Through the Word of God and through experience, we can see that man consists of three parts and that each of these parts possesses its own specific function.
The body is the material part where our physical senses operate. Its basic function is to make contact with the material world through the five senses.
The soul is the part that allows us to make contact with ourselves. We can say that it is what makes us self-conscious. The soul is the “I”, the “me” therefore; it is the center of our personality.
The spirit is that part responsible for maintaining fellowship with God. It is what gives us consciousness of God.
Although the soul is the center of personality, the spirit is the most important part, as it is the center of our entire being. It is through the spirit that we can worship God and receive revelation. We say that our spirit is the center because God dwells in it.
FUNCTIONS OF THE SPIRIT
The human spirit possesses three basic functions: intuition, conscience and fellowship.
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. (1John 2:20)
But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. (1John 2:27)
Intuition is the ability of the human spirit to receive knowledge, independently of any exterior influence. It is the knowledge that reaches us with no help of the mind or emotion; it comes intuitively. The revelation of God and all actions of the Holy Spirit are made known to us through the intuition of the spirit. Our mind simply helps us to understand what the Holy Spirit reveals to and within our spirit.
Many times, there is something inside of us prompting us into doing something or warning us not to do something. This inner feeling is the spirit’s intuition. How many times, after having done something, do we confess: “something inside of me was telling me not to go through with it”? We can all testify that we have been through many such situations and circumstances. Our spirit is at work, but we don’t believe it or pay any attention to it. Confined to the life of the soul, which is outside of the spirit and therefore constituting part of the exterior life, we almost never give credence to the interior voice of the spirit.
Spiritual things can only be discerned by our spirit (1Cor. 2:14). Jesus knew in His spirit what was in the hearts of people around Him. Paul was constrained in the spirit. Through all of these references, we can see the form in which the intuition of the spirit manifests itself. It is a knowledge that does not come from our mind or the physical world.
No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD.” (Jer. 31:34a)
Today we live under this covenant. We are all taught directly by the Lord. You may not know how you know, but something inside of you tells you whether certain things are true or not.
Intuition manifests itself through restriction and constraint. For example, we can be thinking about doing something that seems reasonable to us, so we decide to go ahead and do it. However, some heavy and oppressive feeling inside of us seems to go against what our mind has pondered, our emotions have accepted and our will has decided. It seems to restrain us from doing what normally we would do. This is the restriction of intuition.
On the other hand, certain things seem irrational and contrary to common sense and very much against our will. However, for some unknown reason, we feel constrained to do what normally we would never consider doing. There is an impulse and push to go ahead and do it. This is the compulsion of intuition.
There are distinct differences between knowledge and understanding and it is important to understand the difference between the two. Knowing is a function of the spirit while understanding is a function of the mind. We know something through the spirit’s intuition and our mind is then illuminated to understand what the intuition has known. In the spirit’s intuition, we know the persuasion of the Holy Spirit; in the mind, we understand the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In the Bible, the knowledge gained by intuition is called revelation. Revelation is the unveiling by the Holy Spirit, of the true meaning of something. This knowledge is so much deeper than the knowledge of the mind. Through the spirit of revelation and understanding, the anointing of the Lord teaches us all things.
It is easy to understand the conscience since we are all familiar with it. It is the ability to discern between right and wrong, not according to the mind’s criteria, but according to the direction of the spirit.
I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit (Rom 9:1)
When Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. (Acts 17:16)
When we compare these two passages, we see that the conscience is part of the human spirit. Testifying, confirming, refusing and accusing are all functions of the conscience. In 1Corinthians 5:3 Paul says that in his spirit he judged a sinful person. Judging means condemning or justifying, which are actions of the conscience.
Our conscience often condemns things that our mind approves. The judgment of the conscience is not according to mental knowledge, but according to the direction of the Holy Spirit.
