Unlocking the Mystery of Human Life

The way of salvation is not dependent upon man’s improvement, because “death” cannot be improved. Sin must first be judged, and then there can be the freedom from death which comes through sin. This is the salvation of Jesus Christ!


The Spirit and The Soul
The Spirit


It is very important for believers to know that they have a spirit. Further on, we will see that all communications between God and man lie within this spirit. If a believer does not know what his spirit is, he will not know how to fellowship with God in the spirit and will substitute the work of the spirit with soulish activities such as that of the mind and the emotion. The result of this is that he will always remain soulish and will not reach the spiritual realm.


First Corinthians 2:11 speaks of the spirit of man which is in him.


First Corinthians 5:4 speaks of “my spirit.”


Romans 8:16 speaks of “our spirit.”


First Corinthians 14:14 again speaks of “my spirit.”


First Corinthians 14:32 speaks of “the spirits of prophets.”


Proverbs 25:28 mentions one’s own spirit.


Hebrews 12:23 mentions the spirits of righteous men.


Zechariah 12:1 mentions Jehovah forming the spirit of man within him.


These few verses adequately prove to us that man has a spirit. This spirit is not our soul and is not the Holy Spirit. We worship God by this spirit!


According to the teaching of the Bible and the experience of the believers, man’s spirit is composed of three parts, or it has three functions. These three parts are man’s conscience, intuition, and fellowship (that is, fellowship with God, which is the same as worship).


The conscience is the discerning organ. The discernment of right and wrong by the conscience is not influenced by the knowledge in the mind; rather, it is a spontaneous, direct judgment. Many times the conscience will condemn even the things that one’s reasoning condones. The work of the conscience is mostly independent and direct; it is not affected by outward persuasions. If a man makes a mistake in his conduct, his conscience will condemn him. The intuition is the consciousness within man’s spirit. This consciousness is absolutely different from the body-consciousness and the soul-consciousness. The reason it is called intuition is that this consciousness is direct and is not dependent on anything else. We do not need the help of the mind, the emotion, or the will before we can have this knowledge. This knowledge comes directly from intuition. Through his intuition, man can truly “know” something, while his mind can only make him understand it. All God’s revelations and all the moving of the Holy Spirit are known by the believers through the intuition. A believer should follow the voice of the conscience and the instruction of the intuition. Fellowship is our worship to God. The mind, the emotion, and the will are the organs of the soul and cannot worship God. God does not come through our mind, emotion, or desires. God is known directly through the spirit! Man worships God and communicates with God directly through the spirit, that is, through the “inner man,” and not through the soul or the outward man.


Having seen the above, we now realize how the three parts—the conscience, the intuition, and the fellowship—are deeply integrated together and how they are related to one another in their work. The conscience is linked to the intuition, for the conscience judges according to the intuition. The conscience condemns conduct that is contrary to the intuition. The intuition is also linked to fellowship, or worship. God is known to man in the intuition, and He reveals Himself and His will through the intuition. Hopes and conjectures will not bring us the knowledge of God. Further on, we will discuss these matters in detail. Therefore, we will not say too much about them now.


The spirit contains the function of the conscience, although this does not mean that the spirit is the conscience. We can see this from the following verses:


“For Jehovah your God hardened his spirit” (Deuteronomy 2:30).


“Jehovah...saves those who are contrite in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).


“Renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).


“When Jesus had said these things, He became troubled in His spirit” (John 13:21).


“His spirit was provoked within him as he beheld that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16).


“For you have not received a spirit of slavery bringing you into fear again” (Romans 8:15).


“The Spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16).


“For I,...present in the spirit, have already judged, as if being present, him who has thus done this” (1 Corinthians 5:3).


“I had no rest in my spirit” (2 Corinthians 2:13).


“For God has not given us a spirit of cowardice” (2 Timothy 1:7).


The spirit has the function of intuition, or consciousness. We can see this from the following verses:


“The spirit is willing” (Matthew 26:41).


“Jesus, knowing fully in His spirit” (Mark 2:8).


“And He groaned deeply in His spirit” (Mark 8:12).


“Jesus...was moved with indignation in His spirit” (John 11:33).


“This man...being fervent in spirit” (Acts 18:25).


“I am going bound in the spirit to Jerusalem” (Acts 20:22).


