Chapter 41 The Conquest Of The Flesh

A body hast Thou prepared Me… Then said I, Lo, I come… to do Thy will, O God (Hebrews 10:5,7).

The flesh is nearer to us than either the devil or the world. It is part of us. There was no original evil in the body which God provided for the first man, Adam. True, it had a very lowly origin—“Dust thou art.” It is almost as though God, foreknowing the fall of man, made him of dust to counter the pride that would rise in him through sin. In this body, then, we have a common parentage with worms, since both are created creatures. The fleshly body is no more than the dust beneath our feet—a shell of clay.

The Fall of Man

When God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life, man became a living soul. That man had a God-given, created life. He was perfect in his innocence, and his body functioned perfectly as an instrument of that God-breathed life. The smile of his innocence met the smile of God. But he was merely a created creature, and a creature must obey. It is so with the angels in Heaven. On earth it must also be so with man. God must rule in His own universe.

Obedience, however, was to be no heavy burden. In a lovely garden where man was given to eat of all the trees, only one was forbidden. Only one command was issued: “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17).

So the tempter came. Innocent life is not spiritual life. To acquire spiritual life there must be voluntary choice, for piety untried is piety uncertain. With subtilty the snare is laid. Evil suggestion is presented. The one command is broken. Sin enters. Communion with God dies immediately. The spirit of man is dead to God. The mind, without the God-known spirit to enlighten, is plunged into blackness and darkness. The affections become unclean, the will disobedient. Instead of being theocentric—God-centered—the man becomes egocentric—self-centered, and that with a fallen self, a godless self.

Thus the fallen self makes the body of flesh “an instrument of unrighteousness” to do all manner of uncleanness. All the human race have come to be what Adam was, by the line of heredity from him.

Paul develops the thought that both the soul and the body of fallen man are “the flesh”—the flesh of the body now governed by a fleshly or carnal nature. Thus “in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). The whole nature, ruled by a godless principle, is spoken of as “the flesh.”

The appeal of this fallen man is simply this: live like an animal which has only soul and body! Let the whole thought of your human existence revolve around “What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? [e.g., keep warm]” (Matthew 6:31) and fill it to the full with sexual satisfaction. That is animal life. God is not in such a life. We are all fleshly in the fleshliness of Adam. We are what he became. In him we receive that heritage of the curse. In him we enter this carnal existence and become clothed with this sensuous and fleshly life.

The Triumph of Christ

The Lord Jesus was given a body—not a body derived from man’s activity, nevertheless a real body, specially formed for Him in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit. In that body the Lord Jesus kept the whole law of God. The body of His flesh was kept in absolute purity. “Holiness unto the Lord” is God’s standard. “Ye shall be holy; for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44). God can accept no inferior standard. As the Son of man our Lord walked on earth as on heavenly ground. Mark His every act. Hear His every word. All is holiness unto the Lord. No trial was spared Him. Hell’s every snare was laid for Him. No circumstance failed to put forth its craftiest wiles. But He did no sin. He was undefiled and undefilable. He was perfect holiness.

But this holiness of His had to be wrought out for His people. It is this which led Him to Calvary’s cross. After putting away our sins, He then places His life of perfect holiness in the believers’ hands. He shares it with them. He imparts it to them. It is this which becomes their key to Heaven, their right to partake of the tree of life, their title deed to heavenly bliss, their beauteous dress to stand before God.

This holy life is made available to every believer. The truth of redemption lies in this: “Knowing…that our old man [our life before conversion] is crucified with Him, that the body of sin [something always alive] might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Romans 6:6). The word “destroyed” is the same as that used in relation to our Lord’s coming to destroy the devil. It is not annihilation. It means “rendered idle or unproductive.” By faith we lay it aside and refuse to feed it.

By faith we live by the new life imparted to us through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit residing within us. It is not written without meaning or without truth that He “hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). This heavenly position is for very practical purposes here on earth—that we should live under the control of the Holy Spirit and not allow sin to “reign in [our] mortal body, that [we] should obey it in the lusts thereof (Romans 6:12). It is conquest of the flesh through the conquest by Christ our Lord.

Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light,
Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of my sickness into Thy health,
Out of my want and into Thy wealth,
Out of my sin and into Thyself,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of my shameful failure and loss,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the glorious gain of the cross,
Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of earth’s sorrows into Thy balm,
Out of life’s storms and into Thy calm,
Out of distress to jubilant psalm,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of the fear and dread of the tomb,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the joy and light of Thy home,
Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of the depth of ruin untold,
Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold,
Ever Thy glorious face to behold,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

W. T. Sleeper