THE SHEEPFOLD AND THE DOORKEEPER
Question: John 10 speaks of the sheepfold and the doorkeeper. To what do they refer? (Chi, Foochow)
Answer: The sheepfold is the sphere of Judaism. The doorkeeper is the Holy Spirit. Enters through the door means that the Lord Jesus came according to the law and the prophecies of the prophets. To him the doorkeeper opens refers to the Holy Spirit opening the door for Him to meet the Jews whom He should meet. Leads them out means that He brings the Jews who believed in Him out of Judaism. And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold refers to the believers who are Gentiles. There shall be one flock means that the Jews and the Gentiles will become one church.
TO BELIEVE BEING TO BE SAVED
Question: What is the meaning of Romans 10:6-7? (Lin, Fukien)
Answer: In verse 6, " `Who will ascend into heaven?’ that is, to bring Christ down" means that Christ was born to suffer death. In verse 7, " `Who will descend into the abyss?’ that is, to bring Christ up from the dead" refers to Christ’s resurrection from the dead. These two verses convey the meaning that both Christ’s birth for the suffering of death and Christ’s resurrection from the dead are acts of God. These works have all been accomplished. The Lord Jesus has already come to the earth, has already been crucified on the cross, and has already resurrected. Sinners do not need to prepare a savior for themselves. God has accomplished everything for men. "God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering" (Gen. 22:8). Men do not have to worry. If you are willing to believe all that has been done, you will be justified. "But the righteousness which is out of faith speaks in this way, `Do not say in your heart, Who will ascend into heaven?’ that is, to bring Christ down; or, `Who will descend into the abyss?’ that is, to bring Christ up from the dead."
THE HOLY SPIRIT AND CORNELIUS
Question: Dear Sir, I have received The Work of the Holy Spirit and Where Is Heaven? In both books the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit’s falling upon the household of Cornelius are considered to be of the same kind. I do not consider this to be an appropriate assessment, for on the day of Pentecost the one hundred twenty men had had three years of education under the Lord. They had long been "born anew in the Holy Spirit." After the resurrection, they had even received the "Holy Spirit Himself." It was at the moment when they needed the power of the Holy Spirit to work for the Lord that the Holy Spirit came and provided the timely baptism so that the Father’s promise could be fulfilled. But in Cornelius’s case, even though he feared God, he was outside of the Lord’s salvation. How could he possibly omit the process and advance into the same experience as those who were there on the day of Pentecost? Even if Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:2) were prepared in advance, how could the rest of his "relatives and intimate friends" (v. 24) as well as "all those hearing the word" (v. 44) be prepared also? I do not find that reasonable. Therefore, Acts 11:15, "the Holy Spirit fell on them just as also on us in the beginning" must refer to Peter’s initial experience of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, Acts 11:17 says, "...have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ." It is inconceivable that Peter did not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ until the day of Pentecost. In verse 18 those who heard these things also agreed that the Holy Spirit who fell upon the household of Cornelius was the Holy Spirit who gives "repentance unto life." In conclusion, what Cornelius had was obviously the initial step of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. I wonder if my ignorant view is accurate? (Song, Anhwei)
Answer: I am extremely reluctant to argue with God’s children on any given issue. Concerning the work of the Holy Spirit, the most significant point is to see it in three stages: regeneration, sanctification, and empowering. The central focus of those two books is to show young Christians the different steps of the work of the Holy Spirit so that they would have the way to seek after the Holy Spirit. If we can truly experience His regeneration, sanctification, and empowering, we are fully satisfied already. It is of little significance to investigate the fine point as to what step of the work of the Holy Spirit was received by the household of Cornelius. We should feel free to believe, but not to debate.
