The Spirit in the Epistles, by Witness Lee


It is not a problem to say that the Bible is a book of doctrines. However, the so-called doctrines in the Bible are not hollow or empty. Rather, biblical truths serve as explanations and guides and impart revelations as well. Therefore, we must not understand the Bible as a book of mere doctrines. What does the Bible explain and reveal? Simply speaking, it shows us that God is the Triune God: that the Father is in the Son, the Son is in the Spirit, and the Spirit as the Triune God reaches us and comes into us to be our life. Therefore, ultimately, the focal point of the entire Bible is that the Triune God as the Spirit comes to be our life.

Furthermore, the entire Bible shows us that man is the center of all God’s created things, just as the Chinese sages say that “man is the spirit of all creatures.” I have always thought that such a saying is very meaningful. Why is man the spirit of all creatures? It is because among the creatures man is indeed extraordinary and exceedingly wonderful. Man is the center. God did not choose other creatures to be His vessels to contain Him. He only chose man to be united with Him. Furthermore, God did not decide to become any other kind of living being. Rather, He decided to become a man. For this reason, man has a special place in the universe.

Today when the theologians in Christianity talk about man’s fall, they emphasize only that man sinned, offended God, lost His blessings, and suffered perdition. They have not seen that the fall of man damaged the vessel which God had created for Himself. God created us to be His vessels. Satan’s destruction is to damage us, the vessels of God, so that we are no longer fit to be used by God as His vessels. Therefore, when God comes to redeem and recover us, He not only redeems us from sin and delivers us out of sufferings, but He also recovers us that we may be His vessels again. Furthermore, the focus of His creation and redemption is our spirit. In His creation God created a spirit for us, and in His redemption He restores this spirit of ours. When God regenerates us, He restores the spirit in us.

Thus, we see that the Triune God is Spirit to be received by us and that within us we have a spirit created and regenerated by Him. Hence, there are two spirits. You can find at least three or four verses in the Bible where these two spirits are mentioned together. For instance, the Lord Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truthfulness” (John 4:24). This means that our spirit worships God as Spirit. The Lord also said, “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (3:6). The first Spirit is God’s Spirit, and the second spirit is our spirit. Furthermore, Romans 8:16 says, “The Spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God.” This verse tells us that there are two spirits witnessing together. Then 1 Corinthians 6:17 says, “He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit.” One spirit indicates that initially there were two spirits which have now been joined together.

In the Bible there are at least these four verses showing us the two spirits. Our regeneration and the life we live thereafter, including our overcoming, our being matured, our sanctification, our service, and even the transfiguration of our body in the future, hinge on the spirit. Therefore, we ought to have adequate knowledge concerning the spirit. We see that the Bible is focused on the spirit and emphatically refers to the spirit. But when we read the Bible, we pay attention to many things other than this matter. This is because the other things are very close to our concepts, while the matter of the spirit is absent from our concept. Therefore, even during the past five hundred years of recovery, inadequate attention has been given to the spirit. We believe that in these last days God will gradually recover this matter. With this as our standpoint, let us now study the New Testament.


The first four books of the New Testament are the Gospels. We must worship God that not only do the words in the Holy Scriptures contain the revelations of God, but even the arrangement of the books of the Scripture implies God’s sovereignty. Take the four Gospels as an example. If you consider their sequence, you will see that it is quite meaningful. Matthew, the first book, opens by telling us that on the one hand, on God’s side, Jesus Christ was God begotten in man, and on the other hand, on man’s side, He was a descendant brought forth through generations of forefathers. Therefore, at the outset Matthew shows us the genealogy of the Lord, which can be considered almost a sketch of the entire Old Testament. The extract of the entire Old Testament is the genealogy in Matthew 1. The Old Testament speaks about the fathers in the past generations inheriting God’s promise to bring in a wonderful person; then this wonderful One came. He is God Himself entering into man; He is Emmanuel, God with man. The central point of the Gospel of Matthew is that this One wants to be with us. Therefore, at least three times Matthew refers to the matter of the Lord’s being with us. The first time, it mentions Emmanuel, that is, God with us (1:23). Another time, it says, “Where there are two or three gathered into My name, there am I in their midst” (18:20). Still another time, after the Lord’s resurrection, it says, “I am with you all the days until the consummation of the age” (28:20). This One is Emmanuel, God mingled with man; as such, He can never be separated from us. Thus, He is with us until the consummation of this age. He is such a One; this is what Matthew shows us.

Next let us look at the two books in the middle, Mark and Luke. They do not speak about Emmanuel, God’s being with us. Rather, they show us how this One, who was God with man, the incarnated One, and Emmanuel, lived in man and how He lived out the living of a man. He lived on earth as a real man, and for thirty-three and a half years He lived a real human living on earth. This is what Mark and Luke show us.

