WORLD GOSPEL KINGDOM TRACTS
Unlocking the Mystery of Human Life
The way of salvation is not dependent upon man’s improvement, because “death” cannot be improved. Sin must first be judged, and then there can be the freedom from death which comes through sin. This is the salvation of Jesus Christ!
Death came into the world because of man’s fall. This death, which is a spiritual death, a death which separates man from God, came through sin. From the time of the fall until now, there has been no change—death always comes through sin. Romans 5:12 says that “through one man sin entered into the world.” Adam sinned and sin entered into the world. “And through sin, death”; this shows that the unalterable result of sin is death. “And thus death passed on to all men.” For what reason? “Because all have sinned.” Not only has death “passed on to all men,” but according to the literal translation of this phrase, death “passed through all men.” All of man’s spirit, soul, and body have been permeated by death. Death is present in every part of man. Therefore, man has no alternative but to receive God’s life. The way of salvation is not dependent upon man’s improvement, because “death” cannot be improved. Sin must first be judged, and then there can be the freedom from death which comes through sin. This is the salvation of Jesus Christ.
According to the ordination in the Bible, the man who sins must die. Therefore, no animal or angel can be a substitute for man to bear the punishment of sin. It is man’s tripartite nature that sins; therefore, the one who dies must have man’s nature. Only human nature can make redemption for human nature. Since all men have sinned, no one’s death is sufficient even to redeem himself from his own sin. For this reason the Lord Jesus came and took on human nature in order to bear the judgment for human nature. He had no sin, so His holy nature could, through death, redeem the sinful nature of man. He died as a substitute, bore all the punishment of sin, and gave His life a ransom for many so that all who believe in Him shall not come into condemnation (John 5:24).
When He, as the Word, became flesh, He included all flesh in Himself. As the act of the one man Adam represented the deeds of all mankind, so the work of the one Man Christ also represented the work of all mankind. We must see that Christ included all mankind before we can understand what redemption is. The transgression of the one man Adam is the transgression of all mankind, past and present. This is because Adam was the head of the human race, and all men were born of him. Likewise, the righteousness accomplished by the one Man Christ becomes the righteousness of all mankind, both past and present. This is because Christ is the head of the new race, and this new man is born of Christ.
An illustration of this fact is found in Hebrews Chapter 7. Here the apostle is trying to show that the priesthood of Melchisedec is greater than the priesthood of Levi. As Abraham gave to Melchisedec a tenth of all and also received the blessing from Melchisedec, so Melchisedec is greater than Levi. Why is this? “For he was still in the loins of his father when Melchisedec met him” (Hebrews 7:10). We know Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Levi; therefore, Levi was the great-grandson of Abraham. When Abraham offered up his tithe and received the blessing, although Levi was not yet born, nor were his father and grandfather, the Bible nevertheless reckoned the tithing of Abraham and his receiving of the blessing to be Levi’s tithing and receiving of the blessing. Since Abraham is lesser than Melchisedec, then Levi also must be lesser than Melchisedec. This event helps us to understand why all were counted to have sinned when Adam sinned, and why all were counted to have been judged when Christ was judged. When Adam transgressed, all were in his loins, and when Christ was judged, the lives of all regenerated sinners were also in His loins. For this reason, when Christ was judged for man’s sin, all those who believe in Him were also reckoned to have been judged, and all those who believe in Him will not be judged anymore.
Because human nature must suffer judgment, God’s Son, the Man Jesus Christ, bore on the Cross in His spirit, soul, and body the punishment mankind deserved.
Let us first consider the suffering in His body. Man sins through his body. The body causes man to sin and sense the pleasure of sin. Therefore, the part of man that needs to be punished is the body. Man sins through the body, and the body lures man to commit sin. Consequently, the body must be punished. Who can fully comprehend the suffering in the body of the Lord Jesus while He was on the Cross? In the Old Testament, “the Psalms of the Messiah” (psalms concerning Christ) give a clear description of the agony in His body. “They pierce My hands and feet” (Psalms 22:16). The prophet described Him as One “whom they have pierced” (Zechariah 12:10). His hands, His feet, His forehead, His side, and His heart were all pierced by men, pierced by sinful human nature and for sinful human nature. At that time He had been sorely wounded. Because the weight of His body had been hanging on the Cross without support, He had a high fever due to constricted blood circulation in the whole body. His mouth became very dry, and He cried, “My tongue is stuck to my jaws” (Psalms 22:15), and “In My thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (Psalms 69:21). The hands love to sin; therefore, they must be nailed. The mouth loves to sin; therefore, it must suffer. The feet love to sin; therefore, they must be pierced. The head loves to sin; therefore, it must wear the thorny crown. The punishment which the human body needed to suffer was fully carried out on His body. It was thus that He suffered physical pain until death ended all. Although He had the power to avoid these sufferings, He gave His body over willingly to suffer these indescribable pains and agonies. He did not shrink back for a moment until He knew that “all things had now been finished” (John 19:28). Only then did He give up His life.
