The Spirit in the Epistles, by Witness Lee


The apostle wrote the book of Galatians with a strong intention to break down the Galatians’ concept of keeping the law. The problem of the Galatians is the problem of every Christian. According to our natural concept, we the saved ones have a desire to do good. In other words, we like to keep the law. Immediately after we are saved, we have a concept within us, thinking that before we believed in the Lord, we had a bad temper and our conduct was poor; now that we are saved, we ought to improve our conduct and behave properly. The strange thing is that every Christian has this concept whenever he is revived. He has the feeling that formerly he was a careless and indifferent Christian, but since he has been revived through the Lord’s mercy, he should behave properly and not be so loose.

Brothers and sisters, is this concept right or wrong? Humanly speaking, it is a very good concept; from God’s viewpoint, however, it is wrong. This kind of doing good is equivalent to the Jews’ keeping of the law. It is the flesh that keeps the law and works out the law. Whenever man desires to do good, he uses his own strength. Sometimes you know that you are weak, so you pray to the Lord for help. However, the Lord will never answer this kind of prayer. Truthfully speaking, the more you wish to do good, the more the Lord wishes that you would not do good. You think that it would be good if you could succeed, but the Lord considers that it would be good if you fail. For example, you may have a bad temper, so you pray to the Lord, asking Him to help you to be patient. However, the more you pray in this way, the less patience you have. Your temper worsens, even to such an extent that you are altogether disappointed with yourself. You say, “Lord, I have no way anymore!” When such a day comes, the Lord will say, “This is wonderful!” Why? Because His intention is not for us to do good.

Brothers and sisters, God has no intention for us to do good. Rather, God wants us to live out Christ. God’s goal is not the law but Christ. Galatians 1 says that it pleased God to reveal His Son in us. Chapter 2 says that it is no longer we who live, but it is Christ who lives in us. It is not we who are doing good, but it is Christ who lives in us.

Man was created in the image of God, and the image of God is Christ. Second Corinthians 4:4 says that Christ is the image of God. Colossians 1:15 also says that the beloved Son is the image of God. Why did God create man according to Christ? He did this in order that one day He might put Christ into man. Man is a vessel to contain Christ. A glove is made according to the shape of the hand, and it is also made to contain the hand. If I want to put my hand into the glove, but the glove is uncooperative and does not give me the room, my hand cannot be comfortable inside the glove. All the fingers of my hand must fit into the glove; only then can my hand feel comfortable. At that moment the glove is altogether the same as the shape of the hand. We may say that the hand has been formed in the glove.

After we have been saved, the Lord Jesus is in us. However, He is very frustrated in us, and sometimes He is imprisoned in our spirit. We may not give Him any ground in our soul, which includes our mind, emotion, and will. Finally one day, as we are moved by His love, we gradually open ourselves to Him and give Him more ground. Then He is able to spread outward. At a certain time we may have an argument with the Lord again and not be willing to give Him more ground; then He has to stop there and wait patiently. Sometimes He may be gracious to us and may draw us with His love, yet it is still to no avail. Then He may be forced to lift His hand to give us a little blow. In any case, if we would not be subdued by Him this year, two years later He will subdue us. If we would not be subdued by Him in this life, He will subdue us when He comes back. Since He is in us, in spite of everything He must be formed in us.


If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Gal. 5:25)

But I say, Walk by the Spirit and you shall by no means fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these oppose each other that you would not do the things that you desire. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (vv. 16-18)

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (vv. 22-23)

Here the fruit of the Spirit is singular. There are not nine kinds of fruits but one kind of fruit with nine aspects.

He who sows unto his own flesh will reap corruption of the flesh, but he who sows unto the Spirit will of the Spirit reap eternal life. (6:8)

Brothers, even if a man is overtaken in some offense, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of meekness. (v. 1)

Brothers and sisters, how can Christ live in us, and how can He be formed in us? This is altogether a matter of the spirit and is carried out by the Spirit of life in us. We have been born of the Spirit. By this birth God caused the Spirit of His Son, the Spirit of Christ, even Christ Himself, to come into us. Since we have been born of the Spirit, we should live and walk by the Spirit. In this way we afford the Spirit the opportunity to spread from within us so that every part of our being is filled with the Spirit. Hence, Ephesians 4:23 uses the phrase the spirit of your mind. This means that the Spirit has entered our mind to become the Spirit in our mind. Since the mind, which is the leading part of the soul, has the Spirit, the emotion and will also will have the Spirit. In this way the Spirit is being formed in our entire being. This is altogether the story of the Spirit.

Therefore, the key to Galatians is walking by the Spirit. When we walk by the Spirit, we give the ground to Christ. When we walk by the Spirit, we allow Christ to possess us. When we walk by the Spirit, our inward being is given over to Christ little by little. We cannot simply say that Christ lives in us and is being formed in us; this is just a doctrinal truth. How does Christ live in us? How is He being formed in us? The subjective experience involves the Spirit in us. We must know how to follow this Spirit and how to apply this Spirit. Therefore, in Galatians the Spirit is not called “the Holy Spirit” but simply “the Spirit.” This Spirit dwells in our spirit. This spirit is, on the one hand, the Holy Spirit, and on the other hand, our spirit.

The apostle said that if we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. As we live by the Spirit, the Spirit lives in us, and out of this Spirit comes fruit in many aspects. This fruit is Christ Himself. Nine aspects of this fruit are mentioned in Galatians. Actually, there are more than nine aspects, but only nine aspects are listed as illustrations.

The apostle also exhorted us that since this is the case, we should learn to sow unto the Spirit. Whatever we do, we should do it unto this Spirit. Eventually, we will reap life. We do not have to wait until the future, in eternity, to enjoy eternal life. Rather, today we can reap eternal life. However, if we sow unto the flesh, we will reap corruption, which is death. The utterance of Galatians 6:8 is very similar to that of Romans 8:6.

Galatians 6:1 gives us an illustration. It says that when we try to restore a brother, we should exercise a spirit of meekness; we should restore our brother “in a spirit of meekness.” Hence, at this time, our mind is in the spirit, our action is in the spirit, our fellowship with the brothers and sisters is in the spirit, and even our restoration of a brother is in the spirit. As a result, we are spiritual men.


The book of Galatians shows us, on the negative side, that we should not keep the law, that we have died to the law. On the positive side, it shows us that Christ lives in us and is being formed in us. The law is joined to the flesh, whereas Christ is joined to the Holy Spirit. Whenever you keep the law, that is in the flesh; whenever you live out Christ, that is in the Holy Spirit. Therefore, Galatians also refers to the cross. The cross is for us to deal with the flesh and live in the Holy Spirit. They who are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and its lusts (5:4). This is not merely a doctrine but an experience. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live. I have been terminated. Not only in committing sins is there no “I” and no ground for “I,” but even in doing good there is also no “I” and no ground for “I.” This “I” has died on the cross; this self is on the cross; this flesh is on the cross. The cross deals not only with the bad “I” but also with the good “I.” I have been crucified with Christ. They who are of Christ have crucified the flesh.

The Lord Jesus said, “If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). To deny the self is to put your self on the cross. Whenever your self wants to do good, you should put your self on the cross. Whenever your self tries to be patient, you should put your patient self on the cross. As long as you are willing to put your self on the cross, the Lord Jesus as the living Spirit will have the ground in you.

(The Spirit in the Epistles, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)