SUBDUING THE WILL
What then is salvation? Salvation is nothing other than God saving man out of himself and into God. Salvation has the aspects of termination and union. It terminates the self and unites God and man. Any way of salvation that does not have the goal of saving man from himself and into union with God is not genuine. If a method of salvation cannot save man from himself and into union with God, it is only empty words. Real spiritual life is the severing from that which is of the animal and entering into that which is divine. Everything that belongs to the creature must go; the creatures should only enjoy all that the Creator is in the Creator Himself. The creature must become nothing before real salvation can be manifested. Genuine greatness does not depend on how much we have; it depends on how much we lose. Genuine life can only be seen in the losing of one’s self. If the natural disposition, life, and activities of the creature are not totally done away with, there will be no place for God’s life to be manifested. Our "self" is often the enemy of God’s life. If we do not lose the intentions and experiences that are for ourselves, our spiritual life will suffer great loss.
What is the self? This is one of the most difficult questions to answer. Although we cannot answer the question one hundred percent accurately, it may be more or less accurate to say that the "self" is the "self-will." The essence of man’s self is just his will because the will reveals how the man actually is, what he actually wants, and what he is willing to do. Except for the work done in man by the grace of God, all that man has, whether he is a sinner or a saint, is completely opposed to God. The disposition of created man is always natural, and it is never of the same kind as God’s life.
Salvation is nothing other than saving man out of his fleshly, natural, created, animal, and selfish will. We should pay attention to this point. In addition to God giving us a new life, the return of our will to God is the greatest work of salvation. God gives us new life for the purpose of turning our will back to Him. The gospel is to lead us to a union with God in our will. Otherwise, the gospel has not achieved its mission. God does not intend to save just our emotion or our mind; He intends to save our will because once the will is saved, the rest will be included. To a certain extent, man may unite with God in the mind. He may also share the same emotion with God in many things. But the most important and the most complete union with God rests in the union of man’s will with God’s will. This union of the will includes all the other union of man and God. If the mind or the emotion is united with God, but the will is not, this union is still short. Since our whole being moves according to our will, our will is clearly the most powerful part of our being. Noble as the spirit may be, it too submits to the governing of the will. (We will see this in a moment.) The spirit is not sufficient to represent the whole being, because the spirit is the part where man has fellowship with God. The body is not sufficient to represent the whole being either, as it is the part where man contacts the world. But the will stands for the attitude, opinion, and condition of man’s true self; therefore, it is has the power and sufficiency to represent the whole being. If the will is not joined completely to God, other unions are shallow and empty. If the will that governs our entire being is in complete union with God, our entire being will be totally submissive under God’s hand.
There are two unions between God and man; one is the union in life, the other is the union in the will. The union with God in life is through receiving of the very life of God at the time of our regeneration. Just as God lives by the Holy Spirit, we also should live by the Holy Spirit from now on. This is the union in life. This means that God and we have only one life. This is inward. However, the will expresses this one life. This is why there is still the need for the union of the will outwardly. The union of our will with God means that God and we have only one will. These two unions are mutually related and dependent. At this moment we are only speaking about the union of the will because the other is beyond our present scope. The union of the new life is spontaneous because the new life is the life of God. However, the union of the will is more difficult because the will belongs to us.
As we mentioned before, God wants us to do away with the soul-life, not the function of the soul. Hence, after we are united to God in life, God wants to renew our soul (mind, emotion, and will) to bring our soul into oneness with our new life, as well as into oneness with His will. Since our will is the most important part, after regeneration, God daily is seeking the union of our will with His will. If our will is not fully one with God, it means that salvation is not fully accomplished, because man himself is still not in harmony with God. God not only wants us to have His life, but also for ourselves to be in union with Him. The will absolutely belongs to us. If there is no union in the will, we ourselves are not yet united with God.
If we study the Bible carefully, we will see that among all our sins, there is one common principle --rebellion. Adam brought us to perdition through this sin, while Christ brought us to salvation through obedience. We were originally sons of rebellion; now God wants us to be the children of obedience. Rebellion is just following after our will, while submission is following after God’s will. The whole purpose of God’s salvation is to have us forsake our will and be in union with His will. Today believers often make a big mistake in this matter. They think that spiritual life is happiness in the feeling and knowledge in the mind. They endeavor to pursue after all kinds of feelings and biblical knowledge, thinking that these are the best. In the meantime, they do many wonderful, great, and important works according to their feelings and thoughts, thinking that these must be well- pleasing to God. Little do they know that God’s demands are not related to how man feels or what he thinks; He wants man’s will to be united with Him. He desires to see a believer wholeheartedly seeking after what He wants and willingly obeying all that He says. Unless he unconditionally submits to God and willingly accepts the complete will of God, his so-called spiritual life is superficial, no matter how holy and happy it makes him feel or what he receives. All visions, strange dreams, voices, prophecies, zeal, works, activities, and labors are outward. If a believer does not resolve in his will to go all the way to finish God’s course, whatever he does is useless.
If our will is in union with God, we immediately stop the activities that issue from the self. This means that there is no longer any independent action. We are dead toward ourselves, but alive toward God. This does not mean that we can act for God according to our own impulses or methods. It means that we move according to the moving of God and are severed from all the activities of the self. In other words, this kind of union is a change of who is the center, a change of who is the initiating one. In the past all of our works were centered upon the self, and all of our activities were initiated by the self. Now everything is unto God. God does not question the nature of the matters that we have initiated; He only asks who initiated it. Anything that is not delivered from the self, regardless of how good it is, is ignored by God.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 14: The Spiritual Man (3), Chapter 5, by Watchman Nee)