Not only did His body suffer, but His soul also suffered. Our soul is the faculty of self-consciousness. When the Lord Jesus was on the Cross, the people offered Him wine mixed with myrrh so that He would become unconscious and would not feel the pain, but He refused it. He did not want to lose His consciousness. Man’s soul is quite keen to the pleasures of sin; now He must be fully conscious of the pains of sin. He chose to drink the cup given Him by God and would not drink the cup that would result in the loss of consciousness.
How shameful is the Cross as an instrument of punishment! It was for the punishment of runaway slaves. A slave had no possessions, no civil rights, and no rights of ownership. Even his body belonged to his master; therefore, the Cross, the most shameful punishment, was applied to runaway slaves. The Lord Jesus took His place as a slave and was nailed to the Cross. Isaiah called Him a slave; Paul also said He was a slave. He came as a slave to save us, who throughout all our lives were slaves to sin and Satan. We were slaves of lust, temper, habits, and the world; we were sold to sin; but He died for our enslavement and bore all our shame.
The Bible tells us that the soldiers took His garments (John 19:23). When He was crucified, He was almost naked. This was the shame of the crucifixion. Sin takes away our garments of light and makes us naked. The Lord Jesus was stripped before Pilate and then again unclothed at Golgotha. How did His holy soul react to this? Did this not trample on the holiness of His humanity and make Him feel shameful? Who can comprehend how His soul felt in such an hour? While all men enjoyed the glory of sin, our Savior suffered the shame of sin. Truly, at that time God “covered him with shame,” and “Your enemies have reproached, O Jehovah, with which they have reproached the footsteps of Your anointed” (Psalms 89:45, 51). Nevertheless, He “endured the Cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2).
No one can actually comprehend how His soul suffered on the Cross. Often we only consider the suffering in His body and neglect the feeling of His soul. The week before the Passover, He said, “Now is My soul troubled” (John 12:27). This speaks of the Cross. When He was at Gethsemane He said, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26:38). Without these words we could hardly imagine the agonies in His soul. Isaiah 53:10 through 12 says three times that He gave up His soul and poured out His soul unto death. Because He bore the curse and the shame of the Cross, all who believe in Him no longer need to bear the curse and the shame.
His spirit also suffered greatly. The spirit is the part through which man fellowships with God. God’s Son is holy and sinless, set apart from sinners. His spirit, in union with the Holy Spirit, never had a moment of obscurity or disturbance. He constantly enjoyed God’s presence. “For I am not alone, but I and the Father who sent Me” (John 8:16). “And He who sent Me is with Me” (John 8:29). Therefore, He was able to pray, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I knew that You always hear Me” (John 11:41-42). However, while He was on the Cross—if ever there was a day He needed God’s presence, it had to be that day (probably no other day exceeded that day)—He cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). His spirit was actually separated from God. Now He felt alone, rejected, and separated. Still He was obedient, doing God’s will; but now He was forsaken—not for Himself but for the sins of others.
The greatest effect of sin is on the spirit. Therefore, even such a holy One, the Son of God, because of bearing others’ sins, actually became separated from God. It was a fact that in the unfathomable eternity “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), and this remained true when He was on earth. Humanity could not separate Him from God. However, sin could, although it was the sin of others. He suffered the spirit’s separation for us in order that our spirit could be reconciled to God.
When He saw the death of Lazarus, perhaps He thought about His own death, so He “was moved with indignation in His spirit” (John 11:33). When He announced that He would be betrayed and die on the Cross, He was “troubled in His spirit” (John 13:21). Therefore, when He was on the hill of Golgotha receiving God’s judgment, He cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” “I remember God, and I moan; I complain, and my spirit faints” (Psalms 77:3). It was because His spirit was cut off from God’s Spirit that He was devoid in His spirit of the strength of the Holy Spirit normally supplied to Him (Ephesians 3:16). He therefore cried, “I am poured out like water, And all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax; It is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a shard; And my tongue is stuck to my jaws; You have put Me in the dust of death” (Psalms 22:14-15).
