Is there a difference between the spirit and the soul?

First, it is vitally important to realize that in the Bible, there is a definite difference between the human spirit and soul. Second, it is equally important to realize that our experience of this distinction very much affects our progress in the Christian life.

So in this post we’ll consider the difference between the spirit and the soul—not mainly from the side of Bible teaching, but from the aspect of life experience. But, before we can come to our experience we must first have a base in God’s word.

In the Bible man is made with three parts—spirit, soul, and body.

First Thessalonians 5:23 says, “And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete…”

No one would say that our body and soul are the same, but some people may consider our soul and spirit to be practically the same. However, 1 Thessalonians 5:23 tells us clearly that our spirit and soul are two distinct parts.

Another verse that emphasizes this distinction is Hebrews 4:12:

“For the word of God is living and operative and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit and of joints and marrow…”

Here there are the “joints and marrow” which refer to the body plus the “soul and spirit,” revealing again that we have these three parts.

It’s also important to see that our soul and spirit can be “divided.” Hence, they’re different. They can be compared to “the joints and marrow.” As marrow is hidden inside the joints, so our spirit is concealed in our soul.

Just like we have to cut through the joints to get to the marrow, we have to cut through the soul to get to the spirit. This is why it’s often difficult initially to discern our spirit from our soul. I know this was my experience.

To illustrate this distinction, we may use the illustration of three concentric circles:

The outer circle refers to our body. Our body is our outer part containing our five senses with which we contact all the things of the physical, material realm.

The middle circle refers to our soul. Our soul is our inner part containing our mind, emotion and will with which we contact all the things of the psychological realm.

The inner circle refers to our spirit. Our spirit is our innermost part with which we contact God and substantiate all the things of the spiritual realm.

How can we practically divide our spirit from our soul?

So let’s consider how we can apply the dividing of soul and spirit in our daily Christian life.

Often our soul is plagued with anxious thoughts, troublesome feelings, and impure intentions. It’s a “mine field” that keeps us from enjoying Christ.

Second Timothy 4:22 says, “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.”

The Lord is now with our spirit and with Him is grace—God as our enjoyment. But how do we get there? How do get through this deadly “mine field” of our soul?

We already mentioned that Hebrews 4:12 speaks of the “dividing of soul and spirit.” But the application of this dividing is by God’s living and operative word. It is God’s word, as this sharp sword, that is able to pierce our soul in order to break it away from our spirit.

In my last post, “How Bible Reading Can Change Your Life,” I referred to the awesome power of the Scriptures.  My friend’s heart was touched by God’s word to such an extent, that she could no longer remain an atheist, but chose to become a Christian.

These same Scriptures are so powerful that they can also cut through our thick soul, dividing our soul from our spirit.  God’s word can stop our anxious thoughts, calm our troubled emotions, and subdue our stubborn will. This has been my experience.

As we open the Bible, we just need to open to the Lord, and incline our heart to Him. Then read a few Bible verses and turn them into short, spontaneous prayers to Lord—thanking Him, praising or petitioning as we feel led. In this way we can enter into fellowship with Him in our spirit.

“Lord Jesus, thank you for showing us the difference between our soul and our spirit. Thank you also for giving us Your living and operative word as such a practical way to divide our soul and spirit. Lord, remind us to apply Your word by prayer, thanksgiving and praise so we may enjoy You in our spirit every day.”

I hope that this practical consideration of the difference between soul and spirit proves as beneficial to you as it has to me. Also, If you’ve received help concerning the dividing of soul and spirit, I’d like to hear from you.

For further development of what I covered in this post, you might want to read Chapter Three of The Economy of God by Witness Lee, especially the section on “Dividing the Soul from the Human Spirit.” It’s available online at ministrybooks.org.


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Strike the Spirit of the Scripture to Catch the Divine Fire

“All Scripture is God-breathed…” 2 Timothy 3:16

“This indicates that the Scripture, the word of God, is the breathing out of God. God’s speaking is God’s breathing out. Hence, His word is spirit (John 6:63), or breath. Thus, the Scripture is the embodiment of God as the Spirit. The Spirit is therefore the very essence, the substance, of the Scripture, just as phosphorus is the essential substance in matches. We must strike the Spirit of the Scripture with our spirit to catch the divine fire. [2 Tim. 3:16, footnote 2, par. 1 from the Holy Bible, Recovery Version]

I’m reminded of the importance of “striking the Spirit of Scripture with our spirit” whenever we come to the Bible. The Spirit is the essence of the Scriptures. Since the Scripture, the word of God, is the breathing out of God, it conveys His essence. Just like your breath conveys your essence. We need to touch this essence in the Scripture whenever we come to the Bible. Then we’ll “catch the divine fire.”

