Saturday, March 31, 2018

Know your enemies

Scripture records several enemies encountered by the children of Israel as they traveled from Egypt to Canaan. To name only a few:

  1. Pharaoh and the Egyptian army (Exodus 14:4–9; 14:30–31)
  2. the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8–16)
  3. the Canaanites of Arad (Numbers 21:1–3)
  4. the Amorites (Numbers 21:21–31)

We rightly recognize that these enemies parallel the enemies of the Christian today. Of course we don't fight against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12) – our enemies are no less real, but they aren't visible to the human eye. I'm old enough to remember preachers who used to talk about "the world, the flesh, and the devil": I'm not entirely sure that's a complete list either, it seems to me Ephesians 6:12 goes a little further than that. Nevertheless, we are in conflict just like Israel was in conflict.

We can think of the enemies of Israel as three general groups. The first contains Pharaoh and his army. That was a terrifying enemy, and Israel was explicitly told not to fight them: the command was "Fear not: stand still, and see the salvation of Jehovah" (Exodus 14:13). Then there is the second group, enemies like the Amalekites. There was real battle with the Amalekites, but there was no utter destruction: Amalek's power was broken (Exodus 17:13), but there was the promise of perpetual war with them (Exodus 17:16). Finally, we might think of the third group as being like the Canaanites of Arad: the Lord gave Israel victory over them in a single decisive battle, they were utterly destroyed.

In broad terms, we have those same three types of enemy. It's striking that when Scripture talks about sin (as opposed to "sins", the principle, not the specific transgressions), it uses the language of deliverance. I'd guess that every believer has prayed for victory over sin, but I can't find a single place where Scripture uses the language of victory when it talks about sin. Scripture talks about deliverance in relation to sin, not victory. Israel wasn't victorious over Pharaoh, Israel was delivered from Pharaoh (Exodus 14:30).

The New Testament uses similar language when it discusses the flesh to the language used to discuss Amalek. Amalek's power is broken, but the conflict is still perpetual. The flesh is still there in us: it's power is broken, but there is ongoing conflict (Galatians 5:17).

I suspect our "members on the earth" (Colossians 3:5) fall into this second category. I suspect they aren't ever really gone, although their power over us may be broken. And while we are called to put them to death, I'm not sure they ever quite die. I'd be interested to hear people's comments on that...

It seems to me the specific habits of the flesh (Colossians 3:8–9) fall into the third category. There is very real conflict with those things, but we don't see war from generation to generation like with Amalek. The epistles differentiate between the flesh and its habits. We won't be rid of the flesh until the Lord Jesus changes our vile bodies (Philippians 3:21), but that's not to say its habits are here to stay. Indeed, Galatians 5:16 seems to indicate the opposite.

But the real point is, we need to know our enemy. We need to have the spiritual discernment to understand when we're called to "stand still and see the salvation of Jehovah", and when we're called to pick up a sword and charge at the foe.


Robert said...


Just some thoughts on the world, the flesh and the Devil.

The World
Israel in Egypt under the dominion of Pharaoh represents the sinner in the world and Satan as its God. Redemption by blood and by power was the only means of deliverance.

Ephesians 1:7: ‘In whom we have redemption through His blood’ – redemption by blood.

Colossians 1:14 ‘In whom we have redemption’ –through His blood omitted in manuscripts – redemption by power.

Once through the Red Sea, an Israelite could not physically go back to Egypt. The believer cannot be ‘un- redeemed’. Yet Stephen taught that it is possible to turn back in our hearts again into Egypt. Acts 7: 39 This is possibly the greatest problem that besets the Christian testimony today.

The Flesh
Israel in the wilderness proved again and again that a redeemed person is still subject to the flesh. As I understand it, and would welcome help on the matter, ‘the old man’ is a corporate truth but ‘the flesh’ is an individual truth. The old man is what is generic to Adam’s race but the flesh is displayed individually in us. As you rightly say, sin can never be conquered. John Piper has promoted this teaching in recent years. Sin will kill us long before we are able to kill sin!

