Grace vs Law: Top 12 Watchman Nee Quotes

Watchman_Nee_smI’ve been told that there is a some division among Chinese Christians over Joseph Prince, the Singaporean pastor of New Creation Church. Some think he’s a wonderful preacher of grace, while others think he’s a licentious heretic. We ought not to be surprised by this division. Truth is divisive. As Jesus said, truth divides even those from with the same family (Lk 12:52).

If you’ve been following this blog, you will know that I am a big fan of Joseph Prince’s message. He preaches radical grace, which is the only kind of grace there is.

Yet I can understand how the message of grace appears scandalous to those who still think their salvation or holiness depends on their own performance. Since the time of Paul self-righteous people have been mistaking grace for a license to sin (see Rm 6:15). Even sincere believers have been seduced into thinking the grace of God needs fleshly additives (see Galatians). But even so, I would have thought that Chinese Christians, of all people, would have been receptive to Joseph Prince’s message. Afterall, many of them grew up on the teachings of Watchman Nee.

Is it a stretch to say that Watchman Nee (1903 – 1972) was the most influential Chinese Christian of the 20th century? I confess I am not familiar with many Chinese preachers and authors, but I lived in Hong Kong for nearly 15 years and I cannot recall anyone ever saying a bad word about Watchman Nee. He is generally acknowledged as gifted and articulate preacher of the gospel. It is well known that he spent the last 20 years of his life imprisoned for his faith.

Watchman Nee’s most famous book is probably The Normal Christian Life. If you haven’t read it, you’ve probably heard of it. It’s a best-seller (over 1m copies sold). It is also one of the best expositions of the gospel of grace that you’ll ever read. From chapter 1 (The Blood of Christ) to chapter 9 (The Meaning and Value of Roman’s Seven), Nee preaches pure grace based on the finished work of the cross. He says things like this:

“Let me tell you, You have died! You are done with! You are ruled out! The self you loathe is on the Cross in Christ. And ‘he that is dead is freed from sin’ (Rom 6:7). This is the Gospel for Christians. Our crucifixion can never be made effective by will or by effort, but only by accepting what the Lord Jesus did on the Cross.” (p.52)

In Nee’s understanding, the choice is simple: you can try or you can trust. If you try to make yourself acceptable, you are walking in the flesh but the Christian life is lived by faith alone. In The Normal Christian Life Nee says a lot about walking in the Spirit, dealing with soul-power, and the nature of Christian ministry. But all of that is based on nine solid chapters outlining the good news of God’s grace. To give you a flavor of Watchman Nee’s message of radical grace, here are 12 of his best quotes from The Normal Christian Life.

Top 12 Watchman Nee Quotes

1.    “Grace means that God does something for me; law means that I do something for God. God has certain holy and righteous demands which he places upon me: that is law. Now if law means that God requires something of me for their fulfillment, then deliverance from law means he no longer requires that from me, but himself provides it.” (pp.155-6)

2.    “So we can say, reverently, that God never gave us the Law to keep: he gave us the Law to break! He well knew that we could not keep it.” (p.158)

3.    “The Law requires much, but offers no help in the carrying out of its requirements. The Lord Jesus requires just as much, yea even more (Matt. 5:21-48), but what he requires from us he himself carries out in us. The law makes demands and leaves us helpless to fulfill them; Christ makes demands, but he himself fulfills in us the very demands he makes.” (p.161)

4.    “What does it mean in everyday life to be delivered from the Law? At risk of a little overstatement I reply: It means that henceforth I am going to do nothing whatever for God; I am never again going to try to please Him. ‘What a doctrine!’ you exclaim. ‘What awful heresy! You cannot possibly mean that!’ But remember, if I try to please God ‘in the flesh,’ then immediately I place myself under the Law.” (p.164)

5.    “God’s requirements have not altered, but we are not the ones to meet them. Praise God, he is the Lawgiver on the Throne, and he is the Lawkeeper in my heart. He who gave the Law, himself keeps it.” (p.166)

