In the summer of 1964, Witness Lee spoke the messages published in The Economy of God as an informal training in Los Angeles. Then in 1968, The Economy of God became the first ministry book published by Brother Lee in English in the United States. The questions that this book addresses and the experiential key it provides to the reader make this book foundational to a believer’s understanding of the divine truth.
Nearly every person has thoughts concerning God and typically has the accompanying question: “Does God have a plan?” Even many long-time Christians have this kind of question. The answer is found in the phrase God’s economy, and this is the subject of this wonderful book—The Economy of God. If you are new to the ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee or if you know someone who follows this ministry, this book provides a most excellent introduction.
At first glance, the phrase God’s economy may seem like an odd answer to the question, “Does God have a plan?” But in fact, God’s economy is God’s plan. Witness Lee defines this phrase in the forward to The Economy of God:
“God’s economy” is a quotation from 1 Timothy 1:4. Economy is the anglicized form of the Greek word oikonomia, which denotes primarily a household management, a household administration, arrangement, distribution, or dispensation (of wealth, property, affairs, etc.). It is used with the intention of stressing the focal point of God’s divine enterprise, which is to distribute, or dispense, Himself into man. (The Collected Works of Witness Lee, 1964, vol. 3, p. 149)
As Brother Lee points out in this definition, God’s economy, arrangement, and plan is to dispense Himself into man. Our God is like a very wealthy father in a great household. He would like to distribute all His wealth to the members of His household. This wealth is not merely what God has or can do, but more importantly, His wealth is what He is. To distribute this wealth, God made a plan, an economy, to dispense His riches into man.
This economy of God was extremely important to the apostle Paul. In his instruction to Timothy regarding his care for the churches, Paul wrote forcefully that only one thing should be taught in the churches—God’s economy. First Timothy 1:3-4 says, “Even as I exhorted you, when I was going into Macedonia, to remain in Ephesus in order 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.” Paul’s use of strong words like exhorted and charge indicates how much God’s economy meant to him and how much it should mean to us.
Knowing that God does in fact have a plan, an economy, and having this plan become subjective to us in our experience are two very different things. How can God’s economy become real, meaningful, and experiential to us? For this, we need to see that God’s economy has a mark, a key, that makes God’s economy subjective and experiential. Witness Lee explains:
Using our spirit as His center, God works Himself out through us. The Triune God is in the center of our being. This is most wonderful! God came into the human nature, brought the human nature into the divine nature, and put an end to all negative things. Now the Triune God and all that He has accomplished are in our spirit as our life and everything. From this central point the Triune God spreads out to saturate the inward parts of our being with Himself. The human spirit is the very spot of the mark of God’s economy. If we miss this spot, we simply miss the mark of God’s economy. I do not say that this is the goal of God’s economy, but the mark. This mark has been neglected by most Christians today. We may talk about many Scriptural things and not hit this spot. In fact, we must realize that all the teachings of the sixty-six books of the Bible are for this mark. All the different gifts and all the different functions are for this mark and must be centered upon this mark. (The Collected Works of Witness Lee, 1964, vol. 3, p. 338)
This quotation reveals that merely knowing that God has an economy is not enough. We must also realize that our Triune God carries out His economy by passing through a process and coming as the Spirit into our spirit. From our spirit, God would like to spread into all the parts of our being until he fills us completely. This is the mark of God’s economy, to work Himself as the Spirit into our entire being beginning from our spirit. While there are many interesting points in the different books of the Bible, if we miss God’s desire to work Himself into our being from our spirit, we have fully missed the point. Also, while it may be intriguing to consider what our gifts or functions might be as members of the Body, our gifts and functions are empty and meaningless if we do not allow God to work Himself into all the parts of our being. So, once we see that God has an economy, we can realize what God wants. And once we have the mark of God’s economy, we have the key—the Spirit with our spirit—to enter experientially into God’s economy and cooperate with Him to gain what He is after. In this way, God’s economy becomes real and meaningful to us.
But how do we use this key practically? Using this key to cooperate with God involves our entire being, which is composed of all our inward and hidden parts. Our inner being is very complicated. The experience of God dispensing and spreading Himself into our whole being hinges on our understanding of our inward parts, of how they work, and of how we can deal with them. What then are our inward parts, how do they work, and how can we deal with them in relation to the carrying out of God’s economy? The answer to these and other questions, we will leave to you to discover on your own by prayerfully reading The Economy of God. We believe that this book will not only answer many questions regarding God’s economy and our entering into it experientially but also serve as a great foundation to our understanding and experiencing of the divine truth for the rest of our lives.