'Human nature', the 'natural man', the 'unspiritual man', the 'carnal man', the 'sensual man', the 'Adamic man', the 'Torahless (laweless) man', the 'flesh' and many other parallel terms, are all ways of describing the unsaved soul. None of these have the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) residing in him. Accordingly, he has no understanding or appreciation of spiritual truth or realities:
In the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament), "flesh" (Gk. sárx) is entirely separate from the body (Gk. sóma) and 'meat' (kreas) (e.g. Rev.19:18), and refers to this natural, unspiritual, carnal, sensual, Adamic, or lawless nature. At times, however, it does refer to the human body (Gal.2:20) and at other times is means mankind as a whole (Mt.24:22). Sometimes it is even used to emphasise the essential nature of mankind as a whole as in the poetic expression "body, soul and spirit" (1 Jn.4:2) - see Body, Soul & Spirit: The Teachings of Kenneth E. Hagin Compared with the Bible. So flesh also suggest the experience of life, as a spiritual-psycho-physical being (2 Cor.7:5). 'Flesh' is also used to describe the commitment and literal "one flesh" union of a couple for each other in marriage (Mt.19:5). Therefore 'flesh' or 'human nature' refers to either:
"We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of Elohim's (God's) secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that Elohim (God) destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Master of glory. However, as it is written:
but Elohim (God) has revealed it to us by His Ruach (Spirit).
'No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what Elohim (God) has prepared for those who love him' -
"The Ruach (Spirit) searches all things, even the deep things of Elohim (God). For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of Elohim (God) except the Ruach Elohim (Spirit of God). We have not received the spirit of the world but the Ruach (Spirit) who is from Elohim (God), that we may understand what Elohim (God) has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Ruach (Spirit), expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Ruach (Spirit) (the "natural man" - NASB, KJV; "those who are unspiritual" - NRSV) does not accept the things that come from the Ruach Elohim (Spirit of God), for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment:
For who has known the mind of the Master
But we have the mind of Messiah" (1 Cor 2:6-16, NIV).
that he may instruct him?"
Care must therefore be taken not to over-generalise. Historically, not a few theological errors have arisen out of an abusive interpretation of the word 'flesh' to infer that all physicality is sinful and devilish (see Gnosticism). It would be true to say, biblically speaking, that a fallen human being, acting out of 'fleshy' impulses that lead to sinning, is not fully human, but resembles more the devil in behaviour and character. The purpose of the atonement of Messiah is to make men and women truly human again, like the originally created Images that were pre-Fall Adam and Eve.
- 1. The weaker, fallen aspects of the nature of humankind that are subject to temptation (Mt.26:41; 2 Pet.2:18);
- 2. The human body;
- 3. Mankind as a whole - "all flesh" (Jn.17:2);
- 4. The essential nature of mankind (e.g. 2 Cor.7:5);
- 5. Physical existence (Col.2:1);
- 6. Physical descent - "my bone and my flesh" (Rom.1:3) as in "Israel after the flesh" (1 Cor.10:18) and "kinsmen according to the flesh" (Rom.9:3); and
- 7. The experience of a life as a spiritual-psycho-physical being.
The fallen aspects of human nature lead to temptation and if this is not resisted, then the desire to sin will increase (1 Jn.2:16) and the result will be spiritual bondage (Rom.6:19). When this happens, the individual will be enslaved to the desires of the flesh or fallen human nature (Eph.2:3) and will have the mind-set of that nature (Rom.8:5-7). The consequence will be corruption (Gal.6:8) and the inability to discern Yahweh's revelation of Himself (Mt.16:17).
The physical body, or 'flesh' in the other sense, is not naturally sinful. Messiah came in the flesh (was incarnated - Jn.1:14; Eph.2:15; 1 Pet.3:18; 1 Jn.4:2-3) "made of the seed of David according to the flesh" (Col.2:1) and was without sin, even though He was tempted as we are by the fallen aspects of human nature (Heb.4:15) so that He could redeem those who are likewise in the flesh as physical beings (Gal.2:20) - see Preexistence. Those who accept Messiah (Christ) as Deliverer (Saviour) remain physically in the flesh but do not live according to the sinful fallen, sinful flesh-nature (Rom.8:9) but in accordance with the New Covenant Torah lifestyle. They are led by the Ruach (Spirit) to put to death the deeds of the flesh, but not the flesh itself:
"For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Ruach (Spirit) you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Ruach Elohim (Spirit of God) are Benei Elohim (sons of God)" (Rom.8:13-14, NIV).
Thus to be "in the flesh" (as with Paul - Gal.2:20) is not incompatible to being "in the Master (Yah'shua/Jesus)" (Phm.16), leaving no excuse for extreme forms of aesceticism. The flesh may, by our own choosing, be defiled (Jude 8) or purified (Heb.9:13). This purification has two aspects:
To refuse to thus overcome by concentrating on, and allowing himself to be drawn to, the fallen impulses of the Adamic fleshy nature, men may be said to have chosen to "live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that [fallen, fleshy, Adamaic] nature desires" (Rom.8:5, NIV). To have such a mind "is death" (Rom.8:6) and to be "hostile to Elohim (God)" (Rom.8:7, NIV). The man whose horizon is limited by the flesh is by that very fact opposed to Yahweh. He lives "according to the sinful nature (flesh)" (Rom.8:14, NIV) which "lusts against (eagerly desires what is contrary to) the Ruach (Spirit)" (Gal.5:17, NKJV).
- 1. Man's part, which is to choose to overcome the power of the fallen nature, its "lusts" and its "desires" (Eph.2:3), by an appeal in emunah (faith) to the resurrection power of Messiah; and
- 2. Messiah's part, from whom issues the supernatural power to make an end to sinning in the flesh, since man cannot do this in his own strength.
Paul makes a 'dreadful list' of "the works of the flesh" in stark warning:
In a sense, the 'flesh' denotes the whole personality of man organised in the wrong direction, as directed to earthly pursuits rather than the service of Yahweh. Addressing this problem therefore becomes an important and integral part of Messianic Evangelical discipleship, the more so as holiness is almost universally neglected by the vast majority of Christian churches and Messianic assemblies today who therefore deny their members the blessings that accrue from recognising sins, repenting, and being properly cleansed by Messiah. A prophetic and apostolic ministry must, however, get its hands dirty, expose the depraved condition of man and point him to the only remedy: Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ).
"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality (adultery and fornication), impurity and debauchery (lewdness); idolatry and witchcraft (sorcery); hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions (heresies) and envy; drunkenness, orgies (revelries), and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of Elohim (God)" (Gal.5:19-21, NIV).