Lord, Thou didst know when in the flesh
Let us read Hymns, #491. The first stanza says, "Lord, Thou didst know when in the flesh, / As such I'd know Thee shallowly; / Then as the Spirit Thou didst come / Within my spirit, known to be." When the Lord was living in the flesh, people did not know Him thoroughly; hence, He became the Spirit to dwell in our spirit in order that He may reveal Himself in a clear way.
I will share a testimony with you. Immediately after I was saved, I loved the Lord and loved to read the Bible. From reading the Bible I admired Peter because he was able to follow the Lord Jesus every day. I believe that we all subconsciously admire Peter, James, and John for being in the Lord's presence at the Sea of Galilee. Let me ask the older brothers and sisters, "Would you prefer the Lord Jesus to stand in front of you, or would you prefer the Lord Jesus to live inside of you?" You may say that it is better for Him to live inside of you, but in fact, you subconsciously appreciate the age of the disciples because they could see the Lord Jesus standing in front of them in the flesh. This shows that we do not adequately appreciate and treasure the Lord Jesus becoming the Spirit and living in us.
The second stanza says, "In flesh Redeemer mine Thou art; / As Spirit now my Comforter. / The outward touch has passed away/ For inward union worthier." The third stanza further says, "Because Thou art the Spirit now, / Thyself revealing ceaselessly, / Within my spirit I may know / Thy presence and reality." The fourth stanza says, "I know Thy life surpassing far / The knowledge Thy disciples had, / Although they walked and lived with Thee, / When Thou on earth in flesh wast clad." According to these words, are we not more blessed than the people who lived in the age of the disciples? Because Christ has become the Spirit, we are in an inward union with Him.
In the United States, for almost twenty years we have been engaged in a battle over Christ becoming the Spirit. I have used two verses—1 Corinthians 15:45b, which says, "The last Adam became a life-giving Spirit," and 2 Corinthians 3:17, which says, "The Lord is the Spirit"—to shut the mouths of the opposers. The opposers said that since the definite article the does not precede life-giving Spirit, the last Adam only became "a" life-giving Spirit instead of "the" life-giving Spirit, which means that life-giving Spirit does not refer to the Holy Spirit but to a Spirit who can give life to man. In a rebuttal in a newspaper in Southern California, I pointed out that the opposers were saying that besides the Holy Spirit, there is another Spirit who gives life. In other words, they believe that there are two life-giving Spirits. This silenced them.
Regrettably, some of the former so-called co-workers from among us have echoed the opposers' tone, saying that the life-giving Spirit in 1 Corinthians 15 is not the Holy Spirit. These ones have given people the impression that they were Brother Nee's closest co-workers. I would ask them, "What did Brother Nee say in stanza 3 of Hymns, #491?" We must never forget that Christ became the Spirit. We should never think that this is a small thing. This is an unprecedented truth. It is the most significant item of truth recovered by the Lord in the twentieth century.
ONLY BY CHRIST BECOMING THE SPIRIT CAN WE EXPERIENCE HIM
If Christ is not the Spirit, who can touch Him? If He is not the Spirit, who can experience Him? If Christ is not the Spirit, who can be saved? Stanzas 5 and 6 of Hymns, #491 say,
Because Thy Spirit dwells within,
How real, O Lord, Thou art to me;
Not touched, yet more reliable,
Not seen, yet loved more fervently.
The Holy Spirit deep within
Supplies Thyself as righteousness,
As holiness, redemption full,
As wisdom and as fruitfulness.
Here Brother Nee connects 1 Corinthians 1:30 with 15:45. Verse 30 of chapter 1 says that Christ became wisdom to us from God: both righteousness and sanctification and redemption; verse 45 of chapter 15 says that Christ became a life-giving Spirit. If there was 1 Corinthians 1:30 but not 1 Corinthians 15:45, how could the Christ in the heavens become wisdom to us: both righteousness and sanctification and redemption? He can become these precious experiences to us because He has become the Spirit. The Spirit is in us today, so He is our daily righteousness, daily sanctification, and daily redemption. Moment by moment He is wisdom to us in all things.
