Now we resume our consideration of that inner nature of that which comes out in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. In the previous chapter we covered a great deal of outline, paving the way for a more minute and closer consideration. And without going back over that ground, we shall seek to go right on from the point at which we arrived.
To resume, we will ask ourselves the question: What is it that we are really concerned with at this time? And for all the most vital purposes of our own spiritual life and service it is important, it is indispensable, that we understand the difference between that which is of the soul and that which is of the spirit. We will dwell then, in this chapter, on the soul and its constituents.
We have seen that man, since the fall and by the fall, is definitely said by the Word of God, to be a soulish creature. That is stated, and quite emphatically, by the apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians chapter two. Our translation uses the word 'natural' in the place of the Greek word 'soulical'.
As to the constituents of the soul, there are those which lie near to the surface, or on the surface, and there are many others which lie beneath the surface which are not apparent, and some of which are altogether beyond our power of reaching and naming. Man as a soulical creature has factors and elements in his make-up which are deeper than our perception. He is a very complex being capable of manifesting most extraordinary features. In a sense he is a very dangerous being and it is mainly in that realm of the danger of the soulical man that we are occupied at this time.
On the surface it is quite well-known that the soulish nature is comprised of three phases or departments, of reason, feeling, and willing. There you begin with any simple study or consideration of psychology. Back of this thing, and much deeper, there are many other things which come within the category of what is called the occult; more remote things which become a basis for all such things as so-called spiritism and what is ultra psychical. We are well aware of these facts. They are not strange to our knowledge, but it is important for us to bear them in mind in a day when we are dealing with phenomena so extraordinary as much of what there is about today. For unless we recognise that, we shall be confusing things and mistaking certain things for other things, failing to recognise that certain things which might appear to be of a certain character, can be accounted for altogether on other lines. That is speaking somewhat veiledly, but you can have something which looks very much like a spiritual thing which can be altogether accounted for on psychical or soulical grounds by reason of those deeper depths of the make-up of man by nature. That is just a first statement by way of bringing man into view.
The second thing, which has already been intimated, but which needs to be emphasized afresh, is that man as a soulish creature is not an isolated creature, but that there is an alliance between him in his very nature and Satan. We said that the interference of Satan with the creation, by man's consent and by man's action, changed the nature of man from being primarily a spirit man to a soul man. And that interference had the effect of making man suitable to satanic ends, so that man in his very being became adapted to the purposes of Satan. Therefore there entered into man's very being a deception which he has handed down in the constitution of the race all the way through, so that the entire race is a deceived race because the faculty of spiritual knowledge and understanding fell out of union with God, into what is called death.
To explain that simply, if you will have in your mind's eye three circles, one on top of the other, and yet each one running into the other, the top, spirit; the middle, soul; and the bottom, body; you have the original order. The spirit joined with God - the faculty of spiritual transmission from God who is Spirit - that is spiritual understanding, apprehension, knowledge, discernment. Satan did not come to the spirit, but to the soul and called upon man to act, choose, in his soul, ignoring his spirit. And you know that the three uppermost features of the soul were used: reason, argument, "Has God said...". And desire, an appeal to a desire. Desires were perfectly legitimate, but it is entirely on what principle you gratify your desires as to whether desire is right or wrong in the long run. And then will, volition, action, choice. And man on his soul level acted contrary to what he knew in his spirit to be God's revealed will. When he did that, that governing organ of his being, the spirit, died in the Scriptural sense of death: it fell out of union, or was separated from God, and no longer was man "joined to the Lord one Spirit". He became a soul man with soul government instead of spirit. But that act had let the deceiving work of the devil into his being and he was deceived, and all that have ever come from him and through him have been deceived and are deceived. And in the very nature, therefore, of the race, there is an alliance with Satan, and Satan has ground suitable for his purpose.
What is the purpose of Satan? Satan's great aim is to make everything of the soulish man, of the psychical man; to set up man according to his own heart. God has a Man after His heart who will do all His commandment, but that is a spiritual Man. Satan has a man after his heart who will do all his will, and that is a psychical man, or soulish man. And Satan's ultimate triumph is the antichrist, the super-man; man deified and worshipped, which is Satan incarnate, taking the place of God incarnate in Christ; counterfeit, imitation.