I realize that you have no intention to debate. However, we still must be cautious to not develop any distance between ourselves. If we hold this view, we will perhaps escape being used by an evil spirit. With this in mind, we can have a careful discussion. What the household of Cornelius received was indeed the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Here are the reasons: (1) "The Holy Spirit fell upon all those hearing the word" (Acts 10:44); (2) "On the Gentiles also the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out" (v. 45); (3) they "received the Holy Spirit" (v. 47); (4) Peter referred to it as "baptized in the Holy Spirit" (11:16); (5) he referred to it also as God’s "gift" (v. 17). All these descriptions fit the condition for the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. These expressions are not used to describe regeneration or the work of sanctification; they are used to describe the baptism of the Holy Spirit. If you compare the conditions at the household of Cornelius and on the day of Pentecost, you will find that the two are the same. (Compare 10:44 and 1:8; 10:45 and 2:17, 33; 10:37 and 2:4; 11:16 and 1:5; 11:17 and 2:38.) The results of both cases were also the same—speaking in tongues (Acts 2:4 and 10:46). When Peter used the phrase in the beginning in Acts 11:15, he was clearly referring to the day of Pentecost. If you note the words "fell on" in the same verse and read them together with verses 16 and 17, you will see that Peter was referring to the day of Pentecost. "As also to us who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ" in verse 17 has two meanings: (1) Here, it says, "the Lord Jesus Christ," not simply "Jesus." This is the full title of the Lord. On the day of resurrection and before Pentecost, the disciples had already believed in the Lord, yet they were somewhat unclear; to them, many things were not fully understood. (This is what we see in the four Gospels.) Possibly, it was not until the day of Pentecost that they fully understood and believed. For that reason, Peter did not say, "Believed on Jesus," but rather he said, "Believed on the Lord Jesus Christ." (2) Peter was speaking to the circumcised disciples (Acts 11:2) about the Holy Spirit whom they had received on the day of Pentecost through repentance. What was received by the household of Cornelius was indeed the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But in their actual experience, they had repented and received life. To say that Cornelius was regenerated is right as far as his experience is concerned. However, as far as the fact is concerned, what Cornelius received was the baptism of the Holy Spirit. When I wrote The Work of the Holy Spirit, I purposely added a few footnotes on the last page to explain the case of Cornelius, for fear that the reader would not understand this point. Because of the limited space and the need to further discuss the issues of the Holy Spirit, I had to make the footnotes brief. As a result, the over-simplified footnotes have caused much misunderstanding. In recent days God has added much light to me, and I will take the opportunity while such a question is raised to say a further word.
We must distinguish clearly between two things: God’s facts and man’s experience. God’s facts include all that God has accomplished for man, such as the salvation of the cross and the advent of the Holy Spirit. Man’s experience is the affirmation of what God has done for him through his own experience. According to God’s fact, every single believer possesses the baptism of the Holy Spirit. However, according to man’s experience, not all have this experience. According to 1 Corinthians 12:13, when all the believers were regenerated, they were all baptized into the Holy Spirit—this is God’s fact. But according to the believers’ experience, this is not altogether true. The baptism of the Holy Spirit at Cornelius’s house opened the Gentiles’ door; it is a fact that God accomplished it for all the Gentile believers then and now. God chose the household of Cornelius to accomplish this fact because they had the best preparation. You were correct to say that Cornelius was at that time only regenerated (experientially). Yet, at that very same moment, as 1 Corinthians 12:13 says, the Holy Spirit baptized him and his household into the Body of Christ. Therefore, we can see that, as far as the fact is concerned, the incident at the house of Cornelius was the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But as far as their experience was concerned, they were only regenerated. The reason I pointed out in the footnotes that the experience in Cornelius’s house was a "special experience" was that there was the speaking in tongues, which was, of course, an experience. After spending much time before the Lord, I realized that the case of Cornelius’s household was special for the reason that at that time (as it was at Pentecost) God accomplished for the church the fact of the baptism of the Holy Spirit as well as regenerating them. Of course, in actuality, this was not too special, because when we are regenerated, we are at the same time baptized into the Body of Christ just as Cornelius was. May the Lord grant us the desire to be sanctified and to be empowered! May we gain more of Him.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 07: The Christian (5), Chapter 14, by Watchman Nee)