May the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
I was getting into a car in 1974 when I noticed the guy with me was carrying a large red book. I asked him about the book and his response was, “Haven’t you read any Nee books?”
I hadn’t. In fact, being not-too-intuitive Pastor Grant, I was thinking, “Why is this guy reading an anatomy book on knees?” But before I could ask that question and look stupid, the guy continued, “Watchman Nee was a church leader in China for 30 years. After communism took over the country, he was arrested and spent the last 20 years of his life in prison.”
I immediately determined to read all of Watchman Nee’s books.
I purchased the large “red book” determined to read this book, and the rest of Watchman’s books, during the upcoming summer. The red book, entitled The Spiritual Man, turned out to be 600 pages of small print.
I read only this book during the summer!
But its teaching did more for me than any other book that I have read – explaining how a Christian relates to God.
In the first chapter of The Spiritual Man, Watchman Nee writes:
The Word of God does not divide man into the two parts of soul and body. It treats man, rather, as tripartite: spirit, soul, and body. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 reads: “May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Further reading from Nee, and from my own thinking about “sanctification” or “becoming holy,” I realized the point of 1 Thessalonians 5:23 was for followers to be “entirely or wholly sanctified” – or to experience total joy and peace.
Most important: Our sanctification comes through a relationship with God. Not rigid rules or works, but listening, following, and being forgiven – a relationship of love! I began to understand this from Nee’s teaching on the interplay of spirit, soul, and body.
Okay – getting technical – I’m praying for you to understand.
The body is what you are sitting or standing in right now; the soul is your mind, will, and emotions; and your spirit connects you with God.
Going deeper: Just as your soul (mind, will, and emotions) works through your body to relate to the physical world; your soul works through your spirit to relate to the spiritual world.
Deeper and deeper: At the Fall, Adam and Eve experienced immediate death – not their physical bodies and souls (this came later). Their spirits died and they could no longer walk with God. Before the Fall, the souls (mind, will, emotions) of both Adam and Eve could relate to God through their spirits in the exact same manner as their souls related to the physical world through their bodies.
Deeper, deeper, and deeper: Jesus came so that we could be reborn – not returning to the womb – but spiritual rebirth. Through the blood of Jesus, we are reconnected to God spiritually.
This is key. Because we have been reborn, it is again possible to walk in the spirit in the same way that we walk in the physical. Our soul can now have a personal relationship with God – our mind, will, and emotions connecting with God through our spirit.
That’s why the New Testament teaches:
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:14).
If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit as well (Galatians 5:25).
Why was this important to a young follower of Jesus (that would be Pastor Grant)?
I learned very early on (scripturally and theologically) that I could walk, talk, and follow God literally. His presence could be as real as the warmth of the sun in a forest on a sunny day.
As Psalm 23 reads:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me (v. 4).
Walking with Jesus in all things, while learning to listen and follow, and eliminating the obstacles of the flesh has been my passion for decades.
I write these Interruptions to share my experiences with Jesus. I testify it is true – you can hear His voice, He will be with you in death, and His miracles through your prayers will increase.
Thanks, Watchman Nee.