Yes and no.
There is a deep seeded Christian belief that has hindered the Body of Christ for far too long. It is a belief that unintentionally actually leads people to continue in bondage, even after they turn to Jesus. So, what’s the belief I’m referring to?
That our body and soul is flesh and therefore, is against and contrary to the Spirit.
Let me offer a couple of scriptures that talk about “the flesh” to help provide an understanding of what I am referring to.
For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on 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, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.Romans 8:5-8
For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.Galatians 5:17
These are only 2 verses, out of many, that clearly articulates the battle between our flesh and the Spirit. I agree 100% that the flesh wars against the Spirit. What I don’t agree with is the premise that our body and/or soul is what the Bible refers to as our “flesh”, within the context of these verses.
In the New Testament, there are cases where the word flesh refers to our physical bodies, such as in 1 Corinthians 15:39 where it says:
All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish.
I used that verse because it’s very obvious what the word flesh is referring to without need to pull it into context.
However, while some use the term flesh in reference to our physical bodies, that does not mean that every time the word flesh is used throughout the NT is referring to that same definition.
I understand that to some it’s frustrating and can bring confusion, but we all need to understand that even in the English language, we have many homonym (words that have the same spelling or pronunciation, but different meanings or origins). Homonyms are very common in Hebrew. They also exist in Greek. They also exist in English. Actually, they exist in most languages. To ignore this and to assume that one word, even in the Bible, must have the same definition throughout is a bit foolish. This is why studying the word of God through the Holy Spirit is vital to have a healthy and whole view of our Father, God.
To furthermore demonstrate the differences in the word flesh throughout the NT (New Testament), as well as to articulate what the word flesh means in context to the first 2 verses (Romans5:5-8 & Galatans 5:17) I shared, let me share a few more verses with you that are quite clear without needing to go back into extensive context.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.John 1:14
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.Galatians 5:24
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.Galatians 5:19-21
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh…2 Corinthians 10:3
But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.Philippians 1:22
To me the different in the definitions of the word flesh is clear in all of these verses. I hope that they also are clear to you. In some verses the flesh means “body” while in other verses it clearly means something else. Why do I say that? Let’s take a look at Galatians 5:24 again.
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
My life belongs to Christ. I love Jesus with all my heart, but clearly I haven’t crucified my body because I am alive and well writing this article.
So, what is the definition for verses that use the word flesh in verses like Galatians 5:24?
The Vines Dictionary would define it as:
- the unregenerate state of men. Unregenerate means not reforming or showing repentance; obstinately wrong or bad state of men
- the seat of sin in man (this is not the same thing as in the body)
- the lower temporary element in the Christian
- the natural attainments of men
The HELPS Word-studies states the following:
Flesh is not always evil in Scripture. Indeed, it is used positively in relation to sexual intercourse in marriage (Ephesians 5:31) – as well as for the sinless human body of Jesus. Indeed, flesh is necessary for the body to live out the faith the Lord works in (Galatians 2:20).
Flesh is generally negative referring to making decisions (actions) according to self – ie. done apart from faith (independent of God’s inworking). Thus what is “of the flesh (carnal) is by definition displeasing to the Lord – even things that seem “respectable!” In short, flesh generally relates to unaided human effort, ie. decisions (Actions) that originate from self or are empowered by self. This is carnal (“of the flesh”) and proceeds out of the untouched (unchanged) part of us – ie. what is not transformed by God.
I think I’ve articulated what I’m trying to point out.
My objective with this article is two-folded.
- Point out that the word flesh is a homonym and has different meanings throughout the New Testament
- Spread the Good News that your physical body is not evil. It is not the flesh that needs to be crucified nor the “thing” that leads to the deeds listed in Galatians 5:19-21
I recognize that while all those deeds require our physical bodies to actually exist and happen, it is not our physical bodies themselves that lead to those actions. It is the unregenerate part of ourselves, the lower temporary element, the ways of this world that lead to deeds of the flesh. I hope that makes sense.
God, our Creator, our Father, created you. All of you. He created your body, soul, and spirit. He created you, all of you in His image. All of you is important to Him. All of you is beautiful to Him. He doesn’t look at your human body and despise you for it. He created it. He looks and smiles.
Do not attach the “ways of the world” flesh to your physical body. They are not one in the same. Your body is not evil. You may do wrong things with your body. Your physical body may be what acts out “fleshly deeds”, but your body is not in itself sinful or wrong.
When we give our lives to Christ, we are a unit. Much like the Trinity is a unit. Although the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are 3 different aspects to God, they are all God. They are one. Our beautiful and wise Creator created us in that same way. We are 3; body, soul, and spirit. Each does not operate independently of the other. Not only will I be discussing this in my book, but I will also be teaching on this at a conference at the end of February.
What do you do with this information?
Understand that you are not your own enemy. Know that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit and every part of you is pleasing to God. Live your life as such and learn to differentiate your sin from yourself. Put to death your deeds; not yourself. There is a difference.
I hope this article is clear. It’s not a full teaching, but hopefully it provides enough for you to study further on your own. As always, don’t take my word for it. Pray and ask God to reveal the truth to you. Study His word and let Him show you His beautiful nature. If you come to a different conclusion, then it’s ok. It doesn’t threaten my faith or my value. We all have different perspectives and can all learn from one another.
If you have any questions or need further explanation, feel free to comment and include your email address so I can respond.
May the truth set us free!