Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 13: The Spiritual Man (2), by Watchman Nee


We have already seen how a soulish believer becomes a spiritual believer. This does not mean, however, that he will no longer walk according to the flesh. On the contrary, he is always in danger of falling into being fleshly. Satan is always on the watch. Whenever he has a chance, he will cause the believer to lose his high position and be brought down to a low living. Therefore, it is very important for a believer to always be watchful and walk according to the spirit; then he can always be spiritual.

Romans 8 clearly speaks about the importance of walking according to the spirit. Verses 4 through 6 say, "That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the spirit"; "those who are according to the spirit, [mind] the things of the Spirit"; "the mind set on the spirit is life and peace." Walking according to the spirit is in contrast to walking according to the flesh. If a believer does not walk according to the spirit, he walks according to the flesh. Sometimes he may walk according to the spirit and sometimes according to the flesh. But he should only walk according to the spirit. A believer must learn to walk only according to the spirit, only according to the intuition of the spirit, without walking for a moment according to the soul or body. A person who walks according to the spirit will consequently be "spiritually minded." Being spiritually minded like this makes his whole being "life and peace." Therefore, the result of walking according to the spirit is life and peace.

Living according to the spirit means walking according to the intuition (see Section Five, Chapter One). Living according to the spirit is to live, work, and act in the spirit. It is also using the strength of the spirit and being governed by the spirit. Thus, life and peace will always be maintained. If a believer does not walk according to the spirit, he cannot maintain his spirituality. Therefore, he should know the various functions of the spirit and its law, so that he will know how to walk.

Walking after the spirit is a daily task for believers which must not be forsaken. We should know that while we live on this earth, we do not live according to our good feelings, doing whatever we feel we should do. Neither should we live according to the good thoughts in our mind, either suddenly or constantly, doing whatever we think. We should act and behave according to the guidance in the intuition of the spirit. The small consciousness of the spirit is where the Holy Spirit expresses His thought. The Holy Spirit does not work directly on our mind to make us suddenly think of something. The work of the Holy Spirit is always done in our spirit. Therefore, if we want to understand the mind of the Holy Spirit, we should walk according to the intuition in our spirit. Sometimes our spirit has consciousness but we do not know what it means, what it demands, and what it expresses. Then we must spend much time in prayer so that our mind may understand the meaning of the intuition. After understanding it, we must walk accordingly. The mind may suddenly understand what the intuition means. However, if there is no intuition, the sudden thought from our own mind should not be followed. The teaching of the intuition is the thought of the Holy Spirit. We should follow only this.

This kind of walking according to the spirit requires dependence and faith. We have already seen that all of the good behavior of the flesh is independent of God, rather than dependent on God. The nature of the soul is independence. If a believer wants to walk according to his own thoughts, feelings, and desires, he does not need to spend time waiting on God, praying to God, and depending on God to guide him. "Doing the desires of the flesh and of the thoughts," (Eph. 2:3) does not need dependence. Only when a believer wants to seek God’s will, knowing that he is useless, unreliable, and weak beyond repair, does he have a heart to depend on God. If he wants God to guide him in his spirit, he must wait for God in his spirit and not arbitrarily take his own feelings and thoughts as his guide. The believer must remember that whatever is done and can be done without depending on, waiting on, and trusting and seeking God is walking according to the flesh. Only trusting in a trembling manner for God to guide in the spirit is walking according to the spirit.

Walking also needs faith. Faith is in contrast to seeing and feeling. The feeling of the soul is always to demand, grasp, and desire everything that can be seen and felt as a guarantee in order to act and behave. If a believer walks according to the spirit, he does not walk according to the soul. In other words, he walks by faith and not by sight. Therefore, one who walks according to the spirit, on the one hand, will not feel disheartened if there is no help from man, and on the other hand, will also not be moved when there is opposition from man. Because of faith, he can believe God in darkness and not depend on his own resources; he can trust in the unseen power more than his own visible power.

Walking according to the spirit has two parts: one is to begin working and the other is to do this work with power. Many times, the believer lacks the revelation to do certain things in the intuition of the spirit, but he asks God to give him spiritual power to do this work. This is impossible, because that which is born of the flesh is flesh. Sometimes, what the believer does is based on the knowledge of God’s will through revelation in the spirit, but then he uses his own power to do this work (see Section Two, Chapter Four). This is also impossible, because what has begun in the spirit cannot be perfected by the flesh. For a man to follow the Lord, he must be broken by the Lord to the extent that he has absolutely no self-confidence; he must realize that no good thought can originate from him; and he cannot have any power to complete the work started by the Holy Spirit. He must forsake all thoughts, cleverness, knowledge, capabilities, and gifts; he must completely depend on the Lord. The world worships and superstitiously trusts those things. But moment by moment, we should confess that we are undone, worthless, incapable, and useless. We dare not do anything before God does command; even in something that God does command, we dare not have the slightest amount of self-reliance.

