Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), by Watchman Nee

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Why should a sinner be regenerated? Why should he be born from above and have a regeneration of the spirit? Because man is a fallen spirit. As a fallen spirit, man needs a regeneration of the spirit to receive a new spirit. Satan is a fallen spirit and man is also a fallen spirit, except that man has a body. Satan’s fall was before man’s fall. By knowing Satan’s fall, we may know our fall. Satan is a spirit who was created by God to have a direct fellowship with God Himself. However, he fell, became the leader of the authority of darkness, and was separated from God and all the virtues of God. Nevertheless, Satan did not lose his existence because of his fall; rather, he just lost his normal relationship with God. Similarly, man, like Satan, fell into darkness and was separated from God, yet man’s spirit still exists. Now his spirit is separated from God and cannot fellowship or reign. Spiritually speaking, man’s spirit is already dead. Just as the sinful archangel’s spirit exists forever, sinful man’s spirit also exists forever. However, man has a body, and his fall caused him to become a fleshly man (Gen. 6:3). No religion, ethics, culture, or law in this world can improve this fallen human spirit. Since man has now fallen into the position of flesh, nothing can enable him to become a spirit again. Therefore, regeneration—the regeneration of the spirit—is a must. Only God’s Son, who shed His blood to cleanse us from our sin and give us a new life, can bring us back to God.

When a sinner believes in the Lord Jesus, he is regenerated. God gives the sinner His own uncreated life to enliven the sinner’s spirit. The regeneration of a sinner is a matter in the spirit. All God’s work begins within man, from center to circumference, unlike Satan who works from the outside to the inside. God’s purpose is, firstly, to give life to man’s darkened spirit, where man should receive God’s life and fellowship with God, and to cause it to be regenerated. Then He works from there, spreading out to man’s soul and body.

Regeneration causes man to receive a new spirit on one hand and, on the other hand, causes his old spirit to be resurrected. Concerning regeneration, Ezekiel 36:26 says, "And a new spirit will I put within you." John 3:6 says, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." The "spirit" mentioned in these two verses refers to God’s own life, because this is not the spirit which we had originally but that which is given to us by God at the time of regeneration. This new life is "divine" (2 Pet. 1:4) and "cannot sin" (1 John 3:9). The spirit which man originally had, although it has been enlivened, may still be defiled (2 Cor. 7:1) and needs to be sanctified (1 Thes. 5:23).

When God’s life (which also is called the "Spirit") enters into our human spirit, it enlivens our spirit which was in a state like a drunken stupor. Formerly our spirit was "alienated from the life of God" (Eph. 4:18), but now it has been made alive. Therefore, "the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness" (Rom. 8:10). What we lost in Adam was the spirit which died; what we receive at regeneration is this dead spirit which has been enlivened. However, we not only obtain what we had lost in Adam, we also receive a new spirit with God’s life which Adam never had.

As a result of seeing this, we understand the vanity of self-improvement, exhortations to do good, revival, repentance, etc. No matter what man does on his own, he cannot enliven his spirit, nor can he receive a "new spirit." Regardless of how he improves, that which is dead is dead. Regardless of how he repairs, that which is old is still old. Unless man receives a new life from above, no matter how diligently he studies religion and practices morality, he will not be able to make his spirit alive and new. Only the new Spirit of God can enliven man’s old spirit. Those who want to make their spirit alive but do not receive God’s new Spirit of life will be dead forever. A man without regeneration has absolutely nothing to do with Christ (Rom. 8:9); therefore, every so-called believer should ask himself whether he has been regenerated. Only those who receive God’s surpassing life are God’s children. Being His children and yet not being born of Him is an absurdity.

God’s life is most often called "eternal life" in the Bible. This word "life" is zoe in the original language, which means higher life or spiritual life. Everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus is regenerated and receives eternal life as soon as he believes. What is the function of the eternal life? "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Him whom You have sent, Jesus Christ" (John 17:3). Therefore, eternal life is not only a later blessing for believers’ enjoyment but also a spiritual ability. Without eternal life we do not know God, neither can we know the Lord Jesus. Knowing the Lord by intuition comes after man receives God’s life. This tiny bit of God’s life within man can eventually develop and grow into a spiritual man.

After man’s regeneration, all of God’s purpose is that many, through His Spirit, may remove everything that belongs to the old creation; all of God’s work in man is also in the spirit.

(Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), Chapter 15, by Watchman Nee)