The Lord Jesus directed us to this essence when He said in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out through the mouth of God.” God’s word is not just letters on a page. It’s a living word, full of His breath, His essence.

How can we receive God’s living essence when we come to the Scriptures?

We need to learn how to strike the Spirit of the Scriptures with our spirit. It’s like striking stick matches on the phosphorus tip to get a flame. When we use our God-contacting spirit (John 4:24) to touch the Spirit in God’s word we get spirit and life (John 6:63). That is,  we get His essence.

The simplest way I know to “strike the Spirit of the Scriptures with our spirit” is to exercise your spirit, your deepest part, to mingle your Bible reading with calling on the Lord’s name (1 Cor. 12:3), praying short prayers (Eph. 6:17-18), singing, praising, and giving thanks (Col. 3:16-17). Try it and see if you don’t get divine breath from your reading and “catch the divine fire.”

“Dear Lord, thank you for showing us that Your word is “God-breathed” and that Your Spirit is the essence of Your word. Lord, teach us to strike the Spirit of the Scripture with our spirit to catch the divine fire. Whenever we come to the Bible, we want to touch You. Make Your word so living and even a burning flame within us. ” 

For more on this point, you may want to get a copy of “Pray-reading the Word” and read this short chapter for yourself. You can read it online at ministrybooks.org or you can get your free copy from Bibles for America as a part of Basic Elements of the Christian Life, Volume 3. It’s the last chapter in the booklet.

Four ways to eat the Lord as the tree of life

The Bible is a book of life (Gen. 2:9; Psa. 36:8-9; John 10:10b; Rev. 22:14), so we need to focus on life whenever we come to its pages. At its beginning, you can see the beautiful garden of Eden with the tree of life at its center (Gen. 2:9). The only other tree mentioned by name was the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and God warned man not to eat of that tree. What’s the point? God wants man to choose to eat the tree of life.

What is the “life” signified by the “tree of life”? It’s the eternal life of God.

 

First, we need to see that the Bible speaks of three kinds of lives—the physical life (that’s bios in Greek), the psychological life (psyche) and the divine life (zoe). Adam and Eve already had the physical and psychological life. What they needed was the divine zoe-life. It is the same with us today.

God created us with such a purpose and in such a way that we could eat this zoe-life. In fact, this is the need of every God-created human being. Refer to my post, “What is eternal life?” for a further consideration of these three kinds of life.

What then is the tree of life? It’s Christ, who is both “the Life” and “the Vine.”

This tree of zoe is nothing less than God Himself, incarnated in His Son Jesus Christ. The Gospel of John says, “In Him [Christ] was life and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Then the Lord Jesus went on to say, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) and “I am the vine” (John 15:5a).

So, the tree of zoe is the Lord Jesus Himself as the vine-tree. I’m so glad that this tree was not signified by a pine tree shooting high into the air, but by a vine-tree, low to the ground, and easy for us to take in. You can read more about this in my post,“ Have You Eaten the Tree of Life Today?

How can we eat the Lord as the tree of life, as the “zoe-life”?

Let’s consider four practical ways that we can eat the Lord as this zoe-life.

First, we can eat Him by eating His words—Matt.4:4; John 6:57, 63.

Many people read the Bible without ever receiving “zoe” from their reading. I confess, this has often been my case.

So what’s the problem? The Scriptures, in their black and white letters, don’t give life. In fact, the apostle Paul said, “the letter kills” (2 Cor. 3:6).

What doesn’t kill? It’s the Lord, as the Spirit embodied in His word (v. 6b). So, whenever we read the Bible, God’s written word, we need to come to Christ, God’s living Word, so that we may have life (John 5:39-40). Whenever we contact Him as the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45) on any page of the Bible, we receive His spoken, applied words (rhema) which are spirit and life to us (John 6:63). Calling on the Lord and prayer are the means for us to contact the Lord in the Word (Psa. 119:147; Eph. 6:17-18).

