The above heading may be a little startling, but it will be as well for us at an early stage to realize that we are dealing with a matter of the most serious character. It is not merely that at some point man had a lapse, took a wrong turning, or became a delinquent, an offender. Neither is it only that he became a sinner, or even a sinful creature. All of these may be true, but they are not the whole truth. Man is not just on the wrong road and needing to be re-directed or put on to the right one. Neither is man just the victim of an evil mood, or a fugitive from law running free, sowing wild oats, and estranged from his better self. The restoration of man to God and to his Divinely purposed vocation and destiny is not merely the transference of his interests and energies from one direction—self, sin, the world—to another—God, good and heaven. When Christ, in speaking of the prodigal, used the words, "When he came to himself", He did not mean just that he recollected and reverted to another course. There is overwhelming evidence in Scripture that salvation is something infinitely more radical than all this.
It is here that there lies the fatal flaw in so much evangelical effort, and even in convention ministry. Surrender, consecration, yielding, and such-like words or terms, are used as though they meant far more than just a first, initial step which only represents an attitude taken. God does not want, and the Bible does not teach, that the "old man" should be consecrated to Him. The "old man" has to be crucified, not consecrated! So often the young are exhorted to consecrate to the Lord their talents, their energies, their abilities, their enthusiasm, as
'Young, strong, and free;
To be the best that I can be,
For God, for righteousness, and Thee…'
But in the long run they discover a fatal lack, an inadequacy and a breakdown, the greatest proof of which is the convention movement itself. This movement is ever growing, and year by year, in all parts of the world, hundreds of thousands of disappointed Christians are found together with a view to finding the solution to the problem of non-victorious life, or non-effective service. Those of us who have anything to do with convention or conference work cannot smile upon these great audiences and speak about them as though they represented a great success instead of declaring the greatest and most heart-breaking of tragedies. If the messages given are to be taken as the indication as to what conventions are for, then there is no questioning what we have just said.*
* FOOTNOTE: Of course, we recognize another side of Christian conventions, that of happy fellowship. But we are referring to the original and still advertised object of such conventions.
But this is the negative side of the question, and we must come to the positive. It is not a change of sides, or interests, or direction, nor a reviving of energy and zeal that is called for. Nothing less than a constitutional change in the being will answer the questions and meet the need. To carry over natural abilities (inherited or acquired) or energies to the things of God, and to make them the basis or means of doing His work, is most certainly and inevitably to put the worker and the work into a false position, with sooner or later any one or more of the many possible seriously compromising and disastrous results.
Before we can move back to the beginning and see what had happened as to man, there is one thing to bear in mind. It is always important that matters of Divine truth should never be taken up just in themselves, as isolated subjects, but that their full range and relatedness should be recognized. Truth is a whole. There is no plural in Scripture as to truth, that is 'truths', but there are aspects of the truth, and no one of these can stand alone. It is essential to observe the beginning, occasion and ultimate issue of every phase of the truth.
Then it must be definitely remembered that truth in the Scriptures is progressive. In the early parts, matters are not stated in completeness and preciseness, but there is much in the nature of inference. Only as we get well on toward the end do we get more complete statements, in the light of which all that has gone before has to be considered. For instance, take the doctrine of the Divine Trinity. It is not really until Christ's time that we have this definitely and fully revealed, as in John's Gospel (chapters 14-16); and not until the advent of the Holy Spirit was this known experimentally. So it is with the matter before us. Man's nature or being as spirit, soul and body, is not definitely stated thus until we are well on in the New Testament. But there are plenty of inferences as well as frequent fragmentary statements to this effect much earlier. The explanation of this delay is a very part of our whole subject, for it means that not until the era of the Holy Spirit as an indwelling reality—with all that that implies—is it possible for man to know the things of God in any adequate or vital way. Hence the futility of making the Bible a text-book or manual of subjects to be studied as such. So now, with all the fuller revelation of the New Testament before us, we can work back to the beginning.
