The Spirit in the Epistles, by Witness Lee


No matter how much we enjoy the Spirit of life, what we have enjoyed is only the firstfruits as a foretaste. The great harvest will have to wait until after the Lord’s return. The Holy Spirit in us today is the firstfruits, the foretaste. Ephesians 1 says that the Holy Spirit in us is a pledge. The Greek word for pledge denotes “a token, a sample, or a foretaste.” Today, regardless of how much you have experienced and enjoyed the Spirit of life, it is just a foretaste. When the Lord comes back, we will enjoy the Spirit of life richly and fully.

Although the enjoyment of the foretaste and the enjoyment of the full taste differ in measure, they are the same in nature. In the coming age what we will enjoy will still be the Spirit of life. The more we enjoy this Spirit by turning to our spirit, the more we taste His supplying, watering, releasing, rescuing, uplifting, and transcending. We can enjoy all these things today.


This work of the Holy Spirit is a sanctifying work, a work that makes us holy. What does it mean to be sanctified, to be made holy? Originally we did not have any holiness in us. The good things we had were things of man, and the bad things were sins. However, the Spirit of the divine sonship, who is “the Holy,” has come into us and has sanctified us. In Greek, in many passages where the Holy Spirit is mentioned, it is written as “the Spirit the Holy,” meaning that the Spirit is holiness. In the entire universe everything is common; only God Himself is holy. God, who is the Spirit the holy, has been mingled with us. Hence, we have been made holy. This is just like adding orange juice, which is yellow, to water, causing the colorless water to be “orange-ized.” Oh, dear brothers and sisters, from the day we were saved, this Spirit has come into us to be mingled with us. The more He is mingled with us, the more we are being transformed. The more He is mingled with us, the more we are being sanctified. The more sanctified we are, the more we are like Him and are conformed to His image.

At the outset, the book of Romans says in chapter 1 that the gospel which we preach is concerning the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, who came out of the seed of David according to the flesh as a man and who was designated the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness out of the resurrection of the dead. We cannot find this kind of utterance in any of the Epistles other than the book of Romans. Why? The reason is that Romans shows us that the salvation of God makes us, those who are fleshly and wicked, His divine sons. There is a sample, a model, of this, and it is Jesus Christ. When He was in the flesh on the earth, people could not tell that He was the Son of God. But one day, after His death and resurrection, He was completely sanctified by the Spirit of holiness that was within Him. In other words, His whole being was transformed. When He was in the flesh, people recognized Him as Jesus of Nazareth, whose visage and form were marred, who had no attracting form, and who had altogether the appearance of a man. However, after His death and resurrection, He was transformed, sanctified, and designated to be the Son of God by the Spirit of holiness. This is a sample, a pattern, a model. Likewise, we are now in the flesh, and we will also pass through death and resurrection so that we may be transformed and sanctified gradually by the Spirit of holiness to become the many sons of God.

Therefore, please remember that Romans chapter 1 mentions the Son of God, and chapter 8 mentions the sons of God. In other words, we have the Son of God in Romans 1 and the sons of God in Romans 8. Previously, the Spirit of holiness sanctified only one person, Jesus the Nazarene, through death and resurrection, sanctifying Him in His flesh to be the Son of God. Now the Spirit of holiness is doing the work of transformation in us also to sanctify us so that we, who were sons of wickedness, may become glorious sons of God. Thus, we are the many sons of God, and the only begotten Son of God becomes the Firstborn among us.

Dear brothers and sisters, we need to come back to the spirit within us every day and every moment, paying attention to nothing but this one thing—following the Spirit. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (8:14). We do not deal with this matter or that matter; we deal only with one thing: turning to the spirit, calling our mind back to the spirit, living in the spirit, and walking in the spirit. This is our living.


Then, what about our service? We need to be burning and fervent in spirit. It is hard to say whether the word spirit in Romans 12:11 denotes the Spirit of God or our spirit. It is the same as the word used for spirit in Romans 8:5, 6, and 10. We can serve only when we are fervent and burning in spirit.

Finally, chapter 14 says that the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (v. 17). It is right if you can rejoice in the spirit; it is wrong if you cannot rejoice in the spirit. In this uplifted, rejoicing spirit you have the overcoming life, the sanctified life, the spiritual life, the Body life, and the church life.


I always have the feeling that in all these years God has done a great deal of recovery in the church. The only item that has not been sufficiently recovered is the Spirit. I believe that from now on our messages and our ministry of the Word will concentrate on this matter. We will speak from the Epistles concerning the Spirit. Justification is for Christ to come into us. Christ’s coming into us means that the Spirit of Christ is in us, and this Spirit is the Spirit of life to supply, release, and rescue us. What the Spirit of life is doing is to work the divine sonship, the reality of the Son of God, into us for our transformation so that we may be conformed to the image of God’s Son. This is also His sanctifying work to make us, who were sons of wickedness, holy sons of God. This work is the will of God. Today we need to cooperate with this work to become living members, who walk according to the spirit, turn our mind to focus on the spirit, and live in the spirit. We need to be burning in spirit to serve God, and we always need to be rejoicing in spirit. This is the Christians’ life and living. This is also the central thought of the book of Romans.

In summary, Romans shows us that the redeeming Christ, the Christ who died on our behalf, is in us today as the life-giving Spirit. He supplies, releases, and rescues us moment by moment, carrying out the work of sonship to transform us into sons of God and to conform us to the image of God’s Son by sanctifying us. He makes us, who were sons of wickedness, genuine sons of God, sons in name and in reality with His life and His image. Thus, as the many sons of God we become the living members coordinating together to become one Body for the expression of the God of glory. Therefore, today we should take heed to the Spirit by setting our mind on the spirit, paying attention to the spirit, being considerate of the spirit, fervently serving God in the spirit, and always rejoicing in the spirit.

(The Spirit in the Epistles, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)