I. THE DIFFERENTIATION OF SEVEN ITEMS
Now that we have clearly seen the definition of self, we need to see the difference in seven related items: the old man, “I,” the soul life, the flesh, the temper, the self, and the natural constitution. If we wish to pursue the experience of the cross, we should know the definition and differentiation of these seven items very clearly, because these are the objects of the dealing of the cross.
Let us first give a simple definition to each of these seven items:
The old man refers to our very being, the created and fallen man.
“I” is the title which the old man calls himself. The old man is the “I,” and the “I” is the old man.
The soul life is the life of the old man. The life that the old man possesses is the soul life.
These three—the old man, “I,” and the soul life—are one and the same. The old man is the man of the old creation which is in Adam, the soul life is the life of this old man, and “I” is the title which the old man calls himself.
The flesh is the living out of the old man, or the living of the old man. Before our soul life is lived out, it is simply the old man, but once it is lived out, it is the flesh.
The temper is man’s natural disposition, especially referring to the bad temperament.
Self, as we have seen, is the soul life as expressed in the human idea and opinion.
The natural constitution is our natural ability, capability, and wit.
If we join these seven items together, we may state the following: There is a created, fallen man whose name is the old man. He calls himself “I.” The life within him is the soul life, which when being lived out is the flesh. In this flesh there is a part which is bad, the irritability and anger of which is called the temper. In the flesh there is also a good part, the opinion and idea of which is called the self, and the ability and capability of which is called the natural constitution.
These seven items are the objects of the dealing of the cross. Yet these dealings differ. In the whole Bible we find no reference which says that the Lord has put our soul life, flesh, temper, self, or the natural constitution on the cross.* We can only find that our old man has been crucified with the Lord on the cross (Rom. 6:6). What the Lord has crucified and put to an end on the cross is our old man. This is a fact which the Lord has accomplished. When we see this fact and acknowledge that the Lord has done away with the old man on the cross, then we can say, “I am crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20; 6:14). These two references acknowledge what the Lord has done for us. After this acknowledgement, we need to experience this cross in dealing with these last five items: our soul life, our flesh, our temper, our self, and our natural constitution.
Therefore, the whole experience of the cross lies in the following three steps: first, the crucifying of our old man, which is an objective fact accomplished by Christ; second, when we acknowledge and receive this fact, it becomes “I am crucified with Christ”; third, when we go on to experience this fact subjectively, there are five different points, which are due to the five different aspects of the old man. First, the old man has a soul life, which when being lived out is expressed in the flesh, temper, self, and the natural constitution. As we apply in our experience the crucifixion with Christ through the Holy Spirit to our soul life, that is dealing with the soul life. Second, when we apply the death of the cross to whatever is lived out from our soul life, whether it be good or bad, that is dealing with the flesh. Third, dealing with the flesh includes also dealing with the temper. Fourth, when we apply the death of the cross to our opinions and ideas, that is dealing with self, or bearing the cross. Fifth, when we apply the death of the cross to our maneuvering, capability, ability, methods, wisdom, and knowledge, that is dealing with the natural constitution, or the breaking of the cross.
(The Experience of Life, Chapter 10, by Witness Lee)