Man as Created and Constituted
When we really see with enlightened eyes the Man, Christ Jesus, and when we see what a child of God really is as in the New Testament, then we see two things; one, what God's man is as from the beginning, and what a fundamental change is represented by a man being truly born anew. As to his constituting, we shall see that he was, and is, spirit, soul and body. But to say this is only one half of the matter. That is the fact as to man's components. The other half is that that represents order and function. It was in the upsetting of this order that function was affected fatally, and man became other than God intended him to be.
We have already said, in a word, what the function of the human spirit is, but more is needed.
The Function of the Human Spirit
The all-governing fact is that "God is spirit" (John 4:24). Then certain things follow. "We are his offspring" (Acts 17:28-29). He is "the Father of our spirits" (Heb 12:9).
If it is a fixed law that "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6), then it is only in his spirit that man is the offspring of God. Fatherhood presupposes offspring; and there is no fatherhood without offspring. God is spirit. God is also Father. The fixed law of progeny demands a spirit ancestry for spiritual offspring. But as Father—differing from Creator—God is the Father of our spirits only.
God is not soul. This we shall see more fully when we deal with soul-function. Therefore, God is not the Father of our souls. God is not body; therefore our bodies were not begotten of God, but created. The Word of God is clear and emphatic that only spirit can know spirit (1 Cor 2:9-11). That is why the disciples of Christ really did not know Him, in a living and true way, until something had happened in them, and the Holy Spirit had joined Himself with their spirits. It is ever so.
Only spirit can worship spirit (John 4:23-24; Phil 3:3). In this former Scripture, the words "true" and "truth" are very discriminating words. If the soul is—as the psychologists truly teach—the realm of the reason, will, and emotions, then surely the worship of Jews and Samaritans was not devoid of these. Would it be quite right to say that it was so mechanical and meaningless as to have not even an animal's feeling or sense in it? But granted all the feeling, reason and will possible, it would still be other than what Christ meant by "true", for soul is soul and spirit is spirit yet! Only spirit can serve spirit (Rom 1:9; 7:6; 7:11). Only spirit can receive revelation from God, Who is spirit (Rev 1:10; 1 Cor 2:10). We shall return to this later. Let it be understood that God determined to have all His dealings with man, and to fulfil all His purpose through man, by means of that in man which was after His own likeness, that is, his spirit. But this spirit of man for all such Divine intentions must be kept in living union with Himself, and never for one moment infringe the laws of its Divine union by crossing over to take counsel with, or be influenced by, his own soul or self-conscious life—the reason, desire or will—as an independent thing.
This goes to the heart of our Lord's temptations, as it does to the temptation of Adam. When this happened in Adam's case, death entered; and the nature of death, in the scriptural meaning of the word, is severance in the union of the spirit with God. This does not mean that man no longer had a spirit, but that the ascendency of the spirit was surrendered to the soul. (This is borne out by all the New Testament teaching on the spiritual man, with 1 Corinthians 2:11-16 as an example.)
The Nature of Adam's Temptation
Let us briefly state what was at the heart of the temptation. By his union with God in spirit, man was conditioned to have everything in relation to and by dependence upon God. His knowledge and his power were to be essentially spiritual, and the absolute lordship and headship of his life was to remain vested in God. A spiritual relationship and a spirit organ and function made this possible.
The temptation was to have everything in himself. This, it was suggested, was possible, and he could be a self-directing, self-possessing, self-sufficient, independent being. To gain this end, it would be futile to appeal to the spirit in man, for this would only mean that the matter would be referred to God. So the self-conscious organ must be approached. Thus reason, desire and will—the faculties of the soul—were assailed. Instead of allowing his spirit to bring God in, man acted independently, with several of the most terrible results of which it is possible to conceive.
Firstly, God was set aside in His absolute headship and lordship as to man, and Satan was given His place, as one more to be hearkened to. This was what Satan wanted above all things, i.e. to be "the god of this world".
