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?