The best way I know to practically eat the Lord in the Word is to “pray-read” it. Try taking a golden verse like John 3:16 and turn every word into your personal prayer to the Lord. You might say, “God so loved the world. O Lord, how great is Your love!  You are even love itself! Thank you Lord; Your love for this sinful world included me.” And so on. By the time you’re done, I believe you’ll not only love the Lord more, but you’ll be richly nourished by Him as the tree of life. Try it and see for yourself. In addition, I’d love to receive your comments sharing your helpful experiences of eating the Lord in His word. Continue reading

Have You Eaten the Tree of Life Today?

You may question whether such a thing is actually possible. But if you examine the Bible thoroughly, you’ll discover that it is very possible and even practical to eat the tree of life every day. In this post I’ll introduce how you can begin eating this life tree today.

Because the tree of life revealed in the beginning of the Bible is mysterious, (and no, it’s not an apple tree) we need to see what this tree of life really is.

The tree of life signifies the divine, uncreated life of God in the form of food. I have already addressed the matter of life previously in my post—“What is eternal life?” This life is first mentioned in the garden of Eden in Genesis 2:9. Then at the end of the Bible, the tree of life is mentioned again. In Revelation 22:1-2, we can see it along the flow of the river that proceeds from God’s throne in the New Jerusalem. So this life is not temporal or mortal but a life that issues out of the eternal God, being the divine, eternal life.

God in Christ as the tree of life to be our food

First, we need to see a vision of the tree of life. That is, that this tree is simply God Himself in Christ to be our food. God’s intention in this matter is consistent from the beginning of the Bible (Gen. 2:9) to the end (Rev. 22:1, 14). God never gave up His desire to be life to man in the form of food. From eating the tree of life in Genesis, to the heavenly manna in Exodus, and to the produce of the good land referred to in Deuteronomy, God repeatedly revealed His heart’s desire to become man’s real food in a progressive way (see Rev. 2:7, note 5).

How can we say from the Bible that the tree of life is God in Christ as food to us? To see this vision, we need to look at the gospel of John. First, in John 1:4 speaking of Christ, it says that “in Him was life.” Then in John 15:1 the Lord Jesus said, “I am the vine.” From John 15, we can see that the Lord is a vine tree and from John 1 we can that in Him is the divine, “zoe” life. So Christ Himself is the fulfillment of the figure of the tree of life. In John 6:57b, He said, “so he who eats Me, he also shall live because of Me.” So our Lord is the tree of life and He wants us to eat Him. For this He was incarnated, crucified, and resurrected to become the life-giving Spirit so that we can now receive Him as our life.

Since the eating Christ as the tree of life will be the eternal portion of all God’s redeemed people, we need to cooperate with God’s intention today. May we all be impressed with such a vision.

God wanting to recover our eating of the tree of life

The key word here is “recover.” This implies that the matter of eating the Lord as the tree of life has been lost or neglected and requires some to overcome this downward trend return to the eating of the tree of life. For the Lord to fulfill His intention as mentioned above, God’s people need a real recovery to the eating of Christ.

From the John 6:57, we can see a window into our Lord’s desire that we eat Him, digest Him, and assimilate Him, so that He becomes our organic constitution. The Greek word for “eats” (trogon) in this verse, literally means “masticates”, that is, “chews, or reduces to a pulp by grinding with the teeth.”

We need to lovingly receive our Lord as the Spirit through His word with much prayer, petition, thanksgiving and praise. Whenever we come to the written word in the Bible, we should contact the Lord Himself by means of prayer in our spirit so that we can receive a “Spirit-word”—a word that is spirit and life (Eph. 6:17-18, John 6:63). By repeatedly considering and musing on God’s word with prayer, singing and giving thanks we can finely chew the Lord, eating of Him as the tree of life. Continue reading

Being Sanctified by the Truth to Move Out of Ourselves for the Oneness

There are four great pillars in the Lord’s recovery today. These four pillars are the truth, life, the church, and the gospel. In my last post,  I focused on the progression of these four pillars. First we have the revelation of  the divine truth. Then, according to this revelation, we have the genuine experience of the divine life. The revelation of the truth and the experience of life produces the church. Finally, the church has the awesome commission to proclaim the high gospel which is to announce the divine truth. The progression of these four pillars should actually become a cycle that is subjectively repeated in millions of the Lord’s seekers for the spreading of the testimony of Jesus all over this earth.

