes very real will he have clean feelings and intentions that are genuine. Only then will he have an actual understanding of the meaning of being "clean." Only then will he know that not only are sinful things defiling, but everything natural is defiling and should be rejected as well. He knows and feels in the intuition of the spirit that all contact with that which is of the soul—regardless of whether it is his own or others—is defiling and should be cleansed immediately.

(Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), Chapter 16, by Watchman Nee)