SINS OF THE FLESH
The apostle’s struggle in Romans 7 was a struggle against the sin that dwells within the body. He said, "For sin, seizing the opportunity...deceived me...killed me...I am...sold under sin...It is no longer I that work it out, but sin that dwells in me" (vv. 11, 14, 17, 20). When believers are still fleshly, they are usually overcome by the sin dwelling within, so that they have many battles and they commit sins.
The requirements of our body may generally be classified under three categories: nourishment, procreation, and defense. Before man’s fall, these three matters were legitimate and without the contamination of sins. But after man fell and inherited the sinful nature, these matters became the media for the committing of sins. Since we need nourishment, the world makes use of eating and drinking to entice us. The first temptation that ever confronted mankind was in this very matter of food. Just as the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil ensnared Eve then, so the pleasures of eating and drinking have become sins of the flesh today. We should not take the matter of food lightly, for too often many carnal believers have stumbled in this point. It was also because of the matter of eating and drinking that the Corinthian believers caused many of the brothers to stumble (1 Cor. 8). Hence, deacons and elders of the church at that time had to overcome in the matter of food (1 Tim. 3:3, 8). Only a spiritual man knows how unprofitable it is for one to be given to eating and drinking. So, whether one eats or drinks or whatever he does, he should do it all to the glory of God.
Second, after man’s fall, procreation became the lust of man. In the Scriptures, lust and the flesh are particularly linked together. Even in the garden of Eden the sin of greediness gave rise to lust and shame. Paul in his first Epistle to the Corinthians also linked these two together (6:13, 15). He also considered drunkenness as being related to uncleanness (vv. 9-10).
Finally, there is the matter of self-defense. When sin is in control, the body begins to show forth its strength in an attempt to preserve itself. Anything that threatens to destroy our peace, happiness, and comfort is to be opposed. Such fruits are anger and strife borne of man’s so-called temper which have their origin in the flesh and are therefore sins of the flesh. Many sins have been produced directly and indirectly out of self-defense because sin is the motivating power within. It is for the preservation of one’s personal interest, his personal existence, his personal reputation, his personal opinion, and a hundred and one things personal to himself, that many of the darkest sins of the world are produced.
If we analyze the numerous sins of the world one by one, we shall see that they are generally related to the three categories mentioned above. A fleshly Christian is one who is controlled by any or all of these three categories. Invariably, men of the world are all subject to the control of the sins of the body, but this is not surprising for they are not yet regenerated, but are still of the flesh. However, if a regenerated Christian incessantly vacillates between victory and defeat, is unable to deliver himself from the power of sin, and remains too long in the flesh, then he is abnormal. A believer should allow the Holy Spirit to search his heart so that he may be enlightened by God to know what things are forbidden by the law of the Holy Spirit and the law of nature, what things are obstructing him from the exercise of temperance and self-control, and what things are restricting him from serving God freely in the spirit. Unless these sins are removed, there is no possibility for him to enter into spiritual life.
(Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), Chapter 6, by Watchman Nee)