Shortly after Watchman Nee was saved, he began to love the Lord and was intensely burdened to preach the gospel to his schoolmates and countrymen in season and out of season. Through his preaching nearly all his schoolmates were led to the Lord...
Witness Lee was born in 1905 in northern China and raised in a Christian family. At age 19 he was fully captured for Christ and immediately consecrated himself to preach the gospel for the rest of his life. Early in his service, he met Watchman Nee, a renowned preacher, teacher, and writer.
The Application of the Spirit, Life-Study of 2 Thessalonians, Message Six, pp. 47-52
Scripture Reading: 2 Thes. 1:3-5, 10-11; 2:13-14, 16
In 2 Thessalonians 2:13 Paul speaks of salvation in sanctification of the Spirit. Here we have three basic elements: salvation, sanctification, and the Spirit. All these terms refer to basic elements of God's salvation. According to Paul's word in 2:13, God has chosen us unto salvation. The word "unto" means with a view to. Here Paul is saying that God has chosen us with a view to salvation; He has chosen us so that we may enter into salvation. In the foregoing message we pointed out that salvation here can be compared to a long bridge, to a bridge with a very long span. The bridge of God's salvation reaches from time to eternity; it brings us out of this present age into eternity. God has chosen us with a view of bringing us onto this bridge.
In order to understand these elementary writings to the Thessalonians, let us analyze some of the words and expressions used by Paul. Second Thessalonians 2:13 says, "But we ought to thank God always concerning you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." The phrase "from the beginning" in this verse refers to eternity past. God's choosing is His selection. God the Father chose us, selected us, in eternity past. Paul speaks of this selection in Ephesians 1:4 "According as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blemish before Him, in love." God the Father in eternity had a plan, a purpose. For the fulfillment of this purpose He has selected us. We all have been selected by God. We have been chosen according to His foreknowledge. Long before we were born, even before the foundation of the world, God the Father saw us and knew us. When God saw us, He was happy with us. He may have said to Himself concerning you, "I want this one for My eternal purpose."
The case of Esau and Jacob is an illustration of God's selection. Romans 9:13 says, "As it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." As God considered the twins, Esau and Jacob, He could say to Himself, "I don't like Esau, the first one. I am not happy with him. I prefer the second one, Jacob, the supplanter."
If you ask me to explain why God loves Jacob and hates Esau, I would have to answer that I am not able to explain it. I do not know why God loves Jacob, but hates Esau. Only He knows the reason. God has His own desire. The Bible tells us that God loved Jacob and hated Esau, but it does not give us the reason.
When I was young, I thought that God was unfair. It seemed to me that Esau was much better than Jacob. Jacob was a thief and a deceiver. Eventually, I had no choice but to accept what the Bible says regarding God's loving Jacob and hating Esau.
As those who have been selected by God the Father, we all are Jacobs. None of us is an Esau. Because we are Jacobs, we should not consider ourselves gentlemen. No, like Jacob our forefather, we are supplanters. But we are supplanters who have been selected by God the Father in eternity past.
I would like to say a word especially to the young people. Because you were selected by God in eternity past, there is no point in trying to run away from Him. In a very real sense, God is a great fisherman, and He has "hooked" you. God hooked you in eternity. Therefore, there is no way you can get off His hook.
In eternity past God spread many hooks attached to long strings. The hook on which you were caught was floating free until one day the hook came to you, and you were caught. Now you cannot get off the hook. God the Father has chosen you, and you cannot escape.
After man was created, he fell and became corrupt. Therefore, God the Son came to redeem us and accomplish what God had planned. Following that, God the Spirit came to apply what God had planned and what Christ, the Son of God, had accomplished. This application is sanctification.
We may not have had any thought concerning God or any heart toward Christ. Nevertheless, one day we were caught by the Spirit, and the Spirit began to apply what the Father has planned and what the Son has accomplished. As a result, for no apparent reason, we came to believe in the Lord Jesus.
