A CHRISTIAN NEEDING NOT ONLY TO HAVE THE LORD AS LIFE BUT ALSO TO LIVE IN SPIRIT
Then the Lord showed me that it is not adequate to have life and yet be without the Spirit. From then on I began to speak about the Spirit. At the same time, I also wrote a number of hymns. Under the Lord’s leading eighty-five hymns were written within two months. Every morning when I rose up, the first thing I did after I prayed was to write hymns. At that time in my reading of the Bible, the light that came to me was all concerning the Spirit. I came to Numbers 21, which says that when the Israelites were thirsty in their journey, Moses told them to dig the well for water. While they were digging, they sang, “Spring up, O well! Sing to it! / The well, which the leaders sank, / Which the nobles of the people dug, / With the scepter, with their staffs” (vv. 17-18). As a result, they dug out the living water. I received an inspiration from this, seeing that today we also must dig the well. Thus, I wrote Hymns, #250: “Spring up, well, with water; / Dig Thou, Lord, completely; / Dig away all barriers / That Thy stream flow through me.”
In this way I spoke exclusively of the Spirit. Deep down in me I saw that Christians in general had made a serious mistake; they did not care one bit for the Spirit. It seems that it does not matter to them whether or not there is the Spirit. They think, “We have already been washed in the precious blood of Jesus, and since He already died for us on the cross, we have been saved through faith in Him. Now we need only to look to Him to take care of us so that we may be good persons, fearing God, reading the Bible, and praying. This is good enough, and there is no need to care for the Spirit.” For this reason Christians in general became deadened; this led to the rise of the Pentecostal movement in the middle of the last century.
The birth of the Pentecostal movement was due to the fact that there were some believers who felt that Christians in general were too dry. They felt the need to pray with loud voices and in a particular way, even to pray without food or sleep, praying all day and all night continuously for several days. They believed that by praying in this way Christians could obtain the particular experience of having the Spirit of power from above come upon them suddenly that they might receive the baptism of the Spirit which would enable them to speak in tongues. In this way they would receive the Holy Spirit. When I first believed in the Lord, someone asked me if I had received the Holy Spirit. I felt bad and also perplexed because I was not clear whether or not I had. I asked him how to receive the Holy Spirit, and he said that he did not know either. Actually, both of us had the Holy Spirit but we did not know it then.
When the Pentecostal movement came to Northern China, at first those in the Southern Baptist denomination resisted it because of their theological belief, but eventually they succumbed to it because the tide of the movement was too strong. Therefore, in 1932 in a Southern Baptist congregation, I attended such a Pentecostal meeting for the first time with the desire to receive the Holy Spirit. Eventually, when I saw them shouting and jumping, I simply could not say amen from within. Therefore, I gave it up and set about to do my own research.
GOD PASSING THROUGH VARIOUS PROCESSES TO BECOME THE LIFE-GIVING SPIRIT
When the Lord led me to sense my need of the Spirit, I applied special effort to carefully pursue this matter, praying and studying the Bible diligently. As a result, I saw that it was clearly revealed in the Bible and also confirmed by my experience. The Bible tells us that on the one hand, it is not enough for us merely to fear God and behave properly as good human beings; and on the other hand, it is also not enough solely to seek for power from on high to be poured upon us so that we may speak in tongues. The Bible reveals that the Triune God has a plan. In the Old Testament He did all the preparation work. Then at the beginning of the New Testament He Himself was born to be a man and lived on earth for thirty-three and a half years. Eventually, He went to the cross and was crucified there in His human body in order to bear our sins and redeem us by shedding His blood for us. He also died for us to terminate the old creation and to accomplish redemption. Then He was buried, and He rested, and on the third day He was resurrected from the dead.
In His resurrection He was transfigured from the flesh into the Spirit. This is what 1 Corinthians 15:45 means: “The last Adam became a life-giving Spirit.” As such a Spirit, He is the breath, or pneuma in Greek. On the evening of the day of the Lord’s resurrection, the disciples assembled in a room with the doors and windows shut for fear of persecution from the Jews. They were sorrowful because they had seen with their own eyes the arrest and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, who had been with them in His flesh, and they also had seen Him buried in a tomb. They thought now that all was finished. It was at this juncture that the Lord Jesus came into their midst and breathed into them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). Then He disappeared.
The Bible tells us that afterwards the Lord Jesus was with the disciples for forty days in this manner, training them to know Him as the Spirit. The disciples felt that the resurrected Jesus was truly marvelous and mysterious—suddenly He would come and suddenly He would leave; unexpectedly He would appear and unexpectedly He would disappear without any trace; yet He had a physical form. They did not understand how this could be. They were at a loss; they could not comprehend what this was all about, and they did not know what to do. This was all due to the fact that they were still ignorant concerning the Spirit, that He was now within them; and they were not clear that as the Spirit the Lord was with them and that once He came He would never leave. Sometimes the Lord would manifest His presence to them, but that was because He cared for their weakness. In this way the Lord trained them in their faith. He wanted them to know and be accustomed to His invisible presence.
To the disciples this lesson was very hard. They were already accustomed to the Lord’s visible presence. When the Lord was in the flesh, they followed Him closely. They journeyed with Him, lodged with Him, and followed Him everywhere in His ministry. To them this kind of visible presence was very good; He was visible and touchable. But now He could be visible in an instant and then invisible in the next. He had resurrected, yet they could not always touch Him. Finally, one day Peter could no longer bear it. He, the head sheep of the flock, said to his brothers, “I am going fishing.” They replied, “We also are coming with you.” They went and got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing (John 21:2-3). Ordinarily, night is the best time for fishing, and Peter and John were experienced fishermen, but that night they caught nothing. This was because the Lord drove away all the fish by His authority. They did not catch any fish, but they did gain the Lord Jesus (v. 4).
The Lord knew that they went fishing for their livelihood; they were hungry and hoped to catch some fish for their food. “Then Jesus said to them, Little children, you do not have any fish to eat, do you? They answered Him, No. And He said to them, Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some. They cast therefore, and they were no longer able to haul it in because of the abundance of fish” (vv. 5-6). Then John said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Peter heard that it was the Lord, he came to his senses. Immediately he threw himself into the sea and went quickly to the Lord. Later when the disciples got out onto the land, “they saw a fire of coals laid there, and fish lying on it and bread” (vv. 7-9). They went fishing for their livelihood, yet the Lord prepared cooked fish for them. After they were fed, the Lord left without saying goodbye and disappeared.
It was in this way that the disciples were trained by the Lord for forty days. Then the Lord charged them “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, He said,…you shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4-5). Following this, the Lord ascended to the heavens. Not many days from now refers to the feast of Pentecost which would be ten days later. The day the Lord resurrected was the Feast of the Firstfruits. Then He was with the disciples for forty days, and ten days later was the Feast of Pentecost. The disciples, after learning their lessons from the Lord for forty days, obeyed the Lord’s word not to be scattered or to go fishing but to pray together in one accord for ten days. Then when the time arrived, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came down and was poured upon them.
(Abiding in the Lord to Enjoy His Life, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)