If we want to walk according to the spirit in this way, we should follow the small consciousness in the intuition in the spirit to begin to work, and we should depend on the power of the spirit to do the work revealed by the intuition. Not walking according to thoughts, ideas, feelings, and tendencies, but only according to the intuition, will cause us to begin well. Not depending on our own talents, power, and abilities, but only on the power of the spirit, will cause us to continue to be perfected. We must remember that as soon as we cease walking according to the spirit, we immediately begin walking according to the flesh and minding the things of the flesh, allowing death to operate in our spirit. Only when we do not walk according to the flesh can we walk according to the spirit. "For those who are according to the flesh mind the things of the flesh...for the mind set on the flesh is death" (Rom. 8:5-6).

Our purpose is to be a spiritual man, not a spirit. This distinction will prevent our spiritual life from becoming one-sided. We are men, and will be men forever, but the highest attainment of being a man is to be a spiritual man. Angels are spirits, and not men. They have no body and no soul. Man has a soul and a body. We are to be spiritual men, not spirits. Therefore, we still have a soul and a body. A "spiritual man" is not a person who only has a spirit, with no soul and no body; in that case he would be a spirit and not a man. Being a "spiritual man" simply means man is subject to the rule of his spirit. The spirit is the highest part of the whole person. We should pay considerable attention to this point; otherwise, we will misunderstand. The functions and faculties of man’s soul and body are not cancelled because a man is spiritual. A spiritual man still has a soul and a body.

A spiritual man still has the will, mind, and emotion of his soul. Even though these are various parts of the soul-life, these functions are the essentials of man being man. Therefore, although the spiritual man does not live by them, he does not destroy them. On the contrary, they have died, been renewed, and are resurrected. Therefore, they are now completely united with the spirit to be the instruments to express the spirit. The spiritual man does have an emotion, mind, and will, but they are completely subject to the guidance of the intuition of the spirit.

The spiritual man has an emotion, but his emotion does not act independently as it once did; it is completely under the control of the spirit. Now his emotion no longer has its own likes, its own love, and its own feelings which once impeded the spirit and opposed every move of the spirit. Now it only likes what the spirit likes, only loves what the spirit chooses, and only feels what the spirit allows. The spirit is its life, and it responds at once to the move of the spirit.

The spiritual man also has a mind, but his mind is not as loose as it once was; it co-works with the spirit. The mind does not oppose the revelation of the spirit by its reasons and arguments. It does not disturb the quietness in the spirit by confusing thoughts. It does not boast in its own wisdom and disobey the revelation of the spirit. It is of the same mind as the spirit and cooperates with the spirit to go forward in the spiritual journey. If the spirit has a revelation, it will think through its meaning. If the spirit is "depressed" because of fighting, it will support the spirit to fight. If the spirit wants to teach some truth, it will help the spirit to think and understand. The spirit has the power to stop the mind’s thoughts and also has the power to make the mind think.

The spiritual man also has his will, but his will is not as self-centered as it once was; it is not independent toward God but rather obeys or refuses according to the yes or no of the spirit. It no longer has its own will nor disobeys God’s will. It is no longer hard and unable to be softened. It is completely broken; it no longer resists God, no longer works against God, and no longer is wild and difficult to harness. As soon as it has the spirit’s revelation and understands God’s will, it will, on behalf of the spirit, decide to follow as if it is the spirit’s minister, standing at the spirit’s door and waiting for the spirit’s order.

The spiritual man’s body is also subject to the spirit. It does not, by its lusts, draw the soul to commit sins as it once did. Now it is cleansed by the precious blood, its lusts were dealt with by the cross, and it is entirely a servant of the soul which takes orders from the spirit. It responds quickly to complete authority to control it by the renewed will. It no longer oppresses the weak spirit. The spirit of the spiritual man has been strengthened, and the body is under its power.

The apostle mentioned the actual condition of a spiritual man in 1 Thessalonians 5:23: "And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete." This verse speaks of a spiritual man as follows:

(1) He has God dwelling in his spirit to sanctify him wholly. The life of the spirit, poured into his whole being, causes every faculty to live by the life of the spirit and walk by the power of the spirit.

(2) He does not live by the soul-life. His mind, imagination, feeling, ideals, love, and opinion have all been renewed and cleansed by the Holy Spirit. These are completely under the rule of the spirit and no longer act independently.

(3) Although he still has a body and is not a disembodied spirit, the tiredness, pain, and other demands of the body have absolutely no influence on the spirit to cause it to lose its ascended position. All the members of the body are instruments of righteousness.

Therefore, a spiritual man is a man who belongs to the spirit. His whole person is ruled by the spirit, and all the faculties of his person are completely under the spirit and regulated by it. His spirit is the characteristic of his life; everything comes from the spirit. He has absolute dependence: what he says and what he does are not freely done by himself. He always denies his own strength and draws strength from the spirit. A spiritual man is a man who lives by the spirit.

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 13: The Spiritual Man (2), Chapter 2, by Watchman Nee)