The ending of this hymn is very deep. Stanza 7 says, "Thy Spirit in my spirit now / Supplies Thyself, unites with me, / Thus I am all the time myself/ And constantly am also Thee." In Chinese the first line literally says, "Thou hast become the Spirit dwelling in my spirit." Hast become the Spirit is a very good expression. This hymn could be written with such deep meaning only through experience. It is because Christ has become the Spirit and lives in us that we can experience "Thus I am all the time myself / And constantly am also Thee." I am speaking, and I am living the church life, but at the same time Christ is speaking, and Christ is living the church life. In other words, my speaking is Christ's speaking, and my living is Christ's living.
We have spoken the truth concerning Christ being the Spirit in many messages. I am happy to hear the saints at the Lord's table praise the Lord for becoming the life-giving Spirit. This shows that we have received the spiritual education of this divine truth. In our hymnal, there are also a number of hymns which speak of Christ being the Spirit (Hymns, #490, 491, 493, 539).
Christ is in the believers as the Spirit of life (Rom. 8:2a, 9b). He is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17; 1 Cor. 15:45b). When I came to this country about thirty years ago, I began to tell people that Christ is the Spirit. There are a number of hymns we wrote in our hymnal concerning experiencing Christ as the Spirit (see Hymns, #493, #539). Brother Nee wrote some of these hymns, which stress that the very Christ, whom we experience today as the life that we live, is the Spirit (#490, #491, #492).
We need to give up the thought that the Lord would remain the same in His recovery over a period of twenty years with no improvement. To hold on to things of the past is not the Lord's recovery; rather, it is oldness. Our progress in the truth and in the growth in life does not change the Bible. By the Lord's mercy we began to see more in the Bible and to move according to what we saw. No one can deny that the life-giving Spirit is central in the New Testament. Even though Brother Nee may not have used the term life-giving Spirit, he saw how crucial the Spirit is in the Bible. Hymns, #491, which was composed by Brother Nee, is strong proof of his realization concerning the Spirit. The truth concerning the life-giving Spirit has always been in the Bible, but until now it has never been emphasized by God's people. By the Lord's mercy we have been led to emphasize the life-giving Spirit not only in truth but also in experience.
Lubbock, TX, United States
This song is a blessing to me!
Seattle, Washington, United States
Thank you Lord that the Holy Spirit supplies thyself as righteousness, holiness, redemption full, wisdom, and as fruitfulness.
Tucker, GA, United States
In flesh Redeemer mine Thou art;
As Spirit now my Comforter.
The outward touch has passed away
For inward union worthier.
Every line of this hymn is worth musing over
San Diego, CA, United States
What a deep, profound, yet experiential hymn this is. Written by brother Watchman Nee who saw that Christ today is the all-inclusive Spirit for us to touch, know and live out moment by moment.
This is so releasing to me because rather than trying to live the life that God wants me to live, I could actually live God Himself because He today is the Spirit. I love Mark 16:12 where Jesus appeared in His resurrection to the two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus. There it says that He appeared to them in a different form. Of course that form was just the life-giving Spirit. So today I don’t need to try figure out what God wants me to do. I simply could live Him in my spirit because He Himself is this wonderful Spirit!
Love this last verse.
Your Spirit in my spirit now supplies Yourself, unites with me, thus I am all the time myself and constantly am also You.
Salem, Oregon, United States
I hope that so many, including myself, would know the deep reality and experience of this hymn in a daily, moment by moment way. I hope this hymn would be sung more frequently, so that its deep message in simple words might penetrate our heart and living and our honor of our God in His economy might thrill us every day, every day blessing Him who blesses us with Himself in such a mysterious and wonderful way.