The Spirit in the Epistles, by Witness Lee



The One who firmly attaches us with you unto Christ and has anointed us is God, He who has also sealed us and given the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge. (2 Cor. 1:21-22)

Since you are being manifested that you are a letter of Christ ministered by us, inscribed not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tablets of stone but in tablets of hearts of flesh. (3:3)

Who has also made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant, ministers not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (v. 6)

The Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. But we all with unveiled face, beholding and reflecting like a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord Spirit. (vv. 17-18)

The weapons of our warfare are not fleshly but powerful before God for the overthrowing of strongholds, as we overthrow reasonings and every high thing rising up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought unto the obedience of Christ. (10:4-5)

Test yourselves whether you are in the faith; prove yourselves. Or do you not realize about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you, unless you are disapproved? (13:5)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (v. 14)

First Corinthians shows us the building Spirit. The primary need for building is transformation. Therefore, 2 Corinthians goes on to show us the transforming Spirit. The Spirit in 2 Corinthians is the transforming Spirit.


Second Corinthians 1 shows that the transforming Spirit is in us as three items doing three things. First, He is the ointment to anoint us; second, He is the seal to impress us; and third, He is the pledge to guarantee to us. These three matters alone require us to have much knowledge, explanation, and experience.

The first portion in the Bible that mentions the anointing of the Spirit who dwells in us is 2 Corinthians 1. As the ointment, the Spirit anoints us and “rubs” God’s elements into us. When you apply any kind of ointment to an object, the more you apply, the more the element of the ointment is added to the object. The life-giving Spirit works within us, and the first thing He does is to rub God’s elements into us. His anointing within is His moving, and this moving is a rubbing to apply the divine elements into us.

Second, the Spirit is the seal. This is for us to have God’s image. A seal is a matter of image. If your seal is square, the impression it makes will also be square. If your seal is round, the impression it makes will also be round. As the seal in us, the life-giving Spirit not only affirms that we belong to God but also impresses God’s image into us so that we have God’s image. Let us give an example. Sometimes we meet someone in a train, in a steamboat, or in other situations. Although we do not know that person, by his or her appearance we know that this one is a brother or a sister. That appearance is the impression of the seal. This seal is living and is a reality. When we truly live in the Spirit and walk according to the Spirit, wherever we are, we have a kind of image, a kind of impression, a kind of appearance, by which others can recognize that we belong to God.

Third, the Spirit is the pledge. In Greek, this word has many denotations. It may be translated as “evidence, pledge, guarantee, deposit, earnest, sample, or foretaste.” This Spirit as the ointment in us anoints us with God’s elements, and as the seal He impresses us with the image of God, affirming that we belong to God and have God’s image. Furthermore, as the pledge, He guarantees that all the fullness of the Godhead is our portion for our enjoyment and application. This Spirit enables us to have a foretaste of God, to enjoy God in advance.


Now we come to 2 Corinthians 3. This chapter first shows that this Spirit, who is in us as the anointing, the sealing, and the pledging, is also the inscribing Spirit. We are like a piece of paper, and the Spirit of life is like ink, with which Christ is inscribed into us. This thought is deep and meaningful.

Many different expressions are used in the Epistles to describe the indwelling Spirit. Some of the titles are found in Romans, and other expressions are found in 1 Corinthians. Now in 2 Corinthians there are still more utterances. In Romans and 1 Corinthians there are no words referring to the anointing, the sealing, the pledging, or the inscribing. Then 2 Corinthians 3 shows that the Spirit is the inscribing Spirit (v. 3) and the Spirit who gives life (v. 6). Moreover, verse 8 of the same chapter mentions “the ministry of the Spirit.” Therefore, the Spirit is also the ministering Spirit. This ministering Spirit is the Spirit of life, the writing or inscribing Spirit. By this you can see that chapter 3 of 2 Corinthians alone has added a number of different expressions.

We have said before that the first thing in the degradation of the church on earth is that the replacements of Christ were brought in, and the next thing is that man’s will, organization, and methods have replaced the Holy Spirit. You see here, however, that the Holy Spirit is the inscribing Spirit. What does He inscribe? The Spirit inscribes Christ. Paul says, “You are being manifested that you are a letter of Christ” (v. 3a). This letter speaks about Christ. Whatever is written in this letter is Christ. This tells us that today when we help others, whether it is to preach the word, to give a message, to preach the gospel, or to visit and fellowship with others, what we are doing is to write Christ into others through the Spirit. This is to work Christ into others, to minister Christ into others. You do not merely preach to people a message about Christ; rather, you work Christ into them.

This requires you to exercise your spirit. You cannot minister Christ merely by doctrines or theories. You must be in spirit in order to touch the spirit in man’s deepest part. It is neither a matter of how many messages you preach concerning Christ nor a matter of how many things you speak about Christ. Rather, it is a matter of the exercise of the spirit, the release of the spirit, and the going forth of the spirit. It is better that we give fewer messages. Our spirit must be strong, rich, living, and full of supply. When our spirit goes forth, it touches others’ spirit. What this spirit does in others is to write Christ into them.

The conclusion of 2 Corinthians 3 tells us that the Spirit is the Lord Himself. Moreover, it says that where the Spirit is, there is release, there is freedom. Therefore, the Spirit is also the freeing Spirit, the Spirit who sets us free. Then it goes on to say that this Spirit is also the transforming Spirit. The latter part of verse 18 says, “Being transformed...even as from the Lord Spirit.” The same word for transformed is also used in Romans 12:2, which says, “Be transformed by the renewing of the mind.” Therefore, in 2 Corinthians the Spirit is the anointing, the sealing, and the pledging, and He is also the inscribing Spirit, the ministering Spirit, the Spirit who gives life, the freeing Spirit, and the transforming Spirit. The utterance here is truly rich. I have a strong feeling that today we do not have adequate knowledge of the Spirit. I hope that in these days the Lord will cause us to see that the most important thing in following the Lord is to know the Spirit. We ourselves must have the experience, and then we have to preach and teach about this Spirit, showing others how this Spirit inwardly anoints us, rubbing God’s elements into us. We should describe to them how this Spirit seals us, not once for all but continuously, so that the more He seals us, the more we become like God, the more we have God’s image. We should also illustrate to them how the Spirit is in us as the foretaste, sample, and earnest, guaranteeing that everything of God is for our enjoyment. We should also explain to them that the Spirit is inscribing Christ into us daily. Hence, today when we help others, whether in ministering the word, in preaching the gospel, in fellowshipping, or in visiting, we should exercise our spirit to let the Spirit inscribe, add, work, and minister more of Christ into them. Furthermore, we should explain to them how the Spirit enlivens us from within and gives us life. We should show them that our service, our ministering, and our ministry should issue out of the Spirit. We should also show them how the Spirit releases us, because where the Spirit is, there is freedom; He has loosed all confinements, bondage, and restraints so that we are liberated, transcended, uplifted, and ascended. We should also illustrate to others how the Spirit is doing a transforming work in us daily and how we need to open our mind, our heart, our spirit, and even our entire being to afford Him the opportunity to flow in us and carry out His transforming work. The more He transforms us, the more we bear His image.

(The Spirit in the Epistles, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)