We have already considered our most powerful enemy, the Devil, who still rules this age. We have another enemy, the flesh.
The word “flesh" in the Scriptures has several shades of meaning. In Genesis we read “The end of all flesh is come before me”, 6. 13. The word here probably refers to mankind though some believe that the whole animal kingdom is embraced also. Romans 14. 21 reads “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth”. The word “flesh" here refers to meat. In 1 Peter, Christ is said to have “suffered for us in the flesh”, 4. 1, where clearly the body is in view. The Lord says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh”, John 3. 6. Here it is not so much the physical thing in mind but rather that which is at enmity with God, the fallen Adamic nature.
The flesh is the fifth columnist in the believer, apart from which the enemy would be helpless. The flesh is the soil in which the enemy sows his weeds to choke that which is spiritual. Many would attempt to improve the flesh by means of a change of environment, by education and so on. But the flesh must ever remain “flesh”. All attempts to improve the compost heap by spraying it with perfume prove very un-rewarding!
It is clearly stated that those who receive Christ or believe on His name are born “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God”, John 1. 12-13. The flesh cannot worship God, for they that worship God “must worship him in spirit and in truth”, John 4. 24. They that are in the flesh cannot please God, Rom. 8. 8. The natural man sees no beauty in Christ that he should desire Him, Isa. 53. 2, indicating that the flesh cannot be attracted to Christ.
It is true that the believer is not “in the flesh, but in the Spirit”, Rom. 8. 9, yet the flesh is in the believer warring against the Spirit. To think otherwise is to be lulled into a false sense of security. The indwelling Spirit makes us thoroughly aware of the presence of the flesh; immediately upon being born again, born of the Spirit, the warfare commences, Gal. 5. 17.
What then are we to do? We should pass a vote of no con-fidence in the flesh, Phil. 3. 3, and let the Spirit of God take over. Amalek, in the Scriptures, is presented as a type of the flesh. Amalek was a grandson of Esau, himself a man of the field (world). Esau despised his birthright, preferring present comfort to future spiritual privileges, the uppermost question in his mind being “what profit?”, Gen. 25. 32. When Israel had passed through the Red Sea after their deliverance from Egypt, they commenced murmuring against God and question-ing His presence among them. Then Amalek took advantage of the position and fought with Israel. The chapter recording this concludes with the statement that “the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation”, Exod. 17. 16.
The Persistent Resistance and Subtlety of the Flesh.
This is seen in the incident treated in 1 Samuel 15. The Lord of hosts had commanded Saul utterly to destroy Amalek and all that they had. Saul told Samuel that he had performed the commandment of the Lord. Samuel immediately asked, “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears?” Saul and the people had saved “all that was good”. The policy of compromise would always retain that which is good of the flesh. What ignorance this demonstrates! Paul could say “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing”, Rom. 7. 18. Samuel’s pronouncement on this occasion still holds good, “to obey is better than sacrifice”. It was when David compromising!}’ formed an alliance with the Philistines that Amalek took full advantage of the situation to destroy Ziklag. Whilst the believer is but one person, he has two natures. The nature receiving the most food becomes domin-ant. Hence Paul exhorts “make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof”, Rom. 13. 14. If we are in the good of having crucified the flesh with the affections and the lusts, Gal. 5. 24, we shall not be challenged with the words “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears?” Again, we are to walk in the Spirit and thus not fulfil the lust of the flesh, Gal. 5. 16.
How do we Recognize the Flesh? The flesh works, and the works of the flesh are manifest, Gal. 5. 19-21. The gross sins mentioned such as fornication and murder are easily detected but others are not so obvious, particularly to those who practise them. Emulations, copying others, trying to go one better, pride, are probably much more common. The flesh revels in praise of self but hates it if it refers to others. The flesh loves pomposity but hates humility. For the left hand not to know what the right hand doeth is not the policy of the flesh. The flesh likes to advertise its own successes but shrugs its shoulders at those of others. One of the works of the flesh mentioned in Galatians 5 is idolatry. In 1 Corinthians 10. 7 we have the injunction “Neither be ye idolaters" though there is no direct reference to the golden calf set up by Israel. Instead we read, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play”. Heart departure from God will always lead to godless excesses and Israel, who should have been holy, were shamelessly carnal. How is it with us? Does the fleshly thing, the social activity take precedence over the spiritual? The things that happened to Israel are “written for our admonition … Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall”, 1 Cor. 10. 11-12.