By John Arcovio
As I stated in Chapter 1, the two spirits that are the most difficult to differentiate between are the human spirit and the Holy Spirit. The voice of the human spirit and voice of the Holy Spirit are separated by a very thin line. In time, all of us can learn to discern the voices of angels, demons, and the spirits of this age. Yet, the toughest will be discerning the difference between the spirit of man and the Spirit of God. Our human spirit may even use King James English to try to establish authority. How many times have we heard a message in tongues that was from the human spirit prefaced by “Thus saith the Lord”?
The surest and most basic way of becoming skilled at distinguishing between the human spirit and the Spirit of God is by gaining a working knowledge of the written Word. This is one of the most powerful weapons the Lord has given the Discerning the Spirits of this End Time Apostolic Age church. In Matthew 4:1-10, when Jesus was being tempted by the enemy, He used this powerful weapon to defeat him. Three times He responded to the devil’s temptations with the words, “It is written” (see Three Warfare’s by John Arcovio). Paul brought this out in his letter to the Hebrews:
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).i
The word “soul” in this verse is translated from the Greek word psuche (psoo-khay’), which means “life, affections, desires, mind, conscience, heart, or the breath of life.”ii The word “spirit” is translated from the Greek word pneuma (pnyoo’ -mah), which is widely accepted as referring to the Holy Ghost or the Spirit of God.
It is the written Word that determines the “dividing asunder” or “distinction” between the human spirit and the Spirit of God.
The inner life of a Christian is often a strange admixture of motivations, some genuinely spiritual and others completely human. To sort these out and expose what is of the Spirit and what is of the flesh requires a supernatural discerning agent such as the Word of God. If a person will saturate his mind and spirit (soul) with the Word of God on a daily basis, he will greatly increase his ability to distinguish the difference between the human spirit and the Spirit of God.
I believe this is what Paul meant when he wrote, “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16) and instructed us to “put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). He also said that we should let our minds be washed by the “water of the Word” (Ephesians 5:26). We bring our soul, or conscience, to a razor sharp edge of sensitivity to the voice of God through prayer, fasting, and meditation on the written Word.
The human spirit can discern accurately the difference between right and wrong or good and evil as a result of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, from which God had forbidden man to eat. “Then the Lord God said, `Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’ (Genesis 3:22).
For man to be able to obey and do good when evil is present, his human spirit must be subjected to both the Spirit and the Word (or law) of God. As Paul wrote in Romans 7:21-22, “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man.”4
In our quest to accurately discern the human spirit, we must first understand the nature of mankind. Some have used the term ” tri-partite” to describe the nature of man, suggesting that man is composed of body, soul, and spirit. While this is true in theory, mankind is actually comprised of body (the flesh) and the soul/spirit, which exist in union with each other. The soul of man exists only by the spirit of life which God breathed into man. The body represents our flesh, including our senses of smelling, hearing, feeling, seeing, and tasting. It exists along with the soul/spirit. When the soul/spirit departs from the body, physical death has occurred. It is the soul/spirit that will live for eternity; they cannot be separated.
Contained within our soul/spirit are our will, our emotions, our mind, our conscience, our heart, and our life. Again, we must remember that God created the human soul/spirit with the breath of life: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). “Thus says the Lord, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him” (Zechariah 12:1). Without the spirit of life from God (which is our human spirit), there is no soul.
In Genesis 4 when Cain slew Abel, the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.” (v. 4:10). Here the soul is described as the voice of Abel’s blood crying out as life was leaving the flesh. When the spirit of life departs from man, the soul departs with it. They are inseparable. The soul/spirit is what returns to God.
Everyone goes to the same place. All are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? (Ecclesiastes 3:20-21)5
While ministering in Ohio during the summer of 1990, a young man started attending the church where I was preaching. His parents were of the Catholic faith and didn’t understand anything about the Pentecostal experience. They allowed their teenage son to attend the revival services but they never came at all. One Saturday evening around midnight, the pastor received an urgent phone call from the parents of this boy. Apparently he had been playing football Saturday afternoon and while running full speed to catch a pass had run headfirst into a steel light post. The blow to his head had caused severe brain damage, and he was in a coma, perhaps near death.
The pastor called me and asked if I would go with him to pray for the boy. I paused for a moment to hear what the Spirit would say and the Lord spoke two words to me, “Go pray.” By the time we arrived at the hospital, the boy had been clinically dead for four hours. We entered the waiting room where the parents were already mourning their son. I recall the mother greeting me and saying,” Hello, Father.
What I failed to realize was that the parents were expecting me to pray a prayer of blessing over their son, not a prayer to raise him from the dead!
Thank you for coming to pray for our son.” What I failed to realize was that the parents were expecting me to pray a prayer of blessing over their son, not a prayer to raise him from the dead!
I made my way into the room where he was lying. Tubes that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment— (Luke 16:19-28).
The true character and state of a man will shine forth from his human spirit. It is evident from this passage that the rich man had complete memory of his life on earth in the afterlife. In his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul wrote, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). He also wrote concerning the first man (the man of both flesh and soul/spirit) and the second man (soul/spirit):
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption (1 Corinthians 15:42-50) 6
A man can model any behavior, character, personality, or appearance through the flesh and soul (as actors are so well trained to do), but the human spirit ultimately shines forth in a man, communicating the true character of his soul. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).7 “The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the inner depths of his heart” (Proverbs 20:27).
When the true character of a man is shining forth, this is where discerning the spirit of a man becomes a necessary part of ministry. I have had people shake my hand with a great big smile on their face, modeling good intentions and sincere motives, whereas through the gift of discerning of spirits I have discerned hatred, jealousy, or a desire to do harm emanating from their human spirit. Dealing with people according to what their human spirit is projecting has saved me many heartaches and much trouble. On occasion, ignoring what is all too evident in their human spirit has caused me much pain and difficulty.
Wisdom and understanding are also perceived through the human spirit. Knowledge is gained through the soul functions. This is why there are young men and women who have obtained wisdom beyond their years through fasting and prayer, procuring this wisdom directly from God. When a young man dedicates his youthful years to fasting and much time spent alone with God in prayer and meditation on the Word of God, he gains the wisdom of the Spirit. Even a young man can become “old” through hours of fasting and prayer and gain great wisdom from God. This wisdom does not come from earthly knowledge, gray hair, or the lack thereof—it comes from God. James wrote concerning this wisdom from above, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). This is the same kind of wisdom King Solomon received from God in his youth: Now the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place: Solomon offered a thousand.
The world will be greatly affected in this last hour by those who have gained the wisdom from God through these measures of commitment. burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask! What shall I give you?” And Solomon said: “You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.” Now, 0 Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. “And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. Then God said to him: “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you (1 Kings 3:412).
This same principle applies to those who are old in natural years but have never submitted their human spirit to prayer, fasting, and obedience to the Word and Spirit of God. These people tend to be foolish and immature in the ways and wisdom of the Spirit.
Think of it, the wisdom of the Spirit of God has no boundaries or limitations. The omniscient God will share His “secrets” with all who come to know Him intimately. “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).8
If we will purpose in our hearts to seek the Lord through much time alone with Him and much fasting, He will reveal His wisdom in our lives. The world will be greatly affected in this last hour by those who have gained the wisdom from God through these measures of commitment. Pray right now for the Lord to begin to endow you with the wisdom of His Spirit.
The above article, “The Human Spirit” was written by John Arcovio. The article was excerpted from chapter four in Arcovio’s book, Discerning The Spirits.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.