The Spirit in the Epistles, by Witness Lee


I, brothers, was not able to speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to fleshy, as to infants in Christ. (3:1)

Being fleshy is different from being fleshly. For example, 1 Corinthians 3 and 4 mention the problems among the Corinthians. They had jealousy, strife, and opinions; that is to be fleshly. Then chapters 5 and 6 refer to the matter of fornication among the Corinthians. There was even a brother who took his stepmother to be his wife. That is to be fleshy. You can be a civilized person with a high morality and a good reputation and yet have opinions, jealousy, and strife when you are with the brothers and sisters. This is to be fleshly. But if someone takes his stepmother to be his wife, as the brother in Corinth did, or if someone is joined to a prostitute, this kind of sin of fornication is fleshy. Some say that 1 Corinthians mentions three kinds of people. This is correct. Strictly speaking, however, 1 Corinthians mentions four kinds of people: the spiritual, the soulish, the fleshly, and the fleshy. Dear brothers and sisters, the Corinthians received so many gifts, yet the gifts could not make them spiritual. According to the New Testament, the church that had the most tongue-speaking was the church in Corinth, yet the church in Corinth was not only fleshly but also fleshy. This should be a warning to us.

You are God’s cultivated land, God’s building. (v. 9)

Cultivated land needs to grow crops, and a building needs to be built. Growth and building are connected here because we are not a dead house but a living house. Strictly speaking, we are not built together; rather, we grow together. The real building of the church comes from growth.

According to the grace of God given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid a foundation, and another builds upon it. But let each man take heed how he builds upon it. (v. 10)

Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him; for the temple of God is holy, and such are you. (vv. 16-17)

After reading all these verses, we can see that 1 Corinthians 1 is on Christ, chapter 2 is on the Spirit, and chapter 3 is on the building. First, Christ is presented to us, then we need to experience Christ in the Spirit, and the issue is for the building. This Spirit is the Spirit who dwells in the temple of God, and He is also the building Spirit. How does God’s building come about? First, the Holy Spirit who is in us causes us to grow. It is “God who causes the growth” (v. 7), and this reference to God refers to the Holy Spirit. We are God’s farm, God’s building. When we have the growth, we have the building. Second, the Holy Spirit who is in us is transforming us. The materials used here are gold, silver, and precious stones, not wood, grass, and stubble. However, in our nature we are not gold, silver, or precious stones; instead, we are clay. How can we become gold, silver, and precious stones? To be sure, there is the need for transformation. This is why 1 Corinthians is followed by 2 Corinthians. The first book is on building, and the second book is on transformation.

God has given Christ to us and has put us in Christ so that Christ may be our portion and our all. This can become reality only in the spirit. When we experience Christ in spirit, on the one hand, we grow, and on the other hand, we are transformed. In chapter 2 you can see the fact of transformation. At the end of chapter 2, it says that we have the mind of Christ. Formerly our mind was void of Christ, but now our mind, having been transformed, is filled with Christ. We have been transformed by the renewing of our mind, as referred to in Romans 12:2. Romans 12 also shows us that the coordination in the Body and the building of the church depend on the transformation by the renewing of the mind, which is the transformation of the soul. The mind is the main part of the soul. Hence, the transformation of the mind represents the transformation of every part of the soul. Only in this transformation can there be the coordination and the building.

In 1 Corinthians 3 we cannot find the word transformation, but we can see the fact of transformation. The materials for building are gold, silver, and precious stones, yet our natural being is everything other than gold, silver, and precious stones. Hence, we need transformation. Where does this transformation come from? It comes altogether from the indwelling Spirit, the Spirit who dwells in us as the temple of God. This Spirit is the building Spirit, and the way He builds is, first, by causing us to grow and, second, by transforming us. In Matthew 13 the Lord spoke six parables which are related to the church. The first one is on sowing, the second is on the tares, the third is on the mustard seed, and the fourth is on the meal that came out of wheat to form the bread. These four parables, which all refer to farm products, involve growth. Then they are followed by two parables that involve transformation: one concerning the treasure hidden in the field and the other concerning the pearl produced in the waters of the sea. In these parables, the first group shows that the farm products need growth, and the latter group shows that the building materials need transformation. As we are growing and being transformed, we become building materials. It is here that we are being built up together for the Holy Spirit to dwell among us.

He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit. (1 Cor. 6:17)

This is a tremendously great verse. I suggest that you highlight this verse with a striking color. The last Adam became a life-giving Spirit, and this life-giving Spirit came into us and made us one spirit with Him.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price. So then glorify God in your body. (vv. 19-20)

What does it mean to “glorify God in your body”? We must remember that Romans 12 says that we should present our bodies a living sacrifice to live the Body life. Hence, “to glorify God in your body” means, on the one hand, that you are joined to the Lord, and on the other hand, that you need to live the Body life. You have to realize that the spirit within you is joined to the Lord as one spirit, and therefore your body must be used by this spirit. The result of your body being used by the spirit is that your body is for the Body of Christ. In this way you glorify God in your body. In your body is this spirit, and this spirit is the spirit that is joined to the Lord’s Spirit as one spirit. Therefore, your body should not be used by anything other than the spirit. When your body is used by the spirit, the result is that you are joined to the Lord’s Body as one. This is to glorify God in your body, and this is also to be built together with all the saints from the spirit inwardly to the body outwardly. Here again you see the concept, the thought, of building.

She is more blessed if she so remains, according to my opinion; but I think that I also have the Spirit of God. (1 Cor. 7:40)

This word is very meaningful.

All were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank of a spiritual rock which followed them, and the rock was Christ. (10:2-4)

These verses give us a principle. What we Christians eat, drink, and depend upon should be in spirit. What you eat is spiritual food, what you drink is spiritual drink, and what you depend upon is a spiritual rock. Everything is in spirit, and even your enjoyment of Christ must be in spirit.

In one Spirit we were all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and were all given to drink one Spirit. (12:13)

When you are baptized in the Spirit, you get into the Spirit, just as when you are baptized, you get into the water. When you drink of one Spirit, the Spirit gets into you, just as when you drink water, water gets into you. This is one matter with two sides; furthermore, you see a sequence here. The outward baptism is for the inward drinking. First we are baptized in one Spirit, and then we drink one Spirit; first we have the baptism in the Spirit outwardly, and then we can drink one Spirit inwardly.

(The Spirit in the Epistles, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)