What Is the Meaning of the Word ‘Salvation’ for Christians?

In his book Spiritual Exercise, Watchman Nee shared what it means when a Christian says that he/she is saved:

Now let us be clear as to the meaning of the word “salvation” in the Bible. What is the objective of salvation? This may not be easily understood by new believers because they lack an accurate knowledge of what salvation is. According to the Bible, salvation is related to the world, not to hell. The opposite of eternal life is perdition (perishing), while the opposite of salvation is the world. We are to be saved out of the world. As long as we belong to the world, we are in the state of perdition.

Let us notice the four cardinal facts concerning the world as shown in the Bible: (a) The world is condemned or judged before God, (b) the world lies in the evil one, (c) the world crucified the Lord Jesus, and (d) the world is an enemy to God. Please note that the world not only sins, but has also crucified the Lord Jesus. It is therefore God’s enemy. These are the four cardinal facts of the world as God sees it. All who are in the world, irrespective of their personal conduct, are already judged and thus in perdition.

What is wrong with people in this world is far more than personal unrighteous acts of behavior. Their very position is wrong before God. How can a person forsake the world if he is still keenly aware of its loveliness? But one day he is made to see the wrong position of the world before God. However lovely the world may be, it has to be forsaken. So salvation deals with deliverance from an improper relationship with, and position in, the world.

What is meant by salvation then? To be saved is.to be released from that fraternity, that position, and that relationship of, in and with the world. In other words, I come out of the world. People are usually most concerned with their personal justification, but they need to be reminded of the place from which they have been saved. Salvation is to be saved out of the world, not only out of hell, for the world is under the judgment of God.

The Law Does Not Contradict Grace; Nor Does the Old Testament Contradict the New Testament

The law does not contradict grace. Nor does the Old Testament contradict the New Testament, according to Watchman Nee, the late Chinese church leader and Christian leader, who was writing in his book, “The Ministry of God’s Word“:

Among God’s children there is a big misunderstanding concerning the Old Testament and the New Testament. Some think that these two testaments contradict each another. They think that the law and grace contradict one another. But in reading God’s Word, can we find the Old Testament contradicting the New Testament or the law contradicting grace? If we read the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians, we will find that there is no contradiction. In fact, Galatians shows us that the two testaments compliment each other. Many people have the wrong notion that the law and grace contradict each other, because they notice that God deals with men in one way in the Old Testament and in another way in the New. They think that the Old Testament and the New contradict each other because God appears to men differently under the law and under grace. They do not realize that the New Testament is an advancement of the Old Testament, not a contradiction of it. Grace is an advancement of the law, not a contradiction of it. We should realize that the New Testament is a continuation and further development of the Old Testament; the two do not contradict each other at all.

Paul tells us that grace did not begin in just the New Testament age. In reading Galatians, we find that the “promise” was given when God called Abraham. In other words, God preached the gospel to Abraham and told him to wait for Christ, through whom blessing would come upon the whole world. At the time God granted Abraham grace, the law had not come in yet. Galatians tells us clearly that God did not give Abraham the law but a promise, which was the gospel (3:8). In Galatians Paul says that our gospel is based on Abraham’s gospel and that our grace is based on the grace that Abraham received. The promise we have received is based on the promise given to Abraham, and the Christ we have received is the very seed of Abraham (vv. 9, 14, 16). Paul clearly shows that both the Old Testament and New Testament follow the same line.

Why then do we have the law? In Galatians Paul says that the law was something that was “added” (3:19). In the beginning God gave man grace; He gave man the gospel. But because sinners did not know or condemn their sins, they were unable to receive grace and the gospel. With the coming of the law, man’s sin was exposed and condemned. But Galatians tells us that even after man was condemned, God still gave him the gospel and the promise. In other words, God does not give us grace at one time and the law at another time. He does not give us the promise at one time and demand work from us at another time. God’s work does not change from beginning to end. Galatians shows us that the grace we receive today is not without precedence; it is the same grace that God gave to Abraham. Because we have become the descendants of Abraham, we are able to inherit this grace and enjoy God’s promise. Hence, the beginning promise, the intervening law, and the accomplishment of Christ’s gospel today are all along the same line. God’s Word is one undivided whole; there are not two lines. It is progressive, not contradictory.