So that it is of primary importance for us, as the Lord's servants, as well as the Lord's children, to see that the soul-man is a mixture of Satan and humanity, and that there is an alliance in the very nature of man. Now, you must be careful lest you say that man is the devil incarnate. He is not. The difference is this. Satan sinned in the spirit. There is no hope for him, and there never is any hope for anyone who sins in the spirit. Man has sinned in the flesh; there is hope for him until he is enlightened, as Satan was, and knowing the power of God he sins in spirit, then there is no more forgiveness. There is no chance of Satan's salvation whatever the Universalists may say, because he has sinned in spirit. Man has not done that. Man's spirit is dead in that sense. Man is sinning in soul and in body. He can sin ultimately in spirit as the Word teaches. I know that raises difficult questions, but it is not unimportant to recognise the difference, because while it is perfectly true that Satan is related to, and bound up with the very nature of man, man is not the devil incarnate, there is a difference. The sin of man in the spirit eventually will be whether he, with enlightenment and knowledge, chooses allegiance to Satan or chooses allegiance to the One about whom he has been enlightened, the Lord Jesus. Then will come the issue, as to whether he sins merely as a natural man sins, or whether he sins in another realm. That enlightenment is the work of the Holy Spirit. That work of the Holy Spirit requires the spirit of man as its organ. Therefore, to sin against the Holy Spirit is to sin in the organ of spiritual enlightenment, which is the spirit.
The world is sinning, but it can be saved while its spirit has not been enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and quickened. It is sinning in the soul and in the body, but once you pass beyond that realm and get to the realm where spirits sin, they are held in chains unto everlasting punishment. That is an awful side of things, but I mention it by way of discrimination, to seek to get at the heart of some of our difficulties, and mainly, of course, to define certain differences between a soulish man or a soulish creature with Satan implicit, or mixed up and allied with that nature and becoming another thing such as Judas eventually became, an incarnation of Satan, when he entered into him. There was a point where Satan was working through Judas; there came a point where Satan worked in him. He worked through him by alliance with his soul, he worked in him when Judas consented to his entering in, and ultimately rejected his Lord.
Now, this alliance between the soulish man and Satan is to be recognised; what its nature is. I am quite sure a lot of people have not made that discrimination and are in difficulty. They are conscious that in their soul life there is some kind of an alliance with the evil one, and at certain times they are acutely conscious of it and they suffer, and they do not know where their own personality ends and where the devil begins, and then they fall into accepting the suggestion of the devil that they have become demon possessed and that is another thing altogether. Mark that difference, it is a tremendous difference.
In your soul life, under given circumstances, the effect of too heavy a meal at night, or something like that, you become irritable and short-tempered and perhaps you show it in word or act, and when you do it, it is like the very devil himself; you feel the very presence of the devil, and when you have passed it, it was like an awful nightmare. Yes, a child of God. It is the close relationship of your body and your soul, then the devil begins to whisper to you about being demon possessed, and if you take it on, there is no end to that; the blackness and the darkness. But this is another thing altogether, you have not sinned in your spirit. It does not mean you are without responsibility, because the very fact that you know that that is wrong and rebel against it, is the uprising of your spirit to tell you to go and put that right. But it does not mean you have sinned in your spirit, although your spirit may have been touched by the uncleanness of that, and you will have to go and ask for cleansing of the flesh and of the spirit. That is the Word of God. But keep your line drawn between the two things. Demon possession is when the devil gets into your spirit, not merely into your soul. Look at the Word of the Lord about this.
James 3:15: "This wisdom is not a wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish (soulical, demoniacal)". Now, wisdom is a faculty of the soul. It is on the intellectual side of the soul, the intellect. The Word says that that wisdom is soulish, it is earthly, and its inspiration is from hell; it is demoniacal. It is a strong word here translated 'devilish'. You carry that over to the letter to the Corinthians, Paul's discussion on the wisdom of this world; see it brought into the Corinthian assembly. You may take it for granted that those Corinthian believers did not take on or bring in anything that was obviously and patently iniquitous or wrong. The philosophy of the Greek world was a very sublime and beautiful thing. That philosophy on the destiny of man (read any of those Greek philosophers) was beautiful. They were bringing this in and mixing it up with the Christian truth in an assembly of saints, and the apostle says it is the wisdom of man and he relates that wisdom to the soulish man who "receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them". And he says that being soulish is the wisdom of the world, and James defines all that as earthly, soulical, demoniacal. And did it not prove to be so? The apostle says to the Corinthians that by that wisdom they crucified the Lord of Glory. Demoniacal... beautiful stuff. Sublime conceptions of man and his destiny issue in the crucifying of the Lord Jesus. It is the natural wisdom of man. You see how dangerous a man may be in his philosophy, in his very thoughts and reasonings. And therefore man in himself, reasoning, arguing, philosophising, analysing, is ruled out altogether by the cross of the Lord Jesus, and has no place in that which issues with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Oh, this wisdom, "Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory", this is resurrection wisdom; a different thing altogether.
