A Question I Was Asked:

“I Have Been Taught That the Flesh is Evil and Corrupt, But Isn't There More To It Than That?”

My Reply:

Yes, as you suggest, “there is more to it than that.” The 'flesh is evil' concept came out of one area of Greek philosophy, but the biblical view of the flesh is not quite the same, although there are admittedly certain similarities. Scripture teaches that the flesh is the instrument of man's inherent depravity, or corruption – not that the flesh is corrupt within itself. That difference is rather important. So, the evil of mankind goes far, far deeper than to simply say, 'If it were not for human flesh, there would be no corruption.' In itself, the flesh is actually completely neutral, but man's sinful nature, which affects the mind, sees the flesh as an ideal instrument through which to perform evil. Men and women are affected in the soul, body and mind by the depraved nature received from our original parents. Consult Genesis 6:5; Matthew 12:33-34; Romans 8:7-8 and Ephesians 2:3.

When the Scriptures condemn 'the flesh' the whole area of man's sinful nature is what is being referred to including the flesh which is able to finally bring sin -originally conceived within the mind - to fruition. So it is obvious that it is the flesh which finally demonstrates the evil which starts within the mind – but our entire nature is certainly involved. So flesh – of itself and divorced from a sinful nature – would be entirely neutral. God does not hate our flesh and He actually prefers to see people looking after their bodies. The entirely negative view towards the flesh has gone into Roman Catholic theology.

But the work of Christ upon the cross has affected a radical change. In Christ we now become new creatures. Look at 2 Corinthians 5:17. Ephesians 2, which we consulted earlier, shows us what happens...

'...Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no-one can boast.' (Ephesians 2: 3b-9, NIV).

So we were saved even while in our sinful natures!! Yes, that is a lot for some to comprehend but that is scriptural teaching. We could not have broken away from the natures received as the children of Adam were it not for the supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the fact that He came to us! Without God's grace we are truly nowhere since we could never have reached up to God – No! Christ had to come down to us.

Eventually this body of flesh will be transformed and that is when sin will really be totally rooted out of us. For the present, even though the Scriptures consider us as presently raised up with Christ (that is how certain our salvation is!), we face a daily struggle with our old sinful natures. A few seem to think it strange that we still have to fight the flesh but Paul shows us clearly to expect it (check out Romans 7). All believers must live with this. The old nature (more than just simply our flesh) is ever at war with the new, seeking to regain its former mastery over us. Check out Galatians 5:16-17.

In his book, Christ Triumphant, Raymond O. Zorn explains this as well as anyone. He writes,

'...The Christian's victory is one of principle moving by degree to complete realization. As long, however, as he is linked to the old world by something that has not yet experienced Christ's full redemption, i.e., the flesh, neither his victory nor his salvation are complete. His victory is not total because he is not yet clothed with that habitation (II Cor. 5:2) of the final age in which he will have a completely adequate vehicle by which to glorify the God of his salvation. Hence, his full salvation awaits the day when the body of his humiliation will be transformed to be fashioned anew in the likeness of that glorious body which Christ himself now possesses (Phil. 3:21) following his resurrection. That Christ rose from the dead in such a body as the firstfruits (I Cor. 15:23) guarantees that the corruptible tabernacles of his people shall be further clothed (ependusasthai, II Cor. 5:4) with incorruption (I Cor. 15:53), and then shall mortality with all of its fleshly limitations be swallowed up in life (II Cor. 5:4). Then shall every lingering effect of sin in Christ's people be forever removed. Then shall the means by which they shall be able to glorify their king to the full and for all eternity have become their portion. Then Christ's victory over the flesh shall be complete!”

Zorn, Raymond O. Christ Triumphant, (1997), page 118, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth: (ISBN 0 85151 696 3).

I hope these comments help.

Robin A. Brace, 1999.