THE VISION OF THE SELF
Scripture Reading: Matt. 16:21-26; Luke 9:23-25; Gen. 3:1-6
If we would see the vision of the self, we need to pay careful attention to Matthew 16:21-26, Luke 9:23-25, and Genesis 3:1-6.
SATAN, THE MIND, THE SELF, AND THE NATURAL LIFE
Matthew 16:21 tells us that Jesus “began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and on the third day be raised.” When Peter heard this, he “took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, God be merciful to You, Lord! This shall by no means happen to You!” (v. 22). Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men” (v. 23). Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his soul-life shall lose it; but whoever loses his soul-life for My sake shall find it. For what shall a man be profited if he gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul-life? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul-life?” (vv. 24-26). The Greek word translated “soul-life” here is psuche, the word for “soul.” Whenever the New Testament speaks of the divine life, eternal life, the life of God, it uses the word zoe, but when it speaks of the soulish life, the soul-life, it uses the word psuche.
In these verses there are four things which are closely related to one another: Satan, the mind, the self, and the natural life. In verse 23a Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan!” Then He went on to speak about the mind: “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men” (v. 23b). Following this, we have the self in verse 24 and the natural life, here called the soul-life, in verses 25 and 26. The soul-life, or the natural life, is the self; the self is in the mind; and the mind is occupied by Satan.
THE SELF—THE EMBODIMENT OF SATAN
As we consider these matters, we eventually realize what the self is. The self is the embodiment of Satan. As Christ is the embodiment of God, so the self is the embodiment of Satan. This is indicated by the fact that the Lord Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan!” The Lord was speaking to Peter, yet He called Peter Satan because Satan was embodied in Peter. Where was Satan embodied? Satan was embodied in Peter’s soul by occupying his mind. The mind is the leading part of the soul and the representative of the soul. To take over a person’s mind is to take over the entire person.
We need to be impressed with these four matters: Satan, the mind, the self, and the natural life. The soul is the natural life. The natural life is the self. The self is in the mind, which is occupied by Satan. The self is thus the embodiment of Satan.
At this point it would be helpful to compare Luke 9:25 to Matthew 16:26. In Luke 9:25 the Lord Jesus says, “What is a man profited if he gains the whole world but loses or forfeits himself?” As we have seen, in Matthew 16:26 the Lord Jesus speaks of losing the soul-life. Whereas Matthew 16:26 speaks of the soul-life, in Luke 9:25 soul-life is replaced by himself. This indicates that our soul-life is our self. These are synonyms. The self is the soul-life, and the soul-life is the self.
THE ORIGIN OF THE SELF
What is the origin of the self? Since God did not create the self, where did the self come from? In order to answer the question concerning the origin of the self, it would be helpful to consider the difference between the body and the flesh.
God created for man a body that was good, pure, and sinless. The flesh is also the body, but it is the corrupted, ruined body. Satan injected sin into the human body created by God, and in this way the body was corrupted and ruined, becoming the flesh. The flesh, therefore, is the body corrupted by sin. We may also say that the flesh is the body plus sin.
The sin which is in man’s body is the very nature of Satan. In Romans 6 and 7 sin is personified, for it is likened to a living person that dwells in us (7:17, 20), works in us (v. 8), deceives us (v. 11), kills us (v. 11), and reigns in us (6:12, 14). This sin which, like a living person, can force us to do things against our will, is the nature of Satan. We may even say that sin is Satan. Because sin has been injected into our body and is now in the members of our body, our body has been corrupted and has become the flesh.
The situation is similar with the self. The body became the flesh because something of Satan—sin—was injected into it. How did the soul become the self? The soul became the self when something of Satan was added to the soul. The thing that was added to the soul was the thought, or the mind, of Satan. Therefore, the self is the soul plus the satanic mind, the mind of Satan. When the mind, the thought, of Satan was injected into the human soul, the human soul was corrupted and became the self.
The body has been changed into the flesh, and the soul has been changed into the self. Which of these changes took place first? The answer to this question is found in Genesis 3:1-6. Here we see that before Eve took the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil into her body, the thought, the mind, of Satan was injected into her soul. Satan came to Eve with the intention of putting his thought into her mind. Satan did this when he said to her, “Did God really say, You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?” (v. 1). This was an appeal to Eve’s mind. Eve answered Satan (vv. 2-3), but as soon as she did so, she was “hooked” in her mind by the “bait” of Satan’s thought.
Day after day Satan tries to do the same thing with us, sending some sweet, enticing bait to our mind. For instance, in the morning, as you are waking up, a critical thought concerning the church in Los Angeles may suddenly enter your mind. Such a thought is Satan’s bait, and the more you pay attention to this bait, the more you will be hooked by Satan. Eventually, you may decide to give up the church life.
Satan did not come to Eve to fight with her or to speak against her. Rather, he came in a nice way to “help” her. In response to Satan’s question, she said, “Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die” (vv. 2-3). At this point Eve was already caught by Satan who, taking Eve’s word as his basis, said to her, “You shall not surely die! For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will become like God, knowing good and evil” (vv. 4-5). Satan seemed to be saying to the woman, “I am here as your good friend to tell you a secret. God is fooling you. If you eat of the fruit of this tree, you will become like God.”
Through this satanic assault, Eve’s mind was attacked. Then her mind was poisoned by the satanic thought which had been injected into her. After this, her emotion was aroused when she “saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make oneself wise” (v. 6a). Next, her will was exercised to make a decision to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “She took of its fruit and ate” (v. 6b). By this time every part of the soul—the mind, the emotion, and the will—had been poisoned.
(The Heavenly Vision, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)