6.    “Though the Law in itself is all right, it will be all wrong if it is applied to the wrong person. The ‘wretched man’ of Romans 7 tried to meet the claims of God’s law himself, and that was the cause of his trouble. The repeated use of the word ‘I’ in this chapter gives the clue to the failure.” (p.169)

7.    “We think of the Christian life as a ‘changed life’ but it is not that. What God offers us is an ‘exchanged life,’ a ‘substituted life,’ and Christ is our Substitute within.” (p.180)

8.    “From start to finish, he is the One who does it all.” (p.172)

9.    “It does not matter what your personal deficiency, or whether it be a hundred and one different things, God has always one sufficient answer, His Son Jesus Christ, and he is the answer to every need.” (p.182-3)

10.    “Many Christians endeavor to drive themselves by will-power, and then think the Christian life a most exhausting and bitter one.” (p.189)

11.    “God must bring us to a point – I cannot tell you how it will be, but he will do it – where, through a deep and dark experience, our natural power is touched and fundamentally weakened, so that we no longer dare trust ourselves… At length there comes a time when we no longer ‘like’ to do Christian work – indeed we almost dread to do things in the Lord’s Name. But then at last it is that he can begin to use us.” (p.261)

12.    “We have spoken of trying and trusting, and the difference between the two. Believe me, it is the difference between heaven and hell.” (p.183)

Finally, to all my Chinese readers and those living in Asia, Happy Lunar New Year!

44 Comments on Grace vs Law: Top 12 Watchman Nee Quotes

  1. Thanks to Pat Hux and Corinne Ann Cornelius for sending me two links to free pdf (unformatted) copies of The Normal Christian Life. If you would like a pdf copy of this book, look for the links on the Free Stuff page.

    • Hey Paul,
      This link is a book by Watchman Nee.
      Since we both have a mutual respect for this man of God, I am interested in your thoughts on chapter 7, entitled ” Salvation and Reward”, starts on page 33.
      By the way, although we seemed to disagree sharply at first, I am beginning to appreciate your work here more each day. Keep up the good work!

  2. Yeah, only Grace can really open our hearts for God!

  3. Thanks Paul for sharing. In his book “Sit-Walk-Stand”, you will also find many wonderful quotes that I have listed here. I have reread and share them to bless many.

  4. Law strips us bare naked.
    Grace clothes us with God’s best robes.

  5. Dear Paul…Am grateful to God for a person like you.. You are a blessing to this end time generation. Am also a preacher of God’s unconditional Love and Grace. Personally i have gleaned much truth from the teachings of Watchman nee. So when i started listening to Joseph Prince i found much in common.. but What about the Kingdom age(millennium) that Nee talks abt?? He says Salvation(Eternal Life) is a settled issue but If a Christian fails to work out his Salvation BY GRACE then he would go through punishment in the kingdom age…which in turn gets him ready for the new heaven n new earth…n he quotes so many scriptures to support what he says..for eg the slothful servant
    (who didn’t have a good pic abt his master) , the foolish virgins, and the famous “Heb 6:7&8” talking about the land that receives rain(Grace) and fails to bear fruit but bears thorns and thistles “is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.” Nee interprets dat land would burn till the thorns and thistles are burnt up. He says it’s millennium punishment not eternal and many such scriptures(luke 12:47,48) which Nee points out as Kingdom punishment to believers who haven’t TRUSTED Grace.
    But preachers who seem to glean things out of his teachings never seem to talk about Kingdom(to my knowledge).
    So If you can throw some light on the same..Is there a possibility of a believer being punished in the coming age?? it will be great…looking forward to ur reply…once again thank you so much for all the effort.
    Stay Blessed
    In His Grip

    • Hi Jesudian,
      I am familiar with WM’s take on the wise and foolish virgins – he talks about this in Sit, Walk, Stand – but I have not heard the other Kingdom Age teaching that you mentioned.

