For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die—Rom. 8:13.
What is it to live after the flesh? We answer, It is to live after, in conformity to, and in gratification of, the inclinations and cravings of the fallen human nature. And it is the easiest thing possible to do this. All we have to do is just listlessly to abandon ourselves to the current of our old nature, and cease to strive against it. As soon as we do this, we begin to float down the stream, and by and by we find the current more and more rapid and resistance more and more difficult—Z '95, 8 (R 1748).
The flesh is both the natural and the acquired sinful disposition, as well as the natural and acquired selfish disposition. To live after these would therefore mean to act out the principles of the natural and acquired depravity, as well as those of the natural and acquired selfishness. Such a course will kill the new heart, mind and will; and since the humanity is offered as a sacrifice, it is inevitable that those individuals who backslide, and who continue to live after the flesh, must eventually die and remain dead forever—P '33, 16.
Parallel passages: Job 4:8; Prov. 14:12; Matt. 26:41; Rom. 6; 8:4-12; Gal. 6:7, 8; Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26-31; Jas. 1:15; 4:4; 2 Pet. 2:20-22; 1 John 5:16; Jude 11-13; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 4:22.
Hymns: 192, 13, 48, 71, 78, 337, 145.
Poems of Dawn, 292: A Dead Sea or a Galilee?
Tower Reading: Z '11, 136, 169 (R 4809, 4830).
Questions: What were this week's experiences in relation to this text? How were they met? What were the helps, hindrances and results?
LIFE adorns the Sea of Galilee:
Its bosom teems with fish; its shores are green;
But to the south there lies the Salty Sea,
So desolate: no fish, no life is seen.
And yet from Jordan's waters both receive.
Then why doth one have life; the other death?
'Tis Nature's law, to take and then to give;
For every breath we take we give a breath.
The Dead Sea drinks far more than Galilee,
But has no outlet in its selfishness;
While Galilee bestows its bounties free—
It issues forth its life mankind to bless.
Am I a Dead Sea, or a Galilee?
More blessed 'tis to give than to receive;
If I confine my thoughts to my and me
I'll not bless others, but myself deceive.
"I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air."—I Cor. 9:26.
THE Apostle Paul had definite knowledge as to what constitutes the prize. He was not uncertain about it; it was not a question with him as to its being one thing or another. St. Paul knew that the "high calling in Christ Jesus" is that we may be heirs with him, if we suffer with him—that we shall be with him in glory. Neither was the Apostle uncertain as to the terms and conditions of the race. He knew that they were even unto death; and that if he should seek to save his life he would lose it. Neither was he uncertain as to his own determination. He knew positively that he had entered the course. He was not of those who merely say, "I hope to do so some time." He had made with the Lord his covenant of sacrifice unto death.
Nor was the Apostle uncertain as to his opportunity to gain the prize. He knew that it remained with him to will and to do in harmony with God's good pleasure. He knew that nothing impossible was required of him in this race; that the terms and conditions of the race include "grace to help in every time of need"; and that this grace and help would come from the Lord. Hence, the Apostle's expression that, for the runners in this race-course, there was no uncertainty, from first to last.
Thus it may be with all under the guiding eye of the Great Redeemer. We may each make our calling and election sure: "If ye do these things, ye shall never fall, for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."—2 Pet. 1:10, 11.
"I KEEP MY BODY UNDER AND BRING IT INTO SUBJECTION"
The Apostle tells us that he kept his body under, lest, having preached the good tidings to others, he himself, should be a castaway. "I keep my body under, and bring it into subjection, … lest I myself should be a castaway," he declares. (I Cor. 9:27.) One translation has this, "I brow-beat my body"; that is to say, I use coercive measures upon my body.
The body originally belonged to the natural man, the natural will. When the old will gave place to the new will, the latter became the owner of the body. The new will cannot properly be served by the old body, because the new mind is perfect and the body imperfect. When the new mind, the mind of God, the mind of Christ, therefore, takes into possession the mortal body, it has more or less difficulty. The mind is not suited to the body, nor the body to the mind. It is the work, therefore, of the new will to show its obedience to the Lord, its full loyalty to the Divine will, even though the body should be, in some respects, treated shamefully, its claim, its supposed necessities, etc., being ignored.
