Life-Study of Galatiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In 4:5 Paul says that God has redeemed us so that we might receive the sonship. To receive the sonship means that we are born of God and thereby receive the divine life and nature. As sons of God, we have God’s life and nature. Regeneration by which we are born of God to become His sons is accomplished by God Himself as the life-giving Spirit. There is no doubt that the Lord Jesus came to be our Savior and to die on the cross as our Redeemer. But the goal of God’s salvation and redemption is to bring us into sonship. Not only have we been saved and redeemed; we are even one spirit with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17) and, as a result, we have the divine life and nature. We are not simply one with God in a general way. We are actually one spirit with Him.
We who believe in the Lord Jesus should not have a low view of ourselves. We are not merely natural, physical, and material—we are now one spirit with God! If such a word were not written in the Scriptures, I would find it extremely difficult to believe that the very ones who were originally only God’s creatures and who then fell to become sinners, have now become one spirit with God through regeneration. Can you testify with assurance that you truly believe that you are one spirit with God? Do you see this experientially as well as doctrinally? We all need to humble ourselves before the Lord and pray, “Lord, show us the vision that we are one spirit with You. I am not satisfied, Lord, with a mere doctrinal knowledge of this. Lord, open the heavens and cause me to see that I am now one spirit with You.”
On the one hand, the Lord is in heaven; on the other hand, He is with our spirit (2 Tim. 4:22). Although the Lord has come into our spirit and dwells in our spirit, much of the time we ourselves are not in the spirit. On many occasions we leave the Lord in our spirit and go off to spend time in the chambers of our mind or emotion. Perhaps we want to do a certain thing which does not make the Lord happy. At such times, our attitude toward the Lord may be that He should stay in our spirit and not come to trouble us as we live for a while in our mind or emotion. Certain sisters, for example, may want a leave of absence from the Lord for a few hours in order to indulge themselves in their desire to go shopping. However, the Lord is never willing to give us such a leave of absence, no matter how we may try to bargain with Him about it.
At the time we were saved and regenerated, our spirit was joined to the Lord, and we became one with Him. Now, no matter what we do, we cannot separate ourselves from being one with Him in spirit. Even if we would seek to break this union, the Lord would not agree.
Sometimes the younger saints may say that they need to practice the Lord’s presence and not go to certain places or do certain things lest they lose His presence. They may think that the Lord will be with them if they go to the church meetings, but not if they go to a movie. According to their concept, they will lose the Lord’s presence if they go to a movie. Doctrinally this sounds quite good, but actually it is not true in our experience. If you were to attend a movie, the Lord’s presence is apt to be more obvious to you than when you are in a meeting. You may think that by going to the theater you will be able to run away from the Lord and be free. But, contrary to your expectation, you may discover that while you are there, the Lord manifests His presence to you more than ever. The more you beg Him to give you the liberty to do what you want, the more prevailing His presence becomes. Many of us can testify of having had this kind of experience.
To be saved is a serious matter, for it is to be brought into oneness with the Lord. When a person is saved and regenerated, he enters into an organic union with the Triune God. This union is real and vital. As a result of salvation and redemption, the Lord dispenses Himself into our spirit and makes us one with Him.
Christians from a Pentecostal background often inquire of others if they have received the Spirit. We should never be troubled by such a question. As long as a person has been saved and regenerated, he has not only received the Holy Spirit, but he has even become one spirit with the Lord. Therefore, we have the ground to testify boldly that, as saved and regenerated ones, we are now one spirit with the Triune God. This is the divine revelation in the holy Word.
In 3:2 Paul asks the Galatian believers, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of law or by the hearing of faith?” Then in 3:5 he inquires, “He therefore Who is supplying to you the Spirit and doing works of power among you, is it by the works of law or by the hearing of faith?” Paul’s questions indicate that the Galatians had received the Spirit and that God was continuing to supply the Spirit to them. God was supplying, and they were receiving. A marvelous, divine transmission was taking place.
If we would receive the Spirit continually, we need to exercise our spirit to pray. In our prayer we should not be occupied with trivial matters. Instead, we should open ourselves to the heavenly transmission and receive the supply of the Spirit. The Christian life is not a religious life or an ethical life, but it is a life of being one spirit with God. Whenever we exercise our spirit to call on the Lord, we experience the divine transmission, the flow of the heavenly current. Therefore, the Christian life is a life of supplying and receiving. God continually supplies, and we continually receive of Him.
Many of today’s Christians neglect the crucial matter of receiving the Spirit. Instead, they concentrate on helping people to be religious and ethical. For this reason, there is the urgent need for the Lord to have a recovery. The Lord’s recovery is utterly different from religion. Concerning Christ, life, the Spirit, and the church, the Lord’s recovery stands one with the Bible, but it stands apart from religion and tradition. Surely both we and the Lord Himself need the recovery.
