“Thus it is written; ‘the first man Adam became in a living soul; the last Adam in a life-giving Spirit’” (1 Corinthians 15:45).
Man is made in the image of God – that is, he is a spirit. He is also triune in nature, being spirit, soul and body. Connectivity to God is through our spirit with His Spirit; this is how He connects with us and we with Him; our spirit is where God dwells. Our body is not independent, it is driven by the soul; it cannot function without the soul; the body dies when the soul departs. The soul, instead of functioning independently, is meant to be ruled by the spirit which, in turn, is meant to be ruled by the Holy Spirit.
Because of inherent sin, we are dead in our spirit when we are born and are ruled by our soul under the domination of Satan; when we are “born again” our dead spirit is quickened into life and our soul is redeemed from the kingdom of darkness; the ransom price of the blood of a spotless Lamb has been paid. Thence, a struggle for mastery of the believer begins between the new-born spirit and the soul, which is the long-term resident in the body, for unless and until it is broken, the soul will be master, as he has always been. But the purpose of the Holy Spirit in uniting with our spirit is that our spirit might govern our soul, so that the spirit and soul together can direct the body as a means of fulfilling God’s desire.
This is what happened in the life of Jesus, with the exception that He was not born of the seed of man and thus, was not a victim of inherent sin. Nevertheless, being subject to the same temptations as all men, He had to bring His soul under the rulership of His spirit, and was able to be “made perfect in obedience”, “doing only those things that were pleasing to God”. This is how the son of man became the Son of God. This is how we, too, are meant to become sons of God and brothers, by adoption, of Christ Jesus, which is God’s desire and purpose in calling us and choosing us.
God seeks to work in the spirit of man to bring him to eternal life; Satan, who “comes to kill and destroy”, seeks to work in the soul of man to bring him to destruction. Paul spoke of this in his allegorical reference to Isaac and Ishmael (Galatians 4:24-4:29). Ishmael was born according to the flesh, or soul, and Isaac according to the promise, or spirit. “But, just as then, the one being born according to the flesh persecuted the one according to the spirit, thus also now” (Galatians 4:29).
This then, is the battleground, and these are the adversaries; soul and spirit, Ishmael and Isaac, Satan and God; upon the outcome will depend our eternal destiny; salvation or damnation. The only way the redeemed spirit of man can express and replicate the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is God’s desire, is through breaking the soul power of man, and this the man himself must determine to do, for only he can do it; it is only through the exercise of his free will that man can choose to deny his soul power and instead, choose to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in his own spirit.
It has to be said that the odds are stacked against the spirit of man since he must choose to follow something that is invisible, untouchable, irrational and supernatural. On the other hand, the soul is the seat of the senses and is located in the natural where it can feel, touch, taste, see and hear. Moreover, both God and Satan use the same primary resource – the Holy Scriptures; One to guide into truth, the other to lead into deception. It is the Word of God lodging in the soul that leads to deception; it is the Word of God lodging in the spirit that leads to truth.