Not only are we all thus to mortify and brow-beat the body, but, additionally, we are to bring it into subjection. We are to make it serve the New Creature. The Apostle says, "But if the spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his spirit." (Rom. 8:11.) The holy Spirit, which comes to us more and more as we feed upon the Lord, assists us to conform our lives to his will, and also quickens or makes alive our mortal bodies to the service of the Truth.
There are not two creatures, but one; we cannot be two creatures at once. It is not until the old creature submits and we are transformed, so far as the will is concerned, that we become New Creatures, so that, henceforth, we really are New Creatures. But the New Creature has not its new body as yet. In our text the Apostle evidently refers to the New Creature, the New Man. There is an outward man, which the world may think is the individual, but in proportion as the outward man is brought into subjection and service, the New Creature is growing stronger, until eventually, with the death of the human body, God will give the New Creature a new body, in the resurrection. Then the new Creature will be satisfied, when it shall be found in his likeness.
There is a tendency for the body, the flesh, to arise from its condition of reckoned deadness. Hence the New Creature needs to be continually on guard in the good fight of faith. These battlings of the new mind against the flesh are a "good fight," in the sense that they are fightings against sins and weaknesses that belong to the fallen nature. The entire course of the New Creature is the course of faith. It would be impossible for one to keep up this battle against the flesh and its propensities and desires, unless he exercise faith in the promises and in the Lord as his Helper.
THE APOSTLE HAD NO THOUGHT OF HIS COMING SHORT
There is another passage in which St. Paul says that we should "fear lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." (Heb. 4:1.) He had no thought of coming short of it himself, but he urged those to whom he was writing to make their "calling and election sure."
It will be a great help to the overcoming of the weaknesses of the fallen nature to have rightly made a full consecration of the will, a full enlistment of every power and talent of mind and body to the service of the Lord. He who takes this proper view of his consecration to the Lord and of his enlistment in the Lord's army, realizes that he has nothing more to give to the Lord. Hence, whatever struggle of the will he may have had, is all ended when he has finally decided to give himself to the Lord. How important it is, therefore, to realize that the service is until death, and that there is no room even to consider any suggestion to withdraw and cease to fight the good fight of faith!
We are to remember that it is not the flesh, the old creature, which has entered the School of Christ, and is under instruction and preparation for the Kingdom, for "flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God." (I Cor. 15:50.) Our acceptance of the Divine call to the spirit nature means, not only the renunciation of the earthly nature in every sense of the word, but also our begetting as New Creatures, "sons of God." The New Creature, the new mind, the new will, is in the School of Christ, to be perfected, to be brought into full accord with the Divine will, to become a copy or likeness of the Lord. We shall never succeed in bringing our flesh into absolute harmony with the Divine Law, because of its imperfections, inherited and otherwise. Hence, the necessity that it be covered with the robe of Christ's righteousness. He who looks for perfection of his flesh, and who rests his faith therein, must of necessity have a poor hope of ever attaining to the likeness of Christ—of ever becoming one of the predestinated class—of becoming "the image of his Son."—Rom. 8:29.
"WE DO THOSE THINGS WHICH WE OUGHT NOT AND LEAVE UNDONE WHAT WE OUGHT TO DO"
In joining the Lord in faith and consecration we are proclaiming ourselves, not as graduates and heirs, but as students, disciples, who desire to be prepared to inherit "the things which God has prepared for them that love him." (I Cor. 2:9.) If this thought be kept in mind as the Divine teaching on the subject, it will tend to prevent our discouragement with ourselves when we find that, unavoidably, we do those things which we ought not to do, and leave undone those things which we ought to do; for in our flesh dwells no perfection.—Rom. 7:15, 18, 19, 25.
It is unnecessary for us to point out that the new mind, in proportion as it develops in likeness to the mind of Christ, will relax no efforts to keep the body under, with the motions of sin—to keep the will of the flesh dead. Surely no spirit-begotten son of God could allow sin to reign in his mortal body. Should sin to any degree control him, it will not be willingly, and hence could be but momentarily—until the new mind, the New Creature, seeing the uprising of the flesh, would conquer it, obtaining the promised grace and help in every time of need, from the heavenly storehouse of grace—Christ.