Even though our friends, neighbors, schoolmates, and associates may not believe in Christ, we cannot help believing in Him. I can testify of this from my own experience. One day I began to love the Lord Jesus. I have never seen Him, but I love Him. He is so good to me! Others may say that this is superstitious and regard Jesus as nothing. To them I would say, "You may not care for the Lord Jesus, but I love Him." This is not any kind of superstition. It is the application of the Spirit.
As we have pointed out, the application of the Spirit is what Paul means in 2:13 by sanctification. When we receive the application of the Spirit, we are separated to the Lord.
My friends and classmates could not understand what had happened to me, and I myself could not explain it. I only know that, at the age of nineteen, I suddenly lost my interest in other things and cared only for the Lord. I loved to pray, call on the Lord's name, read the Bible, go to meetings, and tell others how lovable the Lord Jesus is. Certain people wondered who hired me to do this. I told them, "I have not been hired by anyone. Rather, I am willing to spend as much money as possible to print tracts that I myself have written." This was my early experience of the sanctification of the Spirit.
When I was a young person, I loved to play soccer. One day, after I was saved, I was playing soccer. At a certain time, when the ball came to me, something within said, "Stop! Don't play any longer. Leave the soccer field." All the players were shocked; they did not know what had happened to me. Then I walked off the field and told them that I would not play soccer any longer. That was an experience of the sanctification of the Spirit. Many of us can give testimonies concerning the Spirit's sanctification. Even though you may be very young in the Lord, the Spirit is nevertheless being applied to you. Whatever the Spirit applies to you is an aspect of your sanctification.
Because we have experienced the application of the Spirit, we do not have the freedom to do certain things that others are able to do. This is not a matter of teaching; it is a matter of God the Spirit living within us. God the Father loves us and has chosen us. God the Son died for us and accomplished redemption for us. Now God the Spirit has come to apply all this to us.
I believe that many of the sisters can testify that being sanctified by the Spirit affects their shopping. Because they have been sanctified by the Spirit, their shopping has become different. As they are considering the purchase of a particular item, the Spirit within them may say, "Don't touch that." The Spirit may say no much more than He says yes. No one teaches the sisters to change their way of shopping. The different way of shopping is the result of the sanctification of the Spirit. It is in this sanctification of the Spirit that we are saved. This is salvation in sanctification of the Spirit.
It is very easy for a husband and wife to exchange words. This is extremely common in married life. But I can testify that in the sanctification of the Spirit I have been saved from exchanging words with my wife. If I did not have the sanctification of the Spirit, I would probably exchange words with my wife every day. However, I can testify before the Lord that in my married life I have been saved in sanctification of the Spirit from exchanging words with my wife.
Every day, even every minute, we are being sanctified. The One who sanctifies us is the Spirit. This is the reason the Bible speaks of the sanctification of the Spirit. All day long the Spirit, the third of the Trinity, is sanctifying us, applying to us what the Father has planned and what the Son has accomplished. Oh, we have such a practical, living, and subjective Sanctifier!
Even while we are sinning, the Spirit is sanctifying us. You may be committing a sin, but even then the Spirit is working to sanctify you. How gracious this is!
In Hebrews 10:29 the Spirit is even called the Spirit of grace. As believers in Christ, we all have received the Spirit of grace. The Spirit of grace sanctifies us unconditionally, that is, without any conditions or terms. The Spirit has been commissioned to sanctify us. He has been given to us for the purpose of completing the work of sanctification.
Sanctification separates us unto God by putting a mark on us. This mark is actually the Triune God Himself. Whenever we are sanctified, we are marked with the Triune God. As a result, others can see the Triune God in us. Furthermore, this mark is increasing and becoming more intensified. Year after year, this mark has been wrought deeply into my life. This is the work of the Spirit's sanctification. By the sanctifying work of the Spirit we are being saved. Furthermore, this is the way we live a holy life for the church life.