Then the spirit of man, being so seriously violated, ceased to be the link between himself and God. Fellowship with God, which is always spiritual, was destroyed, and the spirit sank down into subjection to man's soul. So far as that man is concerned, he died to God. "Dead, through... trespasses and sins" (Eph 2:1). So the soul came to dominate the spirit.
Then again—as though this were not bad enough—by an act of spiritual fornication, that bridal spirit which was to be wedded to God was used by man to let in Satanic elements, which are extra to the soul but are—since the Fall—so much a part of it that God looks upon them as one in the unregenerate man. This is what is meant by the terms "fleshly" and "carnal" in the New Testament. Thus we can see that man has become an altogether other type or species than God intended. The main difference is that he is now a soul-man rather than a spirit-man pre-eminently.
It does not require much intelligence to see how utterly this creation is now a soul order. The whole system of running this world is psychological. Everything is based upon desire, emotion, feeling, reason, argument, will, choice, determination. What a large place is held by the various forms of soul activity! In one direction we have fear, grief, pity, curiosity, pride, pleasure, admiration, shame, surprise, love, regret, remorse, excitement, etc.; in another direction, imagination, apprehensiveness, fancy, doubt, introspection, superstition, analysis, reasonings, investigations, etc.; in a third direction, desires for possession, knowledge, power, influence, position, praise, society, liberty, etc.; and, in still another direction, determination, reliance, courage, independence, endurance, impulse, caprice, indecision, obstinacy, etc. We are not saying that this is all wrong, but by these things, which are all forms of soul-life, we can see that we live in a world that is almost entirely a soul-world. But we are not stopping there. Think how much of this has a place in Christian life and service—from the first step in relation to the gospel, through all the course of Christian activity. It is here that we ask for patience in pursuing the subject, when we make the tremendous affirmation that all this—the sum-total of human reasoning, feeling and willing—may be placed to the account of the matter of salvation, either for ourselves or for others, and yet be utterly unprofitable, and of no account at all.
Multitudes have come to regard themselves, and to be regarded by others, as Christians because of some decision made or step taken under the impact of an argument—a reasoning, an appeal to mind or emotion. In the same way great missionary meetings, with their atmosphere, their stories and their appeals, have led many to believe that they had a call from God to His service. But time has proved, in a great many cases, that this was not born of the spirit, but of the soul-force of man. We do not say that God never comes through, or uses His word, at such times, but we have to explain tragic facts and to correct popular fallacies.
The soul of man is a complex and dangerous thing, and is capable of extraordinary things. It can entirely mislead us and play us many tricks, as we shall see. Man is now a disrupted and disordered creature, and we must remember that the creation, including man, because of this disruption has been deliberately subjected to vanity. That is, it has been rendered incapable of realizing its originally intended destiny, or coming to full fruitage. For the unregenerate man, life is indeed a mockery, for he can never reach his intended objective. This is God's answer to his assaying to have all in himself in independence (Rom 8:19-23).
There are certain questions which will arise from what we have been saying. One will have to do with the point in his probation at which Adam fell. Another will be concerning the creation formula. A third will be as to the right place of the soul. A fourth arises in connection with more modern psychology. Let us consider these.
It is important to realize that although Adam, when created, was sinless and innocent, he was not perfect, as God intended he should be. There was something to be added if he was to attain to all that God meant, in his nature and destiny. The link with God through his human spirit carried with it a potentiality or a possibility, not an absolute and final one-ness. Hence, he had to obey God along the line of commands and orders—more in the position of a servant than a son; or let us use the New Testament distinction between "child" and "son", and express the difference as between one born, and one come to maturity. That which would in Adam's case have made the great advance upon this position, from childhood to sonship, from the outward to the inward government, from the incomplete to the complete, was eternal life through obedience of faith.
So that at that point the whole significance of the tree of life has its place. That tree was a type of God manifested in Christ as the life whereby alone man reaches his intended destiny, even the sharing of Divine life and nature. Adam, because of unbelief and disobedience, did not attain unto eternal life; therefore, that life is reserved for such as believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and are thus in Christ and also have Christ in them. "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col 1:27). In eternal life is found all God's secret of all His eternal purpose in and through man.
