IV. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE FLESH AND THE OLD MAN
The Bible mentions both the flesh and the old man. What is the relationship between the flesh and the old man? How do we differentiate between these two? To put it simply, the flesh is the living out of the old man; the two are one. In the old creation we are the old man. When the old man is lived out and expressed, it is the flesh. Therefore, both the old man and the flesh actually refer to our very being. As to the objective fact, we are the old man; as to the subjective experience, we are the flesh.
This matter is clearly stated in the book of Romans. Romans 5 speaks about the inheritance we have in Adam, chapter 6 speaks of what we have obtained in Christ, chapter 7 tells of our bondage in the flesh, and chapter 8 proclaims the release we have in the Holy Spirit. Chapters 5 and 6 are related to the objective facts concerning Christ and the old man, while chapters 7 and 8 are related to the subjective experiences concerning the Holy Spirit and the flesh. Just as Christ is related to the Holy Spirit, so the old man is related to the flesh. Just as Christ cannot be experienced without the Holy Spirit, so also the old man cannot be experienced without the flesh. Christ is lived out in the Holy Spirit; likewise, the old man is lived out in the flesh. For example, the Bible says that our old man has been crucified with Christ. This is a fact which was accomplished nineteen hundred years ago, though at that time we had not been born, and our old man had not been lived out. Today, more than nineteen hundred years later, we have been born, and we know how to lie and lose our temper. This is the living out of the old man, and we call it the flesh. Therefore, that which was crucified with Christ was our old man, which had not yet been lived out at that time; while that which is being dealt with today is the flesh, the living out of our being. Therefore, the flesh is the living out and the expression of the old man; that is, the flesh is our experience of the old man.
From this we can clearly see that when the Bible states that our old man has been crucified with Christ, it refers to the objective fact in the past, and when it says that our flesh must be crucified, it refers to the subjective experience today. Therefore, dealing with the flesh is entirely a matter of experience.
V. DEALING WITH THE FLESH
We have said before that there are three definitions of the flesh, which represent its three aspects. In dealing with the flesh we are dealing with these three aspects. First, we need to deal with passion, lust, pride, selfishness, dishonesty, covetousness, contentiousness, jealousy, and all other corrupt elements which are in the flesh. Secondly, we need to deal with the fleshly man. Our very being has fallen into the flesh and is bound and controlled by the flesh; hence, our whole being has become flesh. Therefore, our whole being must be thoroughly dealt with by the cross. Thirdly, we need to deal with the good aspect of the flesh. All our natural goodness, our strong points by virtue of our birth, man esteems to be good, but they are abominable to God; thus they also need to be dealt with.
Therefore, whatever belongs to our being, because it is flesh, needs to be dealt with. But how do we deal with the flesh? We will discuss this in two aspects: the objective fact and the subjective experience.
A. The Objective Fact
The objective fact in dealing with the flesh is completely related to Christ. Galatians 2:20 says, “I am crucified with Christ.” Again, Romans 6:6 says, “Our old man has been crucified with him.” These two passages clearly show us that when Christ was nailed to the cross, we were crucified with Him. Our fleshly being has been dealt with on the cross of Christ. This is a fact which has been accomplished long ago in the universe. The fact that we have been crucified with Christ is the basis of our dealing with the flesh. If we had never been crucified with Christ, none of us could deal with the flesh. Therefore, our dealing with the flesh is to bring forth in experience the fact that we have died with Christ.
Therefore, the first step in our dealing with the flesh is to ask the Lord to enlighten us that we may obtain revelation to see the fact of our having been crucified with Christ. Romans 6:11 says, “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin.” This reckoning is a matter of seeing. When we have seen the fact that we have died with Christ, we can automatically reckon ourselves as dead.
(The Experience of Life, Chapter 9, by Witness Lee)