The Scriptural Conflict
The Scriptures everywhere teach that the Christian life means conflict and warfare. Broadly speaking, there are three common enemies — the world, the flesh and the devil – which contest the progress of every Christian. The “flesh” represents an antagonistic principle within the human heart, while the world and the devil are without. While in this world, we may expect that Satan will give us battle, and that the world will prove itself no friend to grace; so that the conflict without will never cease.
But the Bible clearly teaches that the flesh may be “crucified,” (Gal. 5:25), and so be put to death; that this ally of Satan resident within the human heart may be expelled and destroyed so that the conflict within, occasioned by the “flesh” will utterly cease.
We submit that a burglar who is in hiding in the house is more dangerous and more to be feared than two on the outside; that a rebellion is more to be dreaded than a civil war engaging some outside foe.
Until a man is sanctified wholly, and the carnal mind is eradicated from his nature, he has both the internal and the external — the evil within his own nature and all the combined powers of darkness without — to contend with. But when “the flesh,” or the “old man” have been “crucified,” and the inward foe is expelled, the soul may have perfect quiet, peace and victory within amid all the conflicts that may rage without. Herein lies one of the beauties and chief advantages of entire sanctification. Praise God!
Seeing God has made provision for the complete removal and destruction of the inward foe, we must conclude that the legitimate and Scriptural conflict should be on the outside, engaging the world and the devil, and not with the evil within. In Eph. 6:12, the Apostle Paul declares, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” A careful analysis of this passage will reveal the fact that all of these enemies are on the outside.
We are persuaded that the most general cause of defeat, and the most prolific source of backsliding is this foe within. The “old man” is an ally of Satan, and of such close kin to him, that when Satan comes and knocks at the door, if not carefully and constantly guarded, he will open the door and invite the world and Satan in. It is not what others say or do — though they may be doing Satan’s bidding — but the yielding to that uprising within us, that occasions the defeat and backsliding. Hence we have the exhortation, “Take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Eph. 6:13.) What is the “whole armor of God” but full salvation?
But not only is the Christian supposed to “stand,” but also to do aggressive warfare. He should not be content with simply holding the fort, but should be able to invade the enemy’s territory, put to rout the enemy, and take some spoils. “The people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits.” (Dan. 11:32.) And yet multitudes seem to think they are doing remarkably well and have all they can do if they “keep their religion.” All their thought and energy is expended on themselves, and the experience common with them is simply an up and down” life. The best they can possibly do is to repress their evil nature, and have a continual inward conflict and struggle with fear, and pride, and anger, and doubt, and other like manifestations that spring from the carnal mind within, until they have neither time nor strength to engage the foe without.
While we admit that the Christian life is a warfare, we would insist that the legitimate and Scriptural warfare should be on the outside, and not with the evil within; that God proposes to cleanse the heart from all unrighteousness, and utterly destroy the least and last remains of evil resident within; so that henceforth there shall be no more uprisings of anger, malice, envy or doubt, but “quietness, and assurance forever,” regardless of the confusion and conflict that may rage without.
Many seem to think that an occasional defeat is the necessary accompaniment of the Christian life, but the word of God plainly teaches that there is a way of constant and complete victory for every soul; “because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” Paul could say “Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ.” “If God be for us, who can be against us?” He can give victory in hard places as readily as amid more pleasing environments; indeed, with Him there are no “hard places.” He can make us equal to any emergency, and not only make us conquerors, but more than conquerors,” regardless of all that the world and Satan may do without. “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I. Cor. 15:57.)