“For who among men knows the things of man, except the spirit of man which is in him?” (1 Corinthians 2:11).


“For they refreshed my spirit and yours” (1 Corinthians 16:18).


“Because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you” (2 Corinthians 7:13).


The spirit has the function of fellowship, or worship. We can see this from the following verses:


“And my spirit has exulted in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47).


“The true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truthfulness” (John 4:23).


“For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit” (Romans 1:9).


“We serve in newness of spirit” (Romans 7:6).


“You have received a spirit of sonship in which we cry, Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15).


“The Spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit” (Romans 8:16).


“But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17).


“I will pray with the spirit” (1 Corinthians 14:15).


“If you bless with the spirit” (1 Corinthians 14:16).


“And he carried me away in spirit” (Revelation 21:10).


From these verses we see that the spirit includes at least three parts—the conscience, the intuition, and the fellowship. Although an unregenerated person has not received life, he still has his conscience, intuition, and fellowship. Of course, under such circumstances he worships only the evil spirits. With some, the manifestation of the spirit is more, while with others, the manifestation of the spirit is less. But this does not mean that a person is not dead in his trespasses and sins before he is regenerated. The Bible does not consider a person saved just because his conscience is active, his intuition is sharp, and he has a spiritual inclination and interest. These things alone only demonstrate that man has a spirit and that this spirit is something different from the intellect, emotion, and will in his soul. Before a man is regenerated, his spirit is isolated from the life of God. It is only after he is regenerated that God’s life and the Holy Spirit begin to live in his spirit and enliven it to become the instrument of the Holy Spirit.


The reason we study the main features of the spirit is to show that man has a spirit which is independent of his other parts. This spirit is not man’s mind, will, or emotion. It includes the function of the conscience, the intuition, and the fellowship. Here, God regenerates us and instructs us and leads us into His rest. Because the believers have long been controlled by the soul, they have become very weak in their knowledge of the spirit. We should come before God in fear and trembling and should ask Him to show us in our experience what is of the spirit and what is of the soul.


Before a person is regenerated, his spirit is deeply submerged within his soul. It is surrounded by his soul and is knit together with his soul. In this way, the functions and the consciousness of the spirit are mingled with the soul, and the person cannot distinguish what comes from the soul and what comes from the spirit. In addition, because the main functions of the spirit towards God are lost and dead, they have become accessories to the soul. When the functions of the mind, emotion, and will in the soul become strong, the functions of the spirit become obliterated. Hence, even after a believer is regenerated, there is still the need for the work of dividing the soul from the spirit. If we search the Scripture (which we will do shortly), we will find out that the spirit of an unregenerated person seems to do the same work as that of his soul. The following verses prove this:


“And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled” (Genesis 41:8).


“Then their anger [lit., spirit] was abated toward him” (Judges 8:3).


“He that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly” (Proverbs 14:29).


“A broken spirit drieth the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).


“A fool uttereth all his mind [lit., spirit]” (Proverbs 29:11).


“Those who have erred in spirit will come to understand” (Isaiah 29:24).


“And because of a broken spirit you shall wail” (Isaiah 65:14).


“For I know the things that come into your mind [lit., spirit]” (Ezekiel 11:5).


“And that which cometh into your mind [lit., spirit] shall not be at all” (Ezekiel 20:32).


“But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit became so arrogant” (Daniel 5:20).


The above few verses show us the function of the spirit of an unregenerated person. We can see how close these functions are to the functions of the soul. The purpose of these verses in saying that the spirit behaves in this way, instead of saying that the soul behaves this way, is to highlight the condition of these ones in the deepest part of their being. The spirits of these people are controlled and affected by their mind. This is why the spirit performs the functions of the soul. Nevertheless, the spirits of these ones are still there, and these functions are still from their spirits. A man does not lose the organ of the spirit and does not cause the spirit to disappear just because his soul has taken control.




In addition to the spirit, the organ with which he communicates with God, man also has a soul. This soul is where man’s own consciousness lies. Man is conscious of his own existence because of the activity of the soul. The soul is the organ of man’s personality. Everything included in man’s personality, that is, every element that constitutes him a man, is a part of the soul. His intellect, mind, ideals, love, stimulations, judgment, will, etc., are all parts of the soul.


