Lord, when the Father ne’er was known

2
Susan Tansey

Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand

Enjoyed singing this hymn this morning. Thank You, Lord.


Glenn

Fullerton, California, United States

This is one of our dear Bro. Nee's hymns to the Father and His sending His Son to the earth, but many didn't realize Who He truly was. Now that you, Father have infused us with Your Spirit in our spirit, You can mold us unto Your image from glory to glory, AMEN! Father thank You for the love You have for us.

Later, Brother Nee purposely composed a hymn concerning the oneness of the Triune God and our experience of Him. The fifth stanza of that hymn, now translated into English, says, "Thou, Lord, the Father once wast called, / But now the Holy Spirit art; / The Spirit is Thine other form, / Thyself to dwell within our heart" (Hymns, #490). The sixth stanza of this hymn says, "By knowing Thee as Spirit, Lord, / We realize Thy life's outflow, / Thy glory and Thy character, / And all Thy being's wonders know."

After that time with Brother Nee, I felt that I had received the greatest help in experiencing Christ as life, and from that time until today I have spent time to enter into the reality of our experience of the Triune God. In doctrine we may speak concerning the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, but in our experience these three are one. The New Testament reveals that the Father is in us, the Son is in us, and the Spirit is in us (Eph. 4:6; Col. 1:27; Rom. 8:10-11; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19), yet in our experience, when we exercise our spirit, we do not have the sense that three separate persons are in us. Rather, we sense that one all-inclusive person is in us. Today the all-inclusive Christ, who is the embodiment of the Father and also the life-giving Spirit, indwells our spirit to be everything to us. Thus, we need to take care of our experience of such an all-inclusive One.

In the fifth stanza of hymn #368 in Chinese (Hymns, #490 in English), Brother Watchman Nee says, "Thou, Lord, the Father once wast called, / But now the Holy Spirit art." In this stanza Brother Nee not only says that the Lord is the Holy Spirit but also that the Lord is the Father. Certainly, this is based on 2 Corinthians 3:17 and Isaiah 9:6.

In chapter 7 we said that Brother Nee wrote the lines "Thou, Lord, the Father once wast called, / But now the Holy Spirit art" (Hymns, #490). According to this hymn, I am not the first person to speak the truth concerning the Triune God. More than thirty years ago I came to southern China and spoke messages on these truths, and they were very well received at that time. These messages were received everywhere, including Hong Kong, Canton, and Swatow. Because there was a big umbrella covering me at that time, I stood in the cool shade and spoke for the Lord. However, when I speak the same messages today, mud is thrown at me. This place and that place say that I speak heresy. Such an accusation began in Hong Kong. The big umbrella, Brother Nee, is gone. What will happen if I do not hold this umbrella? If the Lord takes me away, there should still be someone to hold this umbrella. The principle will be the same: whoever holds the umbrella will be criticized. The person who holds the umbrella receives the most criticism. Criticisms, attacks, flattering words, and even praise will fall on this umbrella. However, I thank and praise the Lord that under this umbrella a group of tender and young shoots are growing like bamboo shoots after a spring rain. I am happy to see that at least seven to eight hundred "young shoots" have sprouted and are growing in Hong Kong.

In hymns concerning the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, Brother Nee used the term form, as in stanza 1 of Hymns, #492 and stanza 5 of #490. This does not mean that we teach modalism. Modalism teaches that the Son is the Father in another form and that the Spirit is the Son in another form, and that originally only the Father existed. Modalism further teaches that the Father ceased to exist when the Son came and that the Son ceased to exist when He became the Spirit. Hence, proponents of modalism do not acknowledge the truth that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit eternally coexist, which is known as coexistence in theology. Modalism is a huge error and heresy.

Genesis 1:26 says, "God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness." Both Us and Our refer to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Since God said "Us" and "Our" in eternity, it means that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit coexist from eternity to eternity. It is not that when the Father became the Son, the Father ceased to exist; nor is it that the Son ceased to exist when He became the Spirit. Although the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are one, They are also three and coexist. Their coexistence is not merely to exist at the same time, as some would understand. They exist simultaneously and mutually within one another. In theology this is known as coinherence. This is the pure teaching concerning the Trinity according to the Bible.

The Lord has commissioned us to minister on the two spirits. I believe that Brother Nee was entrusted with the oracle of God, and I have always been absolutely one with Brother Nee, realizing that God's commission was with him. Brother Nee faithfully taught that the human spirit is an organ to receive God and that Christ is the Spirit. The following stanza of one of Brother Nee's hymns speaks of Christ being the Spirit:

Thou, Lord, the Father once wast called,

But now the Holy Spirit art;

The Spirit is Thine other form,

Thyself to dwell within our heart.

