THE GENERAL SUBJECT
OF THE NEW TESTAMENT EPISTLES—
THE LIFE-GIVING SPIRIT
Many Christians have neglected this matter. There is a verse in the Bible that has been ignored by most Christians, and that is 1 Corinthians 15:45b: “The last Adam became a life-giving Spirit.” Everyone knows that 1 Corinthians 15 is an important chapter that deals particularly with the matter of resurrection. We all pay attention to the matter of resurrection, but we do not notice what is stated in verse 45. Little do we know that this statement is the subject of all the Epistles of the New Testament. The general subject of more than twenty epistles in the entire New Testament, from the book of Romans and including the seven epistles in the book of Revelation, is the life-giving Spirit.
The four Gospels are on Christ as the Word of God, and the Epistles are on Christ as the life-giving Spirit. In the Gospels the Lord Jesus is the Word; in the Epistles He is the Spirit. The Word is for us to understand, apprehend, know, and grasp. The Spirit is for us to experience, enjoy, and touch. The Word is for revelation, and the Spirit is for life. The first step that the Lord Jesus took in the New Testament was to come as the Word to explain and reveal God, whom we need to understand, apprehend, know, and grasp. Then the next step was that He became the Spirit, whom we need to experience and enjoy as our life. He is the Word for revelation, and He is the Spirit for life. The four Gospels speak of His being the Word, and the Epistles speak of His being the Spirit. In this training we want to see the Spirit in the Epistles.
Between the Gospels and the Epistles there is the book of Acts, which is a bridge that takes us from this bank to that bank. The Gospels are on this bank, the Epistles are on that bank, and the Acts is the bridge in the middle. The Lord Jesus was the Word of God, but now He has become the life-giving Spirit. In the Gospels He is the Word, but after crossing the bridge of the Acts, on the bank of the Epistles He is the Spirit.
The Lord said, “The words which I have spoken to you are spirit and are life” (John 6:63b). The words must become the Spirit to be our life. This principle still exists today. When you listen to messages, study the Bible, and read spiritual books, you are receiving the Lord’s words. These words, however, must become the Spirit in order to be life to you.
Here we need to realize that in His resurrection He entered into glory. He entered into glory before His ascension; that is, once He was resurrected, He was glorified. Many Christians think that the Lord Jesus first ascended to heaven, and then He was glorified; this is a wrong concept. Rather, He was glorified at the very moment He resurrected. Luke 24:26 says, “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and enter into His glory?” Therefore, as soon as He was resurrected, He was glorified. Dear brothers and sisters, notice that He became the life-giving Spirit when He entered into glory. In His incarnation He was a man, the seed of David. However, through His death and resurrection He has become the Spirit. Prior to His resurrection, He was a man in the flesh; after His death and resurrection, He is the Spirit.
THE SPIRIT OF GOD AND THE LIFE-GIVING SPIRIT
There is a big question here. God is Spirit. Then one day this God who is Spirit became flesh to be a man and went through death and resurrection to become a life-giving Spirit. May I ask you, are the Spirit of God and the life-giving Spirit two Spirits? No, they are still one Spirit, but Their elements are different. They are one and the same Spirit, but in one stage the Spirit is the Spirit of God and in another stage He is the life-giving Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of Christ. For example, if I put a white handkerchief into a blue dye and then take it out after five minutes, it is still the same handkerchief, but now it has become a blue handkerchief. The white handkerchief and the blue handkerchief are not two handkerchiefs; they are one handkerchief in two stages. In the first stage it is a white handkerchief, and in the latter stage it is a blue handkerchief. In the first stage there are fewer elements; in the latter stage there are more elements. In the same manner, the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Jesus are one Spirit in two stages. Originally He was the Spirit of God, but after the Lord’s incarnation, death, and resurrection, the Spirit of God became the life-giving Spirit.
The second question is this: In the first stage was there life in the Spirit of God? Yes, there was. But in the first stage could the Spirit of God give life? No, He could not. Therefore, in the first stage the Spirit of God was the Spirit of life, but He could not give life. Why? It is because the Lord had not passed through death and resurrection. Here we need a further explanation. Death and resurrection involve two matters. First, death and resurrection solved all the problems between us and God, such as our sins, the flesh, the world, and Satan, who is always hindering and troubling us from behind the scenes. God wants to give us life, yet we are evil and corrupt, and there are also the world and Satan’s hindrance. Therefore, God must first remove these things. The Lord’s death solved these problems for us. Besides this, we also know that any life that is to be given to men must first be released. Therefore, John 12:24 says, “Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” The grain of wheat has life, but unless it goes through death and grows forth again, it cannot impart its life into many grains.
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, before His incarnation, death, and resurrection, the Lord was life and in Him was life, yet He could not give life. But when He removed all the problems between us and God and released the life in Him through death and resurrection, then He became a life-giving Spirit.
Now we are no longer in the Gospels but have come to the Epistles. We have covered the Old Testament and the Gospels, and we have also crossed the bridge—the Acts. I am not speaking these things in a careless way. When studying the Bible, we need to follow its line. Acts 1 and 2 speak of the Holy Spirit, and chapter 16 still refers to the Holy Spirit (v. 6), but immediately after referring to the Holy Spirit, it shifts to the Spirit of Jesus (v. 7). In Acts 16 the title the Spirit of Jesus appears. Who is the Spirit of Jesus? The Spirit of Jesus is the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of God. But strictly speaking, the Spirit of God was there before the death and resurrection of the Son of God, whereas the Spirit of Jesus came into being after the Son had become flesh, passed through death to deal with man’s sins, and was resurrected to release His life. This is just like the illustration given above. The blue handkerchief is the white handkerchief in the beginning; at that time the white handkerchief did not have the element of blue color, but now it does. The Spirit of Jesus is the Spirit of God, but praise the Lord, today we are not in the Old Testament, nor in the Gospels, nor in the Acts. Instead, we are in the Epistles, which speak about the Triune God, who became flesh and passed through death and resurrection in the Son through the Spirit, being a life-giving Spirit today.
(The Spirit in the Epistles, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)