by T. Austin-Sparks
There is no subject more vital in relation to fulness of life and
effectiveness of service in Christ than this that we are now to
consider. It embraces all the practical meanings and outworkings of
the redemptive purposes of God in and through the Cross of Christ.
The phrase "The inner man" is not infrequently used in the Word of God, and, as we shall see, is but one expression used in connection with a theme of extensive range. But here at once let it be seen as that which first of all discriminates between the "inner" and the "outward" man. This discrimination in the scriptures, however, is not that made by the psychologists or philosophers as such, whether they be ancient or modern, pagan or "Christian." These recognise but mind and matter: for them the "inner man" is the soul, and the "outward man" the body. Not so in the Word of God. There the "inner man" is the spirit, and the "outward man" the soul and the body, either or both. These two terms or designations are respectively synonymous with "natural man" and "spiritual man," and these two are put asunder by the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12). It is just as dangerous to yoke together what God puts asunder as it is to put asunder "what God hath joined together," and in this particular matter more chaos, paralysis, and defeat are due to the confusing of these two than ever we shall be able to measure, in this life.
The only oneness of the three, spirit, soul, and body, is in that they compose or comprise one man. The literal translation of 1 Thessalonians 5:23, is "Your whole person," or "Your whole man," or "The whole of you, spirit, soul, and body"; and three distinct Greek words are used, as elsewhere. The Word of God does not use words at random, just for variety's sake. Basic spiritual laws are involved in its words. The very word "natural" as applied to man, as we know, is the Greek word psuckekos, the Anglicised form of which is psychical. "Spiritual" is the adjective of "spirit," and "soulish" is the adjective of "soul." In James 3:15, "sensual" is used, but "soulish" is more accurate, and it is interesting and significant to note in passing that these two descriptions are given to wisdom.
That which makes man unique in the whole realm of creation is not that he is or has a soul, but that he has a spirit, and it may be that uniting in one personality of soul and spirit makes him unique beyond this creation, in the whole universe. Soul is never spoken of in relation to God as God. Angels are spirits. Christ did not pour out His spirit, but His soul unto death; His Spirit He handed back to the Father of spirits. It is hardly necessary to describe the soul here, although we want to help from the very foundations.
What a great - and in most people - almost complete, place and dominance is held by feelings and emotions. On the one hand, fear, grief, pity, curiosity, pleasure, pride, admiration, shame, surprise, love, regret, remorse, excitement, etc. Or in another direction; imagination, apprehensiveness, fancy, doubt, introspection, superstition, analysis, reasonings, investigation, etc. Or in a third direction, desires; for possession, knowledge, power, influence, position, praise, society, liberty, etc. And still in another direction; determination, reliance, courage, independence, endurance, impulse, caprice, indecision, obstinacy, etc. These all in their respective directions representing the emotional, the intellectual, the volitional, are the components of the soul. Now consider how much of this has its 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 feeling, reasoning, 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.
We recognise that if the full impact of this declaration, with all its implications was to come by revelation to the "inner man" of Christian people and workers it would be nothing short of revolutionary in all methods, means, and motives. Surely, for instance, we know by now that remorse and regret for sin leading to tears and resolutions, does not mean salvation. Decisions, confessions, and religious feelings, are no criteria, any more than are reasoned conclusions, intellectual convictions, mental acceptances, aspirations after the sublime, the beautiful, the "good." Does someone enquire then "do you rule out the intellect, the reason, the emotions, the human will or resolution?" and our answer is emphatically we do rule all this out as an initial and basic factor in the matter of salvation, it is secondary, later, and even then only a bond-slave and not a master.
Let us ask some questions which will clarify the matter. What was it or where was it that death took place when "death passed upon all," and it came true that was said "in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die"? Was it the body? Obviously not. Was it the soul? If our foregoing description truly represents the soul, then, again, obviously not. Repudiating the suggestion that the words were but a sentence of death to be carried out at some future time, there remains but the third part of man's "whole," namely his spirit. That was the topstone of God's creative work. The organ in man of all the Divine activity; the sphere and instrument of all the operations of God. God is a spirit, and only spirit can have access to or fellowship with spirit.
Only spirit can know spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:9-11.
Only spirit can serve spirit. Romans 1:9, 7:6, 12:11.
Only spirit can worship God Who is Spirit. John 4:23,24. Philippians 3:3.
Only spirit can receive revelation from God Who is spirit. Revelation 1:10. 1 Corinthians 2:10.
We shall return to this later.
Let it be clearly recognised that God determined to have all His dealings with man and fulfil all His purposes 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 instant infringe the laws of its Divine union by crossing over to the outer circle of the soul at the call of any emotion, suggestion, argument or desire coming from without. When this took place death entered, and the nature of death, as the word is used in the scriptures, is severance in the Divine union of spirit. This does not mean that man no longer had a spirit, but that the ascendency of the spirit was surrendered to the soul and this at a time when the soul had accepted from without by desire, and reason, that which was intended to draw away from fellowship with God. "Drawn away by his own lusts (desires)."