In Romans 7 Paul explains his struggles with the flesh. His use of personal pronouns is most significant: ‘I’ occurs 30 times; ‘me’ occurs 12 times; ‘my occurs 4 times and ‘myself’ once. He therefore writes about himself 47 times. No wonder he became a wretched man! It is only when he looks away from himself and asks the question ‘who shall deliver me’ that his pathway becomes clearer. The man who wrote Galatians 2:20 was not wretched. He had discovered that the key to deliverance from the flesh is, ‘not I but Christ’.

The Devil
Israel in Canaan found that the Promised Land was already inhabited by mighty enemies who resisted their claim upon the land. In Ephesians 1:3 we learn that we are ‘blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places’. In Ephesians 6 we are shocked to discover that the land is inhabited and there is ‘spiritual wickedness in heavenly places’. There is armour from God that enables us to withstand that attack but Paul makes it clear that victory can only come through being ‘strong in the Lord and in the power of his might’ v.11

Rahab gave an interesting insight: ‘I know that the Lord hath given you this land…we have heard how the Lord dried up the waters of the Red Sea for you…and as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt …for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and in earth beneath’ Joshua 2: 9-12

So, in summary, deliverance from the world, the flesh and the Devil can only come from the Lord.

HandWrittenWord said...

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Speak unto the children of Israel,
and say to them, I am the LORD your God.
After the doings of the land of Egypt,
wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do;
and after the doings of the land of Canaan,
whither I bring you, shall ye not do:
neither shall ye walk in their ordinances.
Ye shall do My judgments, and keep Mine ordinances,
to walk therein: I am the LORD your God.
Ye shall therefore keep My statutes,
and My judgments: which if a man do,
he shall live in them: I am the LORD.
(Leviticus 18:1-5)

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors,
not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
For if ye live after the flesh ye shall die:
but if ye through the Spirit do mortify
the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God,
they are the sons of God.
(Romans 8:12-14)

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit,
and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit,
and the Spirit against the flesh:
and these are contrary the one to the other:
so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
But if ye be led of the Spirit,
ye are not under the law.
(Galatians 5:16-18)

Susan said...

Yes, Mark, we need to know our enemies, and we have lots of them.
Agree with you and Robert that "sin can never be conquered in this life"....Sin IS our enemy and out to kill us!!!
Robert said "As I understand it, and would welcome help on the matter, ‘the old man’ is a corporate truth but ‘the flesh’ is an individual truth. The old man is what is generic to Adam’s race but the flesh is displayed individually in us."
My understanding concerning old man is: The "old man (old self)" is the person you were before union with Christ, and the "new man (new self)" is the person you are after union with Christ.

Robert said...

1. While our old man has been crucified, by God, with Christ at the cross,—the federal thing was done; yet of the flesh we read, “They that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof” (Gal. 5:24).
2. The flesh has passions and lusts.
3. It has a mind directly at enmity with God.
4. As we shall see in Chapter Seven, the flesh is the manifestation of sin in the as yet unredeemed body. “Our old man,” therefore, is the large term, the all-inclusive one—of all that we were federally from Adam. The flesh, however, we shall find to be that manifestation of sin in our members with which we are in conscious inward conflict, against which only the Holy Spirit indwelling us effectively wars. Our bodies are not the root of sin, but do not yet share, as do our spirits, the redemption that is in Christ. And as for our souls (our faculties of perception, reason, imagination, and our sensibilities),—our souls are being renewed by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Not so the body. “The flesh,” which is sin entrenched in the body, is unchangeably evil, and will war against us till Christ comes. Only the Holy Spirit has power over “the flesh” (Chapter 8:1).

Romans Verse by Verse William R. newall

Susan said...

Thank you for that, Robert! Coming to "know" and understand these truths involves "deep exercise of soul".

HandWrittenWord said...

There is therefore now no condemnation to them
which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh,
but after the Spirit.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus
hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
For what the law could not do,
in that it was weak through the flesh,
God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh,
and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us,
who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.
(Romans 8:1-4)