THE FLESH BEING THE TRANSMUTATION OF THE BODY
Man, however, became fallen, and the fall of man turned the proper order around and up-side down. The fall damaged the spirit, the soul, and even the more the body. By the fall man’s spirit was deadened; it became dead and out of function. Then the soul in itself became the primary part of man. If we read the history of Cain, the second generation of the human race, we can realize that man came to be led absolutely by his soul and was no longer under the control of his spirit. The soul rose to the top to live by itself, and it had nothing to do with the spirit and was not under the control of the spirit. Then gradually the soul, which had been damaged by the fall, was subdued by the body, which after the fall had become transmuted.
According to Romans 7, something very fallen and sinful, which was not a part of God’s creation of the body, came into the body and transmuted it. This fallen and sinful element is the poison of Satan. The life and the nature of Satan have come into the body of the human race by means of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, of which man partook, is something of Satan which has been taken by man into his body. We can never say that we have eaten something, but that it has not come into our body. We must be careful what we eat, because whatever we eat comes into our body. At the time man took the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, something of Satan, the satanic poison, which is the very sinful life and nature of Satan, came into man’s body. Something of Satan has been injected into the body, so that the body has been transmuted, changed in nature. Since this time, the Scriptures tell us that this body, which changed in nature, is called the flesh.
The body, as something created by God, is pure, having nothing sinful, filthy, or bad. In the fall, however, something of Satan came into the body and was added to the body, so the body has been transmuted, changed in nature, into the flesh. Romans 7:18 says, “For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, nothing good dwells.” This chapter goes on to say that sin and the law of sin dwell in the members of our body. Here sin may be considered as a proper noun. Because sin dwells in the members of our body, our body is no more pure; it has been defiled and transmuted in nature to become the flesh. Therefore, the first meaning in the Scriptures of the word flesh is the transmuted body, the fallen body, the body which has changed in nature. The body is the item created by God, and the flesh is the body transmuted in its nature.
MAN BEING SUBDUED AND CONTROLLED BY THE FLESH
Genesis 6:3 says that man became flesh, not merely that man has the flesh. At the very moment of the fall, man’s body became the flesh, but at that time man himself was not flesh. Strictly speaking, even by the time of the second generation of the human race, the time of Cain, man was not flesh. It was at the time of Genesis 6, shortly before the flood, that man not only had the flesh but also became flesh. That man became flesh means that man was subdued and controlled by the flesh.
As we have seen, in the original, proper order of man’s being, the soul stands with the spirit, takes the spirit as the authority, and is controlled by the spirit. But due to not one step alone but step after step of the fall, the soul gave up the spirit as the authority and came under the control of the flesh. The soul has been subdued by the flesh, so the soul, as a person, is living under the control of the flesh. Because of this, the whole person and being of man have become the flesh. Because man’s entire person, his entire being, lives according to the flesh, acts by the flesh, and does things by the flesh, and his entire life is under the influence and control of the flesh, man eventually is called flesh.
According to Genesis 2:7, the created man in the Scriptures is called a soul, and according to 6:3, the man fallen to the uttermost is called flesh. God created a soul, not a flesh, but man who was a soul was transmuted by step after step of the fall into the flesh. Man became flesh because he was subdued, controlled, and influenced by the transmuted, fallen flesh. Now man lives not according to the spirit or even according to the soul but according to the flesh. What the flesh desires, man does. As the flesh lusts, man acts. Man became the flesh, one who lives by the flesh, according to the flesh, and in the flesh.
The first meaning of the flesh in the Scriptures is the transmuted body, the body which has transmuted in nature, and the second meaning is the whole being of the fallen man. A fallen person is flesh. Romans 3:20 says, “Because out of the works of the law no flesh shall be justified before Him.” In this verse flesh simply means a person. That no flesh is justified means that no person is justified. Galatians 2:16 says, “And knowing that a man is not justified out of works of law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, we also have believed into Christ Jesus that we might be justified out of faith in Christ and not out of the works of law, because out of the works of law no flesh will be justified.” The first part of this verse speaks of man rather than flesh, but the latter phrase speaks of flesh. Flesh denotes man, not the created man but the absolutely fallen man. In the first part of the verse the man mentioned is the man who believes in Jesus Christ. In the last part there is no more man but flesh, saying that no flesh can be justified by the works of law.
We have a body, but we are not a body. In the same way, we have a spirit, but we are not a spirit. Rather, we are a soul. Are we then the flesh? We may say that we were flesh, but now we are no more flesh. However, I question this. Whether or not we are flesh depends on whether or not we are living, acting, doing things, and walking under the control of the flesh. If we are not still under the control of the flesh, we are not flesh. That a person is a soul is according to God’s creation, but that a person is flesh is according to the man who has fallen absolutely, who is living, acting, doing things, and walking under the control and direction of the flesh, according to the lusts and desires of the flesh. Such a person is called flesh.
(Basic Principles of the Experience of Life, Chapter 10, by Witness Lee)