God first gave Abraham the promise. Then He gave the Israelites the law. Are these two contradictory? No. They do not contradict each other. On the contrary, this shows a progression. Today we find God dealing with us according to grace once again. Does this mean another contradiction? No. It is a progression. The way God deals with men becomes clearer and clearer as time goes on. God’s promise to Abraham cannot be annulled by the law which came four hundred and thirty years later (Gal. 3:17). Four hundred and thirty years after He gave Abraham the promise, God gave man the law, not for the purpose of annulling the promise but in order to fulfill it, because one will receive the promise only after becoming conscious of his sins. By shutting up all under sin, God is able to grant man the grace which He dispenses through His Son (vv. 21-22). The Old Testament is progressive and advancing. The New Testament follows the Old Testament, and it is also progressive. The New Testament does not contradict the Old Testament. God’s Word remains one undivided whole. Subsequent ministries of the word expand and develop former revelations and instructions of God; they are neither independent nor contradictory.

A minister of the word today must know what God has spoken in the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is clear that the ministers of the word who wrote the New Testament were acquainted and familiar with the Old Testament. It is also clear that today’s ministers must also be well acquainted with the Old Testament and the New Testament. We must be familiar with the word of the ministers before us. Only then can our words match those of the Old and the New Testaments; only then will our speaking not be independent speakings. The ministry of the word today is not a matter of receiving some independent words from God and speaking such words to men. The ministry of the word today involves a knowledge of what God has spoken in the Old Testament and the New Testament enhanced by renewed light and revelation. When we speak such a word to men, it is God who speaks it. The New Testament ministers of the word spoke on the basis of the Old Testament. When we stand up to speak today, we have to remember that we have plenty of words in the Old Testament and plenty of words in the New Testament already. When the first group of men stood up to speak God’s word, they did not have any spoken word from God to serve as their basis.

When the second group of ministers was raised up, they could only quote as much of the Scripture as the first group had released. When the third, fourth, and subsequent groups were raised up, they could quote more, and they had a broader basis to build upon because more of God’s word had been released. Today we have advanced further and have reached a much richer place. All of the words of the Old Testament have been released, and all of the words of the New Testament have been released. We can find all the words that God has spoken in the Old Testament and the New Testament. At the same time, all of these words are here to judge us. If we are off, these words will tell us that we are speaking from ourselves, not by the Spirit. If our word does not match that of the Old Testament and the New Testament, we can know with certainty that we are off. The Bible is the word of God.

Hence, if we do not know the Old Testament and the New Testament, we cannot be a minister of the word. Everyone who desires to be a minister of God’s word must at least have a practical knowledge of the Bible; he should be so familiar with the Bible that he can apply it at will. If he is not familiar with the whole Bible, he cannot apply it at will, and he cannot be a minister of God’s word. If he has never seen any new light from the written word, he has no basis for his speaking; he does not know when he has veered off in his speaking. This is the reason that we have to familiarize ourselves with the Bible. Otherwise, we will face great obstacles when we try to serve as God’s minister of the word.

Why are So Many Churches Desolate, Poor, and in Ruin? Because They Lack Proper Ministers of the Word

Why are so many churches desolate, poor and in ruin. According to Watchman Nee, the late Chinese church leader and Christian leader, who was writing in his book ‘The Ministry of God’s Word‘, it is because they lack proper ministers whom the Lord can use to deliver His Word.

One basic problem in the church is the lack of proper ministers of the word. This does not mean that God’s word is rare or that the vision or light is unclear. It means that there is a shortage of men whom God can use. God desires that the spirits of prophets be subject to prophets. Who are the prophets to whom the spirits of the prophets will be subject? Can the spirits of prophets be subject to those who walk according to their own will, who give ground to the flesh, and who are stubborn in their mind and emotion? If a man does not bear the mark of the cross in his spirit, he is a wild and proud man. He may have suffered years of discipline, but he is not yet defeated. The Lord’s smiting hand may have been on him once, twice, or even ten times, but he is still not defeated. In spite of the Lord’s repeated chastisement, he is still unyielding. Such a man proves himself to be a useless vessel. Is the problem before us a shortage of vision, light, or the word? No. It is a shortage of prophets whom God can use.

