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What is the Human Spirit?

“There is a spirit in man” (Job 32:8), and this human spirit is man’s key to experiencing Christ. The Lord Jesus said that God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit (John 4:24), that is, in the human spirit. If we must worship God in spirit, it is important for every believer to understand what the human spirit is.

Over the centuries, there has been confusion concerning man’s inward parts. Some Bible teachers argue that the spirit is no different from the soul. For our experience of Christ, to say this may be comparable to the dangerous endeavor of having cardiac surgery performed by a doctor that believes there is no difference between the heart and the liver. First Thessalonians 5:23 clearly tells us man is made of three parts: body, soul, and spirit. Hebrews 4:12 says that “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, and able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” This shows us that the spirit and the soul are not the same thing and can be divided. We need the living word of God to help us know the distinction between our soul and our spirit.

We exercise our spirit when we contact God by prayer and when we come to the Word of God in a prayerful way.

When we believe in the Lord Jesus, it is our human spirit that is born of the divine Spirit, regenerating us with the eternal life of God (John 3:6). So the apostle Paul says that the Spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16). In Ephesians, Paul speaks of the human spirit in a crucial way in every chapter (1:17; 2:22; 3:5; 4:23; 5:18; and 6:18). Paul also told Timothy that the Lord’s dwelling place is in our spirit (2 Tim. 4:22). In the book of Revelation the apostle John saw four major visions and to see each one, he was “in spirit” (1:10; 4:2; 17:3; and 21:10).

So what does it mean to be in spirit? We all understand that to exercise our physical body is to engage in physical exercise such as walking or running. To exercise our soul, which is composed of our mind, emotion, and will, is to think, consider, use our emotions, or make decisions. We exercise our spirit when we contact God by prayer and when we come to the Word of God in a prayerful way (Eph. 6:17-18).We also exercise our spirit when we keep our conscience, which is a part of our spirit, without offense toward God and man (Acts 24:16).

There are other references in the Bible to the human spirit—too many to mention here. It is vital, however, for all believers to see that the key to experiencing Christ is our human spirit indwelt by the Spirit. As believers, we are even joined to the Lord as “one spirit” (1 Cor. 6:17). We can experience Christ by exercising our spirit to contact Him by prayer and in His Word and by maintaining a clear conscience.

For further reading on this subject, please see Our Human Spirit; The Key to Experiencing Christ—the Human Spirit; and The Parts of Man, by Witness Lee, published by Living Stream Ministry.

From Issue No. 44, December 2001

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