Monday 9 December 2019


If a believer is a 'new creation', why is his 'old man' still alive? Why is there a constant inner battle between his spirit and flesh?


Paul proclaimed that a believer is a new creation: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). 

Does 'all things' refer to man’s spirit, soul and body?

No, this newness pertains to the spirit part of man, not his mind or body. The gospel of John alludes to the same thing—the miracle of the new birth (regeneration): Jesus told Nicodemus that unless one is born anew, one cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3: 3). The reason is that “which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). So it is possible to have a lot of head knowledge (like Nicodemus the Pharisee who knew God’s law well) but still remain far from the kingdom of God. 

If believer is a new creation, as we can see from above, why does he face a constant inner battle between his spirit and flesh? 

This is because the mind of a believer is not a ‘new creation’ and needs to be renewed. If it were not so, why would Paul exhort believers to renew their minds? “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).

Paul had mentioned earlier why such renewal of the mind is needed: A believer has to reckon himself dead to sin is because he has died with Christ and resurrected with Christ into a new life (Romans 6: 3-4, Romans 6: 11). 

If a believer’s mind is the same old one carried over from his past life (rebellious and hostile towards God), it will give in to the flesh (carnal nature). “The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8).

So when a person chooses to believe in Christ, the ‘spirit’ part of his being becomes a ‘new creation’, but not his mind, which seeks to fulfil the desires of the flesh (carnal nature). Hence the constant inner conflict between the ‘spirit’ and ‘flesh’ of a believer.
For more on this inner conflict:

We need to understand that while we are justified (God sees us as righteous on the basis of Christ’s death on the cross) when we believed, this is just the beginning of a long and arduous process of progressively renewing our minds and dying to our flesh in order that we might be sanctified. More on the process of sanctification:

A believer needs to know the difference between his position in Christ and the outworking of his faith through obedience, while recognising the reality of an inner conflict between the spirit and the flesh. More on position vs. outworking of faith:

The important question is this: Are we nurturing our ‘spirit’ or ‘flesh’? All believers need to exercise their will on this crucial matter. 

“For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification” (Romans 6:19).

Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:16-17).

Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).

“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Colossians 3: 9-10).

“If you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13).

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

So the secret of living the victorious Christian life is to feed the spirit man and to starve the flesh (carnal nature). And we do this not in our own strength but by the power of the Holy Spirit

  • “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

  • “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).

  • God’s grace is sufficient for us; for our power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Summary: ‘New creation’ (as in 2 Corinthians 5:17) pertains to the spirit man, not the mind or body. The mind needs to be renewed, for left alone, it seeks to fulfil the desires of the flesh (carnal nature). Our body progressively undergoes degeneration and we will die one day.


Though saved, believers still struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil and need to walk in the Spirit.

Receiving God’s grace is merely the first step in the life of a believer. The difficult part is to continue growing, keep ourselves in God’s love and live out our calling.  

How the book of Ephesians sheds light on two important aspects in our walk of faith—our position in Christ and personal responsibility

Isn’t it good to know that the Christian life can be summed up in three simple words—sit, walk, stand?

Wednesday 20 November 2019


A brother cautioned me that we should back off from making a tough stand when faced with false teachers. After all, he says, Galatians 6:1 exhorts us to gently restore a believer who has been overtaken by sin lest we ourselves be tempted.

Firstly, let us focus on the approach taken by the apostles towards false teachers.  
Tolerance is often regarded as a positive trait. Sometimes we think that maturity means we must always be tolerant—even to the extent of condoning false teaching.

But that is not the stance adopted by apostles Paul, Peter and John. They made sure they took a strong stand against destructive heresies (2 Timothy 4:1-4; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1). For full text of these verses, please see appendix below.

"The early Christians condemned false doctrine in a way that sounds almost unchristian today." - Vance Havner

"I do not believe in the weak tolerance that we hear preached so often now, the idea that Jesus must tolerate everyone and that the Christian must tolerate every kind of doctrine. When we become so tolerant that we lead people into mental fog and spiritual darkness we are not acting like Christians, we are acting like cowards!" -- A. W. Tozer : Faith Beyond Reason

Contending against false doctrine (heresies) will stop believers from slipping down the path of deception and eternal damnation.

Fighting the good fight of faith is not just about keeping our personal faith and finishing the race. It is also about contending for the faith (Jude 3), preventing believers from being deceived by enticing words of man’s wisdom that delude many and send them to destruction. “Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22). 

Preaching the truth, the Word of God, irrespective of the season, is of paramount importance. The flock needs to be fed the solid Word, especially when there is false teaching (heresy) that is so enticing; it tickles and soothes “itching ears”. People are naturally drawn away from truth to distorted versions of truth (lies) because the latter give them the “feel good” feeling.  There is a great need not only to teach and encourage (positive) but also to correct and rebuke (negative).

Before he left the elders of the church at Ephesus to go to Jerusalem, Paul shared with them a poignant farewell message:
“So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders.  I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following.”
“And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself.”
(Acts 20: 28-30, 32).

We need to ask ourselves, “Why did Paul call these false teachers vicious wolves?” And why did he caution believers that it is by preserving sound doctrine that they will receive an inheritance God has planned for them in future (Acts 20:32)? Obviously, the truth is that believers who adhere to false teaching will suffer serious eternal consequences. 

The necessity of preserving sound doctrine can also be seen in 1Timothy 4:16. What does Paul’s warning in this verse mean? If believers willfully continue living in sin, fail to hold fast to righteousness and correct doctrine, get deceived by heresy, their eternal security may be undermined. Also, members of the flock taught by false teachers may also suffer the same fate. Persevering in our life and doctrine will ensure salvation for us and our hearers.

Secondly, going back to the above warning from a brother (who says that Galatians 6:1 exhorts us to gently restore a believer who has been overtaken by sin lest we ourselves be tempted), it must be pointed out that personal sin is different from false teachings.

A little leaven leavens the whole mass of dough (Galatians 5:9). False teaching not only affects the one deceived; its “poison” spreads to affect other believers, causing them to be deceived as well. 

It is very unlikely that false teachers who have a huge following and many perks that come with a big church (money, fame and power) will change their teaching. They have been deceived and have become agents of Satan for earthly gain. The only way is to call them out and to warn believers about their teachings so that the pool of deceivers and deceived becomes smaller. In effect, we will be snatching many deceived believers out from the fire (Jude 23).

We need to identify with God the way He views false teachings, which is dead serious:
“And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19).

“Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you” (Galatians 1:8).

How can we adopt a weak, gentle and tolerant stance towards heresy when God hates it, the apostles hate it and the souls of many deceived believers are at stake?


“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:1-4)

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction”(2 Peter 2:1).

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

(Behind false teaching there is a spirit. False teachers are agents of Satan, who knows that his ultimate destiny is inevitable (Revelation 20:10) but, before that, he wants to drag along as many believers as he can with him into eternal damnation).