The Spirit we have received of God is the total blessing of the gospel. In 3:13 and 14 Paul says that Christ has redeemed us out of the curse of the law so that “the blessing of Abraham might come to the nations in Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” In the gospel we have received not only the blessing of forgiveness, washing, and cleansing; we have received the blessing of the Triune God as the processed, all-inclusive, life-giving Spirit. This living, all-inclusive Person is the blessing. Day by day, God is supplying this blessing to us, and we are receiving this blessing of God. Oh, how blessed we are! What a marvelous blessing we are enjoying! This unique blessing is the all-inclusive Person of the Triune God—the Father, the Son, and the Spirit—processed to become the life-giving Spirit dwelling in us in a most subjective way for our enjoyment.
A well-known hymn tells us to count our blessings one by one. In a very real sense, we do not have that many blessings to count. We have one bountiful blessing—the Spirit. At the end of the year, some may take time to count all the material blessings they have received that year. But we may simply praise the Lord for the unique blessing of the immeasurable, bountiful, all-inclusive Triune God processed to be the life-giving Spirit dwelling in us.
I experienced this blessing of the Spirit when I was imprisoned by the Japanese invading army during World War II. Every day for thirty days I was subjected to trials, and I was beaten. But in the midst of my suffering, I had a sweet enjoyment of the Lord. How I enjoyed the blessing of the Spirit! The Lord was so real and near. It was almost as if I could touch Him. I remember one night in particular that the enjoyment of the Spirit was so real, intimate, and sweet that I wept and said, “Lord, I praise You that I am here not only for You, but also with You.” When I uttered these words, I had the definite sense that the Lord was in prison with me. Oh, that enjoyment of the Spirit was indescribable! Because the Lord was so near and so enjoyable, that prison became the Holy of Holies. Truly the Spirit, the processed Triune God, is our blessing.
After referring to the all-inclusive Spirit, Paul goes on to say, “But I say, walk by the Spirit and you shall by no means fulfill the lust of the flesh” (5:16). In 5:25 he continues, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” Many Christians do not have an experiential understanding of what it means to walk by the Spirit. To walk means to live and to have our being. But in verse 25 Paul seems to distinguish between living by the Spirit and walking by the Spirit. To live by the Spirit is one thing, and to walk by the Spirit is another. In verse 25 the Greek word translated “if” actually means “since.” Paul’s statement here is not a supposition; it is a fact. Since we live by the Spirit, we should go on to walk by the Spirit.
We need to see the difference between living by the Spirit and walking by the Spirit. The Greek term rendered live in 5:25 actually means both to have life and to live. Elsewhere Paul says that the just shall live by faith (Rom. 1:17). Paul’s actual meaning is that the just shall have life and also live by faith.
Some may think that Paul’s word about living by the Spirit refers only to our experience at regeneration. According to this understanding, when we were regenerated, we received life and began to live. However, nothing related to life can be once for all. You may learn a particular matter, for example, addition or subtraction, once for all, but you do not breathe, eat, or drink once for all. You may graduate from school, but you cannot graduate from breathing, drinking, and eating and still remain alive. You should not say that because you have eaten so many meals, it is no longer necessary for you to eat. In the matters of life there can be no graduation. Graduation from life means death. All the matters of life must be continuous and experienced again and again. Therefore, Paul’s word about living in 5:25 is not limited to our initial experience at regeneration, but applies to our daily living. Every day we should have life and live.
Experientially speaking, to live by the Spirit is to receive the Spirit by breathing the Spirit into us. Hence, the words “since we live by the Spirit” mean “since we receive the Spirit.” In A. B. Simpson’s hymn on breathing the Spirit one stanza says:
I am breathing every moment,
Drawing all my life from Thee;
Breath by breath I live upon Thee,
Lord, Thy Spirit breathe in me.
A. B. Simpson realized the need to breathe the Spirit continually. To breathe in the Spirit is to receive the Spirit. This is to have life and live.
If we would receive the Spirit in this way, we need to open ourselves, exercise our spirit, and call on the Lord. This requires that we pray without ceasing. If we receive the Spirit, we shall have life and live. In our daily living we should continually receive the Spirit by breathing Him. However, not many Christians have this kind of daily life. Not many have life and live by receiving the Spirit continually. But we thank the Lord that in His recovery, we are learning to receive the Spirit. I encourage you all to contact the Lord moment by moment to receive the Spirit. The more we receive the Spirit, the more we shall have life and live. I can testify from personal experience that my enjoyment of the Spirit has been increasing and improving. Day after day, I receive the Spirit and have life and live.
A practical illustration of what it means to walk by the Spirit is found in married life. It is easy for a married couple, who know each other so well, to exchange words. The husband may point out the shortcomings of the wife, and the wife may respond by pointing out the shortcomings of her husband. When a husband and wife exchange words in this way, they certainly are not walking by the Spirit. Earlier in the day, they may have exercised their spirit to contact the Lord and to receive the Spirit by breathing Him in. However, in talking to each other, they are no longer receiving the Spirit. Because they stop receiving life, they do not walk by the Spirit. Instead, they walk according to the flesh. The best way for a husband and wife to be rescued from arguing is to exercise the spirit. The husband should say, “Lord, I am exercising my spirit to exchange words with my wife. Lord, I call on You and ask You to be one spirit with me so that I may argue with her.” Do you think a brother would be able to argue with his wife if he prayed this way? Of course not. Instead of arguing, he would receive life, and his desire to exchange words with his wife would be put to death. Since we live by the Spirit, we should walk by the Spirit. Since a husband and wife exercise their spirit to receive the Spirit, they should also walk by the Spirit in their married life. Then, in place of argument, there will be praise.