Then we come to the Gospel of John. John’s emphasis is to show us that this God who was in the beginning came into the world to become a man and then went to the cross. By going to the cross He was transfigured from the flesh into the Spirit. In chapters 14 through 16 there is a great turning point where the Lord was transfigured from the flesh into the Spirit. Once He was transfigured into the Spirit, it became possible for man to live in Him and He in man. He and man were completely joined to one another. This joining, this union, is with this Spirit. At the end of the Gospel of John, in chapters 20 and 21, this wonderful One was eventually manifested as a breath. This is mysterious to the uttermost. The existence of man hinges on life; the story of man is altogether a story of life. But the matter of life hinges on a breath. Therefore, when a person dies, we say he has expired; that is, he has breathed his last breath. When one breathes his last breath, he is finished, and there is no more life in him. Then what is this breath? This is quite mysterious yet real. The Gospel of John is a record showing that the Triune God is mingled with a descendant who came out of the forefathers. Who is this wonderful One? He is the Triune God, the One whose goings forth are from ancient times, from the days of eternity, and who created the universe, mingled with a descendant who came out of the generations of the forefathers. Such a One is too marvelous, and this wonderful One eventually became a breath, which is the Spirit for us to receive. Today when we believe in the gospel, we do not merely believe a doctrine. Rather, we receive a breath. The Lord Jesus in whom we believe is different from any founder of a religion. When one believes in a religion, one believes some teachings or doctrines, but when we believe in the Lord Jesus, we take Him in as a breath.

In the beginning of the four Gospels we see a genealogy in which a descendant was brought in as the issue of the mingling of the Triune God with man. Then at the end of these four books we see that this wonderful One eventually became a breath. He breathed this breath for man to receive the Holy Spirit. He Himself was that breath. As I have said before, in Greek, the word for breath is also the word for spirit. The Lord Jesus breathed into the disciples and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). Receive the Holy Spirit may well be translated “receive the holy breath.” Why is it that when the Lord breathed into the disciples it was for them to receive the Holy Spirit? It is because that breath was the Spirit. Therefore, ultimately, this wonderful One is this breath. Today when we preach, honestly speaking, we are not only preaching the word to people. Rather, we are transmitting this breath into them through the word. By means of the word we enable others to know, to open to, and to appreciate this breath. We use the word to introduce this breath to them in order to touch their heart. Thus, after they have been touched, they will not just exercise their mind to agree with and believe in the word, but they will open themselves up entirely to this breath to repent and to pray. This prayer with repentance is a breathing. It is to take in the breath.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, the Christians’ proper preaching of the gospel is not just to preach a doctrine. The proper gospel preaching is a story of the spirit. For example, concerning sin, we may be able to give many facts and reasons to prove that human beings are sinful and to eventually convince people to confess that they are sinful. But their confession may be altogether in the mind. It is like someone agreeing that two plus two equals four. This is not the Lord’s salvation but human religion. What then is the Lord’s salvation? It is that when we speak to someone about sins, in our words there is the spirit that touches the deepest part of his being, causing him not only to admit in his mind that he is sinful but also to groan from deep within, saying, “O Lord, I am a sinner.” When he groans, the Lord as the breath enters into him. This is to believe and to be saved from within. To be saved is mainly to inhale the Lord with our spirit, to breathe Him in. When a person hears the gospel and is touched and stirred deep within, he says, “O Lord, forgive me. I have sinned against my father and my mother.” Such a confession is actually a breathing. The more he confesses, the more he breathes. Finally, he says, “O Lord, thank You that You died for me on the cross. I want to receive You.” The more he prays this way, the more he feels refreshed and peaceful within. This means that the Lord has entered into him as the breath, as the Spirit.

Brothers and sisters, ultimately, this is what the four Gospels speak about. If you recall the four Gospels you have read, and if you read them again with a bird’s-eye view and from the viewpoint of an abstract, you will see that what they speak about is this: One day the Triune God, who exists from eternity and is the Creator of all things, came into a descendant of many generations of forefathers. In this way God and man were mingled as one entity. Such a One lived on the earth, and then through death and resurrection He became a breath for man to breathe in and to receive. In essence, this is the four Gospels. It is a pity that previously when we read the four Gospels, all we received from our reading were a great number of teachings, revelations, examples, and stories. Then we went and told others about these things, saying, “See how the Lord Jesus loved the children, how tender He was, how humble He was, how much He suffered, how faithful He was, and how open-hearted He was.” All these things are right, but we hardly ever touched the central point, which is that the Lord Jesus became breath for man to breathe in. It is true that when we were speaking about how He was so merciful and so generous, as the Spirit He was also working along with our speaking. However, we must realize that people received help not because of our teachings but because their spirit was opened and was moved, and therefore they were able to touch the Spirit of the Lord within.

Therefore, while you are preaching the word, there may be a thousand people listening to you, but only five or six will truly receive help and be saved. The majority of the audience may listen only with their mind, but five or six of them may have a response in their spirit and breathe the Lord in with their spirit. They may forget the words they heard, but they will never forget the fact that they contacted and gained the Lord within them.

(The Spirit in the Epistles, Chapter 13, by Witness Lee)