The Spirit of Man

We are returning to Watchman Nee’s The Spiritual Man in this post to discover why is it important for the believer (even for the unbeliever) to know that he or she has a spirit? Remember that this spirit is not the Holy Spirit but is, instead, the human spirit. There are a couple of reasons.

First, it is important to understand this because all communication with God originates with the spirit. We will therefore be better able to know what part of us to employ when we wish to talk to God. Second, it is important to know what comprises the spirit so that we know the difference between the thoughts, ideas, and actions within us: do they come from the soul or from the spirit?

Nee says there are three parts to the spirit: The Conscience, The Intuition, and Fellowship (with God).

The Conscience is the discerning organ; it helps us to distinguish between right and wrong. Its workings are independent and direct and are not swayed by outside influences. Its knowledge is spontaneous; it does not come from the mind. Its judgments are direct; again, it doesn’t come from other influences. It is the conscience that condemns us when do wrong.

The Intuition is the consciousness within man’s spirit. Like the conscience, it is direct and independent. Through the intuition we are able to truly “know.” We do not need the mind or the emotions or the will (all parts of the soul) to have the knowledge we get through the intuition. It is through the intuition that we know something, but it is with the mind that we can understand it. All God’s revelations and the movings of the Holy Spirit are known by believers through the intuition.

Fellowship is our worship of and to God. The mind, the emotions, and the mind — all of which are of the soul — cannot worship God. It is only through the spirit and fellowship. It is also only through fellowship that we come to know God with knowledge that is direct and without outside influence.

These three components are deeply integrated with each other:

God reveals Himself through fellowship to the intuition where we gain a knowledge of right and wrong that is direct and independent of the workings of the mind or the emotions or the will and conscience uses this knowledge to judge.

The unbeliever also has a spirit which contains these three parts, but it isn’t God that he worships. He has allowed the soul to rule over his life with all its mind games, emotional turmoil and fellowship with whatever idol he has set up for himself. The Bible’s view is that a person is not saved just because he has a conscience, has acute intuition and has an interest in the spiritual. The fact of the matter is that before accepting and believing in God and confessing Jesus Christ as his Savior, he is isolated from God.

In this situation, the spirit is surrounded by the soul and they are knit together, but man is unable to tell what is of the soul and what is of the spirit. The three parts of the spirit as described above become accessories to the soul. When the soul becomes so powerful that the functions of the spirit become obliterated, work needs to begin to divide the soul from the spirit — even after Christ is accepted as Savior and Lord and the Holy Spirit has been invited to dwell within him.

It is only after the acceptance of the Truth that a person is filled with the Holy Spirit and God is allowed to live in and energize the human spirit. In this way the human spirit becomes an instrument of the Holy Spirit.

We study the spirit so that we understand that man has a spirit that is independent of the other parts of his being. We need to understand that even in believers the spirit has been under control of the soul and therefore we are weak in the knowledge of the spirit. We also need to understand that we need to approach God in fear and trembling and ask Him to reveal what, in the course of our experiences, is from the soul and what is from the spirit.

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