Doctrine of the Flesh

I. Original language
A. Heb. rDcD;b basar Gen. 2:21-23
1. The physical aspects of the body. a. Physical part or parts of the body—men and animals
Ex. 21:28;Deut. 12:15;Jer. 7:21 etc.
b. entire self or body—Lev. 14:9;15:13;Num. 19:7 etc.
2. Blood relations—Gen. 2:24;29:14 etc.
3. Living beings
a. All living beings—Gen. 6:17;Lev. 17:14
b. animals—Gen. 7:15-17; 8:17
c. mankind-Gen. 6:12-13;Num, 16:22 etc.
B. Greek sa¿rx sarx
The following points will expand on the Greek usage of the word sarx.

II. The flesh—what we often refer to as skin; the epidermis; the soft substance of the living body, which covers the bones and is permeated with blood vessels and nerves
A. Of both men and beast (1 Cor. 15:3;Gal. 6:13;Rev. 19:18,21).
B. Of the resurrected body of Christ (Lu. 24:39;Acts 2:31).

III. For the human body
A. The substance or material of the human body.

Eph. 5:29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, NIV84

1Cor. 6:16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body (soma)? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh (sarx).” NIV84

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. NIV84

B. The body itself—

1Cor. 5:5 I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh (for death), so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. NAS95

1 Cor. 7:1;Gal. 4:13;Col. 2:5;1 Pet. 4:6

C. Used of ones physical origin

Rom. 9:3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race (flesh, sarx),
Rom. 9:4a the people of Israel.

1 Cor. 10:18-flesh of Israel Rom. 1:3;4:1;9:3,8; Gal. 4:23

D. Humanity in general

1Pet. 1:24 For,

Matt. 24:22;Jn. 17:2;Rom. 3:20;Gal. 2:16 Col. 1:29

E. Figurative for the work of Christ.

John 6:52 ¶ Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
John 6:53 ¶ Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
John 6:54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
John 6:55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
John 6:56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. NIV84

IV. Representative uses

A. The status of life

Gal. 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. NAS 95

B. Human standard

1Cor. 1:26 ¶ For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;

Jn. 8:15;1 Cor. 1:26;2 Cor. 5:16;11:18;Eph. 6:5;Col. 3:22
Note: To the early Greeks, sarx originally meant the skin, the flesh of the human body. Over time it came to include the human body as we see in our usage in the NT but then when we get into the writings of Paul, he begins to attach more theological meaning to it as we will see in the following points.

The remaining points have to do with some aspect of the sinful nature that produces sin in the believer.
V. The flesh/sin nature produces Human Good.

Phil. 3:3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—
Phil. 3:4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. ¶ If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: NIV84

As an unbeliever Saul, produced human good at the highest level as a Pharisee. From the flesh, he produced a self-righteousness manifesting itself in the works of the law and traditions including forced compliance to the Pharisaical standards. In doing so he approved of the execution of at least one Christian and the arrest and persecution of others (Acts 8:1,3).

1. Human Good—Human good is those efforts by man to produce good in the sense as the world sees it. It may be through basic morality or a very strict legalism.
2. Human Good thrives in religious settings, where men believe they are pleasing God based upon their own merit. This was prominent in Judaism (2 Cor. 11:18) of the ancient world and is prominent in strict religious societies today.

Col. 2:20 ¶ Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules:
Col. 2:21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?
Col. 2:22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings.

Col. 2:23 Even though these have a word (an appearance) of wisdom in self-made religion and asceticism and neglect (severe treatment) of the body—such wisdom is not of true value—leads to indulgence of the flesh.

3. Though human good is better than immorality and gross sin, it is only from a human viewpoint that it is good. It is still far from good that is Divine good, that is good produced by God and believers controlled by the Spirit of God.
4. Human good for the believer is pictured as being burned up and worthless at the judgement seat of Christ.

1Cor. 3:12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,
1Cor. 3:13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.
1Cor. 3:14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.
1Cor. 3:15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (cf. 2 Pet. 3:10;Rev. 9:20). ).

1Cor. 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”;
1Cor. 3:20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”

5. No amount of human good or works of the law can qualify one to gain eternal life because one would have to be perfect. (Matt. 19:17-22;Rom. 3:20;Gal. 2:16;Eph. 2:9).
6. It is works by which the unbeliever is judged, those works that would include all deeds ranging the gamut of human good (Rev. 20:12).

VI. The flesh/sin nature is the source for sin

Rom. 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. NAS95

1Pet. 4:2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. NAS95

Gal. 5:13 For you were called to freedom brethren; only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

VII. Weak and susceptible to sin (Mk. 14:38).

Rom. 6:19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

Rom. 7:25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

VIII. Has corrupt desires and despises authority

2Pet. 2:10a and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt lusts and despise authority. NAS95

1John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. NAS95

Gal. 5:24 Now those who belong to Christ [Jesus] have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts.