There are two paths in the Bible: the path to the tree of life and the path to the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We are not taught by the Word to walk according to the pattern of right and wrong, but to be led by the spirit. When you go to the movies, how do you decide what to watch? You may begin to question in your mind thinking, “It is not pornographic, it is not wrong, therefore I can watch it”. This reasoning does not come from the conscience; it is the mind working. The mind reasons but the conscience does not, it only decides. Our conscience rejects many things that our mind approves. We should permanently reject, the guidance dictated by the mind, according to the tree of knowledge. Rather, the spirit, must lead us by the principle of the tree of life, which is God’s Spirit within us, received through our conscience.
We must be radical with what God condemns through our conscience. We should never try to explain or justify anything that the Bible condemns as sin. Whenever our conscience refuses something, we should stop immediately. Some people try to justify themselves by saying that they do not have much of any conviction of whether something is wrong or not. Romans 14:23 teaches that whatever is not done in faith is sin.
We can only serve God through a clean conscience. We can all testify that the action of our conscience does not depend on our knowledge of the Bible. Many times, we feel that something is wrong only to find out later that the Bible forbids it. Without anyone teaching us, we knew that our romantic life was wrong, and that our finances were less than honest. Whoever is born of God has, in his spirit, the voice of the Holy Spirit that speaks through his conscience. None of us will ever be able to say that we did not know. The function of our conscience is to testify of God’s will within us.
My spirit rejoices in God my Savior (Luke 1:47)
But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. (1Cor. 6:17)
Genuine fellowship with God is experienced on the level of our spirit. The presence of God is not perceived by our thoughts, feelings and intentions, for He can only be known directly in our spirit. Those who cannot perceive their own spirit cannot worship God in spirit either. It is in our spirit that we connect with the Lord and maintain fellowship with Him.
Everything God does, He initiates through our spirit. It is always from the inside out. This is a very practical way to know what comes from God and what comes from the devil. The devil always starts acting from outside, through the body, trying to reach our soul. God, however, acts from the inside out.
Whenever we worship God, we should turn to our heart because it is in our heart that we detect our spirit. Do not try to exercise the mind while worshiping, exercise the spirit through the heart. When we worship by singing in the spirit, it is helpful, because there is no need to exercise our mind and we can exercise the spirit freely. When you perceive the fire of God warming your heart, allow it to fill you completely. When it comes as an overflowing river, drink it completely. Fellowship with God always begins in the heart and is fueled by our willingness to yield to our spirit and not to the dictates of our soul.
HOW TO EXERCISE YOUR OWN SPIRIT
God’s has already completed His work in our spirit. It is like a light that was turned on. Jesus says that the spirit is ready (Mat. 26:41). Our spirit is ready but it must be exercised and worked on. It is like a newborn child. It is perfect, but needs to be developed: it has a perfect mouth but it doesn’t know how to speak, it has perfect feet but doesn’t know how to walk.
We have been born of and regenerated by God; He now lives in our spirit. It is up to us to develop our own spirit. We develop our spirit in order to be able to differentiate what comes from our soul and what comes from our spirit (Heb. 4:12). If we are unable to separate our soul from our spirit, we will not be able to fellowship with the Lord or even serve Him. God uses four methods to develop our spirit:
The soul conceals and covers the spirit as the skull covers the brain. If we wish to see the brain, we need to break the skull. That is why our soul needs to be broken. Without brokenness, we cannot perceive our spirit. Therefore, the first method that God uses to reveal our spirit to us is by breaking our soul. Through this breaking of the soul, we become sensitive to God in our spirit.
Word of God
The Word of God also has the power of separating the soul from the spirit. God uses our circumstances to bring us to brokenness and the power of the Word to separate our soul from our spirit. The Bible says:
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Praying in the spirit
A third way to perceive our human spirit is by praying in the spirit. Paul says in 1Corinthians 14:14 that if someone prays in a tongue, his own spirit prays while the mind (soul) is left unfruitful. Therefore, if you don’t pray in tongues, develop this manner of praying in the spirit and you will grow in your own spirit through it.
The last way of exercising your spirit is to reject passivity. The devil uses passivity to take men captive, but we need to exercise our will and allow God to do His work in us.
You will never receive anything if you go to a church service and sit passively waiting for God to do something in you. However, you will definitely receive the presence and edification of God if you exercise your spirit and seek the Lord, by yielding your mind, emotions and will in the direction that the Spirit takes you.