[Indeed], the problem today lies entirely with the ministers. There is no scarcity of vision, light, or God’s word. The problem today is that God cannot find proper ministers. Many times God’s light ceases to be visible to others when it is put into our mouth. Many people speak about the Holy Spirit in their messages, but others do not touch the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, they touch the flesh. Many people speak about God’s holiness, but others do not sense any holiness in them. They only touch a frivolous spirit. Some speak about the cross on the platform, but others can sense that they have never passed through any dealings. There is not even a trace of the cross in them. Some like to speak of love, but only temper, rather than love, is expressed through them. All of these cases speak of a basic problem – something is wrong with the ministers. If all the preaching on this earth today were in the principle of ministry, the church would be very rich. It is unfortunate that there is very little of God’s word despite all of the preaching! This is the basic problem in the church today. Without ministers, there is no inspiration and no revelation. With many people, the more they preach, the further their speaking is from being an inspiration, from being the release of any light, and from being qualified to be called revelation. The problem is with the preachers; they are not the ones whom God can use. God cannot use such men, yet He does not want to speak alone. This is a problem. He has the word, yet He does not want to release this word by Himself. He does not want to be the minister of the word; He wants man to be the minister of His word.

Brothers, God will not speak by Himself. If ministers cannot speak His word, what will be the condition of the church? The church is desolate, poor, and in ruin because human elements have not come up to the standard of God’s word. If God can find a person who has been dealt with by Him, who is broken, and who is prostrate on his face, God’s word will flow through him. We are looking all the time for God’s word, but He is looking all the time for men whom He can use. We are looking for God’s word, while He is looking for ministers. If we are unwilling to be dealt with, we will not be able to work for God. We must not think that such dealings are optional. We should not presume that, after hearing a certain number of messages, we can release the same word. No! If a person is not proper, his message will not be proper. Man can hinder God’s word. The Holy Spirit is not released through the word alone. When God’s word comes to us, we must be free from all hindrances. We must be broken, and we must bear the mark of the cross. Our spirit must be a smitten spirit. God can only use such persons, and the Holy Spirit will only flow through such persons. If the Holy Spirit is locked within us, the hindrance and frustration is our outer man, our emotion, and our temperament. When such things are present within us, surely God’s word cannot flow through us. Even if we deliver a wonderful sermon, in reality it is nothing but words, teachings, and doctrines; there is not the word of God.

Watchman Nee: Some Christians are Not Healed of Their Illness Because They Love the Attention They Get From It

Do you notice that some Christians are never healed of their sickness yet never tire of talking about it? According to Watchman Nee, the late Chinese church leader and Christian leader, who was writing in his book “Messages for Building Up New Believers, Volume 2, the reason that they are not healed may be because they take pleasure from the attention that they are getting from their illness:

I can report hundreds of cases that I have witnessed during the past twenty or more years of my life. They all prove that many people are sick for specific reasons. Their illnesses are healed immediately when they identify the causes, deal with them, and remove them. As long as the causes remain, they cannot be healed.

I know of a brother who always desired affection from others. He wanted to be loved, to be spoken to nicely, to receive visits, and to be treated in a gentle way. If anyone asked how he was doing, he immediately would relate everything that had happened the previous night or that morning in a detailed way. He could tell others almost the exact time of his fever, from what hour to what hour, and the kind of headache he experienced, from what hour to what hour. He could tell you exactly how many times he breathed and how many times his heart beat a minute. He was always feeling ill, and he always liked to tell others about his illness. He wanted the warm sympathy of others. If you talked to him, he would have nothing to talk about except his illness. Every day he talked about his illness, and he wondered why he was never healed.