Or read what Jude says about this natural man, verse 19: "These are they who make separations, sensual (soulical), having not the Spirit." Those two things are set over against one another, having the Spirit and being soulical. What does 'having the Spirit' mean? Well, it means that the human spirit has been raised from its place of dormancy, renewed, born again, and become the vessel of the Holy Spirit. Any such one is expected, therefore, to be pre-eminently spiritual on that double ground that their spirit has been born anew and the Holy Spirit is resident within, and therefore, they are not soulical pre-eminently, and these things will not be, or should not be, "who make separations" because they are soulical: "not having the Spirit". This clause says that the soulical man who is pre-eminently soulical, has not the Spirit. It says, to make that more emphatic, that the child of God is altogether, or should be altogether, above the mere works of his or her soul. Is it not true that Satan's successes come through the soulical nature always? "These are they who make separations...". What is it that makes separations of this kind? Jude is not talking about those separations which are legitimate, that we are to separate ourselves from everyone who walks disorderly, but these kinds which are of the Corinthian character: "I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ" because of the natural element triumphing. Well, the cause of these things is just the soul life, either in its reasonings, or desirings, or in its willings. The remedy for these things is, as Paul points out to the Corinthians, that that natural man should recognise Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and that the Spirit should be pre-eminent in the believer.
Now then, that has to do with Satan's alliance with the natural man, in his nature; then as to the soul being ungoverned by the renewed spirit. This is the ground of deception and false works. When the soul is ungoverned by the renewed spirit, that is the ground for all the deceiving work of Satan and all the false works of man. As to the unbelieving, that applies firstly. The word is: "because they received not the love of the truth... for this cause God sends them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." And notice, that follows this: "whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that are perishing; because they received not the love of the truth" (2 Thess. 2:10-12). Therefore, in the unbelieving the soul is the ground of deception and false works. And what is the nature of deception? A great working of error, delusion. Well, it would never be a delusion to capture the unbelieving unless it was a delusion. I mean, if this one comes in this way, with power and signs and wonders of falsehood, as nakedly as that, no rational being would take it on; it must necessarily come along the line of a great delusion, deception, which must be an imitation, a representation of Christ - Antichrist standing over against Christ, but imitating Christ.
There are multitudes of people today who have been in the way of truth, not the heathen who have never been in the way of the truth, but those who have all the Christian traditions, who have a free, unchained Bible, who have that which speaks of the unmistakable pre-eminence of Christ, who have refused to believe; for whom the authority of the Word of God is altogether undermined, and the authority of the Person of Christ is abandoned. And these people are being caught in a great delusion, something false. Satan is successful along the line of their own soulish life; the deception is by reason of what these people are in their own nature, and the attitude which they have taken towards the presented truth.
What I mean is this: that what is called the Christian world, this country and continental countries, I think particularly Germany, have had the knowledge of the truth as no other countries in this world - the truth of Christ, and a much fuller knowledge of the truth has been in these countries than anywhere else. Now the acceptance of what is called Modernism, is unbelief at its very core. We are going to see the greatest delusions that the world has ever known arising in these countries. We are going to see the great religious deceptions in these countries, a great working of error, and there will be these lying wonders, powers and signs, and the deceit of unrighteousness. The soul life along the line of intellect and volition has been developed in this part of the world more than in any other part, and that development is running so clearly in fellowship with a bedrock of unbelief.
Some of you know how impregnated the Christian world in its highest development is, with that which is called Modernism. Even evangelical circles have unconsciously received into their very substrata pagan ideas, pagan psychology of which we were speaking in the previous chapter. I ask you: how many, comparatively, of the Lord's people and the Lord's servants today, have a clear perception of the difference between soul and spirit, and have a working apprehension of it so that in their ministry they are able to recognise and discern that difference and work accordingly? Comparatively very few. So that our evangelical work is carried on on the basis of a psychology which is not scriptural, and the soulish nature of man is the ground of both. Man in nature is appealed to; if only his reason can be persuaded and his emotions moved and his will influenced to act on certain presented propositions - and you have got a conversion! Nothing of the kind. Conversions do not take place on that level. That which is born again, born anew is not the soulical man, it is the spiritual man. The soul can no more be born anew than the body. It is the spirit that is born anew. The soul derives the benefit, but do not confuse effects with causes.