We have said that the spirit and the body are merged into the soul. That is why the soul becomes man’s personality and the center of his being. For this reason the Bible calls man “a soul,” as if man has nothing but a soul. For example, Genesis 12:5 speaks of the souls that went forth from Haran. When Jacob brought his household down to Egypt, the Bible says that “all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten” (46:27). There are many other instances like these in the original language, where “soul” is used to denote persons. The reason for this is that the soul is the location of man’s personality and the chief element of his personality. The way a man behaves is governed by his personality. A man’s existence, characteristics, and life all come from his soul. Hence, the Bible calls man a soul.


The three main elements included in a man’s personality are his will, his mind, and his emotion. The will is the deliberating organ; it is where the power of judgment lies. It makes decisions on whether or not one will do something and whether or not one wants something. Without the will, man would be a machine. The mind is the thinking organ; it is our intellect. Our intelligence, knowledge, and everything that has to do with our mental capacity come from the mind. Without the mind, man would become totally foolish. The emotion is the organ of love, hatred, and sentiments. We can love and hate and feel joy, anger, sorrow, and happiness through our emotion. Without the emotion, a man would be senseless like wood and stone. If we study the Bible carefully, we will find that the three main elements of man’s personality belong to the soul. They are all parts of the soul. Because there are too many verses, we will just quote a few to serve as illustrations.


The soul includes the will:


“Do not give me over, To the desire [lit., soul] of my adversaries” (Psalm 27:12).


“Do not give him over to the desire [lit., soul] of his enemies” (Psalm 41:2).


“Delivered thee unto the will [lit., soul] of them that hate thee” (Ezekiel 16:27).


“You shall let her go wherever she wishes [lit., according to her soul]” (Deuteronomy 21:14).


“Do not let them say in their heart [lit., soul]” (Psalm 35:25).


“When a man vows a vow to Jehovah or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge” (Numbers 30:2).


“Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God” (1 Chronicles 22:19).


“They desire and lift up their soul to return to dwell there” (Jeremiah 44:14, Amplified Bible).


“The things that my soul refused to touch” (Job 6:7).


“So that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life” (Job 7:15).


The words “will” and “desire” in the foregoing verses show that they refer to the human will. The setting, the lifting up, the refusing, and the choosing are all functions of man’s will, and they all issue from the soul. Hence, we see that the soul includes the will.


The soul also includes the intellect or the mind:


“I take from them...that whereupon they set their minds [lit., souls], their sons and their daughters” (Ezekiel 24:25).


“With despiteful minds [lit., soul]” (Ezekiel 36:5).


“That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good” (Proverbs 19:2).


“How long will I bear concern in my soul” (Psalm 13:2).


“Marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Psalm 139:14).


“My soul remembers them well, And is bowed down within me” (Lamentations 3:20).


“Keep sound wisdom and discretion: so shall they be life unto thy soul” (Proverbs 3:21-22).


“So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul” (Proverbs 24:14).


Knowledge, setting of the mind, having in remembrance, etc., are all activities of man’s mind, or intellect. The Bible considers all these to be from the soul. The soul includes the human intellect, or the mind.


The soul also includes the emotions:


The soul can love:


“And you shall love Jehovah your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 6:5).


“The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:1).


“And you shall exchange the money for anything that your soul desires...or for anything that your soul would like” (Deuteronomy 14:26).


“Whatsoever thy soul desireth” (1 Samuel 20:4).


“My soul longs, indeed even faints, For the courts of Jehovah” (Psalm 84:2).


“That which your soul pitieth” (Ezekiel 24:21).


“So my soul pants, For You” (Psalm 42:1).


“Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth” (Song of Songs 1:7).


“My soul desires You in the night” (Isaiah 26:9).


“My Beloved in whom My soul has found delight” (Matthew 12:18).


“My soul magnifies the Lord” (Luke 1:46).


“And a sword will pierce through your own soul” (Luke 2:35).


These few verses reveal one function of the soul, which is to love. The desire to love comes from the soul. Hence, human love is a part of the function of the soul.


The soul can hate:


“So that his life abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat” (Job 33:20).


“The lame and the blind, that are hated of David’s soul” (2 Samuel 5:8).


“My soul was impatient with them, and their soul also detested me” (Zechariah 11:8).


