Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 05: The Christian (3), by Watchman Nee


Verse 4:"But you have a few names in Sardis who have not defiled their garments, and they will walk with Me in white because they are worthy."

"A few names" means a few persons. The Lord knows every one of their names; He pays attention to every one of them. "A few names" also indicates the smallness in number. In the vast Protestant church, there were only a few persons who had not defiled their garments. In the previous churches, the errors were with a minority, but in Sardis, only a few are not in error. The Lord has many praises for Sardis. Amidst so many sins, the Lord detects all the bits of goodnesses. If there are only so few who are pure in the Protestant church, is it not ignorance for one to take the teachings of the Protestant churches as the standard of truth?

The glory of these few lies in their not having "defiled their garments." They have kept themselves "unspotted from the world" (James 1:27). The principle of Christian living is to hate "even the inner garment spotted from the flesh" (Jude 23). Although others have lost their chastity, these have not walked with the world. The church in Sardis has fallen below the level of the world. For this reason, she will be judged with the world. To keep themselves pure, they have to depart from the world. However, the world here is no longer the simple world, but a world adopted by Christians. These are the ones who have overcome the "ecclesiastical world." Of course, this is more difficult to overcome than the world itself. However, believers cannot shrink back just because it is difficult. Satan often induces the believers to mix themselves with the worldly ones. Those saints who mingle themselves with the world will not make the world holy. On the contrary, they will defile their garments. The result of being mingled with the world is to forsake the confession of the testimony of Christ, which the world can never tolerate. One who confesses Christ must be a separated one. Since he has believed in One who was rejected by the world and has looked to and testified for the One who will come to judge the world, how can he be spared from man’s opposition? Separation is most crucial.

Once a believer realizes that the ground he is standing on is contrary to the Scripture, he should realize the seriousness of this fact and the immense measure to which he has fallen short of the Lord’s grace. It is a pity that many who clearly know the error of the standing of their denominations have been considered leaders by others. They have not left the sins they are aware of, but on the contrary, have sought refuge in the fact that Asa and Jehoshaphat did not remove the high places. What a pity it is that God’s word is twisted to accomplish Satan’s goal. God’s warning has been disguised to justify man’s sin. Although they may be enlightened in their mind, the Lord still requires that the believers’ conduct be counted worthy of His command. Of course, Satan considers the Lord’s way to be a way of darkness, and the way of the world to be more of love, humility, conciliation, and order. However, the word of God has already denied this. Soon, the power of God will also deny this before the world.

"They will walk with Me in white." Since these persons have kept themselves pure on earth, they will obtain God’s full pleasure before Him. They have maintained their purity in walk at the time of their responsibility. As a result, in the future at the time of reward, they will receive purity in the same nature as their present separation. Perhaps they are now being misunderstood and shamed, but they have contented themselves with the Lord’s praise in private. Soon, their garments of white will be manifested before all men. Everything that pleases God, whether or not it is known to men, will not be overlooked eventually. Everything that is of God will not be lost, for everything that is of God will remain forever. "He who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:17).

"Because they are worthy." This is not talking about eternal life, because eternal life is God’s gift (Rom. 6:23). Everyone who will receive it will have it. There is no question of worthiness there. It is those who are already standing on the ground of grace and who have been justified by God who can receive the reward here. From the time a believer is regenerated until the end of his journey, his own conduct will determine if he is worthy for the first resurrection (Luke 20:35) or the kingdom of God (2 Thes. 1:5). Grace is the basis of everything. Without grace, there is no possibility for man to be accepted before God. But when God rewards man based on His righteousness and according to man’s work, the question of "worthiness" will be determined by the believer’s own work after salvation. In the future judgment of the believers’ work, reward will be given fully according to the worthiness of the believers’ work. A sinner cannot perish merely because he is unworthy, but a believer cannot receive the reward if he is unworthy.

Since these persons have good works, the Lord will reward them according to what they deserve. Since they have preserved their spiritual garments undefiled, when Christ reigns, they will walk with the Lord in white, a sign of their holiness.

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 05: The Christian (3), Chapter 2, by Watchman Nee)