THE WAR BETWEEN THE NEW AND THE OLD
After a believer has been regenerated, it is most important for him to know how much he has received from his regeneration and how much is left of his natural endowment. Knowing these things will keep him advancing in his spiritual journey. Therefore, we need to explain here what is included in man’s flesh and how the Lord Jesus in His redemption deals with the elements of the flesh. In other words, what does a believer receive when he is regenerated?
Romans 7:14 says, "I am fleshy, sold under sin." Verses 17 and 18 say, "sin...dwells in me...that is, in my flesh." After reading these two verses, we know that the elements of the flesh are "sin" and "me." This "sin" is the power of sin; this "me" is what we ordinarily call the "self." If a believer desires to understand the spiritual life, he should not be confused about these two elements of the flesh.
We know that the Lord Jesus has already dealt with the sin of our flesh on the cross. Therefore, the Bible tells us that "our old man has been crucified with Him" (Rom. 6:6). Therefore, concerning the problem of sin, the Bible never tells us to be crucified. Because this has been accomplished by Christ and has been fully accomplished, man need not do anything. Hence, the Bible asks us to count this matter as true (v. 11) so that we can receive the effectiveness of the death of Christ and thus be completely delivered from the power of sin (v. 14).
Although the Bible never tells us to be crucified for our sins, the Bible does tell us that we should bear the cross for our self. The Lord Jesus said many times that we should deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him. This is because there is a difference between the Lord’s dealing with our sins on the cross and His dealing with our self. We know that the Lord Jesus bore our sins while on the cross (He had not done it before that time), but the Lord Jesus denied His self throughout His life, not just at the time He was on the cross. Therefore, a believer can overcome sin in a moment’s time, but he needs his whole lifetime to deny himself.
The book of Galatians shows us very clearly the relationship between a believer and these two aspects of the flesh. On the one hand, it tells us, "But they who are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and its lusts" (5:24). This means that on the very day a person belongs to Jesus Christ, his flesh has already been crucified. Without the teaching of the Holy Spirit, one might assume that the flesh is no longer there because his flesh has already been crucified. But on the other hand, the Bible also tells us, "Walk by the Spirit and you shall by no means fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh" (vv. 16-17). Here it reveals to us clearly that a person who belongs to Christ Jesus, one who already has the Holy Spirit abiding in him, still has the flesh. Not only does the flesh exist, but it is also especially powerful. How do we explain this? Are these two portions of Scripture contradicting each other? No. Verse 24 stresses the sinful aspect of the flesh, while verse 17 stresses the self aspect of the flesh. The cross of Christ deals with sin, and the Holy Spirit deals with self through the cross. Through the cross, Christ fully delivered the believers from the power of sin so that sin can no longer be the lord. Through the Holy Spirit, Christ abides in the believers so that they may daily overcome their self and utterly obey Him. The matter of being delivered from sin has already been accomplished, yet the matter of denying one’s self is now being accomplished day by day.
(Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), Chapter 5, by Watchman Nee)