Sin: Man’s Sinful Nature
Segment Three, Part One
The Flesh and Man’s Sinful Nature
Sin has many sources both external and internal to a human being. Sin can be a conscious act or it can be by a subconscious act because of ignorance. Sin is inherent within the body and mind of mankind because of Adam’s original sin. Man is a three part being: he has a body, a mind, and a spirit. Because of man’s sin nature, his spirit is separated (alienated) from God. This separation from God occurs because of the corrupt carnal nature within each person. The body and its governing mind, are the seat of man’s carnal nature.
The physical human body in scripture is referred to as “the flesh” and is where one’s carnal nature resides. Within our minds and consciousness is where we war with good and bad choices. Without good moral training, our carnal nature will exert itself and assert its rights to satisfying the demands of bodily desires and appetites. This “demand center” becomes the driving force behind the satisfaction of bodily (carnal) desires and appetites. This “demand center” is where much of our sin actions come from.
The desires of the flesh cause us many problems: desire for love, recognition, ego, passion, lust, greed, and ambition are just a few. The “demand center” is what drives us to want satisfaction for these emotional desires. Our carnal nature is the driving force behind this “demand center.” As we move forward, we will find out what God’s Word says about our flesh and sinful nature.
Segment Three, Part Two
What does scripture say about our “flesh?” Flesh is used in four ways in the N.T. 1) Flesh is used as the body of man or animal, 2) a reference to man (or mankind) in general, 3) the weakness of man’s human nature, 4) the fallen, sinful nature of man. In each of these areas, scripture tells us how we are to understand the meaning of flesh. Scripture also uses another term for flesh calling it the “old man.” (See Eph. 4:22; Colossians 3:9) We will take each of the above usages and review them one at a time.
Two verses of scripture tell us much about the use of flesh as 1) the body of man and animal. Jesus says “behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have…” Jesus then goes on to explain his physical body and then asks for “meat” and they give him a piece of broiled fish which he took and ate. (Read Luke 24:39-42)
In 1 Corinthians, we see Paul explain about flesh in this way: “all flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.” (1 Co. 15:39) In this verse, Paul has defined for us what “flesh” means in scripture use. Here Paul makes it very clear cut. We will now move on to the next use of flesh in scripture.
Segment Three, Part Three
As we now move on to the next use of flesh in scripture, we see it used as a general reference to mankind. Jesus says in Matthew, “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” (Mt. 24:22) Here Jesus uses the “flesh” to refer to mankind in general.
We also see Paul use the same word in a similar manner. He says: “That no flesh should glory in his presence.” Paul’s use here is again to refer to mankind in general.
We now move on to the third use of flesh in scripture. In the following verse, we see Jesus us flesh in this instance to refer to human weakness. He says: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus is saying here that man (our flesh) is weak and hard for us to overcome or change.
As we have seen, the context where the word is used helps to define or explain how flesh is used. Both Jesus and Paul used the same word but the context determined the exact meaning they wanted to convey. If we follow scripture correctly, the context will help us to understand how a word is used.
Segment Three, Part Four
We now move on to the last use of flesh in scripture. In this last use of flesh, we see that Paul exclusively uses it in this sense: 4) the fallen, sinful nature of man. There is no doubt that Paul intends his use of flesh in this way to be very detrimental. He does not paint a pretty picture.
The first verse we see is where he talks about himself. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not.” (Romans 7:18) He is speaking from personal experience and is not happy with his “flesh.” Paul in the next chapter in Romans, has this further comment: “therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die…” (Ro. 8:12)
Paul wrote these words to the Galatians: “this I say then, walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16) This is Paul’s second advisory that believer’s need to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. This passage goes on in detailed explanation for why we should and not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
To the Colossians he also wrote in the same vein and why we should not walk in the lust of the flesh. In this letter he says: “in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.” If we are walking in the spirit, Christ will “cut off” our desire for the sins of the flesh. Our desire should be to pray and be reading Jesus’ teaching on living the spirit-filled life.