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


Verses 5-6:"He who overcomes will be clothed thus, in white garments, and I shall by no means erase his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

Although such was the condition of the church, and although there were only a few who had not defiled themselves, the Lord still has the promise for the overcomers. This promise causes our hearts to rejoice. If we have ears to hear, we will be joined to the overcomers in all the churches. To overcome at the present time may involve moving to a newer ground. It may involve separating from brothers who share the same general faith, or it may mean rejecting a great name in the record of faith and separation to Christ alone. Only the overcomers are the overcoming ones. Those who build the graves of the prophets (Matt. 23:29) are not the overcomers. Only those who are sent by the Lord to be despised, misunderstood, and persecuted by the admirers of ancient ones can be the true overcomers. God has to teach us to be independent. This independence comes from a practical and humble trust in the Lord. Even the greatest disciple of the Lord is nothing in the face of the Lord Himself. If we hope to have companionship in the matter of obedience to the Lord, I am afraid that it will be very difficult to find such companions. This way is never crowded. It is difficult to find anyone on this way who loves to be called "master." If it is sufficient to trust in the Lord alone, why should we not depart from defilement and walk with the Lord instead? If you ask for companions, your companions may later lead you to another way. Overcoming requires independence. This way of separation is not division, for we are not led by our own will but by the Spirit and the Word of God. If Christ is more lovable to us than everything, our love to the brothers will surely be full.

The overcoming in faith is not obtained in the applause of the crowd but in following the true Joseph who has left His brothers. Although God has not created the present confusion, He does allow these sins to exist so that we can be more conformed to the life of Christ when we walk in His path. He is not telling us to submit to sin but is charging us to overcome. In these few letters, the defeated believers seem to have retreated to the rear, and all the exhortations, promises, and rewards are for the encouragement of the overcomers. The Lord is now choosing those who would reign with Him. Only the overcomers are able to meet this call. Sins and trials are there only to prove who are the overcomers and who are the defeated ones, although both are saved. If there is nothing to overcome, there will be no need for overcoming, and subsequently there will be no overcomers. Overcomers are created by the circumstances. Those who desire to be overcomers, yet who want to take the common way, do not understand the meaning of warfare and the value of victory. The time is short now; the end is near. God’s grace is sufficient for all the believers’ needs. All those who are not willing to use this grace are destined for failure.

The Lord’s promise to the overcomers in Sardis is divided into three parts: (1) "Clothed thus, in white garments." White garments are mentioned four times in this book. In chapter seven it mentions a great multitude which no one could number, who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. This speaks of their purity. In chapter six the Lord gives a white robe to those underneath the altar. This speaks of the Lord’s approval. In chapter four, we see the elders clothed in white garments. This speaks of their sinlessness. In chapter nineteen we see the bride of the Lamb clothed in white linen. The Holy Spirit gives us an interpretation there: "For the fine linen is the righteousnesses of the saints" (v. 8). This last passage shows us that the promise of the white garment refers to the condition in heaven in the future. The Lord promises that the result of overcoming will be manifested in heaven and will be enjoyed in heaven. All those who have faithfully separated themselves from defilements on earth will be rewarded before the Lord.

White is the color of cleanliness. The garments of the angels are white (Matt. 28:3; Mark 16:5; John 20:12; Acts 1:10). The Lord’s garment on the mount of transfiguration was also white (Mark 9:3). The garment of the Ancient of Days is also white (Dan. 7:9). White robes are the garments of heaven. If believers have heavenly works on earth, they will receive this garment. They will not only be adorned by it, but will walk with Christ. This speaks of their position in the kingdom. How different is this from the condition of the unwatchful ones! These latter will be naked and will have their shame exposed to the world. The white stone in 2:17 is personal and private. The white garment here is public and seen by everyone. May we receive the private approval and the public glory.

(2) "I shall by no means erase his name out of the book of life." The book of life is an ancient book, for the names of many people since the foundation of the world are recorded in the book of life of the Lamb (13:8). Exodus 32:32-33 says: "Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book." Psalm 69:28 also says: "Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous." From these, we can see that it is possible for one’s name to be erased from the book of life. Before we go on, let us remember three things: first, in the book of Revelation, there is only one book of life. According to 13:8, this book of life is in the hand of God and in His plan; no one can put his name in it. Second, if a name is to be blotted out, that name must first be recorded there. Since this book of life is "the book of life of the Lamb," no one can write his name there except the Lamb Himself. Third, since the name of this book is called "the book of life," all those whose names are there must have life. For now we will not worry if their names will be blotted out later. Suffice it to say that every name that can go into the book of life must have at least once received life.

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