This thought, rightly entertained, will help true disciples to appreciate their own position, and not to be utterly cast down if overtaken in a fault of the flesh, so long as they realize that their hearts are not in sympathy with the sin and unrighteousness, but, on the contrary, in full sympathy with the principles and instructions of our Teacher, and longing to be cleansed and acceptable in his sight. Moreover, this thought will also help all such to exercise fervency of love amongst themselves, toward the brethren who similarly are disciples, pupils in this School—New Creatures, not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit of their mind. If, therefore, each should see blemishes in the flesh of the brethren, disapproved and striven against, he should remember that the evil which he sees is his brother's enemy, and not the brother himself, the New Creature—if so be that he gives us the assurance that his heart, his will, is in harmony with the Lord and his law of Love; and that he is daily seeking to fight a successful warfare against the weaknesses of the flesh.
"A MAN IS TEMPTED WHEN HE IS LED AWAY OF HIS OWN DESIRES"
When studying this subject we must keep two facts in mind: (1), The Scriptures ascribe no sin to the New Creature, and (2), no perfection in righteousness to our fallen flesh. The New Creature (whose flesh is reckoned dead), which is represented by the new mind, and which is begotten of God, CANNOT SIN; for in its very essence, as the seed or germ implanted by the Truth—"the spirit of the Truth"—it is opposed to sin. This New Creature is so fully in accord with righteousness, so fully imbued with the spirit of the Lord, the spirit of holiness, that it delights in holiness and not in sin; and this must be the case so long as this begotten or Holy-Spirit-condition continues. "He that is begotten of God sinneth not [willingly—neither approves of sin nor takes pleasure in it]; because his seed remaineth in him" [the holy seed of the Truth, the spirit of Truth with which he was begotten]; "and that Wicked One toucheth him not."—I John 3:9; 5:18.
We are not to suppose that every trial or difficulty which besets us is of the Devil; but rather to remember the Apostle's words, "A man is tempted when he is led away of his own desires and enticed." (James 1:13, 14.) Such temptations, then, are of the flesh, and the result of our being members of the fallen race, whose weaknesses and imperfections have been aggravated and intensified for now six thousand years. So, then, we are to recognize as among our chief foes our own inherent weaknesses and predisposition to things selfish, depraved, sinful.
The whole world, thus depraved and under the control of the spirit of selfishness, are largely, though unconsciously, the tools of Satan, "who worketh in the hearts of the children of disobedience." (Eph. 2:2.) To the children of God the world has become an enemy and a tempter by reason of the fact that we [the Church] have been "begotten again" to new hopes, new ambitions, new aspirations, new desires, which are along radically different lines from anything the world knows or has sympathy with.
"THE FLESH DESIRES CONTRARY TO THE SPIRIT, AND THE SPIRIT CONTRARY TO THE FLESH"
Our begetting is of the Holy Spirit, and its tendencies are heavenly and spiritual, in harmony with righteousness and love. Yet it is only our hearts that are thus changed—our flesh is much more in harmony with the world than with the new order of things established in our hearts and wills by grace and truth, through Christ. Consequently, when the world, through the words or writings or general spirit of any of its children, comes into contact with the Lord's people, immediately they—the Lord's people—find that, although their hearts are loyal to the Lord and loyal to all the gracious things which he has promised them, and to the spirit of righteousness, love and truth, yet nevertheless, their flesh has an affinity for and an attraction toward the world, its views, its arrangements, its pleasures, etc.
For this reason the Christian is called upon to reckon himself dead, not only to sin, but to his own natural desires, appetites, inclinations, and also to the world, which is in harmony with sin and has perverted tastes and appetites. As the Apostle intimates, there is a constant battle between the New Creature, the new will, and the old creature, the fleshly and depraved disposition. He says, "The flesh desires contrary to the spirit, and the spirit contrary to the flesh." (Gal. 5:17.) And even though the advanced Christian has reached the place where he is enabled to reckon his flesh and will completely dead and buried, nevertheless, he has need continually to re-examine himself lest the flesh should become alive again. This was the Apostle's method. He says, "I keep my body under [dead, buried] and bring it into subjection [to the new mind]; lest having preached to others I myself should be a castaway." (I Cor. 9:27.) This keeping of the body under, this watching it lest it should become alive again, is a constant necessity to those who would be overcomers; for it is the victory of the new mind, the new will, over the old will, the will of the flesh, that constitutes us victors, by developing in us strong, holy character—character like unto that of our glorious Lord and Redeemer.
