Note: These are the notes I wrote down as I read through this book. Sometimes the notes are a word-for-word transcription from the book. Other times it’s my paraphrase of what was written. These notes are not intended to fully explain what Watchman Nee wrote. If something is confusing or requires more clarity, you can reference this book for more information.
The Holy Spirit and Experience
Such a spiritual death is not a once-for-all proposition. Whenever the believer is not watchful or loses his faith, the flesh will certainly go on a rampage. This is what Paul called the law of sin and death versus the law of the Spirit.
If he desires to be conformed completely to the Lord’s death, he must unceasingly put to death the deeds of his bodily members so that what is real in the spirit may be executed in the body. As Paul said, all who are led by the Spirit put to death the flesh. These are sons of God (Romans 8:14).
But where does the power come from to apply the death and crucifixion of Jesus to the deeds of our members, so that what is real in the spirit may be executed in the body?
It is “by the Spirit,” insists Paul, that “you put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13).
To put away these deeds, the believer must rely upon the Holy Spirit to translate his co-crucifixion with Christ into personal experience.
He must believe that the Holy Spirit will administer the death of the cross on whatever needs to die.
Trust and believe the indwelling Spirit to put the body of sin out of a job (Romans 6:6).
Whenever one of God’s children fails to follow the Holy Spirit, he immediately reverts to following the flesh.
Whenever a believer does not walk by the Spirit as in Romans 8, he is immediately engulfed in the experience of Romans 7 (The Law).
Our life in the Holy Spirit may be deepened, but this will not alter the nature of the flesh or prevent it from serving the law of sin. The flesh is forever the flesh.
The Existence of the Flesh
In Romans 6:6, Paul said, “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be rendered ineffective [powerless], so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.”
Though the flesh becomes ineffective and powerless by the Spirit putting it to death, it still remains with us.
The flesh is not eradicated or destroyed; it is made to be inoperative, powerless, ineffective, and unemployed.
Regenerated life does not alter the flesh; co-crucifixion does not extinguish the flesh; the indwelling Holy Spirit does not render it impossible to walk by the flesh. Until we get our resurrected bodies, the flesh remains perpetually part of the believer. Unless we are continuously yielding to the indwelling Spirit, the flesh will spring into action when presented with the opportunity.
The human body and the flesh are closely associated. We will only be delivered from the flesh in an ultimate way when we physically die.
Our body is not yet redeemed (Romans 8:23); it waits for redemption at the return of Jesus.
We walk in the flesh; but we don’t walk by the flesh.
The finished work of the cross and its continual application by the Holy Spirit are consequently inseparable.
We can never arrive at the impossibility of sin since the flesh persists.
If a believer does not follow the Holy Spirit but instead yields to the flesh, he certainly will be under the reins of the flesh.
However, whatsoever has been begotten of God and is filled with God has no tendency toward sin.
Example: Wood floats. It does not have a tendency to sink. But surely it is not unsinkable if the wood is soaked sufficiently enough in water, for it will sink of its own accord. But its nature is not to sink.
God has saved us to the extent of not having the tendency to sin, but He has not saved us to the extent of our being unable to sin.
The Holy Spirit indwells us to make real what the Lord Jesus has accomplished.
The cross has crucified the flesh wholly; if we are minded to put to death the deeds of the body by the power of the Holy Spirit, we shall experience the finished work of the cross.
Many mature saints have experienced sustained victory over the flesh. Though the flesh abides, its power is reduced, practically, to zero. Its life, with its nature and activities, has been laid to rest so consistently by the cross of the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit that it’s relegated to a state of existence as if not present.
By the persistent operation of the cross and faithfulness to follow the Spirit, the flesh, though existing, loses all its power to resist. A complete triumph over the flesh is attainable by all believers.
“If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.” Note: “If” is the key.
God has done all that is necessary. The rest is up to us.
If you live by the flesh you will die. If you live by the Spirit you will die. Either way, you will die. Death from the flesh or the death of Christ but also His resurrection.