Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), by Watchman Nee

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Today many people speak about eternal life through faith. But what is the eternal life which we receive? While it refers to blessings in the future, what does eternal life mean for today? "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Him whom You have sent, Jesus Christ" (John 17:3). Eternal life in this age is the ability to know God and the Lord Jesus. This is very real. Saying that everyone who believes in the Lord receives eternal life means that he receives an intuitive knowledge of God which he did not have before. "Eternal life through faith" is not a slogan. Rather, it is something that can be proven in this age. Those who do not have this life—the eternal life—may infer things concerning God, but they do not have a personal knowledge of God. Only after one obtains this new life and has been regenerated, can he truly know God through his intuition. He may understand the Bible, yet his spirit still remains dead. He can familiarize himself with theology, yet he is not regenerated in his spirit. He may enthusiastically serve "in the name of the Lord;" however, there is no regeneration of a new life in his spirit. The Bible tells us that man cannot find out God by searching (Job 11:7). Everything done through the mind cannot bring us to the knowledge of God. Apart from man’s spirit, man cannot know God; he cannot know God with his mentality. In the Bible we see only one kind of knowledge: the intuition in the spirit.


Not only should believers receive their initial knowledge through the spirit, they should continue in this way all the time. In the Christian life, other than the revelation one receives in his intuition, nothing else has any spiritual significance because none of the other things are of the spirit. Since they are not of the spirit, they are not the will of God; God only reveals the things concerning His will to us in our spirit. Anything that we think, prefer, and decide, apart from the revelation of the spirit, is dead in God’s eyes. A believer may act according to sudden thoughts, ideas that come after a prayer, a so-called burning in the heart, natural inclinations, strong reasons, or his logical judgments. These are all just the activities of the old man. God’s will is not known through such thoughts, feelings, or preferences. God only reveals His will in man’s spirit. Anything not revealed through the spirit is self-activity.

God never reveals His will to man’s mind. Revelation is of the Holy Spirit and in man’s spirit. Man’s spirit knows and receives God’s will through the intuition. After this, it transmits the will of God to the mind for its understanding. The mind is where we can understand God’s will, yet it can never be the source of God’s will. God’s will originates from God and is revealed to man’s spirit by the Holy Spirit. The spirit, in turn, causes the outward man to understand through the mind what the inward man already knows. In this way, the outward man knows how to carry out God’s will. If a believer does not seek after God’s will in his spirit, but exercises his mind all the time, he will be lost all the time and not know what to follow. Our minds continually fluctuate. Those who walk according to their mind cannot, even for a moment, say from their heart, "I know with certainty that this is God’s will." Only those who receive revelation in their spirit will have a deep confidence; only they will know and be fully assured of what they are doing.

God’s revelation in our spirit can be of two kinds: one is direct and the other is through searching. Direct revelation happens when God Himself has a will, and He charges the believers to carry it out. In this case, He comes into the believers’ spirit and reveals His will to them. When the believers receive this revelation in their intuition, they carry it out accordingly. Revelation that comes through searching occurs when a believer has a need and does not know what to do; he comes before God and waits and seeks for His will. In answering the believer’s searching, God operates in his spirit and reveals whether he should continue or stop. When a believer is young in his spiritual life, the revelation he receives is mostly of the searching kind. When he is more mature, he will have more direct revelations. However, this is not absolute; I only mean that searching is more typical than direct revelation at first. Nevertheless, this is where most young believers confront difficulties. Time is needed for them to wait before the Lord and eliminate their self-thought, self-preferences, and self-opinions; nevertheless, they often forsake waiting for God’s revelation and substitute their own will instead. As a result, they are often accused by their conscience. Even when they truly desire to follow God’s will, they foolishly walk according to the thoughts in their mind because of a lack of spiritual knowledge. Anything done without revelation will unavoidably lead to mistakes.

(Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), Chapter 19, by Watchman Nee)