On the one hand, God’s Holy Spirit departed from Him; on the other hand, the evil spirit of Satan mocked Him. The words in Psalm 22:11-13 seem to point this out: “Do not be far from Me. ...For there is none to help Me. Many bulls surround Me, The mighty bulls of Bashan encompass Me, They open their mouth at Me, Like a ravening and roaring lion.”
His spirit, on the one hand, felt God’s forsaking, and on the other hand, was resisting the evil spirit’s sneering and mocking. [But God stripped off the rulers and authorities, and He made a display of them openly, triumphing over them in it (2 Corinthians 2:15).] Man's spirit, when separated from God, is self-exalted and becomes the operating ground of evil spirits (Ephesians 2:2). However, man’s spirit ought to be completely broken so that man can no longer resist God and be united with the enemy. The Lord Jesus became sin for us on the Cross. The holy human nature within Him was completely broken due to God’s judgment of the sinful nature of man. Christ was forsaken by God, suffering the most painful part of God’s judgment in that the love, the kindly countenance, and the light of God were all hidden from Him, causing the Savior to undergo in darkness the wrath of God’s punishment toward sin. To be forsaken by God is the result of sin.
Now our sinful nature, spirit, soul, and body have all been punished. The sinful nature of man was fully judged in the holy human nature of the Lord Jesus. The holy human nature has gained the victory in the Lord Jesus. The necessary punishments for the body, the soul, and the spirit of the sinner have all been executed upon the Lord Jesus. He is our representative. We become one with Him by faith, and He becomes one with us. His death is our death. His being judged is our being judged. In Him, our spirit, soul, and body have all been judged and punished. It is the same as if we had gone through this punishment ourselves. Therefore, “there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
This is what He has accomplished for us. This is our position in the light of the law. “For he who has died is justified from sin.” Our position is that we are dead in the Lord Jesus. Now we ought to have the work of the Holy Spirit to apply this fact to our experience. The Cross is the place where the sinner—spirit, soul, and body—is judged. It is through His death and resurrection that God’s Holy Spirit can impart God’s nature into us. The Cross bears the punishment of the sinner, the Cross evaluates the worth of the sinner, the Cross crucifies all sinners, and the Cross releases the life of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, from now on, whoever is willing to receive the Cross will be regenerated by the Holy Spirit and receive the life of the Lord Jesus.
Before man is regenerated, his spirit is far away from God and is dead. The meaning of death is to be separated from life. The ultimate name of life is God. Since death means to be separated from life, and God is life, then to be dead is to be separated from God. Man’s spirit apart from God is deadened, having no fellowship with Him. The soul controls the whole man so that he lives either in his ideas or in excitement. The lusts and desires of the body bring the soul into subjection.
Man’s spirit became deadened; therefore, there is the need for the spirit to be resurrected. The rebirth, which the Lord Jesus spoke about to Nicodemus, is the rebirth of the spirit. To be born again is not a matter related to our body, as Nicodemus thought, nor is it a matter related to our soul, because not only is the “body of sin” to be made of none effect (Romans 6:6), but also “they who are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and its lusts” (this is the soul), (Galatians 5:24). We ought to especially emphasize that regeneration is the impartation of God’s life into man’s spirit. Because Christ has made redemption for our soul and destroyed the principle of the flesh, we who are one with Him can have a share in His resurrected, deathless life. Our being one with Christ’s death and our initial step of obtaining His resurrection life are in our spirit. To be born again is completely a matter in the spirit; it has no relationship with the soul or the body.
Man is unique among all God’s creation not because he has or is a soul, but because he has a spirit, and this spirit united with a soul becomes a man. This kind of union causes man to be unique in the universe. According to the Bible, man’s soul alone cannot form any relationship with God. Man’s relationship with God is in his spirit. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must use their spirit. Only spirit can relate to Spirit. Only spirit can worship Spirit. Therefore, in the Bible we see that only spirit can serve Spirit (Romans 1:9; 7:6; 12:11), only spirit can know Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9-12), only spirit can worship God who is Spirit (John 4:23-24; Philippians 3:3), and only spirit can receive revelation from God who is Spirit (Revelation 1:10; 1 Corinthians 2:10).
[For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of His Son, how unceasingly I make mention of you always in my prayers (Romans 1:9).]
