The Bible uses this word in various senses ranging from; the meat used for OT sacrifices and for food; man and wife becoming one in marriage (Gen 2:24); the weakness of the human body to stay alert in Gethsemane (Mk 14:38); the human body as distinct from the spiritual part of man. The flesh also means the whole of the physical existence – Christ came in the flesh but did not sin (Jn 1:14; 1 Pet 2:21,22). However, the human nature controlled by sin, and not under the control of God’s Holy Spirit, is the most common meaning of ‘the flesh’. The flesh – the inner bias towards sin – is attracted to and yields to temptation, which will draw us away from God, bringing us into bondage to sin. It is carnal, being dominated by the natural “cravings of the body, lust of the eyes, and pride” rather than the spiritual. As a result of living and acting sinfully, it is not pleasing to God and results in spiritual death (Rom 7:5, 8:5-12; Gal 6:7,8; Eph 2:3; Jas 1:14,15; 1 Jn 2:15,16; Jud 1:8).
Make no provision to gratify the carnal nature – Romans 13:14
into continuous practice (Rom 6:6-9, 7:15-24; 2 Cor 10:5; Gal 5:24, 6:14). “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God…but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body you will live” (Rom 8:8,13). “Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2). Baptism is symbolic of our old self crucified (put to death and subsequently buried) so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin obeying its evil desires but “slaves to God” and so it is our duty and responsibility to “offer ourselves as instruments of righteousness to God” by obeying His orders which “lead to holiness, and the result is eternal life” (Rom 6:11-16,19-22). The flesh is not to be our master; we are to master it (Gen 4:7).
Following baptism, the symbolic death to the old life, comes the symbolic resurrection, rising up in a new life and participating in the divine nature, so escaping the corruption in the world caused by evil desires (Rom 6:4; 2 Cor 5:17; 2 Pet 1:3,4). “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” because the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and its fruit is in total contrast to the fruit of living by God’s Spirit (Gal 5:16-23; 2 Tim 3:2-4). The Bibles message is, “Be renewed in your mind…Think about wholesome things…Set your heart and mind on things above, not on earthly things…Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature…put on the new self” (Rom 12:1,2; Phil 4:8; Col 3:1-10). Live out the new life of Christ within. This requires a continual choice to walk in righteousness, exercising self-control, saying ‘No’ to the carnal, ungodly desires and ‘Yes’ to that which is glorifying to the Lord, for we all must give account before God of the things done in and with our body (Rom 14:12).
A strong determination to live a holy life for God’s glory, coupled with self-discipline, is required to walk uprightly in thought as well as action, ignoring the old thought patterns, ingrained ‘voices’ and way of life which was the custom when we were in the kingdom of darkness. “The grace of God teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…” (Tit 2:11,12).
The flesh is our weak point – will I allow it to dictate to my spirit?
self-pity or retaliate when ‘the flesh’ is attacked. We are to live in the Spirit, with the old nature continually being considered dead. A copse doesn’t respond! These are divine opportunities for the old life to die a little more.
The greatest problem we have is our flesh, which Satan uses to gain the advantage. As there was no sin in His life Jesus could say, “Satan has no power or hold over me” (Jn 14:30). We determine if the devil has a foothold or vulnerable opening through which he can gain access, and wield authority over us by focusing on our rights and selfish desires, so he can get the victory rather than us experiencing it through Christ who came, “To destroy the works of the devil” (Eph 4:27; 1 Jn 3:8). The flesh is Satan’s means of connection to us, and it is through this vehicle he attacks us. While we live in the world we are not to be of it, it is not to have a hold in us (Jn 17:14,16).
The communion elements of bread and juice are reminders of the sacrifice of Christ. They do not literally become His flesh and blood (Jn 6:48-58).
See also: baptism (water), body/soul/spirit, carnal, confront, cross, crucifixion, human/humanity, lust, natural, put off/put on, self, self-control, senses, temptation, weakness.