This is where the "fall" begins, all else follows. From that time the inclusive designation of man in a state of separation from spirit union and life with God is "flesh."
When Paul speaks of the "flesh" he does not refer to flesh and blood in the natural body, but to denote the principle of human life which takes the place of the spirit in its primary state and purpose; and this "flesh" principle or state - variably called "the old man," "the body of sin," "the body of flesh," "the body of death," "the natural man," is the centre of the residence of the enmity against God. This enmity is there, even in such as sing hymns, say prayers, delight in God after an outward manner, go to church, have a passion or genius for religion, and it only requires the true spiritual meaning of the cross of Christ to be applied in order to make it manifest. Death then, in scriptural meaning, is loss of correspondence with God in spirit, and the spirit of man falling out of that union ceases to be for man the vehicle of God's revelation, the sphere of God's life in man, and the instrument of God's activities through man; and there is no other. This leads to another question: What is the nature of the spirit? There are three main departments or faculties of the spirit, conscience, intuition, communion; but there are numerous other capacities, as we may see later.
It is here that we find the scriptural description of man to run entirely counter to the conclusions of "scientific" psychology. We have observed that the psychologist will not allow the threefold description of man as spirit, soul and body, but only soul - or mind - and body. And yet now he has to confess to the existence of a third element. He recognises it, finds his chief fascination and interest in it, "builds up a whole system of philosophy around it, and often borders on calling it by its right name. He however recoils and calls it "the subconscious mind," "the subjective mind," "the subliminal self," "the secondary personality," etc. Listen to some of the things which indicate the length to which such teachers go: "The soul consists of two parts, the one being addicted to the truth, and loving honesty and reason, the other brutish, deceitful, sensuous."
"There is a schism in the soul." "The existence of a schism in the soul is not a mere dogma of theology, But a fact, of science." "Man is endowed with two minds, each of which is capable of independent action, and they are also capable of simultaneous action; but, in the main, they possess independent powers and perform independent functions. The distinctive faculties of one pertain to this life: those of the other are specially adapted to a higher plane of existence. I distinguish them by designating one as the Objective Mind, and the other as the Subjective Mind."
"Whatever faculties are found to exist in the subjective mind of any sentient being necessarily existed potentially in the ancestry of that being, near or remote. It is a corollary of this proposition that whatever faculties we may find to exist in the SUBJECTIVE MIND of man must necessarily exist, in its possibility, potentially, in the mind of God the Father Almighty."
When one reads things like this, two things press for expression, first the exclamation "Oh why don't you name it aright and call it 'the spirit'?" The other, "what a tragedy that such men should have gone to pagan philosophers such as Plato, who never heard the men of the Bible or read them, for the basis of their system, instead of going to the Bible itself." What a peril it is for "Christian" men to preach the results of human research and learning and bring the Bible to it instead of bringing it to the Bible!
For us here the Bible name and nature of this third reality is held to. It may be thought to be immaterial what it is called if the result is the same, but we hold that it is vital to recognise that we are dealing with two things absolutely distinct and separate and not with two sides of one thing. This will be seen as we go on.
There is a peril in speaking of "Divine union in the upper reaches of the soul," for there is no such thing. Divine union is with spirit, "He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit," and however highly developed the soul life is, there is no "Divine union" until the spirit has been brought back to life.
This then opens a further question: "What is it that is 'born again'" when that essential and indispensible experience takes place? (John 3:3,5, etc).
Nicodemus stumbles on the physical question, but is soon told that "that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is SPIRIT."
It is not the body then, neither is it the soul. "The sinful body of the old man was destroyed" Romans 6:6 and "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections thereof." The passages on this are too many to quote, but look up "Flesh," "Old man," "Natural man," etc.
The answer to the question is emphatically that new birth is the importation of Divine life to the spirit of man. That spirit, because of atonement made for the sin of the soul, and the carrying away of the dominant flesh principle by Christ into His death, is begotten again of God in the resurrection of Christ from the dead to share His resurrection - deathless - life. Only on the ground of Christ's resurrection and our incorporation into it as the superlative act of Almighty power is there union with God, and this act initially takes place in our spirit. From that time it is "in the newness of the spirit," "walking in the spirit," in fact, as the Word makes clear, everything is to be in the spirit for those that are now "spiritual."
We regret that space does not allow of our completing the subject in this issue, but it will be continued "in our next," and we shall then complete what we have begun on the nature of "spirit," and proceed to show further scriptural divisions between soul and spirit, see how it is that because man has a spirit he is open to the impact of all spiritual beings, especially to evil spirits when he refuses the Spirit of God. We have also to see how the entire concern of God is with our spirit or "inner man," and then how only that which proceeds from our spirit by the operation of the Holy Spirit effects any spiritual end.