A truly born anew one, whose spirit has been renewed by the Holy Spirit, will have a change in the soul life, but the changes in the soul life will be the effects and not the cause. The danger is to go off on your effects and make them everything. Your new feelings, your new way of thinking, your new sense of purpose, new desire, volition, choice; they are the fruits not the cause, but people take up the effects and begin to make the effects everything and circle around an experience. And that is the danger of everything; that they have got back on to another level. It is important to recognise that. You get a young convert, truly born again and he begins to move out on the effects of the new birth, the new feelings, that which comes through to the soul as the good of the birth of the spirit, they move out on that and if you have had much experience you feel you want to give them a little caution. But it is not always wise to sit on their new enthusiasms; they will not understand, or begin to restrain. But you know the danger, and if you are wise as a watcher of their souls, you will wisely, gently, carefully, without chilling, dampening, you will seek to keep the fundamental things in view because you know that in a month or so they will come up against something when these outer things will not be what they were, and when the blossom begins to fall and the winds blow, they will begin to question whether, after all, it was but an emotion, or whether it was real. And you know the danger of that hour. You want to understand, and be able as a wise nurse of souls to point out... yes, do not confuse the effects with the cause; you were born deeper than that and you have to learn to stand on your spiritual feet without a sensation; in the long run you have to learn to stand with the Lord where you have not a feeling of any kind. The soul cannot be born again any more than the body just now. It is important to know that and to recognise it.
As to the believer; we have touched that so far, but I want to say a word about the danger of soul projection in the believer. That is, of projecting, asserting the natural will, or the natural feelings, or the natural reasoning. There is a great peril here for believers and especially in the Lord's work. Of course it applies to life generally for the believer.
If you and I are projecting or asserting our own will as a child of God, two things may happen, either or both. We may become deceived and misled. So often a child of God wants something very badly and begins to work and manipulate to get that something, and asserts their will in that direction. That child of God is most likely going astray, that is, going into a wrong direction, going into a deception. The same is true in our feelings, our likes, our preferences, our emotions. If we project them, they will lead us astray. If we allow them to carry us away, they will carry us to a false position. And the same with our reasoning. Oh, the reasoning of a child of God so often gets that child of God into an awful mess. Either deception of that kind, and they come into a false position and the alternative is no alternative at all, it is only the practical outworking of it - false works. That projecting of our will, that asserting of our will, or our feelings, our desires, our emotions, or our reasoning, will result in works which are false fruits and which will not stand. It may be works for the Lord, but it will eventually be proved to be not the work of the Spirit, but our work. That's in life; we have to be very careful in our work, especially in the matter of preaching, that this soul projection does not go beyond the government of our spirit under the Holy Spirit. It is one of the most real things, this difference.
One of the most comforting things to me as I look back upon the years when I did not know what I know today in the theological way of these differences, when I had not come experimentally into the fuller meaning of the cross in this realm, was to know I was born again. This is because so often in days of very little enlightenment on this matter, I remember distinctly how in the course of preaching I would say something in my sermon and the bottom would drop out of everything when I said that; it was as though I had fallen into an air pocket. I knew where I ceased to move on one level and dropped down on to another, and I had to get to prayer and say: "Lord, I will never say a thing like that again". And many times that happened. I remember distinctly how, after the war, having seen a fair amount of what was going on, one would be preaching and refer to the war in some way, some experience, and invariably it was as though the Holy Spirit stopped there and would not go on with me, and I came to the place where war was taboo in sermons, not because I had any outward theory on the matter at all; illustrations in the soul realm might have been effective, but the Holy Spirit said: "I am not in that horrible thing; that is a black, dark thing, don't you touch it, leave it alone". I had to leave that out. And I had many such experiences before I understood these things from a theological point of view, but I see today, and I see what the cross of the Lord Jesus means.
You may have the experience although you have not got the theory. People who have no real spiritual life with God can do all those things, but those who are moving with the Lord come to the place where they learn a lot of new things, and they learn inwardly in their own spirit. Now what is true on the one side is true on the other. There is a great danger of soul projection in strength which leads to deception and false works. There is also a danger of spiritual weakness in relation to the soul.