“My soul is weary of my life” (Job 10:1).


“Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat” (Psalm 107:18).


These few verses teach us that hatred is a function of the soul.


The soul can be affected in other ways:


“The soul of all the people was grieved” (1 Samuel 30:6).


“Her soul is vexed” (2 Kings 4:27).


“His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel” (Judges 10:16).


“How long will you vex my soul” (Job 19:2).


“My soul will exult in My God” (Isaiah 61:10).


“Cause the soul of Your servant to rejoice” (Psalm 86:4).


“Their soul fainted in them” (Psalm 107:5).


“Why are you bowed down, O my soul? And why do you groan within me?” (Psalm 42:5).


“Return unto thy rest, O my soul” (Psalm 116:7).


“My soul breaketh for the longing” (Psalm 119:20).


“My soul melteth for heaviness” (Psalm 119:28).


“Sweet to the soul” (Proverbs 16:24).


“Let your soul delight itself in fatness” (Isaiah 55:2).


“When my soul fainted within me” (Jonah 2:7).


“My soul is exceedingly sorrowful” (Matthew 26:38).


“Now is my soul troubled” (John 12:27).


“Tormented his righteous soul day after day” (2 Peter 2:8).


These few verses tell us how the soul is affected. The feeling of being affected comes from the soul.


From the above verses we can see the functions in our emotions. Love, hatred, feelings of being affected, sensations, etc., all come from the soul. This shows us that our emotion is also a part of our soul.




Some who have studied the Bible have pointed out that there are three words for life in Greek: (1) bios, (2) psuche, and (3) zoe. Although all three words denote life, the life which they denote is different. Bios refers to the physical life. When the Lord Jesus said that the widow had cast in all the “living” that she had, He was using this word (Luke 21:4). Zoe is the highest life, the spiritual life. Whenever the Bible mentions “eternal life,” the word zoe is used for “life.” Psuche is the life which makes a man living; it is man’s natural life, that is, the life of the soul. When the Bible speaks of man’s life, it uses this word.


What we want to pay attention to now are the words “soul” and “soul-life.” In the original language, they are the same word. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the New Testament was written in Greek. In the Old Testament, both “soul” and “soul-life” are nephesh. In the New Testament, both “soul” and “soul-life” are psuche. Hence, we see that the soul is one of the three elements of man and is man’s life, the very natural life.


In many translations, the word soul is translated as “life.” Here we will give only a few examples:


“But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall you not eat” (Genesis 9:4).


“For the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11).


“For those who seek the life of the child” (Matthew 2:20).


“Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save a life or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:9).


“Men who have risked their lives for the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26).


“But I consider my life of no account as if precious to myself” (Acts 20:24).


“To give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).


“The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11, 15, 17).


In the above passages, the word life is “soul” in the original language. But we cannot translate it as soul, for that would not make sense. The reason there is this kind of usage is that the soul is man’s life.


We have said that the soul is one of the three elements of man. The soul-life is man’s natural life, the life which enables a person to exist, to be organic, and to live. It is the life which gives man the power to live as a man. Since the Bible has nephesh and psuche to denote both the soul as well as man’s own life, we can readily see that these two things, though distinguishable, are inseparable. They are distinguishable because in some places psuche can be considered the soul or the life, but not vice versa. For example, the same word is used many times in Luke 12:19-23 and Mark 3:4, but it cannot be translated into the same word in English. If we do, it will not make sense. On the other hand, the soul and man’s own life are inseparable because the two things are fully integrated within man. Without man’s soul, there is no more life. The Bible never tells us that a fleshly person has any life apart from the soul. Man’s life is the soul that has permeated the body. When the soul is joined to the body, the soul becomes man’s life. Life is but an expression of the soul. Since our present physical life is the life of the soul, the Bible calls our present body “a soulish body” (1 Corinthians 15:44).


This point about the soul being our human life is the most crucial point. This has much to do with our being a spiritual Christian or a soulish Christian. We will speak more concerning this later.


We have seen many verses that prove that the soul contains the faculties of the mind, the emotion, and the will. We know that man’s thoughts, imaginations, judgments, feelings, emotions, stimulations, and desires all come from the soul. Hence, man’s life is nothing but a life that is joined to the mind, the emotion, and the will. Man’s life is but an expression of the mind, emotion, and will. All the things in the natural realm that are included in man’s personality are the various faculties of the soul. The soul-life is man’s natural life in the flesh. The various activities mentioned above in the Scripture, such as love, hatred, knowledge, counsel, vexation, rejoicing, and decisions, are all functions of the soul-life.




