The Nature of Man's Flesh

Think of an animal in the wild. What is it doing? Whatever it wants to do is the answer. What does it want to do? Whatever comes natural to that particular animal is the only thing that it can do. What does it need to do? It needs to do whatever it takes to satisfy its life sustaining needs, to gratify its fleshly desires, and to protect itself from harm and attack from some other force which may be out to do it harm. If an animal is hungry, what would you expect that animal to do? The natural course of action is to find food. What if it required the killing of another animal in order to provide that food? Would we find it strange for an animal to kill another animal in order to survive? Of course not. Such is the nature of flesh. Flesh lives to continue living. Flesh seeks its own gratification by nature. If it is hungry, it seeks out food. If it is thirsty, it seeks out water. If it is cold, it seeks shelter. If there is a sexual arousal, it does whatever is necessary to satisfy that lust.

Flesh is flesh. "All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds" (1 Corinthians 15:39). Man is not an animal, even though we are of flesh.

The difference between man and animals is seen in the creation account in Genesis 1 & 2. "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:26-27). Only man was created in God's image, according to His likeness.

In Genesis 2, we read further, "And the LORD God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.' Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: "This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man" (Genesis 2:18-23).

So, man is different. We were created different. Not one animal was nor is a suitable helper for man. No animal corresponds to man. No animal is compatible with man. No animal was created to be that in any way. Man has, however, the capacity to allow his flesh to control his uniqueness. Man has the capacity to ignore his creative differences. Man has within his nature to allow flesh to rule over his spirit. In other words, man can behave like an animal. Then, man is doing what comes natural to the flesh. Man's flesh, just like the animal, wants to continue living and to experience the natural gratification that comes by the pursuit of fleshly desires.

The Calvinist translators of the New International Version of the Bible who equated the Holy Spirit's references to man's flesh to what they called his "sinful nature" missed a very important part of the truth about flesh. When flesh seeks its own gratification and preservation, independent of God, it is doing only what comes natural to it. Do not misunderstand. I speak only to flesh independent of God.

The truth of the matter is that man is more than flesh. Man is also a living soul and is dependent on God. The capacity of man to sin is no greater than man's capacity to do what is right, because man has within him a spirit to choose the way he will live. He has within himself the capacity to know the revealed will of God for his life, and not only to know it, but also to believe it and to live it through faithful obedience to it. In that way, man has the capacity to be righteous and to do righteousness.

That is the spirit of man exercising control over the flesh of man, and doing what comes natural to the spirit. "For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For "who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?" But we have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:11-16).

Having the mind of Christ, we have an influence that can control the flesh. Our inner man can discern the truth of God, revealed in words delivered by the Spirit of God to specific men appointed by God to deliver them to mankind in the book we simply call the Bible. Through that revelation, we can discern right from wrong. Through that revelation, we can develop a faith that can and will motivate us to do what is right, even when our flesh may desire something else for its own gratification. This is the moral choice of man.

When man makes the choice to live by faith and to be moral, you can see the fruit of that decision in righteous living. "But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart' (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, 'Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.' (Romans 10:8-11) "

With the heart," not his flesh, "man believes unto righteousness." With his heart man has the capacity to believe what God has revealed so as to do what is right, not what man's flesh simply desires. "Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21)

"Lewdness," otherwise translated "lasciviousness" or "sensuality" is the activity of men who set aside the instruction of God's revelation and live only for the satisfaction, gratification, and preservation of their own fleshly lives. Lewdness is living for the senses independent of God. Lewdness turns the gratification of hunger into gluttony, or thirst into drunkenness; the expression of sexuality into pornography or perversions, including fornication, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality or child abuse; the expression of the beauty of God's created human body into nudity or immodest dress; the expression of joy or anger into profane speech and crudeness.

These are but a few of the applications of lewdness. Noah was lewd when he got drunk and exposed himself after the flood. The children of Israel were lewd when they forced Aaron to form a golden calf to worship while Moses was receiving the law from God on Mt. Sinai. David was lewd when he lusted after Bathsheba and committed adultery with her. Herod was lewd when he lusted after the daughter of Herodias when she danced, and he offered her the granting of any wish she desired. Herod, in his sinful state honored her desire and John the Baptist was beheaded.

The Bible teaches self control. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22-25).

Self control is the opposite of lewdness. "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors--not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:12-14). Lewdness, sensuality, living to please the senses brings about death. Living by the Spirit of God puts to death the deeds of the body. Gluttony returns to moderation. Drunkenness returns to abstinence, which is God's plan. Sexuality is expressed in a marriage approved of God. Nakedness is covered. Speech is filled with grace always seasoned with salt. Lewdness is of the flesh. Self control is of God.

By Steve Wallace

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