In Scripture the term “flesh” has two meanings: 1) the physical body; 2) the mere human nature, the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence, and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God. The prior term is the Hebrew word bä·sär' and is found only in the OT, which never refers to the nature of man’s spirit and soul but only that of the physical body, for the physical body itself is never referred to as sinful but is only used sinfully. The latter term is the Greek word sarx’ and is only found in the NT, which in the epistles nearly always refers to the nature of man’s spirit and soul. Once this is understood by the believer, identification can be made of the old man (sin nature) and its activities, from which the majority of our trials will derive, and by which our faith will be most exercised thereby.
Scripture may appear to teach that one who is saved can enter in and out of a salvific condition according to how one lives, but it rather teaches that one lives according to the nature of one’s spirit and soul! I believe it needs to be understood that the description of what one lives after, will concern that which one does the most. Paul revealed that all either live after the sin nature (flesh), or they live after the Spirit, which establishes the impossibility of living after both (Rom 8:5; also Mat 7:18; Jas 3:11). Hence, a soul’s condition (saved or unsaved) will be indicated (not necessarily confirmed) by what they do the most, e.g. “the tree is known by his fruit” (Mat 12:33).
Center to Circumference
The proof of the real value and force of life—the life of the Lord Jesus in us—is the way and manner in which it resists the opposition of the flesh; and not only how it resists, but how it manifests and expresses itself (the ways of the new nature displayed—NC) in the place of that which it has resisted.
I have a new nature, its source and standard is the Lord Jesus Christ (Col 3:10 – which is the goal of the new covenant to make souls one with each other and God—NC); He is my “Life” (Col 3:4), and the only measure for my walk. The Spirit of Christ is the power to enable me to act according to my new life and nature. Now if I were in heaven (physically—NC) there would be no check to this new nature (testing not necessary there—NC); there would be perennial sunshine and everlasting verdure. But here, on the contrary, everything is adverse to it, because the flesh “is enmity against God” (Rom 8:7; Gal 5:17), and this is in myself and in everyone around me.
I am here like a diver in a diving bell. Everything around me, the very element I am swelling in, is disastrous to me unless I can resist it (keep from desiring it, which ability comes from God via the new nature—NC). I must not only resist it, but I must express an action in it (Rom 6:13, 19, 22), quite new and unknown to that which opposes me (self, Satan and society—NC). It is not enough for the diver to exist under water, but he must also act there.
A saint now has not only the know that he is safe in Christ (continuously without ceasing, regardless of all things within and without—NC), that his life is hid in Him and that he is at home with Him above (not only in position but presently in permanent physical union via the Spirit—NC), but he is set here to show forth the virtues of Him who has called him “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1Pe 2:9). Hence everything of the flesh in himself, and in everyone with whom he comes into contact becomes a trying of his grace (“trying, i.e. exercising; the believer is not tested or tried for pass or fail but is only exercising faith, which grows in the using of it”—NC).
If he meets flesh with flesh he is vanquished (e.g. faith unsuccessfully exercised—NC); if he overcomes it the Lord Jesus is glorified. There may be great or little foes, but whatever they be, they are the enemies to whom we are not to yield. Each of us has his own foes to resist, and not only to resist but to manifest in place of and in contrast to that which he has resisted, the way and manner of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, the first opposition you meet is in yourself, and then in everybody else; it is the force of the flesh. You are called to repel it (“put off”), and if you cannot repel that force, you can repel none (all believers are enabled to put off the old man via the Spirit using the new nature—NC). Hence, private life is the beginning of the campaign. If you cannot run with the footmen, what will you do with the horsemen? The contrarieties begin at home, or more properly they begin first within. If you cannot resist them in the inner circle (old self—NC), how can you face the outer one (old man in others, and Satan—NC)?
But they are to be resisted, and they are the force which you are called on to resist, and instead set the Lord Jesus on the ground which they once occupied. If you complain of your foes, wither the inward or the outward ones, your strength is less than theirs (no need to complain knowing all is for your “good”—NC); you are unwittingly making the Lord Jesus inferior to them, or else you are thinking of yourself as still in the old man (the old man is in us but we are no longer in it – Rom 8:9—NC)!
I am not merely to find fault with my enemies—the carnality in myself and in others; I am simply to resist them in the grace of Christ, and to manifest on the ruins of the foe, the beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ.
You begin in private life, which is the closest circle to yourself. You refuse the old plantation, and you supplant it with entirely new growths; and as you do this in the inner and home circle, you are prepared for still greater advance in the outer circle (glorifying God by being used to strengthen the saved and draw the lost—NC). Having learned on the parade ground how to use your weapons, you will find that they are “mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2Co 10:4, 5).
— James Butler Stoney (1814-1897)
MJS devotional excerpt for June 11:
“We are the objects of the continual care and discipline of our heavenly Father. If we walk after the flesh, instead of after the Spirit, this may call for His loving rebuke and chastening (child training); but that in no way interferes with the precious truth of our continual acceptance and position in the risen Lord Jesus Christ, by whose one offering we have been perfected forever.
“Through grace, we are not in the flesh, but in Christ, yet the flesh is in us; but our part is to reckon it as having been, before God and to faith, judicially put to death in Christ crucified, thus setting us free to be so constantly occupied with the triumphant Son of God, as to find all our resources, all our strength, all our springs, in Him.” - Hugh Henry Snell (1817-1892)