Now that we have seen the soul as our personality, our organ of deliberation, and our life, we can conclude that this soul is the true “I”; it is the self. The self is the soul. The Bible has ample proofs of this.


In Numbers Chapter 30 “binding oneself” is mentioned over ten times. In the original language, these places all say “binding the soul.” This shows us clearly that the soul is our self. In many places the Bible translates the word “soul” as “self.” We will only quote a few examples:


“You shall not defile yourselves with them so that you become unclean” (Leviticus 11:43).


“You shall not make yourselves unclean” (Leviticus 11:44).


“For themselves and for their seed” (Esther 9:31).


“He teareth himself in his anger” (Job 18:4).


“Because he justified himself” (Job 32:2).


“But they themselves have gone into captivity” (Isaiah 46:2).


Furthermore, in Exodus 12:16, “That which every man must eat” is, in the original language, “That which every soul must eat.” In Numbers 35:11 and 15, “The manslayer who kills any person without intent” is, in the original language, “The manslayer who kills any soul without intent.” In Numbers 23:10, “Let me die the death of the upright” is, in the original language, “Let the soul die.” In Leviticus 2:1, “When a person brings a meal offering” is, in the original language, “When a soul brings a meal offering.” Psalm 131:2 says, “My soul is even as a weaned child.” In Esther 4:13, “Think not with yourself” is, in the original language, “Think not in your soul.” In Amos 6:8, “The Lord Jehovah has sworn by Himself” is, in the original language, “The Lord Jehovah has sworn by the soul.” These few verses indicate to us in different ways that the soul is the person himself.


In the New Testament we have the same thing. In 1 Peter 3:20 the eight persons are referred to as eight souls. In Acts 27:37 the two hundred seventy-six are referred to as two hundred seventy-six souls. In Romans 2:9 the evil men are referred to as the evil souls. To warn the evil souls means to warn the evil men. James 5:20 says that the turning of a sinner back is the saving of a soul from death. In Luke 12:19 the foolish rich man spoke comforting words to his own soul, meaning that he spoke comforting words to himself.


Hence, it is very obvious that the Bible considers man’s soul or man’s soul-life as man himself. The above examples show that in these cases, if we translate the word into “soul” or “life,” it would become meaningless. The only way is to translate it as himself, oneself, or themselves. The reason for this is that the Holy Spirit considers man’s soul or life as man himself. We can confirm this by the words of the Lord Jesus.


Matthew 16:26 says, “For what shall a man be profited if he gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul-life [psuche]? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul-life [psuche]?”


Luke 9:25 says, “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world but loses or forfeits himself?”


Matthew says the same thing as Luke. In one case, it mentions the soul-life, while in the other case, it mentions himself. Hence, we see that the Holy Spirit is expounding the “himself” in Luke with Matthew, or one may also say that He is expounding the “soul-life” in Matthew with Luke. Man’s soul or life is just man himself. Man himself is his soul or his life.


After we have read the verses concerning the soul, we conclude that man’s soul is just man’s life, man himself, his personality, and the will, mind, and emotion that are included in his personality. From this study we draw the conclusion that the human soul encompasses everything that makes up the person as a human being. Every man who lives in the flesh has a soul and has everything that comes with the soul. The soul is the life which all men of flesh share in common. Before a man is regenerated, everything that his life contains, whether it be his self, life, breath, power, mind, proposals, love, or feelings, is all of the soul. In other words, the life of the soul is the life which a man acquires from his mother’s womb. Everything that this life has (before a person believes in the Lord), that it will have, and that it can possibly have, is of the soul-life. If we know clearly what is of the soul, it will be easy for us to know what is of the spirit, and we will be able to differentiate between the spiritual things and the soulish things.



Verses and footnotes are taken from The Recovery Version of the Holy Bible and Words of Ministry from Brother Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man, Set 1, Vol. 12, The Spirit and The Soul, and  [with personal enlightenment and inspiration]. Both are published by Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim, CA. All Rights Reserved.





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Updated:  4/1/2020