[NOTE: Not the Spirit of God but Paul’s regenerated spirit. The spirit is different from the heart, soul, mind, emotion, will, or natural life. Christ and the Spirit are with the believers in their regenerated human spirit (2 Timothy 4:22; Romans 8:16). In this book Paul stressed that whatever we are (Romans 2:29; 8:5-6, 9), whatever we have (Romans 8:10, 16), and whatever we do toward God (Romans 8: 9; 7:6; 8:4, 13; 12:11) must be in this spirit. Paul served God in his regenerated spirit by the indwelling Christ, the life-giving Spirit, not in his soul by the power and ability of the soul. This is the first important item in his preaching of the gospel.]
We should, therefore, keep in mind that God always deals with man by means of man’s spirit and also accomplishes His plan through man’s spirit. For man’s spirit to thus fulfill God’s purpose, the spirit must continue, without ceasing, to be in living union with God Himself and not for a moment follow the outward emotions, desires, and ideas of the soul, thus contradicting the divine law. Otherwise, death will come, and the spirit will be severed from its union with God and become disconnected from the life of God. We have mentioned before that this does not mean that man no longer has a spirit, but that the spirit yields its high position to the soul. When man’s spirit obeys the urge from his “outward man” in the form of ideals and desires, the result is his loss of fellowship with God. This is death. Those who are dead in “offenses and sins” are those who fulfill “the desires of the flesh and of the thoughts” (Ephesians 2:1, 3).
The living of an unregenerated man is almost entirely under the control of the soul. First, man has the conditions of anxiety, curiosity, joy, pride, compassion, debauchery, delight, astonishment, shame, love, regret, excitement, and happiness. Second, man has ideals, imaginations, superstitions, doubts, suppositions, investigations, inferences, examinations, analyses, reflections, etc. Third, man has the desire to obtain power, riches, social approval, freedom, position, fame, praise, and knowledge. He can be decisive, dependent, courageous, and have endurance; at the same time, he can be fearful, indecisive, independent, stubborn, and opinionated. These are the manifestations of the soul in its three aspects—emotion, mind, and will. Is not man’s life full of these things? However, man’s regeneration does not result from any of these functions. One may repent of offenses, be sorrowful for sin, and resolve to improve with tears; yet this is not salvation. Confession, decision, as well as many other religious feelings are not regeneration. Even the determination of the will, the knowledge of the intellect, and the receptiveness of the mind in deciding to gain that which is good, beautiful, and noble are merely the functions of the soul, while the spirit may remain entirely unmoved. In the matter of salvation, man’s will, emotion, and mind are not the basic or primary items; rather, they are secondary, subordinate. They are servants, not the master. Therefore, regardless whether it is the sufferings of the body, the excitement of the emotion, the demand of the will, or the understanding of the mind working out reforms and improvements, none of these is what the Bible calls being born again. The regeneration in the Bible takes place in a part deeper than man’s body and soul. It is in his spirit that the Holy Spirit imparts God’s life to him.
For this reason every worker for the Lord ought to understand that our natural abilities cannot cause anyone to be born again. The Christian life and work, from the beginning to the end, must not rely on the power of the soul. If they do, all of the fruit will only be in the realm of the soul and will not penetrate deeper into man’s spirit. We must depend on the Holy Spirit to impart God’s life to others. How can man obtain this regeneration of the spirit?
The Lord Jesus died to receive the punishment as a substitute for the sinner. The sinner—spirit, soul, and body—with all his sins, has been completely judged in the Lord Jesus on the Cross. In God’s sight and purpose, the death of the Lord Jesus is reckoned as the death of the people of this world. He, in His holy humanity, died for all sinful humanity. However, on man’s side one work still remains; that is, by faith he must join himself—spirit, soul, and body—unto the Lord Jesus. This means that he must reckon the Lord Jesus as himself, counting the death of the Lord Jesus as his own death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus as his own resurrection. This is the meaning of John 3:16: “That every one who believes into Him...would have eternal life.” The sinner must exercise faith to believe into the Lord Jesus, to be joined unto His death, and thus be one in His resurrection. Then he will be able to obtain eternal life, which is a spiritual life (John 17:3), and thus he will be born anew.
We must be careful not to consider the substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus and our co-death with Him as two separate matters. Those who pay attention to knowledge and understanding have this tendency. However, it must not be so in our spiritual life. Substitutionary death and co-death should be differentiated but never separated. When one believes in the substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus, such a one has already died with Christ (Romans 6:2). To believe that the Lord Jesus took my place of punishment is to believe that I have already been punished in the Lord Jesus. The penalty of sin is death. The punishment suffered by the Lord Jesus for us was also death; therefore, in the Lord Jesus I am already dead. Otherwise, there is no saving way. To say that He died in my place is to say that I have died in Him and have been punished in Him. (Those who trust in this fact will have this experience.)
