Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 13: The Spiritual Man (2), by Watchman Nee


Not only should believers receive their initial knowledge through the spirit, they should continue in this way all the time. In the Christian life, other than the revelation one receives in his intuition, nothing else has any spiritual significance because none of the other things are of the spirit. Since they are not of the spirit, they are not the will of God; God only reveals the things concerning His will to us in our spirit. Anything that we think, prefer, and decide, apart from the revelation of the spirit, is dead in God’s eyes. A believer may act according to sudden thoughts, ideas that come after a prayer, a so-called burning in the heart, natural inclinations, strong reasons, or his logical judgments. These are all just the activities of the old man. God’s will is not known through such thoughts, feelings, or preferences. God only reveals His will in man’s spirit. Anything not revealed through the spirit is self-activity.

God never reveals His will to man’s mind. Revelation is of the Holy Spirit and in man’s spirit. Man’s spirit knows and receives God’s will through the intuition. After this, it transmits the will of God to the mind for its understanding. The mind is where we can understand God’s will, yet it can never be the source of God’s will. God’s will originates from God and is revealed to man’s spirit by the Holy Spirit. The spirit, in turn, causes the outward man to understand through the mind what the inward man already knows. In this way, the outward man knows how to carry out God’s will. If a believer does not seek after God’s will in his spirit, but exercises his mind all the time, he will be lost all the time and not know what to follow. Our minds continually fluctuate. Those who walk according to their mind cannot, even for a moment, say from their heart, "I know with certainty that this is God’s will." Only those who receive revelation in their spirit will have a deep confidence; only they will know and be fully assured of what they are doing.

God’s revelation in our spirit can be of two kinds: one is direct and the other is through searching. Direct revelation happens when God Himself has a will, and He charges the believers to carry it out. In this case, He comes into the believers’ spirit and reveals His will to them. When the believers receive this revelation in their intuition, they carry it out accordingly. Revelation that comes through searching occurs when a believer has a need and does not know what to do; he comes before God and waits and seeks for His will. In answering the believer’s searching, God operates in his spirit and reveals whether he should continue or stop. When a believer is young in his spiritual life, the revelation he receives is mostly of the searching kind. When he is more mature, he will have more direct revelations. However, this is not absolute; I only mean that searching is more typical than direct revelation at first. Nevertheless, this is where most young believers confront difficulties. Time is needed for them to wait before the Lord and eliminate their self-thought, self-preferences, and self-opinions; nevertheless, they often forsake waiting for God’s revelation and substitute their own will instead. As a result, they are often accused by their conscience. Even when they truly desire to follow God’s will, they foolishly walk according to the thoughts in their mind because of a lack of spiritual knowledge. Anything done without revelation will unavoidably lead to mistakes.

Now we can see what spiritual knowledge really is. Only that which is apprehended in the spirit is spiritual knowledge. Anything other than this is mere mental knowledge. How does God know things? By what means does He judge? What knowledge does He use to manage the universe? Does He reason with His mind like men do? Does He need to ponder things over before He can understand? Does He know things by logic, arguments, or comparison? Does He need to investigate and consider before He comes to a conclusion? Does the omniscient One also need to use His brain? Certainly not! God does not need to search in this way before He knows. All of God’s knowledge and judgment is intuitive. Intuition is the faculty of every spiritual man or being. Angels follow God’s will by knowing it intuitively. They do not ascertain it by the way of argument, reason, or thought. The difference between understanding God’s will by the way of the mind and the way of the intuition is immeasurable. Spiritual success or failure is surprisingly dependent upon this distinction. If believers’ conduct and work were based on their rationale, reason, and common sense, no one would dare to attempt the great spiritual works that have been done in the past and even presently. All the spiritual works are beyond human reasonings. Who would have dared to risk them if they had not known the will of God in their intuition?

Anyone who walks intimately with God, having secret fellowship with God and spiritual union with Him, receives His revelation in the intuition and clearly knows what moves he should take. This behavior receives no sympathy from men, for others do not know what he personally knows. According to the world’s wisdom, his moves are totally meaningless. Have not many spiritual believers been opposed because of this? Have not the wise ones regarded them as crazy? Not only do the worldly people say this, but even their fleshly brothers criticize them in the same way. This is because the life of the old creation, whether in worldly people or in believers, is equally ignorant of the work of God’s Holy Spirit. The more intellectual believers often label the ones who act contrary to common sense as "foolishly zealous." To them, their acts are soulishly enthusiastic. But actually, many so-called foolish zealots are very spiritual. They behave "foolishly" because they have received revelation in their intuition.

We must be careful not to mix up intuition with emotion. The zeal of an emotional believer may appear to be something spiritual, but it may not actually be from the intuition. The judgment of a rational believer likewise may appear to be something spiritual, but it also may not be a revelation from the intuition. Just as the emotional believer is soulish, the rational believer is also soulish. The spirit does have zeal. In fact, its zeal far exceeds that of the emotion. All of the actions of spiritual believers are "justified in the Spirit" (1 Tim. 3:16). They are not condoned by fleshly emotion or the mind. If we fall from the position of the spirit and walk according to our fleshly feelings or rational thoughts, we will immediately be at a loss as to what to do and where to turn. When this happens, we will be like Abraham, who went down to Egypt where help could be obtained from things which could be seen and touched. The spirit and the soul work independently of each other. If the spirit has not ascended and is not totally in control, the soul will always war against it.

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 13: The Spiritual Man (2), Chapter 5, by Watchman Nee)