THE CHRISTIAN LIFE AND WARFARE – by Watchman Nee (Chapter 2)
The word flesh is used in many different ways in the Bible. Here we will mention only its two most important uses. First, it is used in reference to man’s flesh. Second, it is used in reference to the lust of man’s flesh. When it refers to the flesh, it means the physical body. When it refers to lust, it means the psychological flesh. What is the lust of man’s flesh? The human body has five senses. These five senses have their desires. The eyes desire beauty. The sense of touch desires gratification. The “itching ear” desires sensuous sounds. The mouth desires titillating tastes. The nose desires exotic aromas. There are many other desires. Because these lusts are of the flesh, they are also called the flesh.
THE UNREGENERATED MAN AND THE FLESH
Man was born of the flesh. This means that he was born of the will of man. Hence, man is flesh (John 3:6). To say that man is flesh means that man is filled inwardly with the lusts and the things of the flesh. All day long, his thoughts are filled with evil. Man has nothing besides the flesh. This is why man is called flesh (Gen. 6:3). This means that he is a living composition of lust. Since man is flesh, he behaves “in the lusts of [his] flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the thoughts” (Eph. 2:3). Because of the utter filth of the “different flesh” (Jude 7) and the defiled flesh (v. 8), Jude charged the believers to hate “even the inner garment spotted from the flesh” (v. 23).
Because of the sin of Adam, man’s flesh cannot fulfill the requirement of the law (Rom. 8:3). Moreover, man is according to flesh and he minds the things of the flesh. As a result, he ends up in death (vv. 5-6). “Because the mind set on the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, for neither can it be” (v. 7). The minding of the flesh comes from being according to the flesh. Those who are according to the flesh are the unregenerated ones. Those who are regenerated will not walk according to flesh but will walk according to the spirit (v. 4). Furthermore, those who “live according to the flesh..must die” (v. 13). They live according to flesh because they have not accepted the condemnation of sin in the flesh through the Son of God becoming the sin offering in the likeness of the flesh of sin (v. 3). This is why they are “debtors…to the flesh to live according to the flesh” (v. 12). “For when we were in the flesh, the passions for sins, which acted through the law, operated in our members to bear fruit to death” (7:5). Hence, “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (8:8).
“For that which the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of the flesh of sin and concerning sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14), and God “was manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). This One, dying on behalf of men and bearing the judgment on all sins, became a sacrifice for sin. When a sinner believes that the Lord Jesus has died for him and has become his Savior, he is regenerated (John 3:16). The minute he believes, the Holy Spirit enters into his spirit to regenerate him. The eternal life of God is mingled with his spirit, and he has eternal life. Regeneration is a begetting relationship between God and man. This relationship can never be annulled. For example, when a father begets a son, regardless of what he becomes or what his son becomes, the relationship—that his son has been begotten of him—can never be annulled. A believer, who is regenerated, is saved forever. Although he may fall, he still has eternal life. This begetting relationship can never be dissolved. Moreover, God’s life has already been mingled with his spirit. He will lose his life only when God’s life dies. If God’s life can never die, his eternal life can never be lost. Formerly, he was “in the flesh” (Rom. 7:5). Now he is “in the spirit” (8:9). In this way, he is “begotten not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). He is also “born from above” (John 3:3, lit.) and “born of the Spirit” (3:6). He is born of God because God’s life is mingled with his spirit. He is born from above because this life comes from heaven. He is born of the Spirit because regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit. Now “the Spirit of God dwells in you [in your spirit]” (Rom. 8:9). Through this Holy Spirit, Christ also dwells in us. Hence, “though the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness” (v. 10).