Scripture Reading: 1 Cor. 1:9-12, 17-31; 2:1-16


In 2:11 Paul says, “For who among men knows the things of man, except the spirit of man which is in him? So also the things of God no one has known except the Spirit of God.” If we would know the things of man and the things of God, we need the two spirits, the human spirit and the divine Spirit. Because the Corinthian believers neglected these two spirits, they could know neither the things of man nor the things of God. Thus, in chapter two Paul seems to be saying to them, “Corinthians, instead of relying on your philosophical mind, exercise your spirit, not your soul or your flesh. If you exercise your spirit and rely on the Spirit of God, you will know your condition, situation, position, need, and destiny. No one knows these things of man except the spirit of man. By failing to exercise the spirit and instead using your philosophical mind, you have missed the mark. You do not know the things of man, and you do not know yourselves. You do not know your situation, and you do not realize how pitiful your condition is. I urge you to exercise your spirit just as I am exercising mine. Because I exercise the spirit, I know the things concerning you. I know your position, condition, and situation.” In dealing with the Corinthian believers Paul certainly was in the spirit.

Something Paul says in 4:21 makes it very clear that Paul was in spirit as he wrote to the believers at Corinth. In this verse Paul asks, “What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of meekness?” Paul was a person fully in the spirit. He could come to Corinth either with a rod or with a spirit of meekness. Because he was in the spirit, he could say, “My spirit causes me to know the things concerning you. As I exercise my spirit, I realize that you have departed from your standing in Christ, that you are ignorant of your destiny, and that you are neglecting the blessings which you have in Christ. Instead of exercising your spirit, you are exalting your philosophy and wisdom and are making choices according to your preferences. You, however, don’t know these things about yourselves, because you don’t exercise the spirit. Forget your Greek mentality and use your regenerated spirit. Then you will know the things of man, the things concerning yourselves.”

Paul also realized that the Corinthian believers trusted more in their philosophical wisdom than in the Spirit of God. In chapter two he seems to be telling them, “When I came to you, I did not trust in my wisdom. Although I had received an excellent education, when I was with you I determined not to know anything except Christ and Him crucified. I exercised my spirit, and I trusted in the Spirit of God. Therefore, when I was among you, I was a person in the mingled spirit. Because I am in the spirit, I know your situation, and I know the things of God. I know Christ, God’s wisdom and God’s power. I even know that God’s weakness is stronger than man’s power and that God’s foolishness is wiser than man’s wisdom. I came to know the things of God in my spirit mingled with the Spirit of God. God has even revealed the depths of God to me. I not only know the things God has done and is doing; I even know the depths of God Himself, the depths of God’s being. What I am able to do, you cannot do, because you do not rely on the two spirits, your human spirit and the Spirit of God.” Many Christians today also neglect these two spirits.

The majority of believers hold to a doctrine of dichotomy—the belief that man is composed of two main parts, the soul and the body. According to this view, the spirit of man is identical to man’s soul. Some who teach dichotomy even claim that the spirit, the soul, the heart, and the mind are all synonymous. They say that the spirit is the soul, that the soul is the heart, and that the heart is the mind.

In 1954 I had a conversation with an American missionary who believed in dichotomy. At the end of a conference held in Hong Kong, he told me how much he appreciated the conference. However, he could not agree with the teaching that the human spirit is different from the human soul. He claimed that the spirit and the soul are identical. I referred him to Paul’s word in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. In this verse Paul speaks of the spirit and the soul and the body, purposely using two conjunctions. I asked him how, on the basis of this verse, he could insist that the soul and the spirit are synonymous. Nevertheless, he still held to the view that the soul and the spirit are the same.