Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 14: The Spiritual Man (3), by Watchman Nee


We should understand God’s way of leading as well as the relationship between man’s will and God’s will.

We must realize that a believer’s submission to God should be unconditional. Moreover when a believer’s spiritual life has reached a climax, his will should be one with God’s will. This does not mean that the believer no longer has his own will. The faculty of the will still exists, but the natural temperament is gone. God still needs the faculty of man’s will to work with Him for the accomplishment of His will. When we look at the pattern of the Lord Jesus, we can see that a person who is one with God still has the capability of his will. "I do not seek My own will but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 5:30). "Not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me" (6:38). "Yet, not My will, but Yours be done" (Luke 22:42). Here we can see that the Lord Jesus who is one with the Father has His own will besides the Father’s will. The verses do not say that He does not have His will; rather, they say that He did not seek, perform, or accomplish His own will. Therefore, whoever is really one with God should not eliminate the function of the will; rather, he should put his will on the side of God’s will.

Genuine leading does not mean that the believer should obey God like a machine. Rather, it means that the believer should actively carry out God’s will. God does not want the believer to follow Him blindly; He wants the believer to use his whole being sensibly to do His will. Lazy ones like to see God acting for them while they passively follow. But God does not want believers to be lazy. God wants believers to vigorously prepare their members and actively obey after they have spent the time to examine and understand God’s will. We have spoken previously on how to know God’s will through the intuition. Therefore, we will not repeat it here. If a believer desires to obey God, he must go through the following steps: (1) he must resolve to obey God’s will (John 7:17); (2) he must receive the revelation concerning God’s will through his intuition (Eph. 5:17); (3) he must be strengthened by God to resolve to carry it out (Phil 2:13); and (4) he must be strengthened by God to execute it (Phil. 2:13). God will not replace the believer in carrying out His will. After a believer understands God’s will, he should set his will to carry it out. After his will is set, he should claim the power of the Holy Spirit to carry it out practically.

A believer must claim the power of the Holy Spirit because his will is too weak to act alone. It is always the case that "to will is present with me, but to work out the good is not" (Rom. 7:18). Therefore, the Holy Spirit is needed to strengthen our inner man so that we can practically obey God. First God operates within us to make us willing. Next God operates within us for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).

God reveals His will through our intuition. If a believer’s will is united to Him, God will multiply strength to the believer and enable the believer to set his will according to God’s will and carry it out. God wants the believers to be one with His will. Yet He does not want to replace His children in the application of their will. God’s purpose in creating and redeeming man is that man would become completely free in his will. Through the salvation accomplished by the Lord Jesus on the cross, believers today can freely choose and follow God’s will. This is why many commandments in the New Testament (all of them pertaining to life and godliness) require the exercise of the will on the part of the believer to choose or reject. If God wanted to eliminate the faculty of the will, would these commandments have any meaning?

A spiritual believer is one who has the full power to exercise his own will. He should constantly choose God’s will and reject Satan’s will. Although many times he cannot tell what is from God and what is from Satan, he can still choose and reject. He can say, "Although I do not know what belongs to God and what belongs to the devil, I will choose God and refuse the devil." Though he does not know what belongs to God, he can choose God in his "motive" and choose everything that is of God. He can adopt the attitude that he does not want anything that is from the devil, whatever it may be. Whatever comes upon him, he should choose and reject. It does not matter if he does not know; he still must always choose God’s will. He can say, "Whenever I know God’s will, I want it. I will always choose God’s will and reject Satan’s will." By doing this, God’s Holy Spirit will work within him, and He will strengthen the will that stands against Satan day by day to the point that Satan will lose his power day by day. Then God will gain one more faithful servant in a rebellious world. When one continuously rejects Satan’s will in his motive and asks God to prove what is according to Him, he will realize in his spirit the great role that the attitude of the will plays in the spiritual life.


When the believer’s spiritual life reaches its climax, he can rule over himself. When we say that the Holy Spirit within us lords over us, we do not mean that the Holy Spirit Himself directly rules over any part of our person. If the believer has this misunderstanding, he will either be possessed by the demons or become discouraged when he does not see the Holy Spirit ruling over his life in this way. If a believer realizes that the Holy Spirit is leading him into self-rule, he will not fall into passivity; on the contrary, he will advance greatly in his spiritual life.

"The fruit of the Spirit is...temperance" (Gal. 5:22-23, KJV). The original meaning of temperance is self-control. The work of the Holy Spirit is to lead the believer’s outer man into full submission to his self-rule. The Holy Spirit depends on the believer’s renewed will to reign over himself. Whenever a believer acts according to the flesh, the outward man rebels against the spirit. This rebellion does not come as one integrated rebellion, but as uncoordinated rebellious acts. When a believer is really spiritual and when he bears the fruit of the Spirit, not only can kindness, joy, meekness, etc., be found in him (in his soul), but also the power of self-control can be found in him. Although the outward man was confused at one time, it is now totally subdued and fully under the reign of his own rule in accordance with the will of the Holy Spirit.

First a believer must control his spirit so that his spirit is always in a proper condition. It should not be too hot or too depressed, but in a proper position. Our spirit, like our other parts, needs to be under the control of our will. A believer can only control his own spirit and keep it in the proper place when his mind is renewed and when he is full of the power of the Holy Spirit. The experienced believer knows that when his spirit becomes agitated, he has to exercise his will to control it. When the spirit becomes too depressed, he has to exercise his will to uplift it. Only in this way can the believer walk in the spirit every day. This word does not contradict what we said before about the spirit ruling over the whole being. When we say that the spirit controls our whole being, we mean that the intuition of the spirit expresses God’s will. Consequently, the spirit controls our whole being (including our will) through God’s will. When we say that our will controls our whole being, we mean that our will is directly controlling our whole being (including our spirit) according to God’s will. Experientially these two things are fully compatible with each other. "He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls" (Prov. 25:28).

Second, the believer should control his mind and the other faculties of his soul. Every thought should be subjected to the control of the will. All wandering thoughts must come under the control of the will. "Take captive every thought unto the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). "Set your mind on the things which are above" (Col. 3:2).

Third, the body should be under control. Man’s body should be a tool to him and not become his master through wild cravings and lusts. The believer must use his will to control, train, and subdue his body so that it can be completely obedient and wait on God’s will without any resistance. "But I buffet my body and make it my slave" (1 Cor. 9:27). When the believer’s will reaches the state of total self-control, he will not be frustrated by any part of his being. Once he knows God’s will, he can instantly respond. Both the Holy Spirit and man’s spirit need an autonomous will to carry out God’s revelation. Hence, on the one hand, we should be one with God; on the other hand, we should buffet our whole being so that it will obey us fully. This is very important to our spiritual life.

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 14: The Spiritual Man (3), Chapter 8, by Watchman Nee)