Then it must be kept in mind that eternal life is a gift. The special object for saying that here is to counter another error. There are two interpretations of new birth, one the true, and the other the beautiful lie which subverts the truth. This latter interpretation is that spiritual life is a kind of renaissance, an inner quickening brought about by the play of mystical forces which hover round the soul, rousing it from torpor as the spring sun wakens the sleeping seed, stirring already existent but dormant energies into activity—a lifting up of what we already possess to a higher plane, or tide, and a consequent flooding of hitherto unvisited, unvitalized areas, whose inhibited forces and functions it straightway releases and relates to consciousness within and to service without. The other, and true, interpretation is that new birth is the reception of an entirely new and different life, required to be generated from above by a specific act of Divine impregnation—a quite new and original endowment which has never before been in our human life, and which remains an altogether other life that is not in us by nature, but a unique and miraculous generation—as Christ is.
As every error has some element of truth in it, which is like its claw for catching hold, so this one, which we have mentioned, has its catch in a failure to discriminate between three things; one, the soul; two, the spirit; three, eternal life. Eternal life raises the spirit from death, and energizes the soul. But neither soul nor spirit is of any avail Godward—so far as man's Divinely intended destiny is concerned—apart from the 'altogether other' eternal life. This life is God Himself, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is "the Spirit of life" (Rom 8:2), and Divine life, even when given to indwell the believer, is still retained in the Divine Person. "God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son" (1 John 5:11). The presence of the Divine Person in the believer or in the Church is expressed by life. Lest Adam should act with the same object of having life in himself as out of relation to God, the tree of life was deliberately protected from him and he was driven forth. The symbolism is clear. This is something which is so other than man—so Divine—and it can only be had in God and by spirit-union with Him.
All this will gather into itself much New Testament truth concerning Christ's representative life, temptation, death and resurrection, and also concerning the nature of new birth and the life of the believer.
It will have been observed that innocence in Adam was but a negative thing. This can also be true, therefore, of sinlessness in his case. It may, in one sense, throw some light on the life-long testing of Christ, although we say this with some reservations, which we will not make a divergence now to explain.
Holiness is positive, and Adam's innocence was accompanied by a capacity for holiness. Holiness is the result of faithfulness under testing, in man's case. He may go into testing innocent, but the very essence of testing is a capacity to choose between two courses, his own and God's.
Faith, obedience, loyalty to God, resisting evil by resort to God, issue in a positive state which is something more than innocence, i.e. more than the fact of not yet having sinned in a specified way. The faculty which governs and regulates in this is the spirit. Hence the issue is either spiritual holiness, or spiritual wickedness. They both represent a relationship respectively to God the Holy Spirit, or to Satan and evil spirits. Hence we see what the issue of Adam's probation and failure is.
The Creation Formula (Genesis 2:7)
In taking up the statement as to man's constitution in Genesis 2:7, we would recall you to what has been said about the progressiveness of revelation. For here we have a precise instance of things being but in germ form in the first reference, needing the reflex of the later and fuller light. We would not say that this passage is a positive assertion, but more an implication. Later Scriptures bear out the implication. It will be noticed that we are not dealing with the account of man in Genesis 1:26, which rather describes God's intention for him than what actually is the case; that is, his place and office more than his being. Here is Genesis 2:7:
"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of lives;* and man became a living soul".
*FOOTNOTE: The word here is in the plural. We do not propose to enter upon a discussion or enquiry as to the meaning of this and so add considerably to detail, but merely point this out for the present.
On the face of it, the statement appears to contradict all that we are saying, and to support the contention that man is dual or bipartite.
If we pass over to Paul's exact quotation of this passage in 1 Corinthians 15:45, we find that it is used to describe a difference between the first Adam and the last Adam. The former was made "a living soul", the latter "a life-giving spirit". This will help us. But first let us note the synthesis. There are three things:
(1) The material elements: "the dust of the ground".
