OUR REGENERATED SPIRIT
In the Gospel of John we have the key. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (3:6). When we were born again, it was not our whole being which was regenerated. It was our spirit which was born of the Spirit. Where is our spirit located? This is not easy to answer, but from 1 Peter 3:4 we can say that the spirit is the hidden man of the heart. This inmost part of our being has been born of God. A divine birth has occurred in us. When 1 John 3:9 tells us that the one born of God does not commit sin, it adds, “for his seed remaineth in him.” The seed of God abides in our spirit.
The same one who wrote 1 John tells us in his Gospel, “As many as received Him, to them He gave authority to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). This new birth is not of blood, that is, not of the physical life; not of the will of the flesh, that is, not of the fallen, soulish life; and not of the will of man, that is, not of the soulish life of the created man. The new birth is fully related to God; at the time of our regeneration, only our spirit is born of Him.
This is the key to understanding these otherwise troublesome verses in 1 John. “Whatsoever is born of God” (1 John 5:4) refers to the human spirit. This part of us does righteousness, does not and cannot sin, loves as God loves, overcomes the world, and keeps us. In this part we are safe from the evil one. This is our hiding place, our refuge, our high tower. To this place we flee whenever Satan comes. If we find our temper flaring, we must not struggle to keep it under control. To try to suppress our temper is to stretch out our neck for the enemy to cut off our head! Rather than fight to keep our self-control, we must withdraw to our spirit. This is our refuge.
Our regenerated spirit, then, is the key to understanding these verses regarding the characteristics of the one born of God.
The writings of Paul have this same thought, expressed in different terms. In Galatians 5:17 it says, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” The word Spirit here indicates the Holy Spirit mingled with our human spirit. There is a part of our being, the flesh, which is against another part, our spirit. Paul exhorts us in verse 16 to walk by the Spirit in order that we may not fulfill the lust of the flesh. We must not stay in our flesh, but rather abide in our spirit, the part of our being which is born of God. Romans 8:4 also tells us that we are not to “walk according to flesh, but according to spirit.” Within we have a spirit which has been born of God. We also have the flesh, which was born of the fallen nature. We must choose to walk in the part that has been born of God. This part does not and cannot sin, overcomes the world, loves what God loves, and keeps us from the evil one.
SIN NOT ERADICATED
There is a teaching, based on 1 John 3:9, which claims that once we are saved, sin is eradicated; that is, it is no longer possible for us to sin. Nowadays this teaching is not popular, but it was quite common in China some forty or fifty years ago. There was a brother in Shanghai who preached the eradication of sin. He opposed Brother Nee’s teaching, based on Romans, that when we do not walk in the Spirit, we surely will sin. One day this brother, named Hwang, went with a few of his followers to a park, which required a ticket for admission. Instead of buying the needed number of tickets, Brother Hwang paid for only two or three. After two or three of those with him used these tickets to get in, they went back to where the others were waiting and handed the tickets over to them so that they could reuse them and get into the park without paying. One of those with him was troubled at this behavior. If sin has been eradicated, how could this Brother Hwang justify sneaking people into the park without paying? He did not question the preacher until later, when they had gotten home. Then he asked, “Brother Hwang, don’t you think it was a sin to slip people into the park without paying for them?” The preacher replied, “Oh no! That was not a sin. It was just a little weakness!” Whatever he wanted to call it, whether sin or weakness, it was undeniably a transgression, a sinful act.
You can see that this verse in 1 John 3:9 has stumbled many people. I was clear that our sinful nature is not eradicated, but in those days I did not know how to answer their challenge based on this verse. Gradually the Lord made me clear that the key is in “whatsoever” in 1 John 5:4. “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.” It is not a person here, but a part, that is born of God. By looking further into John’s writing in the Gospel and by considering Paul’s Epistles, I came to realize that regeneration only happened in our spirit; only one part of us was born of God. This part cannot sin, cannot be overcome by the world, and cannot be touched by the evil one. How we must praise the Lord for such a part within us!
ABIDING IN THE SPIRIT
Now that you have been born of God, it is in this part that you must remain. Do not try to do anything outside of this part. Do not attempt to do anything in your soulish life. Do not try to solve your problems by using your mind. Do not act in your emotions. Do not rely on your will, however strong it is. The only part within that really counts is your spirit, which has been born of God. This divine birth brings the divine life and nature into your spirit.
Keep coming back to this part. Do not take any action outside of here. Do not even think about loving or hating, about doing good or doing evil. Just be sure you are in this part. When you would love someone, first say, “Lord, bring me to my spirit; then I can love.” When you need to go shopping, say, “Lord, keep me in my spirit.” Even as a student, when you read or study an assignment or attend class, stay in this part.
As long as we abide in our spirit, we overcome the world, we do not sin, we can do what the Father would do and love what He would love, and we can keep ourselves. Satan cannot cross this boundary to reach us. Abide here. Take refuge in this high tower!
(Seven Mysteries in the First Epistle of John, Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)