Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 08: The Present Testimony (1), by Watchman Nee


Romans 8:12 says, "So then, brothers, we are debtors not to the flesh to live according to the flesh." This verse says that God can save us to the extent that we can overcome the demand of the fleshly nature and be released from the demand of the fleshly lusts.

Here, I want to mention specifically three things concerning man’s body. Generally speaking, the functions of our body are in three areas: first, the area of nourishment for man’s sustenance; second, the area of reproduction for man’s continuation; and third, the area of defense for man’s protection. Before man’s fall, these three things were proper; sin was not in them. But after man sinned and inherited a sinful nature, these three things became the carrier of sins.

Because of the need for nourishment, the world tempts us with eating and drinking. The very first temptation that man faced was regarding food. As the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil tempted Eve that day, the enjoyment of eating and drinking has become a sin of the flesh for us today. We should never underestimate the matter of eating and drinking, because many fleshly believers have failed because of this. The fleshly Corinthians caused many brothers to stumble because of eating (1 Cor. 8). For this reason the elders and deacons of the churches in those days had to be those who had overcome in the matter of eating and drinking (1 Tim. 3:3, 8).

Second, after man’s fall, reproduction became a matter of lust to man. In the Bible, the body and lust are particularly related. Even in the garden of Eden, the sin of indulgence in eating immediately aroused lust and shame. Paul also related these two things together (1 Cor. 6:13, 15); he also considered drunkenness and defilement to be related (vv. 9-10).

Another area is man’s self-defense. After sin assumed authority, the power of the body stepped up its strength in order to survive, and anything that threatens its peace and comfort becomes its enemy. Man’s temper with the resultant anger and strife all arise from the flesh and are sins of the flesh. From the matter of self-defense, countless sins are produced directly or indirectly. This is because of the presence of an inward motivation of sin. For the sake of preserving one’s profit, existence, reputation, opinion, and a thousand other things related to oneself, many of the darkest sins in the world are committed.

If we analyzed all the sins in the world one by one, we would see that, generally speaking, they are all related to the above three things. A fleshly Christian is one who is controlled by any one or all of the above three things.

But Paul said that we are not debtors to the flesh, not at all. Every one of us does not have to live according to the flesh. Christ can save us from the demands of the fleshly nature and fleshly lust. What is lust? As human beings, we have two needs. First, we have the natural physical need. Second, because of this natural need, a craving is produced, and we try by devious means to satisfy this natural need. This second craving is lust. Our Lord Christ, however, can save us from this lust.

The Lord can save each one of us to the extent that we are free from this lust. Moreover, the Lord can save each one of us to the point that we can overcome the natural demand. Do not be mistaken. The Lord is not saving us so that we have no natural need; He is only saving us so that we can overcome it. The Bible does not tell us that the flesh will disappear. It only tells us that we are not debtors to the flesh; we are only free from its demands. For if we are debtors, we still have to pay back. But if we are no longer debtors, we have power over ourselves.

For example, if a person is hungry, he has to eat; this is man’s natural need. But if he has no money to buy food, and he wants to use some illegal means, that is, he wants to steal to buy food to satisfy this natural need, he is in reality satisfying the demand of the lust of his flesh. When man has a natural need, he can only satisfy it according to the way of the Bible. When you are hungry, and if you have money, you can buy food to eat. This is not sin. All the natural needs can be attended to according to the teaching of God. Anything more than this is the demand of lust. When we say that God can save us so that we can overcome the natural need and be free from the demand of lust, we mean that if we are hungry and without money, we can overcome the demand of hunger and refuse any illegal means of satisfaction. Hunger is inevitable, but we can be free from the demand of lust.

Not only in food, but also in reproduction and self-defense, the principle is the same. We can only take care of the natural needs; anything more than this is sin. It is not sin for us to have natural needs, but we are not debtors to the flesh—there is no need for us to pay back anything. In these two aspects, God can save us to be free from the demand of lust and overcome the natural needs.

Not being a debtor to the flesh is not limited to only these things. Even when we are sick, we are still not debtors to the flesh. Though we may be slightly fragile mentally, we need not lose our temper. Though we may have physical problems that bring about psychological problems, we can also overcome them. God’s Word says that we are not debtors to the flesh. Is God unable to save a Christian because he is handicapped in a certain area? Certainly not. We are not debtors to the flesh.

Brothers and sisters! Have you ever been ensnared by some troubles in your body? Are you trapped by some problem of eating or drinking? Know for sure that Christ’s salvation can match all the circumstances and difficulties. As much as your difficulty abounds, God’s salvation also abounds. If a Christian starves for one day, two days, or even three days, do you need to tell him that he need not steal to satisfy his hunger? Suppose he says that he is hungry and that he is obligated to steal. Can he say that? Oh! There is no need for anyone to be obligated to sin. God can save each one of us so that we do not live according to the flesh. Romans 6:6 says, "Knowing this, that our old man has been crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be annulled, that we should no longer serve sin as slaves." Brothers and sisters! Before God I can say this: "God, I thank You! All that is in my old man is crucified with Him." No matter what it is—envy, pride, filthy thoughts, a confused mind, worries, or the flesh—Christ can save us from all of these things. Praise and thank the Lord!

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 08: The Present Testimony (1), Chapter 27, by Watchman Nee)