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Watchman Nee:  A Chinese Christian Explains Some Difficult Ideas

Sometimes Christians use words and phrases which they only kinda-sorta understand. Fortunately, a Chinese Christian named Watchman Nee has given a very good description of two of these phrases/words: the Blood of Christ and the Cross. So, first an introduction to the fascinating Watchman Nee; then his definition of these ideas which might help you understand them better; and finally, a concise way to remember mercy and grace.

Watchman Nee (1903-1972), whose Chinese name was Nee Shu-tsu, was born in China to Christian parents. Nee became a Christian at the age of 17 (in 1920), and changed his first name to To-sheng, which in Chinese means "watchmanís rattle"; he explained that he considered himself Godís watchman in the night. He began writing Christian literature that same year. He founded a number of churches plus began a Christian publishing house and a Christian magazine. Eventually he wrote 154 books, according to the website In addition, his personal library ran to a total of 3000 Christian books.

In 1952 Nee was arrested as a Christian and for being a leader in churches and the community during the rise of the Communist Cultural Revolution under Mao Tse-Dung. He was sentenced in 1956 to 15 years imprisonment, although he remained in prison until his death 16 years later. His best known word is called The Normal Christian Life. It is not really a book but a collection of sermons he gave. The following is an excerpt, which includes a good brief definition of the Blood of Jesus and the Cross:

"In the first part of Romans 1 to 8, we twice have reference to the Blood of the Lord Jesus, in 3:25 and in 5:9. In the second [part of Romans 1 to 8], a new idea is introduced in 6:6, where we are said to have been "crucified" with Christ. The argument of the first part gathers around that aspect of the work of the Lord Jesus which is represented by "the Blood" shed for our justification through "the remission of sins." This terminology is, however, not carried on into the second section, where the argument centers now in the aspect of his work represented by "the Cross," that is to say, by our union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. This distinction is a valuable one. We shall see [in later chapters] that the Blood deals with what we have done, whereas the Cross deals with what we are. The Blood disposes of our sins, while the Cross strikes at the root of our capacity for sin."

To expand on this idea, Nee states that by Jesusí death he performed two actions. The blood he shed was in response to oneís actual sins and satisfied the demand for blood sacrifice when one sinned, found in the Old Testament. The death on the cross, burial, and resurrection was in response to the separation humans have from God; this is healed in Christ. Therefore, Nee believes that humanity had two deficits before God: individual sins committed in disobedience and separation from God; Christ satisfied both.

Now about mercy and grace. I did not come up with these definitions but heard them at seminary while working on my master of divinity degree. Mercy = not receiving what you deserve; Grace = receiving what you donít deserve. So, we receive mercy from God in that we are forgiven our sins, and we receive grace in that God cares for us in spite of our disobedience to Him.

©2007 Mark Nickens

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