The Believer's Sphere of Life and Base of Operations (continued)
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 center of the residence of the enmity against God. This enmity is there, even in such as singing hymns, saying prayers, delighting in God after an outward manner, going to church, having 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 recognizes 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."
When one reads things like this, two things press for expression, first the exclamation "O 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 recognize 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 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 indispensable experience takes place? (John3:3, 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 passage 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 impartation 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.
(continued with # 4 - (The Indwelling Nature of the Spirit)