In The Economy of God (Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 1968) Witness Lee presents through both Scriptural backing and simple illustration what he calls God’s Economy. His burden, in my own words, is to bring our attention to God’s arrangement to dispense Himself in His Trinity into the believers’ spirits, souls, and bodies to make them His dwelling place on earth.
He then contrasts God’s economy with a variety of different things. Doctrines about rapture or baptism, the desire to be good or strong, or emphasizing spiritual gifts are all distractions from God’s central aim. Perhaps Lee’s intent is to meet a need he sees in Christianity: that Christians don’t know how to contact the very God whom they love and serve. He often charges us to pay full attention to the mark of God’s economy, rather than any particular teaching or self-improvement. This exhortation, like his focus, might take cue from Paul’s exhortation of Timothy in 1 Tim.1:3-7 where two phrases catch our attention: God’s economy and misaimed:
“That you might charge certain ones not to teach different things nor to give heed to myths and unending genealogies, which produce questionings rather than God’s economy, which is in faith. But the end of the charge is love out of a pure heart and out of a good conscience and out of unfeigned faith; from which things some, having misaimed, have turned aside to vain talking, desiring to be teachers of the law.” 1 Tim. 1:3-7
The Triune God and tripartite man
Lee develops two lines that converge at this mark. He traces how God dispenses Himself into man by incarnation, redemption, resurrection, and ascension, and the outpouring of the all-inclusive Spirit into man’s spirit. Second, he ties together various verses from both testaments to show that man is tripartite.
His aim here is no mere Biblical dissection of humanity, but an emphatic call to direct our attention to our most crucial part, our human spirit. Could this be because Scripture has convinced him that God’s entire economy hinges on our spirit mingled with God’s Spirit?
Let us now turn to ourselves and consider what we are as containers. Do not think that we are so simple. I believe the medical doctors could tell is that the human body is very delicate and complicated. A human being is not a simple container, like a bottle containing a beverage; on the contrary, man has many different parts. This is why we must know the different parts of man as well as the three persons of God in order to hit the mark of God’s economy. Gods economy involves His three persons, and the mark of his economy involves our different parts (The Economy of God, p. 50).
A tripartite temple
The deeper reason Lee focuses on the spirit of man is God’s need for a dwelling place on earth. He aligns our tripartite being with the tabernacle in Exodus 25 to show where God’s presence dwells:
God’s temple according to the Old Testament is portrayed in three parts: the first is the outer court, the second is the holy place, and the third is the Holiest of all, the Most Holy place…The Scriptures point out that we too are the temple (1 Cor. 3:16). We as tripartite beings are also composed of three parts-the body, the soul, and the spirit. But in which part of our being does the Triune God dwell? 2 Timothy 4:22 states clearly that the Lord is in our spirit. Our spirit is the very holiest of all. The typology of the Old Testament temple presents a very clear picture. Christ and God’s presence are in the holiest of all. Today this type of the temple of God is fulfilled in us. We are of three parts: our body corresponds to the outer court, are soul to the holy place, and our spirit to the holiest of all, which is the very residence of Christ and God’s presence (pp. 29-30).
From the beachhead in our spirit…
After God enters the spirit of a believer, Lee points out that He is not content to stay put:
God’s first step, therefore, is to regenerate our spirit; His second step is to transform our soul; and finally, the last step is to transfigure, or change, our body at the second coming of the Lord (p. 116).
But there is resistance. Satan’s strategy, unveiled throughout the book, consists of counterfeiting God’s economy. The beginning of the Bible shows man and two trees: the tree of life signifying God and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, signifying Satan. Satan induced man to eat of the wrong tree and thereby injected Himself into man as sin. Man thus illegally “married” Satan. Satan then constructed a counter-economy focused on filling man with substitutes for God and ending in man’s death. Lee expresses the battle of the two economies and states that the human soul is the battleground:
As the human spirit becomes a base from which God can spread himself, so the same principle is true with this corrupted body. The flesh, possessed by Satan, becomes the base from which he can do his devilish work. Satan takes his place in the flesh to influence the soul, and then through the soul to deaden the spirit. The direction of all satanic work always begins from the outside and works toward the inside. But the divine work always starts from the center and spreads toward the circumference (p. 117).
Some differences between the two economies:
- Satan deceived Eve and persuaded her to eat the wrong tree, injecting his nature into man. God charges that men should repent so His divine life and nature can get into them.
Satan corrupted man’s body into the flesh and soul into the self and deadened man’s spirit. God transforms man’s soul and will transfigure man’s corrupted body into one of His likeness.
Satan systematized the world to occupy and enslave men. God created the earth orderly for men to inhabit and rule.
Satan intends to kill man. God intends that men have eternal life.
How God handles the fall
God’s handling of the fallen situation: incarnation to become a man in the likeness of the flesh of sin, Jesus Christ. Then at the cross Christ trapped Satan in man’s flesh, bore our sins, and terminated all things related to Satan and the old creation. Three days later, Christ resurrected to germinate the new creation and become the life-giving Spirit.
Lee brilliantly relates Christ’s work to our experience of His Spirit today. In essence the second half of the book, some 110 pages, expounds the Spirit’s application to us of all that Christ is and has attained and obtained. Christ’s crucifixion is applied to us, then the riches of resurrection are applied to us, including the fruit of the Spirit. The inner law of life and inner anointing are ours to know God, and the fellowship of life and sense of life also, to know the things of life and death. Then the exercise and entrance to our spirit are reviewed, and at this point the church is mentioned as the goal of God’s economy.
This post is intended to whet the appetite. May we learn of our brother to know our spirit, exercise our spirit (like a muscle), and abide in Christ. Knowing that Christ today is not only in the heavens but also within us as the Spirit is indeed remarkable. Even more remarkable, I think, is being granted the grace to cooperate with God’s economy as presented by Witness Lee.
For more reading, you can get a free copy of the book here, from Bibles for America.
Why the Economy of God is a must-read for every Christian – Holdingtotruth.com