Watchman Nee was 17 years old when converted to Messiah, having become a born again Christian in mainland China. He began writing the year of his conversion, and ministered for nearly 30 years. In 1952, he was imprisoned for his faith, and remained in prison in China until he died in 1972. His edifying doctrinal teaching has continued to provide spiritual revelation to believers the world over. I was a new believer when Watchman Nees writings were shared with me. His clear, biblically based teachings were used by God in my spiritual growth. I have had his book Release of the Spirit on my bookshelf for 32 years.
THE MYSTERY HIDDEN IN THE AGES
Eph. 3:4-6; John 12:32; Luke 12:50-52
In Ephesians 3:4-6 Paul speaks of his understanding of the mystery of Christ. This mystery was not made known to the sons of men in other generations. The men of old did not know of the mystery that God spoke through Paul, which involves the Jews and Gentiles becoming one new man in Christ Jesus. This is the corporate Christ, which is the church. Verse 6 of chapter three is a precious verse. The words “fellow members” refer to the new man in Ephesians 2:15. The new man stands in contrast to the old man. There are many individual men in this world, but there is only one old man. In the same way, there are many Christians, but there is only one new man—the church.
ONE NEW MAN
In order to understand what the new man is, we must first understand what the old man is. The old man is the God-created man who fell through sin. Every person in Adam is not only a sinner before God, but also an old man. When such a sinner, the old man, hears the gospel and believes in Christ and is saved, he becomes a new man. Not only has he become a new man individually; he is joined to all other Christians to become one corporate new man as well. Ephesians 1 speaks of the church as the Body of Christ; chapter two speaks of the church as the new man; chapter three speaks of the mystery of Christ; chapter four speaks of the way to build up the Body of Christ; chapter five speaks of the responsibility of the church; and chapter six speaks of the warfare of the church. The peak of God's work is the church, which is the new man. God saves us so that we will become a new man in Christ.
A great lack among Christians today is that everyone wants to be an individual Christian. Everyone wants to be good and zealous; everyone wants to sit and listen to good sermons. In short, everyone wants to be a Christian in an individual way. But God does not just want us to be good on an individual basis. He is after a corporate vessel that will destroy Satan and accomplish His plan. God does not want to see Christians scattered like a pan of sand. He wants Christians to be joined together to become a corporate new man.
WHAT IS THE NEW MAN?
Ephesians 2 speaks of Christ creating one new man out of two groups of people, but it does not tell us what the new man is like. According to Colossians 3:10-12, the new man is renewed unto full knowledge according to the image of Him who created him. In the new man there is no Greek or Jew, circumcision or uncircumcision, barbarian or Scythian, slave or free man, but Christ is all and in all. The new man is not a matter of having or not having distinctions; it is a matter of either being the new man or being nothing. The new man is not in the realm of being a Greek or a Jew. The new man is simply Christ. The nature of the new man is Christ. In the new man Christ is all and in all. We can even venture to say that Christ is the church and the church is Christ, because everything in the new man—the church—is simply Christ. The constitution of the new man is nothing less than Christ Himself.
THE CHURCH BEING CHRIST
Since the nature of the new man—the church—is Christ, we can say that the church is Christ. Let us read two passages. In Luke 12:50-52 the Lord said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, … Do you think that I have come to give peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Why did the Lord say this? He said this because He had said that He would cast fire on the earth. This fire is the fire of God's life. This means He would release His life on the earth to all those who would believe in Him so that they would be regenerated and receive God's life. This matter, however, could only be accomplished after His baptism, which refers to His crucifixion. John 12 reveals that the church is produced out of Christ's and resurrection. He is the grain of wheat that fell into the earth, died, and brought forth many grains—the church—in resurrection. From these two passages we can see that the church is produced by the life of Christ. Through His and resurrection, Christ released His life and dispensed it into the believers. These believers are then joined together to become the church.
THE CHURCH BEING THE CORPORATE CHRIST
In the New Testament there are two ways to look at Christ. On the one hand, He is Jesus Christ the Nazarene—this is the individual Christ. On the other hand, He is Christ plus the church—the corporate Christ. First Corinthians 12:12 refers to the second aspect when it says, “All the members of the body, being many, are one body, so also is the Christ.” Anything apart from Christ is not the church. There is only one thing in a Christian that forms a part of the church—Christ. The church is the corporate Christ. In the church there is only Christ. During the bread-breaking meeting, the portion that we break off from the whole still signifies the Body of Christ, the church. The church is not what is added to Christ but what issues out from Christ.
Today there are divisions among God's children because there are differences in organizations, personal views, concepts, choices, preferences, and doctrines. But in God's eyes the church is inseparable. All these differences are merely outward differences; they are not differences in the intrinsic reality of the church. The church is the composition of all the believers with Christ. The church is the corporate Christ. When all the saints are joined together in Christ, we have the church. Since there is only one Christ, there can be only one church. Hence, it is indivisible and inseparable.