The faith by which a sinner believes in the substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus is the believing into Christ to be joined to Him. Although many times he may only see the problems regarding the penalty of sin and not have any realization of the aspect of the power of sin, this matter of being joined to the Lord is common to every believer. One who is not joined to the Lord has not believed in the Lord and has nothing to do with Him.
Believing into the Lord in this way is to be joined to the Lord. To be joined to the Lord means to experience all that the Lord has experienced. What the Lord Jesus spoke in verses 14 and 15 of John Chapter 3 has made clear what it is to be joined to Him. It is to be joined to Him in His crucifixion and His death. Each believer in the Lord Jesus (at the least) has been united with the Lord’s death positionally. But “if we have grown together with Him in the likeness of His death, indeed we will also be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:5). Therefore, everyone who believes in the substitutional death of the Lord Jesus has been raised up (positionally) with the Lord Jesus. Although at the time he has not yet fully experienced the meaning of the Lord Jesus’ resurrection, just as he has not yet entirely experienced the meaning of the Lord Jesus’ death, God has raised him up with the Lord Jesus, and in the resurrection life of the Lord Jesus he has gained a new life and is born again.
We must avoid the thought that man ought to have the experience of dying and resurrecting with the Lord before he can be born again. According to the Bible, once a person believes in the Lord Jesus, he is born again. “But as many as received Him...who believe into His Name...were begotten...of God” (John 1:12-13).
We ought to realize that our co-resurrection with the Lord is not an experience after regeneration. Our being born again is our co-resurrection with the Lord because the Lord’s death (in other words, our death with Him) terminated the problem of our sinful life. Then, at the resurrection of the Lord (in other words, when we were resurrected with Him), He gave us a new life with which we began our Christian life. That is why the Bible says, “God...has regenerated us...through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). This shows that every born-again Christian has already been raised up with the Lord. However, the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:10 told us that every Christian still needs to pursue to know “the power of His resurrection”. Many Christians are born again and have participated in the Lord’s resurrection but lack the manifestation of the power of resurrection.
Therefore, we must not confuse position with experience. When a person believes in the Lord Jesus, although he is still very weak and ignorant, God has placed him in a position of being reckoned as having completely died, resurrected, and ascended with the Lord. Those who are accepted in Christ are accepted just as Christ is; this is position. However, the believers may not necessarily have the experience of this. Positionally speaking, a believer in the Lord possesses all the experiences of the Lord Jesus. Experientially, at the minimum, he is born again. This rebirth is not because he has already experienced the Lord Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension to a certain degree, but because he believes in the Lord Jesus. His position causes him to have the experience of being born again. Although in experience he still does not know the power of Christ’s resurrection (Philippians 3:10), he has already been made alive, raised, and seated in the heavenlies together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5-6). [Eventually, as the believer remains alive in spirit, raised, and seated experientially in the heavenlies together with Christ, he will gain Christ, be found in Christ and know the power of His resurrection on a daily basis].
“The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord” (Proverbs 20:27). At the time of regeneration the Holy Spirit comes into us. He enters into man’s spirit like the lighting of a lamp. This is the “new spirit” spoken of in Ezekiel 36:26. Because the old spirit was dead, the Holy Spirit puts the uncreated life of God inside it, causing it to have life and to live!
Before regeneration, man’s soul ruled over his spirit. His “self” dominated his soul. His lust governed his body. The soul became the life of the spirit, the “self” became the life of the soul, and the lust became the life of the body. After man’s regeneration, the Holy Spirit rules his spirit, causing his spirit to govern his soul, then through the soul to rule over his body. Now the Holy Spirit becomes the life of the spirit, and the spirit becomes the life of the entire being.
At the time of regeneration the Holy Spirit revives the human spirit and renews it. In the Bible, regeneration refers to the step in which a man comes out of death and enters into life. This regeneration, like the physical birth, occurs only once, and once is sufficient. It is at this time of rebirth that man receives God’s own life, is born of God, and becomes God’s child. “Being renewed” in the Bible refers to the Holy Spirit’s work of increasingly filling and permeating our being with His life and thus completely overcoming our life in the flesh. It is a lengthy, continuous, and progressive work. In such a regenerated one, the original order of the spirit and the soul is restored.