(2) The formative factor: "the breath of lives".
(3) The final issue: "man became a living soul".
We need not discuss the first; most people will accept the material side of man's being. 'Adam', from adamah, means 'of the earth'. (It also includes a colour element: red earth.)
The second point brings us immediately to our present object. Here we have two sides or aspects.
(a) "The Lord God"—the One Who effects.
(b) "The breath of lives"—the means He uses.
Creation and emanation are not to be confused. When the animal part of man is in view there is nothing said which would support the idea that there is a oneness of nature between the created and the Creator. But when we are considering that part of man's being in which he is the image and likeness of God, we have a higher nature, and this is communicated, not created; the method is different. The spirit of man is not an act of creation, but rather in the nature of procreation. This breath of lives is not man's soul, but his spirit. We shall see later that this is not merely the abstract animating element which marks the difference between man as a living organism and inanimate matter, but something which, being out from God, is an organ, or faculty, as well as a function. From the general teaching of Scripture we conclude that it was the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of life, who breathed into man, and by this breathing not only made him animate, i.e. put the body-soul, physio-psychical life, into him, but formed the link with God, for ultimate Divine purposes.
In Zechariah 12:1, we have the phrase "...the Lord... formeth the spirit of man within him". The word "formeth" is the Hebrew word yatsar, which means 'to mould into form'. God formed man's body out of the dust of the ground. He also formed man's spirit within him. (There must have been a 'him' there first.) Along with this must go the words of Hebrews 12:9, "The Father of our spirits". It is here that we are the offspring of God.
We must remember that the pneuma, or spirit, is vested with the powers of a definite and independent entity. Look at the following instances.
"Jesus perceiving in his spirit" (Mark 2:8).
"He sighed deeply in his spirit" (Mark 8:12).
"My spirit hath rejoiced" (Luke 1:47).
"Jesus rejoiced in spirit" (Luke 10:21).
"...worship the Father in spirit (John 4:23).
"He groaned in the spirit" (John 11:33).
"Troubled in the spirit" (John 13:21).
"Paul was pressed in the spirit" (Acts 18:5).
"Whom I serve in my spirit" (Rom 1:9).
"Serve in newness of the spirit" (Rom 7:6).
"The spirit of the man which is in him" (1 Cor 2:11).
"Absent in body, present in spirit" (1 Cor 5:3).
"That the Spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Cor 5:5).
"My spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful" (1 Cor 14:14).
"I will pray with the spirit" (1 Cor 14:15).
"The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets" (1 Cor 14:32).
"...spirits of just men made perfect" (Heb 12:23).
There are those who contend that spirit, or pneuma, is just the life of the soul and body, the animating factor. We are aware that 'breath', 'wind', etc., are sometimes used of the same original word as 'spirit', but so they are of 'soul'. The usage in that case is because of the invisible power and action which is represented. No one will substitute 'wind' or 'breath' for any of the above usages of 'spirit'; it would at once be meaningless and absurd.
The relationship between soul and body is one which is well beyond our power to explain. The Bible makes many definite statements on the matter, but never explains it. For instance, soul and life are often interchangeable terms, and these are repeatedly said to be in the blood. "The life is in the blood... The blood... is... the life thereof" (Lev 17:11,14). Science has not helped us at all to understand this, but, of course, the fact is irrefutable. One thing is established—that while life properties and qualities are in the blood, after a given time they cease to be there, although the blood may still be retained. But, when we come to the matter of soul and spirit, not only are two so distinctly different words used, but these are said to be separable without either perishing, and each is vested with its own responsibility, set of faculties and destiny.