The soul may not be strong, may not be of the aggressive type soulically, may not be finding any strong feelings or emotions, may not be finding any strong affections and reasonings, or any sense of being urged by a strong intention, and because that is so, you are equally in danger. You have come to the place which is perhaps one of the most dangerous places you can come to, dangerously near to passivity, which is a happy hunting ground for the devil. David was in a state of passivity in the day when the time came round for kings to go out to battle and he sent his field marshal and stayed at home, went up on his bed... you know what the devil did with him that day. For the rest of his life he was scarred. And there is a danger of spiritual weakness (I am speaking to believers now, of course) in relation to the soul. The spirit has got, on the one hand, to hold the soul back and keep the soul under; on the other hand the spirit has to say to the soul: "Come on now, no passivity, no lying down". When we do not feel like it the spirit has to say: "Come on!" You understand what I mean? It is just as important to see that side as the other side. You can be deluded on the ground of passivity just as much as on the ground of soul aggressiveness.
Now, one other danger which comes in the realm of the believer's life in this connection is that of the refined realms of soul in service. I mean those refined realms of soul which may be called the 'mystical', the artistic, the occult. So many people mistake the mystical for the spiritual. And some of the great soul cults, Christian systems which are entirely soulish, have their greatest vogue in this realm where there is an atmosphere enshrining, or a heredity of mysticism, where there is an artistic atmosphere or state of things. Rome has developed that to a finis. You can get a very pure kind of counterfeit Holy Spirit's work in a realm where the mystical and the artistic is highly developed in these parts of the world where the hard, and more or less cold background of the practical, the commercial, exists. And in the historic setting things are more blatant, but get into those parts of the world where the whole history is mystical, artistic, those finer realms of soul, and you will find that a false spirituality has far purer expression there and looks much more like the true thing because of the soul setting, the beautiful colouring, the artistic conditions, and the mystical temperament. The deception becomes far greater.
The whole thing works according to its background. If you get a Teutonic background you get one expression; if you have a Celtic background you get another. It is important to recognise that. It is only a matter of degree between that passivity that sits and has a quiet time and registers what comes, and the Buddhist priest who separates himself from society and goes through long fasts in order to get his soul in tune with the mystic world, and receives communications and impressions. It is only a matter of degree. It is the one thing: it is soulical. The Buddhist priest can teach us a lot, a very great deal of what comes from the other world. He is far ahead of our cults. It is only a matter of degree; the same thing. You get a deeper and a purer (if you like to call it that, if this thing is pure at all) thing in the realm of a Buddhist priest because you have got a historic mystical background, a refined soul realm. It is mysticism. That is not the spirit.
We all know (that is, those who have any real spiritual discernment and life) that certain people of an artistic temperament far more quickly accept the teaching, say of the Body of Christ, or such teachings. They accept, respond to, take them on, but we know that they are using phraseology. They have got ideas, but we know that they are not in the good of the thing at all. The soul, in a refined state can appreciate after a manner these things, and seem to receive and take them on. And that is one of the greatest perils for the church of Christ, that there is all the difference between a spiritual or spirit apprehension under the Holy Spirit, and that ability of a refined mystical soul to appreciate ideals and high thoughts.
Now with this I close. It is easy to get at the soul through the senses, through hearing, through feeling and so on. It is impossible for anyone but the Holy Spirit, by the Word of God, to get at the spirit through the soul. That is the work of God's Spirit by the Word of God. And so Hebrews 4:12 makes it perfectly clear: "For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart." That is the Word of God in the hands of the Holy Spirit. It is that; and only the Word of God in the hands of the Holy Spirit can do that. Nothing else can do that. If a preaching of Christ is without the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit, it will reach the soul, but it will not reach the spirit. What the results may seem to be is not the criterion at all; it is what did it. Did the Word of God do it in the power of the Holy Spirit? Give the Word of God a secondary place, a minor place and you have not the means for effecting the essential work of reaching the spirit, "...piercing even to the dividing...", the Greek word does not mean separating the two, it means getting in between the two and finding out where the one begins and the other ends, "joints and marrow" is an illustration of it. Until the first one to dissect the human body put his knife into the bone, probably all thought the bones were hollow, but they found there was something inside the bone and you could drive the knife between the bone and marrow. The Holy Spirit takes that up and says there is something there which no one knows of except that knife, and that is the Word of God by the Holy Spirit, and He alone can find out what is in there and touch that, and He is able to get in between those two and show the difference, and only the Holy Spirit with the Word can do that.
You see the necessity of three things. First, that the Holy Spirit has His instrument, which is the renewed spirit of the servant of the Lord. Secondly, that the servant of the Lord has the Holy Spirit and works and preaches in the power of God the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. Thirdly, that the Word of God is the means used. Oh, there is a wonderful virtue in using the Word of God in the power of the Spirit! It gets somewhere where nothing else can get.
Now ask the Lord to show you the meaning of these things.