      • Sarah T. // April 3, 2012 at 1:43 pm //

        I’m also wondering about this! Ive so enjoyed The Normal Christian Life and so I also started WM’s “Aids” to Revelation and am feeling really heavy by this teaching. Especially the chapters entitled “Salvation and Rewards” and the “4 types of judgment” He says that not everyone who receives salvation will reign with Jesus in his Kingdom and that while salvation is received by grace, rewards are received by our works. He cites 1 Corinthians 3:15. He says there will be punishment for believers for unconfessed sin! I read that this is one of his earlier books, so I’m wondering if he later changed his opinion?
        Anyway Paul, I love your blog and was wondering if you’ve written any posts about salvation verses rewards or other “scary” things that are spoken about in revelation? Or an interpretation of the parable of the talents or if the 10 virgins? Thank you!

    • savedByGrace // April 16, 2012 at 9:13 pm // Reply

      Hi Jesudian,
      In Heb6, the author was corresponding to the believers (addressed as “beloved”) regarding a third party (addressed as “those, they and them”).
      In Heb6:4~6, he warns THOSE (not the believers) who were ENLIGHTENED (but not transformed), have TASTED the heavenly gift (they are tasters not drinkers) and the good Word and the powers of the world to come, and partakers of the Holy Ghost if THEY fall away, it is IMPOSSIBLE to renew THEM again to repentance.. They PROFESS to know and almost have it but did not go all the way to “drink” it and make it become part of them and transform them. Tasters don’t drink.
      In Heb6:9~20, he encouraged the believers: BELOVED we are persuaded . . . God promised Abraham and He swore by Himself (although God don’t have to swear like us) that surely, blessing He will bless us and multiplying He will multiply us .. . in which it was IMPOSSIBLE for God to lie.
      Every believer is assured of his salvation. When he was a sinner in the prison call Unrighteousness, even if he denounced Satan, he cannot transfer himself from the prison of Unrighteousness to the prison of Righteousness. It was only through the finished work of Christ that he was brought from the prison of Unrighteousness to the prison of Righteousness. In the same token, once saved, his future rejecttion of Jesus Christ cannot remove him from the prison of Righteousness back to the prison of Unrighteousness.

  6. In reply to the Watchman Nee quotes, I say, keep em coming Paul. In my view we need to hear grace as much as possible to lead us out of the prison cell of wrong teaching which has kept some of us enslaved for decades. Once having tasted freedom, there is no going back.

  7. Tom NeSmith // April 13, 2011 at 4:04 am // Reply

    Wow! Perfect! Nothing to add! Just amazed that there are people who understand this!

    • Tom NeSmith // April 14, 2011 at 8:39 am // Reply

      I take it back… I do have something to add.
      In general, we should look at “teaching” not as knowledge to be gained by the inquiry of the mind, rather, it should give us a preview of what can be possible so as to encourage us just that much more to turn to God in a humble spirit so we can receive understanding through the Spirit of Grace. This understanding is the result of His changing who we are as we dwell in His House.

    • Ya Tom it has a amazed me how our Father is pulling his kids right close to him. Pulling them away from those wolves in sheep clothing and all those preacher that are enemies of the Cross. praise to his HOly Name JESUS

  8. Eva-May Lewis // April 18, 2011 at 3:06 am // Reply

    Absolutely I am a Joseph Prince believer and follower in the Grace message, the Gospel.

    Is there a place in London Ontario where one can fellowship for more of the same? Is there a Grace teaching pastor in London (NOT Grace Life CC)

    Interested – let me know please, thanks!

  9. It’s wonderful 2 know about the gospel of grace. yes! The new creation life demands nothing external,it is salvation by grace and Spirituality by grace anything else(whether religious) is a school master.But if this thing does not grab our heart and bring us to a conscious victorious christian life we are hypocrite.shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? No! Grace must bring us into an overcoming life.Titus 2:11-12.

