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

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In John 12:24-25 the Lord Jesus again talked about the problem of the soul-life: "Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his soul-life loses it; and he who hates his soul-life in this world shall keep it unto eternal life." Later on, He explained the meaning of these two verses, saying, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself. But He said this signifying by what kind of death He was about to die." This chapter of the Bible records the most successful time of the Lord Jesus’ whole life. Lazarus had resurrected, and because of Lazarus, many Jews believed in the Lord. Besides this, even the Greeks wanted to see Him. At this time He entered Jerusalem to be welcomed by men. According to man’s viewpoint, it seemed that the cross was unnecessary and that the Lord could draw all men to Himself without going to the cross. However, He knew that there was no other way that man could be saved except by the cross. Although His work was very prosperous outwardly, He knew that if He did not die, He could not give life to man. If He died, He would then draw all men to Himself and really give life to them.

Here the Lord clearly stated the function of the cross. He considered His own self as a grain of wheat. If a grain of wheat does not fall into the ground and die, no matter what, it is still one grain. If the Lord would be crucified on the cross and die, He would then give life to many men. Here the Lord pointed out that the condition of all fruit-bearing is death. Without death there is no fruit. There is no other way of bearing fruit except through death.

Our goal, however, is not to stop at an examination of how the Lord Jesus Himself was. What we especially want to pay attention to is how this relates to our soul-life. The Lord Jesus related the grain of wheat to Himself in verse 24, but in verse 25 He indicated that such a death as His and such fruit-bearing as His should not apply only to Himself. He indicated that whoever is His disciple should walk according to His footsteps. He pointed out what the meaning of the grain of wheat is in relation to Christians. He considered the grain as representing their soul-life. If a grain of wheat does not die, it cannot bear fruit. Accordingly, if the soul-life is not lost in death, neither can it bear fruit. What the Lord Jesus stressed here is the matter of the fruit-bearing work. Although a believer’s soul-life is very powerful, this power cannot produce a work of bearing fruit. All talents, gifts, knowledge, wisdom, and power that issue from the soul-life are unable to cause the believers to produce many grains. Just as the Lord Jesus had to die in order that He could bear fruit, so also the believers must die that they may be able to bear fruit. The Lord indicated that although the power of the soul-life is good, it is useless in God’s fruit-bearing work.

When the believers are doing the Lord’s work, the greatest danger is that they would be self-reliant and use all the power of their soul-life: their ability, gifts, knowledge, persuasive power, eloquence, and cleverness. In the experience of many spiritual believers, the soul-life is very active in doing work for the Lord unless they concentrate all their attention to put the soul to death. On the one hand, they must ask the Lord not to allow the soul-life to have any opportunity of intruding, and on the other hand, they must watch not to let the soul-life have any function. Thus, how could those who are unwilling to deny the soul-life and watch and pray in such a way guard themselves from being intruded by the soul-life? All things belonging to the soul should be put to death. We should be willing not to depend on them at all. We should be willing to let God lead us through the darkness of death without any dependence, without any feeling, without any seeing, without any understanding, but in calmness, trusting the working of God Himself. Then God will cause us to gain a more glorious soul-life on the side of resurrection. "He who hates his soul- life in this world shall keep it unto eternal life." The soul-life is not lost; rather, it is allowed to pass through death. When we die and can neither see nor feel anything, God—not ourselves—will be able to use the soul-life to impart His life to us. If the soul-life is not lost in death, the believer will suffer the greatest loss. If the soul-life is lost, it will be kept unto eternal life and always be used by God.

(Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), Chapter 13, by Watchman Nee)