There is another point we ought to pay attention to. That is, regeneration not only restores us to the condition of Adam before his fall, but it also affords us something additional. Adam had a “spirit,” but that spirit was only created by God and did not contain the uncreated life of God Himself, as signified by the Tree of Life. There was no life-relationship between Adam and God. As the angels were called sons of God, Adam was also called a son of God (Luke 3:38), because he was created directly by God. We who believe in the Lord Jesus are “begotten” of God (John 1:12-13) and thus have a life relationship with God. The life of a father is the life inherited by the sons. Since we are born of God, we automatically have the life of God (2 Peter 1:4). If Adam had been willing to receive the life, which God offered him by means of the Tree of Life, Adam would have had the eternal life, the uncreated life of God. His spirit came from God and exists forever, but how this life would become everlasting depended on how he regarded God’s command and how he made his choice. What we Christians obtain at regeneration is God’s life, a life which was possible for Adam to obtain, but he did not obtain it. Regeneration serves not only to restore man’s spirit and soul from the original state of confusion and darkness but furthermore puts man in possession of the supernatural life of God.
Man’s deadened, fallen spirit is made alive by receiving God’s life imparted through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is regeneration. The basis upon which the Holy Spirit regenerates man is the Cross (please read John 3:14-15). The eternal life in John 3:16 is the life of God, which is put into man’s spirit by the Holy Spirit. Because this life is God’s life, which can never die, all who have been regenerated have this life and are said to “have eternal life.” If God’s life were to die, man’s eternal life would immediately perish!
After regeneration, man’s relationship with God is that of birth. Regardless of what happens, once a man has been born of God, God cannot deny that He has begotten him. Therefore, man, once born of God, despite how long eternity may be, has a relationship and position, which cannot be canceled. Man obtains this through regeneration by believing in the Lord Jesus as Savior and not through his progress, spirituality, or holiness gained after believing in the Lord. What God gives to the regenerated ones is eternal life. Therefore, this position and life can never be annulled.
When man is regenerated, he obtains God’s life. This is the starting point of a Christian life. This is the minimum for every believer. Whoever has not believed in the death of the Lord Jesus and received a supernatural life which he originally did not have, regardless of how zealously he may be progressing in the areas of religion, morality, and learning, is still a dead man in God’s sight. All who do not have God’s own life are dead.
With regeneration as the starting point, the spiritual life now has the possibility to grow. This rebirth is the first step in the spiritual life. At such a time the spiritual life is complete but not mature. The capabilities of this life are complete and able to reach the highest plane. However, because this life is newly born, it is not grown-up or mature. It is like a fruit, which is green; the life is complete, but it is still unripe. The completeness is in its life capabilities, not yet in all of its organic parts. Man’s regeneration is the same. After regeneration there is still an immensely great capacity in God’s life that will allow him to advance unceasingly. From here on, the Holy Spirit can lead him forward until the body and soul are totally overcome.
The apostle in 1 Corinthians 3:1 classified all Christians as either spiritual or fleshy. A spiritual Christian is one who has the Holy Spirit dwelling in his spirit and ruling over his whole being. What then is a fleshy one? The flesh in the Bible signifies all of the nature and life of an unregenerated man—the totality of the unregenerated man, including all the matters belonging to his sinful spirit, soul, and body (Romans 7:18). Therefore, a fleshy Christian is one who, having been reborn and having received God’s life, is unable to overcome his flesh, and is instead overcome by his flesh. We have already seen that in a fallen man, his spirit is deadened, and he is governed by his soul and body. A fleshy Christian, therefore, is one who follows his soul and body to sin, act, and behave.
If after regeneration, a believer remains for a prolonged period of time in the flesh, God’s saving way will not be manifested to be perfected in him. It is when he grows in grace to become spiritual that salvation is perfected in him. The saving way of Golgotha is that God has already prepared salvation for every sinner to be regenerated, and that every regenerated one may attain to the status of a spiritual man who is able to overcome the “old creation.”
Verses and footnotes are taken from The Recovery Version of the Holy Bible and Words of Ministry from Brother Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man, Set 1, Vol. 12, The Way of Salvation, and [with personal enlightenment and inspiration]. Both are published by Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim, CA. All Rights Reserved.
Let us walk becomingly as in the day; not in reveling and drunkenness, not in fornication and licentiousness, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.
Romans 13:13, 14