How to Study the Bible, by Watchman Nee


The Bible contains many crucial chapters, such as Genesis 2 and 3, Numbers 21, and Deuteronomy 8. Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 are both very crucial chapters, because much is said in the New Testament about their fulfillment. Daniel 9 is also a great chapter. In the New Testament Matthew 5—7, 13, 24, and 25 are crucial chapters, as are John 14—16 and 1 Corinthians 13. In the Bible there are thirty to forty such crucial chapters, and we have to understand the meaning of each one of them.


This is a relatively simple method. We can group all the past events in the New Testament in one group, all the present events in another group, and all the future things in a third group. The earthly work of Christ, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the beginning of the church belong to the first group. The Lord’s supplication work, His mediatorial work, the ministry of the church, the discipline and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and all the means of grace are things of the present. (In some cases, grace is given to us directly. In other cases, God grants grace to us through certain means, such as meeting, the breaking of bread, baptism, and the laying on of hands. God bestows grace to man not directly, but through these means. This is the reason they are called means of grace.) Resurrection, the rapture, redemption, glory, and God’s new creation are things of the future. Although redemption is an event of the past, it is not fully completed. A part of it is not yet fulfilled; it will be fulfilled only with the redemption of our body. Since our fleshly body is not yet taken care of, redemption is not yet consummated. The redemption of the Lord Jesus on the cross laid a foundation. The work of redemption itself will not be complete until our body is redeemed in the future. We have to differentiate between the things that God has done, the things that He is doing, and the things that He will do.


Salvation is related to the life which we receive, sanctification relates to our living, and ministry relates to our work. We can group subjects such as the Lord’s calling, His blood, and His work under the category of salvation; we can group all the work of the Holy Spirit under the category of sanctification; and we can group subjects such as endurance, testimony, and the power of the Holy Spirit under ministry. The Lord’s cross can be grouped under salvation, our cross can be grouped under sanctification, and “the dying of Jesus” or “the killing of Jesus” can be grouped under ministry. Our faith belongs to salvation, our obedience to sanctification, and our endurance to ministry. The life given by the Holy Spirit is salvation, the work of the Holy Spirit is sanctification, and the power of the Holy Spirit is ministry. We can also use three prepositions for these three categories: for us, in us, and through us. Everything done for us is salvation, everything done in us is sanctification, and everything done through us is ministry. When something is done for us, we call it salvation. When something is done in us, we call it sanctification. When something is done through us we call it ministry or service. We can classify all these teachings under these categories; they can be things that God has done for us, things that He is doing in us, or things that He will do through us. Unfortunately, many people are not clear about the distinction between God for us and God in us. For example, the crucifixion of Christ and our being crucified together with Christ are things that God has done for us. But Roman Catholicism has made these items things that God does in us. This is wrong. The cross becomes something that is done in us when we begin to bear our own cross. We bear the cross; we are not crucified on the cross. We experience the bearing, but the Lord experienced the crucifying. This shows us the difference between Protestantism and Catholicism. The crucifixion spoken of in the Bible is something that God has done for us. It is not something He will do in us. Romans 6 speaks of crucifixion, Romans 8 speaks of the putting to death, while 2 Corinthians 4 speaks of the “killing.” Therefore, Romans 6 is on salvation, Romans 8 is on sanctification, and 2 Corinthians 4 is on ministry. We have to be absolutely clear before the Lord that crucifixion belongs to the category of salvation; it is something that the Lord has done. We merely inherit what He has done. However, the putting to death of the cross is something that we experience. At the same time, the “killing” is the release of the Holy Spirit which is something in the realm of ministry. We should not think that these are simple classifications. Many people are not clear about their crucifixion with Christ. As a result, they are not clear about the matter of the putting to death. The fact of crucifixion is not in us, but in Christ. Everything in Christ relates to salvation, everything in us relates to sanctification, and everything that goes out through us relates to ministry. These are foundational understandings. We must all be clear about God’s Word.

(How to Study the Bible, Chapter 5, by Watchman Nee)