R4830: THE SIN UNTO DEATH
THE HUMAN MIND, with its various qualities, is very much like a legislative body. The vote, or decision, of that body is its will. So the vote or decision of our minds is the will. Once, when we knew no better, the vote was for sin. But when light came in we voted out the mind of the flesh and voted in the mind of Christ and agreed with ourselves, individually, that we would be New Creatures, dominated by that new mind. As we say that the old will died when the will of Christ came in, so we think it proper to say that the old will is being revived, raised from the dead, when we turn again to the "beggarly elements of the world."
What is the influence which revives the old will? It is minding the things of the flesh. If we live after the flesh we shall die as New Creatures. (Rom. 8:13.) We mind the will of the flesh when we permit the fleshly desires which we have given up, abrogated, gotten free from, to become again the ruling, or controlling influence of our minds. So, then, the new mind is dead and the old mind, or will, revived when we seek to do the will of the flesh rather than the will of the Lord—to mind earthly things instead of heavenly things, etc.
In the case of all those who have not passed "beyond the veil," the New Creature, which has been begotten of the Holy Spirit, has merely a fleshly body, or organism, in which to exercise itself. This body is not at first fully under the control of the new will. It is the duty of the new will both to rule the body and to bring it completely into subjection, even unto death. After gaining this victory, the New Creature receives the new body which God intended for him. By its opposition to sin the New Creature demonstrates its loyalty to God, its harmony with righteousness. God judges this New Creature, not according to the flesh, but according to the will. If the flesh should gain the victory over the new will and there should be a fall, it would not mean that the new will had ceased, but that it had not been on the alert.
In such a case the Lord might, in time, judge that the new will was not worthy of the highest honors, because it had failed to keep the body under and to sacrifice the fleshly interests. Or, if a wrong course were persisted in, the new will would become so weakened and the flesh so strong that there would be a gradual dying of the new will; and finally it would cease to exist. The Apostle John, in speaking of this matter, declares that these New Creatures are to so keep themselves that "that Wicked One touch them not." (I John 5:18.) Again, he says, "He who is begotten of God cannot sin," so long as the "seed" of God abides in that individual. In other words, so long as the mind, the will, is in complete subjection to the Divine will, he could not willingly, knowingly, intentionally, do that which is opposed to the Divine will, just as a person could not go north and south at the same time.
THROUGH LACK OF KNOWLEDGE, ETC., THE NEW NATURE MAY FOR A TIME LIE DORMANT
We believe that there are instances in which persons, begotten of the Holy Spirit, have fallen away from zeal and obedience to the new will on account of lack of spiritual nourishment, lack of knowledge, lack of appreciation of things that strengthen the new nature and "Build it up in the most holy faith;" sometimes this is on account of ignorance, superstitions, which cause it to lose its zeal. This might happen when the new will was neither dead nor had given way entirely to the flesh, as might seem to be the case. Thus, while the new will was submitting itself and allowing the old will to have its way, the conduct might be blameworthy through lack of spiritual nourishment, as has been stated. Such persons have been regained through a better understanding of God's Word—by more knowledge; and have been known to turn out very noble Christians, even when the new mind for a time had been dormant. The Apostle warns us against this state saying, "I keep my body under"; "Forget not the assembling of yourselves together"; "Build one another up in the most holy faith."—I Cor. 9:27; Heb. 10:25; Jude 20.
When one, once begotten of the Holy Spirit, has willingly, intentionally adopted the old life of sin, then the "seed" with which he was begotten has perished and he is one mentioned by the Apostle as "twice dead, plucked up by the roots" (Jude 12), one under condemnation of the Second Death, for whom there would be no more sacrifice for sin. (Heb. 10:26.) When he first presented himself to God and was accepted through the merit of Christ, the new will was recognized of God and the person was begotten of the Holy Spirit. Old things had passed away; all things had become new. His body was not new; but he had a new will, a new purpose. When later he willingly left the service of the Lord and willingly, knowingly and intentionally became the servant of sin, his course would imply that his new will had died; that his old will had come to life and had gained the ascendency.