Eph. 2:3* Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

Col. 2:18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,

1 Pet. 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as foreigners and exiles to abstain of fleshly desires which wage war against the
whole person (psyche).

2 Cor. 1:12 For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.

Jude 22 And (Christ) have mercy on some, who are doubting;
Jude 23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. NAS95

Rom. 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. NAS95

IX. It power and influence.

Rom. 7:5 For while we were in (power of ) the flesh (as unbelievers), the sinful passions, which were at work (aroused) by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.

Often portrayed as walking—when under its power and influence.

2Cor. 10:2 I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the (power of) flesh.
2Cor. 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh (human body), we do not war according to (power of ) the flesh,

X. The flesh and the Spirit.

Rom. 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Believers are free from the judgment of sin through the work of Christ on the cross. We will not be judged for our sins.

Rom. 8:2 For the law of the (Holy) Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

With the Holy Spirit indwelling every believer and ready to control he is able to free you from the law of sin and death, that is the continuous sin that results in spiritual death.

Rom. 8:3 For what the Law could not do, in that it was weakened through the flesh, God by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,

The Law was weak in that it could not judge our sin, but with the sending of Christ, he did condemn sin and eliminate its dominating power for those who are in Christ. However, the believer still needed power to live positively for Christ—so God through Christ sent His Spirit to indwell every believer —

Rom. 8:4 so that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to (power of) the flesh but walk according to (power of) the Spirit.

So what the Law could not do was done by Christ and the living out the righteous requirement of the Law (God’s standard) is fulfilled by the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

Only walking in the power of the Spirit, do we live righteous lives fulfilling the righteous standard of God’s Law. However one is still free to choose who dominates, flesh or Spirit.

Rom. 8:5 For those who are according to the flesh are thinking on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

Those who think and live fleshly, sinful lives are continuously thinking about the things of the flesh. In contrast, those who think and live Spiritually are continuously thinking things of the Spirit. Each of us choose which pattern we are going to live.

Rom. 8:6 For thought on the flesh is (results in spiritual) death, but thought on the Spirit is (results in eternal) life and peace, (7) because the thought of 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, (8) and those who are in the (dominated by) flesh cannot please God.

Here are the two contrasting patterns: unbeliever or believer thinking. The unbeliever can only think like an unbeliever. But a believer can think either way depending on whether he is controlled by the flesh or the Spirit.

(9) However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him (an unbeliever).

Paul contrast the unbeliever with the believer. The believer no longer has an “in the flesh” type of relationship with the sinful nature. The believers realm of life is now “in the Spirit,” leaving no reason for the believer not to live it out in his life. Finally, if he does not have that Spirit he does not belong to Christ. He is an unbeliever.

(10) And if Christ is in you, though the body (soma) is dead (in relation to God) because of sin, yet the Holy Spirit is alive because of righteousness. (11) But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will make alive your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells in you (at the resurrection).

Rom. 8:12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh —(13) for 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. (14) For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

XI. The battle within the believer.

Gal. 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Gal. 5:17 For the flesh strongly desires against the Spirit
and the Spirit strongly desires against the flesh. For these are opposing one another so that you may not do what you want.

Rom. 7:15 For I do not understand what I do. For I am not doing what I want but I do what I hate.

XII. Spiritual warfare and the flesh.

2Cor. 10:2 I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the (power of) flesh.
2Cor. 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh (body), we do not war according to the flesh (power) ,
2Cor. 10:4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful (Spirit) for the destruction of fortresses. NAS95

XIII. The unbeliever is under the constant control and power of the flesh.

A. Though Paul is describing himself under the control of the flesh as a believer, the following verse makes a basic point about any person who is under the control of the flesh.

Rom. 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing (lit. to wish) is present in me, but to do good is not.

Eph. 2:3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

B. Those so influenced are equated with the unbeliever or at best as baby believers.

1Cor. 3:1 ¶ And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.
1Cor. 3:2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able,
1Cor. 3:3 for you are still fleshly (sarkikos). For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? NAS95

C. The unbeliever is incapable of accepting the special revelation of God’s word (1 Cor. 2:10-14)

1Cor. 2:14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

The one exception is the gospel of Jesus Christ when he comes under the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit.

XIV. Conclusion:
A. In its NT theological usage, flesh came to refer to the base nature of man expressed in such terms as sin, natural man, the sin nature, sinful nature, old nature, old man or just simply flesh.
B. It is that part of man that permeates the human body but especially effects the mind and heart.
C. It not only moves us to think and act sinfully but has the power to do so; working through the natural feelings, desires and influencing the will of the person.
D. It is most effective with the heart or the mind, where the thinking process begins, which in turns leads to both verbal and overt acts of sin.
E. It is the source of lust and a very long list of sins as the several NT lists demonstrate nd human good.