The Hearing of Faith
According to the Bible, man is a being of three parts: spirit, soul, and body. Many consider the soul and the spirit as being the same, but they are actually distinct from each another. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Paul prayed that “your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete,” indicating that the soul and the spirit are distinct from each other, just as the body is distinct from the soul. Although the spirit and the soul are close together, as marrow is within bones, they can and should be separated. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and operative and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit and of joints and marrow.” We must discern our soul from our spirit if we are to exercise our spirit.
The functions of the soul and the spirit are also distinct. With our soul, we substantiate the things in the psychological realm, such as thoughts and feelings. With our spirit, we substantiate the things in the spiritual realm, especially God Himself. John 3:6 says, “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” showing that we are regenerated, born of God the Spirit, in our human spirit. And John 4:24 says, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truthfulness,” showing that our human spirit can contact God and enjoy Him. Just as a radio receiver substantiates the invisible radio waves and makes them real to us, our human spirit can substantiate the invisible God and make Him real and practical to us (1 Tim. 6:16; 2 Cor. 4:13).
We must discern our soul from our spirit if we are to exercise our spirit.
Let us now consider what it is to exercise our spirit. To exercise our spirit is to use our spirit to carry out its natural function. When we walk, we use our feet, when we listen, we use our ears, and when we pray to contact God, we use our spirit. The Bible contrasts bodily exercise with the exercise of the spirit: “Exercise yourself unto godliness. For bodily exercise is profitable for a little, but godliness is profitable for all things” (1 Tim. 4:7b-8a). Godliness is the expression of God in our daily living through our contact with Him as the indwelling Spirit in our spirit (Rom. 8:9-10; 2 Tim. 4:22). Therefore, to exercise unto godliness is to exercise our spirit to express Christ in our daily life.
To exercise our conscience is also to exercise our spirit. Paul said, “Because of this I also exercise myself to always have a conscience without offense toward God and men” (Acts 24:16). The conscience is a part of the spirit (Rom. 9:1). Therefore, to exercise our conscience to be void of offense is to exercise our spirit. When we pray to confess our offenses toward God and man, opening ourselves to the Lord from the depths of our being, we not only receive forgiveness and cleansing but we also contact God Himself as the Spirit in our spirit.
We also exercise our spirit when we read the Word of God in a prayerful way. Ephesians 6:17-18a says, “And receive the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which Spirit is the word of God, by means of all prayer and petition, praying at every time in spirit.” By praying in our spirit, we receive the Word. If we learn how to exercise our regenerated human spirit, our living contact with God will increase and our Christian life will be greatly enriched.
From Issue No. 66, October 2003