  10. My friend from work got me talking about watchman nee and sure enough the guy sounds awesome to read. thanks dude!

  11. I had read “the Normal Christian Life” by Watchman Nee as well others books by him years ago. However. there was a “veil” over me and I could not discern. For some 20 over years of my Christian life, I didn’t even know that there is such a thing as law and grace. It truly takes the grace of God to “open” one’s eyes to see the truth. It was only when I got hold of Pastor Prince’s teaching that I was set free from bondages that came from being under the Law. Now I can enjoy Nee’s books with a renewed mind

    comment by Joanne Lo – November 3, 2011 @ 9:25 am

  12. Radical grace teaching has set (is setting) me free! I’m 56, and the first 55 years of my life I believed the mixology and flat out errant teaching of what I now see as MOST of American churches’ doctrines. After more than a year of hearing the truth through Joseph Prince, there is still a struggle to “unlearn” so many things…But praise God, I am hearing the truth. So, after listening to Pastor Prince daily for about a year, one day I realized that a peace had settled on me! It has remained!
    I began, though to wonder if I would find anyone else teaching this powerfully…And right now I am loving the teaching of a fairly young pastor in Missouri. Amazingly, he divides the word with the complete backing of the Holy Spirit. He is Paul White. I highly recommend giving him a try…More than one source is very reassuring. There seem to be no contradictions between the two pastors’ teachings. In fact, sometimes it sounds like they are teaching from the same notes!

  13. Susie Dunlap // March 11, 2012 at 4:05 pm // Reply

    I’m the same as Joanne Lo (see above comment). I read Watchman Nee twenty or more years ago. I was was in such condemnation, I didn’t even pick up on grace from his books. By God’s grace four or so years ago I found Joseph Prince. I have devoured his teachings and now walk in grace. What a blessing to find, only recently, there are so many others that believe as I now do. I just discovered you and others about a week ago. You can imagine the realm I’ve been in this week, to discover so many like minded believers. Thank you! What an answer to prayer!

  14. Anyone know of a church in the central virginia area that believes like this? My husband and I co-pastored a church for 8 years, have taken a sabbatical and realize that we can’t go back to listening or teaching the law as we were taught. We love JP and Bill Johnson and want to eat this type of bread with like minded believers. So glad I came upon this blog (that was the Holy Spirit of course!). We thought we were the only ones around that thought like this.

    • Tina, if you go to the website of, you will find a section just for Pastors, church leaders. New Creation Church is ready to help you to start, change, whatever you need to preach Grace and Grace alone.

      One general comment to the whole discussion: I have known of Watchman Nee since 1973. I have all his books. The deepest is a set of 3: The Spiritual Man. Almost 50 years later I still have not finished Book #3.

  15. 15. Rick,
    I have read almost all of his books(more than 200) and I know what you are talking about. I re-committed my life to Christ after I read WM’s God’s plan and the overcomers. Powerful book.
    I have been reading his books for more than 15 years and still keep reading any new one that shows up.


    Jose D. H.

    • Rick Shafer // June 10, 2012 at 2:49 am // Reply

      If and when you finish Book 3 of The Spiritual Man, let me know the ending. I have been starting over on that book every year since 1976. I hear his words a lot when I hear Prince; I also hear the words and phrases of Major Ian Thomas when I hear Prince. Ironic isn’t it! We all have the same God! That tells me I don’t want to be anywhere near this world after Jesus comes for us. With all the programs leaping on 12/21/12 (as they all did with The de Vinci Code), and perhaps seeing the Black Horse riding, remember Jesus said, No man knows the day or hour….” He said nothing about the month or year. I just know looking at the society, especially in the US, that the Father must be close to shouting: ENOUGH!

  16. LaKetra Cox // July 31, 2012 at 7:39 pm // Reply

    This is powerful and life changing. Just a few months ago, the Lord brought Joseph Prince’s teachings across my path at a time when I had came to the end of myself and threw my hands up. Religion, philosphy, and doctrines of men had just about destroyed me. On top of that, I had a “perfectionist” spirit. So from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU FOR THE TRUTH.

  17. Lwin Lwin Mon // December 13, 2012 at 3:59 pm // Reply

    Watchman Nee is the one who make me happy to be a Christian. Never doubt to read his book. All of his books are like bible to me.

    Lwin (Myanmar)

  18. The Grace teaching had set me free from the bondage of law that made me feel for over 30 something years like I never was fully measured up in Him. I am more amazed now by His teachings of Grace and revelations versus application gospels that do nothing but do do do!