It is not an easy thing to speak an honest word to others. One must pay a price to speak the truth. One day I gathered enough strength within myself to speak to this one. I said, “The only reason you have been sick so long is that you like to be sick.” He denied it. I said, “Do you not love your illness? You are afraid that this illness will leave you. You love your illness.” He denied it again. But I said, “You like others to sympathize with you and to love you. You like others to take care of you and to treat you nicely. You cannot have it by other means, so you try to get it by becoming ill. If you want to be healed by the Lord, you must rid yourself of this thought! When others ask how you are doing, you need to learn to say, ‘I am fine.’ See what will happen if you do that! When others ask how you were doing the night before, you should say, ‘Fine!’” He said, “My heart is sincere. I cannot lie. I feel that I am not fine. What should I do if I truly was not well the night before?” I said, “Let me read you a verse. The son of the Shunammite woman was lying on the bed already dead. She went to see Elisha, and he asked, ‘Is it well with you?…Is it well with the child? And she said, It is well’ (2 Kings 4:26). Actually, her son was lying on the bed already dead. Why did she say that it was well? She said it because she believed. She believed that God would save her son. Today you can believe, too. When others ask, ‘How were you last night?’ You should say, ‘Fine.’ It is fine even if you died the night before. You have to believe that it was fine.” He had nothing to say after these words. As soon as he denied his self-love, rejected sympathy, and dropped his expectation for consolation, his illness went away.

We must realize that many illnesses have internal causes as well as external causes. A man must learn to believe in God. When God’s purpose is achieved, the sickness goes away. Once God achieves His spiritual goal in us, our sickness is over.

Why Are Unbelievers Often Easily Healed, While Christians Are Not Healed So Easily? (Watchman Nee)

Why are unbelievers often easily healed, while Christians are not healed so easily? Watchman Nee, the late Chinese church leader and Christian leader, explains this phenomenon in his book “Messages for Building Up New Believers, Volume 2:

It is interesting to note that unbelievers often are easily healed, while Christians are not healed so easily. The New Testament shows that when unbelievers went to the Lord, they were healed immediately. The Bible also speaks of the gift of healing. Both believers and unbelievers can be healed through the gift of healing. However, the Bible also shows that some Christians were never healed. Trophimus was one, Timothy was another, and Paul was a third. These three were the best brothers in the New Testament. Paul kept Trophimus in Miletus because he was sick and nothing could be done (2 Tim. 4:20). Paul advised the sick Timothy to take some wine because his stomach was not clean; Timothy was not healed. Even Paul himself suffered and was weak because of an eye disease or some other malady. This is why he said that there was a thorn in his flesh (2 Cor. 12:7). A thorn always irritates people. Even though a thorn is very small, it is very uncomfortable when lodged in the flesh. Even when it is lodged in the little finger, it can be very painful. Paul’s thorn was not a small one but a big one. This thorn caused discomfort to his whole body. In verse 9 he used the term weakness, which tells us how much he suffered! These three persons were the best brothers, yet they were never healed. Instead, they bore their illnesses.

Illnesses are different from sins. Sins cannot yield the fruit of sanctification, whereas illnesses can yield the fruit of sanctification. It is wrong to lump illnesses together with sins. There are some similarities between the two, but there are also many dissimilarities. The more a man sins, the filthier he becomes. But a man does not become filthier by becoming sick. In fact, he can become holy through his sickness, because God’s disciplining hand is with his sickness. Sickness can result in discipline. When God’s children are sick, they have to learn to submit to God’s mighty hand (1 Pet. 5:6).

Watchman Nee: Some Believers Become Sick Because of Individualism, Disobedience or Defilement of the Body

According to Watchman Nee, the late Chinese church leader and Christian leader, believers can become sick because of a variety of reasons.

Writing in his book “Messages for Building Up New Believers, Volume 2, Nee noted that individualism, disobedience and physical defilement in believers can lead to sickness:

Sometimes there is another reason for illness—individualism. Please remember that individualism is the biggest source of illness. Some people are individualistic; they do things according to their own will. They act by themselves and are always on their own. When God disciplines them, they become ill, and the supply of the Body no longer reaches them. If this is the reason for a person’s illness, he needs to ask for the supply of the Body to flow through him once again.