An Experiential Definition of the Truth—“Heavenly Television”

In this post I will focus on the first pillar—the truth. The truth as revealed in the Bible does not merely refer to accurate doctrines or being without falsehood. Rather, truth is the divine light shining on the facts of the Bible and “televising” these facts into our being. Truth is a kind of “heavenly television.”

First, truth is the expression of the divine light. It is the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of reality as the “heavenly electricity” that “televises” these divine facts and makes them more than a mere factual report. There is a huge difference in reading a review of a certain sporting event and actually witnessing the event. The “televising” of the divine facts by the Spirit of reality is to make them a “you are there” television.

To experience such a subjective definition of the truth, we must contact the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of reality,  by exercising our spirit to pray over the words of the Bible (Eph. 6:17-18). By pray-reading in such a way, the Spirit as the “heavenly electricity” makes all the divine facts a heavenly vision to us. Continue reading

How to Have Faith? Receiving the Spirit and Supplying the Spirit by the Hearing of Faith

“So faith comes out of hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom. 10:17)

A thoughtful reader of my September 15 post—“How to Have Faith? 12 Action Verbs to Fill You with Faith”—recently asked, “Do these points apply to non-Christians or more so to Christians looking to strengthen their faith? An unbelieving student I met recently asked me how he could have faith to believe in God. Any thoughts?”

I really appreciate this response and believe that the twelve points on subjective faith apply both to non-Christians and Christians. That is, an unbeliever’s initial experience of salvation and a believer’s daily, moment by moment experience of salvation both depend on the application of the twelve actions verbs from hearing to overflowing.

To review, our exercise of subjective faith includes: hearing the word (Rom. 10:14), appreciating the Lord, calling on Him (Rom. 10:12-13), receiving the Lord (John 1:12), accepting Him, joining to Him (1 Cor. 6:17), partaking of Him (1 Pet. 1:4), enjoying Him, rejoicing (Jer. 15:16), thanking Him (Col. 1:12), praising Him (Heb. 13:15), and overflowing (Psa. 45:1-2).

Non-Christians and Christians Both Needing the Hearing of Faith

Paul said to the distracted Galatian believers, “This only I wish to learn from you, Did you receive the Spirit out of the works of law or out of the hearing of faith?” (Gal. 3:2).

Strengthening his point, Paul continues by saying, “He therefore who bountifully supplies to you the Spirit and does works of power among you, does He do it out of the works of the law or out of the hearing of faith?” (Gal. 3:5).

In these two verses, Paul presents the hearing of faith in two stages. His first question indicates that the Galatians’ initial receiving of the Spirit when they believed in the Lord , was by the hearing of faith—once for all in the past (v. 2).

His second question confirms that the bountiful supplying of the Spirit—a continual process, is also by the hearing of faith (v. 5). Continue reading

Preparing “Our Camera”—Our Faith—to “Photograph” the Scenery of Grace

Our Faith being our “Camera”

In my last post I pointed out that holding to truth in love can be likened to photography. I also introduced twelve action verbs that describe how we can apply our “camera of faith” to the “scenery of grace.” This scenery is the divine truth, the reality of “the faith.” It is by practicing these twelve action verbs that we hold to truth so that the “film” of our spirit is filled with the divine scenery. In this way, our inner being is filled with subjective faith.

To review, our exercise of subjective faith includes at least twelve items: hearing the word (Rom. 10:14), appreciating the Lord, calling on Him (Rom. 10:12-13), receiving the Lord (John 1:12), accepting Him, joining to the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17), partaking of Him (1 Pet. 1:4), enjoying Him, rejoicing (Jer. 15:16), thanking Him (Col. 1:12), praising Him (Heb. 13:15), and overflowing (Psa. 45:1-2).

Our precious faith, “our camera,” responds to “the truth,” the reality of “the faith” (the scenery) and ushers us into the reality, making the contents of the faith, subjective to us. That is, faith transfers the objective divine scenery onto the “film” of our spirit, making it the substance of our Christian life and experience.

I hope that Holding to Truth in Love will encourage you to take a lot of pictures of the divine scenery and to look at them again and again until they become the substance of your Christian life. Continue reading