For years I tried to understand Paul’s word in 5:25 about living by the Spirit and walking by the Spirit. Gradually, considering my experience in the light of the Word, I came to realize that we need continually to exercise our spirit to receive the Spirit. Moment by moment, we need to call on the Lord and pray so that we may have life and live. The first thing necessary is to receive life and to live. As we have pointed out, we receive the Spirit by breathing. Once we have life by receiving the Spirit, we then may walk by the Spirit. We may do things and say things by the Spirit.
Walking by the Spirit will produce transformation, a metabolic change in our being. Such a change is not the product of outward correction or adjustment. If you deliberately try to behave as a child of God, you will act in a religious way. You may think to yourself, “I must maintain my status as a child of God. This means that I should not argue with my spouse.” This is religious. Our need is to live by the Spirit and then walk by the Spirit. This is not a matter of outward adjustment, but of inward, metabolic transformation. Furthermore, this has nothing to do with religion, for it is altogether a matter of an organic change in our being. When we live by the Spirit and walk by the Spirit, God is spontaneously lived out of us and is expressed through us. Then, in reality and practicality, we are sons of God living by God’s life and walking by this life.
Moment by moment, we need to breathe the divine life into us. Then, instead of acting in ourselves and walking by the flesh, we shall do everything by the Spirit whom we receive by breathing. Our need today is to practice receiving the Spirit and walking by the Spirit. This is not religion or ethics. This is the experience of the living Spirit.
If we walk by the Spirit by receiving the Spirit, the flesh will automatically be crucified (5:24). The flesh will have no ground in us, because we continually receive the Spirit. When we walk by the Spirit, Christ will be magnified in our daily life. Paul’s burden in writing to the distracted Galatian believers was to bring them back to such a walk by the Spirit. This is not a matter of religion or ethics, but of living and walking by the Christ who, as the life-giving Spirit, dwells in our spirit. As we breathe Him in, we receive the Spirit. Then we may walk by this Spirit.
The result of walking by the Spirit will be the fruit of the Spirit. Paul lists nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit in verses 22 and 23, but his use of the expression “such things” indicates that there are more than these nine aspects. Paul lists nine as an illustration.
The fruit of the Spirit is the issue of walking by the Spirit. There is no need for us to strive to love, to keep the peace, or to be joyful. Actually, there is no need to strive to possess any of the Christian virtues. Rather, we need simply to live by the Spirit and walk by the Spirit. Then the fruit of the Spirit will be brought forth automatically. As we walk by the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit will come forth with many aspects: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control. Husbands will have no lack of love for their wives, and the wives will not be short of submission to their husbands. There will be no lack of any virtue.
The Christian virtues are not works; they are different aspects of the expression of the unique living fruit which is produced by walking by the Spirit. In His recovery the Lord wants to see the expression of such living fruit. This is the reason we have no confidence in outward regulations. If we try to regulate ourselves instead of walking by the Spirit, we shall make the church life a religion. The church, however, is not an organization; it is a living, growing organism. An organism has no need of outward regulations. Is it necessary for you to command your eyes to see or your ears to hear? Certainly not! Because the physical body is an organism, the eyes and the ears function automatically. Likewise, the church is an organism which functions spontaneously in life. If we need regulations, we must be short of life, short of the Spirit.
We thank the Lord that, by His mercy and grace, we are receiving the Spirit more and more. I have the assurance that a good number of the saints are learning to walk by the Spirit. In many cases, husbands and wives are turning to the spirit when they are tempted to argue. Instead of exchanging words, they exercise their spirit to praise the Lord. Others know what it means to be restricted by the Spirit in shopping. Sometimes, when they were on the way to a department store, they had the sense from the Spirit to go back home. What a mercy of the Lord to walk by the Spirit in this way! Others can testify that because they were walking by the Spirit, they could lay aside their choice in certain matters. Yes, they may have given up their preference, but in its place they have the joy of the Lord.
Many times I was ready to do a certain thing, only to be limited by the Spirit. When I obeyed and followed the Spirit, I was joyful. Furthermore, when I read the Bible, it was full of light. But I can also testify that when I have tried to read the Bible after disregarding the leading of the Spirit, the Bible became opaque. Since we receive the Spirit and have life and are living, we should walk by the Spirit.
Walking by the Spirit is the way to grow, enjoy the Lord, and develop the proper functions for the building up of the Body. The Lord’s recovery today should be characterized by this living and walking by the Spirit. This will distinguish the Lord’s recovery from any kind of religion. The processed Triune God as the all-inclusive Spirit now lives within us. Therefore, let us live by Him and walk by Him.
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