I dare not say that I have listed all of the reasons for our sicknesses. There are many causes for sickness. Some become sick because they have disobeyed a command of the Lord. Others become sick because they have not fully carried out the Lord’s command. Still others become sick because of a certain sin or because of their individualism. Some are individualistic, yet God does not discipline them. However, there are many people, especially those who know the church, who become ill as soon as they become individualistic. Those who do not know the church have less illness. The more we know about the church and the more we are related to the church, the more the Lord will put us in a situation where His hand will be heavy upon us as soon as we become individualistic.

Sometimes a person becomes sick because he has defiled his body. Whoever defiles his body will find God destroying His temple in that person.

There are many causes for illness, and I cannot give a list of all of them. I can say only that there is always a reason behind any illness. We must always find the cause of our illnesses. There may be one or more than one reason. Once you discover these reasons, you must confess them one by one to God. Then call for the responsible ones of the church, confess to them, and pray together with them. Ask them to anoint you and to recover you to the life of the Body. You will find your illness immediately gone when life begins to flow through you once again. Although there are natural causes for sickness, you must know that spiritual reasons far outweigh natural reasons. Once you take care of the spiritual reasons, the illnesses will leave promptly.

When a Believer Falls Sick and Rushes to See a Doctor Instead of First Praying and Trusting God for Her Healing, It May be a Reflection of Self-Obsession and Self-Centredness (Watchman Nee)

Many believers, when they fall sick, rush to see a doctor instead of first praying and trusting God for his/her healing.

According Watchman Nee, the late Chinese church leader and Christian leader, who was writing In his book “Messages for Building Up New Believers, Volume 2, this could be a reflection of self-obsession and self-centerdness:

Many people are afraid that they will die as soon as they become sick. They immediately look for a doctor after they become ill and anxiously look forward to their healing. This should not be a believer’s attitude. A person first must find out the cause of his illness. Many brothers and sisters have no patience at all. The first thing they do when they are ill is to look for healing. They hastily find a doctor. They are afraid that they will lose their precious lives. On the one hand, they pray as if they trust in God for their healing. On the other hand, they rush to the doctor for medicine and injections. They are afraid, and they treasure their own lives very much. This shows us clearly that they are fully obsessed with themselves. They are too self-centered during ordinary times. When they become sick, they become even more self-centered. It is impossible for a man to be full of the self at ordinary times yet be free from the self when he is sick. Those who are full of self at ordinary times will surely anxiously seek healing when they are sick.

I can assure you of the futility of such anxiety about your sickness. Being healed is not that simple in the case of a person who belongs to God. Even if you are healed, your sickness may come back. In addition, other kinds of illnesses may come. You must first take care of your problem with God before you can settle the problem of your body. A problem of the body cannot be resolved if a problem before God is not resolved. You must first discover the cause of your sickness before God and then seek healing afterward. You must learn the lesson that comes along with your illness. Even in the case of a sudden severe illness, you must not ignore this lesson. If you deal with God in this way, He will intervene for you and will deliver you out of your woe in a short time.

Very often we find that we are sick because we have sinned or have committed some mistakes. We must confess to the Lord and ask for forgiveness. Only then can we expect any healing. As we advance a little further in God, we may realize that there is not only sin but also Satan’s attack. At times sickness may be a matter of God’s discipline. He disciplines us in order that we would become more sanctified, tender, and obedient before Him. There can be many reasons for our sicknesses, and we have to deal with them one by one before the Lord. As we deal with them one by one, we will discover the actual cause of our illness. Sometimes God allows help to come from natural means or from medicine, but at other times, God may not want us to receive help from medicine. He can heal us in an instant.

We need to realize that healing is always in God’s hands. We need to learn to look to the God who heals! In the Old Testament God has a name: “For I am Jehovah who healeth thee” (Exo. 15:26, New Translation). This name of God is a verb; it is a very special name. We need to learn to look to Jehovah, the One who heals. He will always deal graciously with His children.