At least by inference, as the marrow is deeper than the joints, the spirit is more inward than the soul (Heb 4:12). As it is easier to reach the bone through the body, or flesh, so it is easier to reach the soul through the body than it is to reach the spirit through the soul. Much soul-piercing and cleaving has to be done before the spirit is really reached and dealt with. In other words, the physical senses are an easy way to the soul, but it requires the mighty energy of the Spirit of God to reach the spirit. But note, the difference between soul and spirit is only made manifest when the Word of God is driven in by the Holy Spirit's energy and might.
But, to touch definitely on point three,—"man became a living soul". First, the animal being out of the dust; then the spiritual life by the breath of God; and then the soul is mentioned. What did man become? "A living soul". Was that all? If that were all then what of the body? But this "living soul" has a body. Is that all? No! This living soul with a body has a spirit. This phrase, "living soul", well sets forth the nature of man's soul as in that first order as midway between matter and spirit; "lower than the angels" (pure spirits), higher than the brute. The quotation in 1 Corinthians 15:45 we said would help us. It does, in two ways. "The first man Adam became a living soul". The original of the last four words is egeneto EIS psuchen zosan. The eis is interesting; it is local, and implies that the soul is the meeting place of two opposite natures, the body and the spirit. The added clauses in Paul's statement make it clear, or strengthen the conclusion, that in the first Adam the soul is the terminus of body and spirit. The statement helps us in a second way by showing that in the last Adam the spirit is the terminus, or governing factor. Thus the soul is the nexus between the higher and the lower natures, not merely the difference between physical and metaphysical; it is the ego.
Nothing that is said in this book is intended to infer that soul, as such, is a wrong thing, i.e. that it is wrong for man to have a soul, and that therefore it has to be destroyed. What we are saying is that the soul of man has become poisoned with a self-directive interest, and has become allied with the powers which are opposed to God. This is not known, nor imagined, to be so until a real awakening has taken place in the spirit. It is therefore wrong to live wholly or pre-eminently on the soul side of our being—now. The truly spiritual people will find their chief enemy in their own souls, and God finds His chief enemy in the soul of man. When the spirit is renewed, and Christ dwells and reigns within—in other words, when we are "filled with the Spirit"—then the soul can come to serve the Lord as a handmaiden of the spirit to real but governed usefulness.
So man awoke—so to speak—"a living soul". He came to a threefold consciousness; a world—or sense—consciousness through his psycho-physical body; a self-consciousness in his soul; and a God-consciousness by his—what? Does man arrive at the knowledge of God as a Person, a living Person, by his reason, feeling and volition? The Word of God denies this, and, in the matter of living union with God as an experience, man's history denies it. "Canst thou by searching find out God?" (Job 11:7). Philosophy gives a positive answer, inasmuch as it is the most deadly thing to faith; and philosophy is an intense activity of the soul, mainly on its reasoning side. Multitudes have been lost to a true and vital Christian experience through taking up philosophy as a subject. When God had breathed into the already fashioned man, something more than body and soul was there, and it was this that determined everything in relation to God's purpose through man. The soul was the meeting place of body and spirit. Let the soul surrender to the body and all is lost. Let it surrender to the spirit and all is well.
To sum up. Man became a living soul, having a body and a spirit. By asserting himself—the ego—in favour of the body and not of the spirit, he became a sinful soul. It is what he is, not just what is in him.
He has got to be saved from himself. This is accomplished in two ways. Christ's death in its representative nature is a potent thing to be entered into by the "natural" man, so that, by a crisis and a process, the power of Christ's death is wrought and established in the soul-consciousness of man. He becomes aware that he is forbidden to live and move on the basis of the self—ego—life. On the other hand, the resurrection of Christ is also a mighty power in man's spirit, and by its introduction by the Holy Spirit into man's inner being, he is made a spiritual man, as over against a merely natural. His position henceforth is most perfectly stated by the Apostle Paul thus:
"I (the natural man) have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and that (life) which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, (the faith) which is in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for (in place of) me"(Gal 2:20).
This is what Christ meant when in the undeveloped truth He said: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23).
Before taking the third of the questions mentioned earlier it may be more helpful to take a fourth.