THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN
THE SPIRIT AND THE NOUS
God communicates with us through our spirit, not through our soul or our body. Therefore, we always need to keep an open and unveiled spirit in the presence of God so that we can have a living communication with Him. But today I want to draw attention to the relationship between the spirit and the nous. Whenever there is a closed nous, there is a closed spirit. If the nous is closed, God cannot give light to the spirit, because even if He gave light to the spirit, there would be no channel to express what the spirit had received. If the head of a Christian is sick, his spirit will also be sick. The illness of a Christian’s body will not affect his spirit. Many Christians have been bedridden for years and still can serve God, obey God, and do the work of prayer. However, if the nous of a Christian is not proper, his spirit will also not be proper, for the problem in his head will directly affect his spirit.
There are two passages in the Bible which tell us that the believers’ nous should be renewed. If one’s nous is not renewed, it will be hard for him to go on. Let us look at the Scriptures.
Ephesians 4:17-24 says, "This therefore I say and testify in the Lord, that you no longer walk as the Gentiles also walk in the vanity of their nous, being darkened in their dianoia [Greek for "understanding"], alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance which is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lasciviousness to work all uncleanness in greediness. But you did not so learn Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him as the reality is in Jesus, that you put off, as regards your former manner of life, the old man, which is being corrupted according to the lusts of the deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your nous and put on the new man, which was created according to God in righteousness and holiness of the reality."
In this passage of the Scripture, nous is mentioned twice. We have to pay attention to this nous.
Verse 18 says, "Being darkened in their understanding." Understanding according to the original text is dianoia. This word has the same root as nous in verse 17, but changes a little from the root to form dianoia. So the meaning from verse 17 to verse 18 is, "You should no longer walk as the Gentiles also walk in the vanity of their nous, being darkened in their dianoia." What is the difference between nous and dianoia? Nous is an organ; dianoia is a kind of function. This is like saying that the eye is an organ, while seeing is a function of the eye. Therefore, the eye is the object, while seeing is the function of the object. The nous is the organ, while the dianoia is the function. Nous is an organ, and verse 17 talks about the nature of this organ. Dianoia is a function, and verse 18 talks about the function of the organ.
Verse 18 says, "Alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance which is in them, because of the hardness of their heart." The "heart" in this verse is the true "I," that is, the self, one’s own personality.
Verse 19 says, "Who, being past feeling." The meaning here in the original text is to have lost all feeling and to be numb. This term is used by medical doctors quite often. Every doctor knows that the wound of a patient hurts, but when the hurt goes beyond a certain stage, the person does not feel the pain anymore. Although the wound is still inflamed, the consciousness of pain is utterly lost. This verse means that there is no longer any feeling. It means that the heart is so hardened that it has lost its feeling.
In verse 22 we have, "That you put off, as regards your former manner of life, the old man." The meaning here is that since you have heard and have been taught in Him as the reality is in Jesus, that your old man has been put off, etc., you should do the things recorded in verses 25-32.
"The old man, which is being corrupted according to the lusts of the deceit" (v. 22). According to the original text the meaning here is, "The old man, which through the lusts of the deceit is heading towards corruption."
"And that you be renewed in the spirit of your nous [the Greek word for mind]" (v. 23). This is a continuation of a preceding verse concerning the reality in Jesus, that is, what the believers have received in Christ. We not only have put off the old man, but we should renew the spirit of our nous frequently. The meaning in the original text is to be continually renewed in the same way that the old man is continually being corrupted.
Verse 24 reads, "And put on the new man, which was created according to God in righteousness and holiness of the reality." "Put on the new man" in the original text can be rendered "having put on the new man." This corresponds to verse 22. Verse 24 also speaks of the facts which we have in the Lord. Verses 22 through 24 are all facts that we have in Christ. Based on these verses, verse 25 and the following verses command and tell us what we should do.
In this passage we see three particularly important things: (1) our spiritual life, (2) our heart, and (3) our nous. Verse 17 speaks of the nous; verse 18 speaks of dianoia, which is the function of the nous, something concerning the nous. Verse 18 says, "Alienated from the life of God." This means that the spirit is closed and can no longer communicate with God. Not only can Gentiles be like this, but Christians can also have a closed spirit. "The hardness of their heart" in verse 18 refers to the heart. "Being past feeling" in verse 19 refers to the numbness and the loss of feeling in man’s heart. In short, this passage mentions the condition of three things: the nous, the spirit, and the heart.
(The Renewing of the Mind, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)