THE NEW WILL CANNOT SIN WHILE IT REMAINS A NEW WILL
Thus, by losing the Divine will and voluntarily accepting the will of the flesh again, the New Creature could commit the sin unto death. This, however, would not mean that the new will—which is always in harmony with God—could sin. If the will sins it has ceased to be a new will. If one never willingly turns from God, he would never commit the sin unto death. So the losing of this "seed" of the desire, the spirit, to do that which is pleasing to God, would be the step by which one passes from the life condition into the death condition. We have never as yet had the new life in its fullness. But we could lose the spirit, the new mind. If we lose the spirit, the mind, we lose all.
As there was a particular moment in which the Lord accepted us and we were begotten of the Holy Spirit, so, likewise, in the event of the Second Death, there must be a particular moment at which that would take place. Similarly, as we learn of the Lord's will we come gradually to the point of presenting our bodies living sacrifices. As this was a gradual work, so we should suppose that the retrogression, departure from the Lord, would be gradual. A sudden denial of the Lord does not seem probable, neither would it be in line with the declaration of Scripture. The falling away is a process of retrogression, a departure from the living God and from our covenant with Him. This may be, first of all, a gradual departure from the arrangements by which we have made a covenant of sacrifice with the Lord. This might more and more increase until it becomes a defiance of God, a deliberate and wilful sin.
Stumbling is one thing; but wilful sin is another. The righteous man may stumble many times and yet recover himself. We that are spiritual may recover such a one, remembering ourselves, lest we also be tempted. (Gal. 6:1.) These stumblings are not, however, what is referred to as "the sin unto death." The Second Death condition, according to the Scriptures, we understand to imply the full giving over of the individual, his entire abandonment by the Lord and his going into utter, hopeless destruction, from which there will be no resurrection. But no one could come into this condition without deliberately and wilfully abandoning the Lord and without having received chastisements for the purpose of bringing him back and of restraining him from going into this condition.
AFTER BEGETTAL THE WORK OF TRANSFORMATION OF CHARACTER BEGINS
Our begetting as New Creatures is at the time when we make a full consecration of our lives to the Lord and receive the merit of Christ as necessary to cover our blemishes. God's acceptance of this consecration is manifested by the impartation of the Holy Spirit, spoken of in the Scriptures as the begetting of the Holy Spirit. The work following this begetting is that of renewing the mind—"Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Eph. 4:23.) The Apostle was not here speaking to the world, to sinners, or to any one except the brethren. Although the wills of these brethren are already renewed, yet it is another thing to bring every thought into harmony with the will of God in Christ. We should demonstrate to ourselves, first, what is the good will of God—what is his will as to our following righteousness, etc.; then what is wholly acceptable to him; and, thirdly, what is his perfect will. (Rom. 12:1, 2.) This gradual development is to proceed with those who are Spirit-begotten; and only those who are thus brought to the graduating point will be members of the Bride class, perfected in the First Resurrection—"Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the First Resurrection; on such the Second Death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with him a thousand years."—Rev. 20:6.
We are not to understand that the conduct of one could send another into the Second Death, without his co-operation. No one could intervene to separate us from God. As the Apostle asks, "Who shall separate us from Christ?" (Rom. 8:35.) But whatever influence we have may be used for either the assistance or the injury of another. It is possible for us, not only to so live as to be helpful to others, but to so act as to injure others. Nothing in the example of another could give us eternal life; but the doings and example of one might be an assistance to another; and if we can be of assistance to each other, we can also be injurious.
COULD OUR EXAMPLE LEAD ANOTHER INTO THE SECOND DEATH?
The question, then, comes up, in what way could a brother's example so stumble another that he could go into the Second death? We answer that if one should be influenced by another to violate conscience, one might thus be started on the downward course which would lead him from righteousness. It might be a small matter to begin with, but shortly it would lead off into sin. We should so guard our actions and our words that others would be made stronger and more tender in their consciences; we should try as far as possible to help them in the right way.
The Apostle speaks of our liberty becoming a stumbling-block to those that are weak—"For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols?" (I Cor. 8:10.) Thus we might, unintentionally, not only offset the good that we might do, but do harm when we are not aware of it. If the same tongue can curse men and praise God (James 3:9), how careful we should be to speak that only which will be helpful and uplifting and not destructive and injurious!