Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 12: The Spiritual Man (1), by Watchman Nee


The apostle said in 1 Corinthians 3:16, "Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" After reading this verse, we can see that the apostle was inspired to consider man a temple. Just as God dwelt in the temple in time past, in the same way the Holy Spirit dwells in the believers. The Bible compares man to the temple. In doing so it depicts the three elements of man most conspicuously.

We know that the temple is divided into three parts. The first part is the outer court, which everyone can see and into which everyone can go. All outward worship is offered to God here. Further in, there is the Holy Place. Here, only the priests can enter. In the Holy Place the priests offer the blood, the oil, the incense, and the bread to God. Although they are very close, they are not the closest, because they are still outside the veil and cannot enter into God’s presence. God dwells in the Holy of Holies from which He radiates His infinite glory. The Holy of Holies is otherwise dark. No one can come before Him. Although the high priest is allowed once a year to enter the Holy of Holies, this only demonstrates all the more that before the rending of the veil there was no one within the veil.

Man is a temple of God. Within man there are also three parts. The body is like the outer court; it is outside, and its life is seen by all. It is here that man should obey all God’s commandments. It is also here that God’s Son died for man. Further in, there is man’s soul, which is the inward life in man; it includes man’s feelings, will, and mind. This is the Holy Place to a regenerated one. His love, thoughts, and desires are all here. In this place there is much light, everything is clear and obvious, and the priests come in and out to serve God. However, further in, there is the Holy of Holies behind the veil, which is unreachable by human light and is a place invisible to the human eyes. This is "the secret place of the Most High" (Psa. 91:1). It is the habitation of God, a place that no man can reach unless God removes the veil. This is the human spirit. Man not only has a body and a soul but a spirit as well. This spirit is deeper than man’s consciousness; it is the place unreachable by man’s feelings. It is in this place that man fellowships with God.

In the Holy of Holies there is no light, for this is God’s habitation. In the Holy Place there is light because there is the lampstand with seven branches. In the outer court everything is exposed under the sun. This is a picture of a regenerated person. His spirit is like the Holy of Holies, where God dwells. This place is entered by faith and is totally dark. This is a place which the believer cannot see, feel, or understand. The soul is like the Holy Place, where there is much power of understanding, many thoughts, much knowledge, and many rules and where one comprehends both the things in the psychological world and the things in the physical world. In this place there is the shining of the lampstand. The body is like the outer court; it is seen by all. All its activities and living are visible to everyone.

The order that God gives to us can never be wrong. It is: "spirit and soul and body" (1 Thes. 5:23). It is not "soul and spirit and body," nor is it "body and soul and spirit." Rather, it is "spirit and soul and body." The spirit is the noblest; hence, it is mentioned first. The body is the lowest; hence, it is mentioned last. The soul lies in between; hence, it is placed in between the soul and the body. After we have clearly seen God’s order, we will see the wisdom God has in comparing man to the temple. We see how the Holy of Holies, the Holy Place, and the outer court correspond with the order and the degree of importance of the spirit, the soul, and the body.

The work of the temple revolves around the revelation in the Holy of Holies. All the actions in the outer court and the Holy Place are determined by the presence of God in the Holy of Holies. The holiest place within the temple and the place which all other places are subject to and depend on is the Holy of Holies. In the Holy of Holies there does not seem to be much work; it is very dark. All the activities are in the Holy Place. All the works in the outer court are controlled by the priests in the Holy Place. Indeed the Holy of Holies is a quiet and still place. Yet all the activities of the Holy Place are directed by the inspiration of the Holy of Holies.

The spiritual significance of this is not difficult to understand. The soul is the organ of our personality. It includes the mind, the will, the emotion, etc. The soul appears to be the master of the activities of the whole being. Even the body is under its direction. Yet before man fell, although there were many activities and works with the soul, they were all under the control of the spirit. God’s order is: (1) the spirit, (2) the soul, and (3) the body.

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 12: The Spiritual Man (1), Chapter 2, by Watchman Nee)