(Hymns, #490)

Like Saul of Tarsus, who was a young man in the Jewish religion, I was a young man in fundamental Christianity. One day through Brother Watchman Nee's help, the light came concerning the Spirit. He wrote a hymn that says, "Thou, Lord, the Father once wast called, / But now the Holy Spirit art" (Hymns, #490). Although many Christians receive Brother Nee's ministry, most reject this teaching concerning the Lord being the Spirit. Some co-workers among us even turned against me concerning the oneness of the Triune God. In 1964, while I was laboring to prepare our English hymnal, a co-worker told me that we should not include hymns concerning Christ being the Spirit, because these might offend Christians. He admitted that the New Testament reveals that Christ is the Spirit but said that Christians today would not accept this. I answered that we should not refrain from ministering the truth for fear of offending others. If Martin Luther had held this attitude, the truth of justification by faith would not have been recovered in the Reformation. Since the truth of Christ being the Spirit is in the New Testament, we should be free to teach it. I told the brother that if I did not minister this truth, I would have no burden to speak to God's people. A month later, in the summer of 1964, I gave several messages based on this truth, which have been published in The Economy of God.

Stanza 5 of Hymns, #490 says, "Thou, Lord, the Father once wast called, / But now the Holy Spirit art." This hymn was written by Brother Watchman Nee based on Isaiah 9:6 and 2 Corinthians 3:17. He had clear light concerning Christ being the Spirit. We need to know that the Lord is the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6-7). Our knowledge of Christ as the Spirit is very much related to our experience of Christ.

We do not teach in a light way that Christ is the Son, the Father, and also the Spirit. We have spent many years studying this matter in the Bible and in our experience. The New Testament tells us that the Father is in us (Eph. 4:6), the Son is in us (2 Cor. 13:5; Col. 1:27), and the Spirit is in us (John 14:17). According to our experience, do we have three or one in us? In John 14:23 Jesus said, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make an abode with him." Here the Lord said that "We," the Father and the Son, will abide in the disciples. However, it is not accurate to say that two or three dwell in us, because the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are one.

Shortly before Brother Nee was imprisoned, he wrote a hymn that says,

Thou, Lord, the Father once wast called,

But now the Holy Spirit art;

The Spirit is Thine other form,

Thyself to dwell within our heart. (Hymns, #490)

Prior to his imprisonment, Brother Nee published a large hymnal containing a thousand and fifty-six songs. Some of the best hymns in our hymnal were taken from that source. One of the hymns in our hymnal, number 490, was written by Brother Nee and translated by us for inclusion in our hymnal. The fifth stanza says,

Thou, Lord, the Father once wast called,

But now the Holy Spirit art;

The Spirit is Thine other form,

Thyself to dwell within our heart.

The original Chinese, which is much clearer than the English, says "Once You were the Father; now You are the Spirit." Now you know from where I derived the truth that Christ is the Spirit. This truth has been practiced, testified, and fully proved by my own experience. I say once again that we don't care for doctrine; we care for experience.

Over fifty years ago, Brother Watchman Nee often told us that the Lord Jesus was the Son, but in eternity past He was the Father, and after resurrection He was the Spirit. Hymns, #490 was written by him. Verse 5 says:

...

The above verse is written from the economical point of view. A form is a mode. If you do not know that in God's divine economy there is the essential Trinity and there is the economical Trinity, and if you do not know the difference and the distinction between them, you will think that Brother Nee was teaching the heresy of modalism. Essentially speaking, the Triune God is one. But economically speaking, there is the distinction of three. I will not say that there are three modes, for I do not want to be mistaken for a modalist. This is why I use the expression, "distinction of three." In the Lord Jesus' conception, birth, human living, death on the cross, and resurrection, the Triune God was in Him passing through all these processes together with Him. The Father was in Him; the Son was in Him; and the Spirit was in Him. The whole Triune God was in Him. Essentially speaking, the Father and the Spirit never departed from Him. But in the aspect of God's economy, after the Lord Jesus' baptism, the Holy Spirit was upon Him as His power for three and a half years. Then at the time when He was put on the cross, God forsook Him. This is not according to His essence but is according to His economy. Over twenty years ago, I wrote a book in English entitled The Economy of God. In this book there is a passage that reads, "Thus, the three Persons of the Trinity become the three successive steps in the process of God's economy" (p. 10). Here I said "three successive steps in the process of God's economy." In the book The God-Men, my opposers changed the word "economy" to "existence," making it read that there are three successive steps in God's existence. This is far off from what I wrote. What I said was that the Triune God has three successive steps in His economy. But the opposers changed my words to read that the Triune God has three successive steps in His existence. This is a great misrepresentation! In God's existence there are not three successive steps because the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are coexistent from eternity. Although there are three, yet They are one God. This is the essential Trinity. But in God's economy, the Triune God has three successive steps. First, the Father planned. Next, the Son came to accomplish what the Father has planned. Last, the Spirit executes what the Father has planned and what the Son has accomplished. This is the economical Trinity. The Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, have a distinction in Their existence and economy. Anyone who fails to realize this distinction will drift into heresy. I hope that you can clearly understand this difference so that you will not be deceived by the seemingly right but actually wrong teachings.