THE FIRST STEP—MAKING MAN A VESSEL
“The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7). In this verse God reveals that man consists of three parts: firstly, a physical body, formed out of dust; secondly, the breath of life, breathed into the nostrils of that body; and thirdly, when these two parts were composed together, man became a living soul. The first part was a body, and the last part a soul. The second part is “the breath of life” breathed into man’s body. The same Hebrew word for “breath” is translated “spirit” (the spirit of man) in Proverbs 20:27. So the second part must be the spirit of man. Therefore, this verse mentions a body without, a spirit within, and a soul produced by the composition of the body and spirit. So man consists of spirit, soul, and body (cf. 1 Thes. 5:23).
It is very important to realize that God formed man as a vessel, a container (Rom. 9:21, 23), not as an instrument for some kind of use. An instrument may be constructed for use, yet still not be a vessel capable of containing something. Man was created as a vessel into which God put the breath of life as the very spirit of man.
What is the function or purpose of man’s spirit? We may use as an example a transistor radio. A transistor radio is a plastic box containing a certain electronic component which we will call a receiver. This receiver within the box is capable of contacting and receiving the electric waves from the air. Likewise, our human spirit is our receiver to contact and receive God within us. However, it is one thing to mentally comprehend the fact that we have a spirit, but quite another to daily exercise our inner receiver to contact and receive God. We may be like a foolish boy who appreciates the bright and shiny box given to him, yet does not know that it has an inner receiver. Like the boy with the box, we may lavish care upon our body, pampering and polishing it, and yet never exercising the divinely-given receiver within to contact and receive something of God.
When we know how to use our inner receiver, we will not be so concerned with the “box.” Our main concern will be that the receiver works. So many Christians clean and polish the outside of the box. Personally, I am not much concerned with a little untidiness on a person if I hear the “heavenly music” coming from within. I would rather see a naughty boy full of life than a very clean and tidy dead boy. There are so many pretty “boxes” today without the heavenly music. Where are those Christians who know how to exercise their spirit to contact God? Many Christians are so quiet—they never bother anyone. Personally, I like to be bothered by heavenly music.
God’s chief desire is that we contact Him with our spirit. Man’s spirit, breathed into him by God at creation, is the very mark of God’s working today. This is God’s economy. If we miss this mark, God’s economy does not work. All the interests of God’s eternal economy hinge on this very receiver, our human spirit. If we would reach the goal and realize God’s intention, we must first know that we are a vessel made by God and that we have a spirit within as a receiver to receive and contain God. This is why Hebrews 4:12 says that we must discern the spirit from the soul. It is only when we discern our spirit that we can know how to contact God within. “God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit” (the human spirit).
Therefore, God’s first step towards the goal of His intention is the forming of man as a vessel and putting into this human vessel a spirit as a receiver to receive God.
THE SECOND STEP—MAN PARTAKING OF THE TREE OF LIFE
“The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden” (Gen. 2:8, 9).
As far as God’s relationship with man is concerned, the earth is the center of the universe, the garden is the center of the earth, and the tree of life is the center of that garden. God’s second step in fulfilling His intention was to put man, His empty vessel, in front of the tree of life.
If you saw a painting of a fountain flowing with water and an empty vessel before it, what would you conjecture? I think that even a little child would exclaim, “The vessel needs to be filled with water!” Genesis 2 shows a “cartoon” of a tree with an empty little man with a receiver within standing before that tree. This indicates that God intended man to be filled with the tree of life. This fact is later confirmed by the New Testament accounts which tell us that when the Lord Jesus came to earth, life was found in Him. Jesus Christ is the life (John 14:6). And He came that we may have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). John’s Gospel also reveals the Lord Jesus as the bread of life. In Genesis God presented the tree of life to man in the form of food. The Lord Jesus also presented Himself in the form of food to be received by us. If we eat Him as the bread of life, we will receive Him as the reality of the tree of life into us.
Not many Christians today know how to exercise their spirit to take Christ as food. Even grade school children can understand the teachings concerning the spirit in one lesson. But this is a matter to be practiced, not merely comprehended mentally as a doctrine. Do you exercise your spirit day by day to take Christ as your food, feeding on Him all day long? This is the central problem today. Adam was put before the tree of life, but he did not partake of it. Are you in the same condition? Every Christian has Christ within, but how many are exercising their spirit to enjoy Christ, feeding on Him as the reality of the tree of life? Why is the church in such a poor condition today? Simply because most of us do not know how to exercise our spirit to feed on Christ as our daily food.
God created man with a spirit to receive something. And man, as an empty vessel, was placed before the tree of life. Now we are clear that God’s intention in placing man before this tree was that he might receive life in the form of food. Being a Christian, as far as our relationship with God is concerned, is not a matter of working for God, but a matter of eating. We must forget about trying to do things for God, and give our full attention to eating properly. Adam’s entire future depended on what he ate. If he ate properly, he would live properly; but if he ate wrongly, he would die. We can never exhaust the subject of learning how to partake of Christ—that which was portrayed and foreshadowed in Genesis 2. Neither can we exhaust the full message of this chapter.
(The Vision of God's Building, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)