  19. Amen to this all! I am in desperate need of finding a new church, but time and time again I am listening to old covenant preachers mixing law with grace. Does anyone know of a church in Michigan (around the Detroit Metro area) that preaches the doctrine of grace, purely?

  20. gilbert sanchez // February 9, 2013 at 12:50 pm // Reply

    Right on!! Pastor Ellis!! Yes!!!! Pastor Prince is one of the best radical preacher/teacher of Grace……. I myself follow all his preaching and teaching…. Keep on keeping on!!! Grace and Truth is a person of JESUS!!!

  21. Many Chinese Christians concern with Prince is not that you have to perform to earn your salvation. That is a horrible caricature of their concerns. The concerns are 1) not preaching the full counsel of God, 2) terrible handling of the scriptures, and 3) preaching the prosperity gospel amongst others. This is not to say that everything he says is false and evil. Dangerous teaching is not only defined by what you say but also by what you always leave out, don’t clarify, or are vague on.

  22. Truly, salvation is by GRACE through Faith and not by works (cannot attain by obeying the Law because in order to be justified, you have to obey all of it in your entire life and if you break just one in the LAW, you are guilty of all (James 2:10) and sadly, all have sinned. To be pardoned and cleansed from all sins,there need to be a sacrificial offering to GOD, one that is spotless/blameless (as GOD required), and it is JESUS the MESSIAH who takes away our sin (the LAMB OF GOD). The old covenant was made obsolete because of the new covenant.
    But here’s hold my attention; the old covenant is about the LAW, and the new covenant is also about GOD’s laws (Hebrews 8:10-12). To those who sincerely love the LORD adhere to GOD’s laws (under new covenant) and they are easy and light to them(Matthew 11:28-30); they are delighted (Psalm 1:2). They trust GOD with all their heart and lean not to their own understanding. In all their ways, they acknowledge HIM. They work-out their salvation (just like flexing your muscles to get bigger and stronger). They let their lights shine among men. They find joy that cannot completely describe in worshipping GOD. CAN YOU CONSIDER THAT WORK?

  23. Great thought brother

  24. George Lowry // May 1, 2014 at 5:56 pm // Reply

    Hi,cool place to be,I can relate to much of this,I also am older and have been in the dark for many years,,It was the normal Christian life that set me on my course now,,Joseph Prince is a breath of fresh air in these last days,,I study end time prophesy and we are close to the rapture of the bride-church,,,I read A.W. Tozer,,,Watchman Nee,,,,Oswald Chambers,,,Dwight Pentacost-things to come -600 pages of eschatology,,am a fan of J Vernon magee,Charles Stanley ,and one of the finest David Jeremiah,,,Calvary Chapel does a pretty good job also,,,We are close to the tribulation 7 year period !!!! Let everything that has breath praise Our Lord !!!

  25. George Lowry // May 1, 2014 at 6:02 pm // Reply

    The only law that we are under is Romans 8:2,,,It’s
    in the heart-spirit,, not the flesh-intellect

  26. Hi Paul,
    Nice write up. Keep up the good work

  27. Wayne Nickel // August 23, 2014 at 4:02 am // Reply

    Hi Paul. Thanks for the blog and those who contributed to it. I do not understand why any one in China would have a problem with JPs teaching on grace. I can understand the division on some of his other teachings.

  28. im sure reading this book! Does anybody knows if there’s a Portuguese version of it?

  29. WOW! It is amazing grace

  30. Apostle Prospee // December 30, 2015 at 8:38 pm // Reply

    Im a preacher in Africa, Zambia. Iv been listening to Apostle Abel Damina from Nigeria who strongly treaches grace on Kingdom Life Network. Its from him my eyes opened up. Then I by chance came across pastore Prince who just brought confrimation. Indeed the church has a lot to learn. Im blessed. Il look for Watchman Nee’s books

  31. pamela hunt // June 28, 2016 at 1:31 pm // Reply

    I hace never heard of Watchman Nee until now. I am a strong folliwer of pastor josrph Prince’s teachings. I absolutely believe that radical grace is the ONLY thing that can and will change us from the INSIDE OUT. I want to know more of watchman nee’s teachings as well and therefore have ordered his book! Thank you.

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