Summary: There is an ever present battle between the flesh and the Spirit.
Flesh: What is its Nature?
Scripture Reading: 1 John 2:12-17
Text: Romans 7:18
Sermon Idea: There is an ever present battle between the flesh and the Spirit.
There is the story of an old deacon who used to lead prayer meetings would often finish them with this phrase in his prayers “O Lord, clean all the cobwebs out of my life!” His next door neighbor could take it no longer because he knew how the man really lived. Well one “Wednesday night” the deacon “ended in his usual manner.” His neighbor who couldn’t control himself any longer and jumped up and “shouted, Don’t do it Lord! Don’t do it! Make him kill the spider!” (Zuck 352).
The word flesh has many meanings in the Greek language. “Kreas” (2907) is one of the words used for flesh and its meaning is for meat, “nonliving flesh” (Zodhiates 886). Another word for flesh is “sarx” (4561) it has a number of different meanings and synonyms and antonyms. “Sarkos, fem. Noun. Flesh of a living creature in distinction from that of a dead one, which are kreas (2907), meat” (1280).
The word flesh is a word that used singularly is talking about the parts of the body. In its plural form “kai sarkas, fleshy parts” (1280); “figuratively” (1280) and in exaggerated terms, the word “phago (5315), which means to eat, consume, to destroy flesh” (1280).
The word flesh is generally used in connection with the covering of the body, with no evil or good connotations (1280). The use of “sarx” is used more frequently in the New Testament than in the Old (1280). The word is also used in the context of meaning frailty, weakness, imperfection, both physically and spiritually (1280). It is also having, been linked to sinfulness, potential to sin, carnality, the center of a “carnal appetites and desires, sinful passions and affections whether physical or moral” (1280).
The way it is used most in the New Testament is in its relation to the “human nature” (1281). That is where we come to another derivative of the Greek word for flesh “sarkikos” (4559) “pertaining to the flesh, carnal, sensual, with proneness to satisfy the desires of the flesh” (1281). “Sarkinos” (4560) is another derivative of the word “sarx.” It is dealing with the actual material of the flesh. Flesh being made of flesh.
The word flesh as used in our contemporary society outside the church uses the word in the context of the body and all of its connections there in “meat, fat, muscle, brawn, tissue, cells, flesh and blood, protoplasm, plasm, plasma, body parts, heart, insides” (Laird 157). The only other way flesh is not used in that way are references to families and relatives “one’s own flesh and blood” (157). Only within the church is the word flesh used in the connotation of men and women still dealing with the sensualness and carnality of human nature and its potential for sinfulness.
After, the discovery of the various words and meanings, that the Greeks have for the one word, we use that has many different meanings. We can now look at how Paul meant his use of the word “sarx” to be understood. Paul in my estimation was using derivative “sarkinos.” This derivative of flesh is used under the connotation of sensualness and carnality. The pleasing of the body. What does Paul have to say about flesh and its nature as it relates to us doing good?
I. How do we do good? (Rom. 7:18)
We are in a constant battle against our natural inclination of satisfying ourselves. Man’s failure in the garden caused us not to be able to reach our “potential.” In not achieving our potential, we are unable to please God. We are continually wanting to satisfy our body, mind, self, and peers. We want to be loyal and obey God, yet our loyalty is sometimes overcome by our former master who still longs to hold the deed to our life. We want to obey God and His law but somehow we are powerless to do so. The flesh or “sinful nature” is a part of every believer in which there is no good. We have the want to but to actually accomplish it leaves us lacking.
Malcolm Muggeridge has said this about the “sinful nature” or flesh,
It is precisely when you consider the best in a man that you see there is in each of us a core of pride or self-centeredness which corrupts our best achievements and blights our best experiences. It comes out in jealousy which spoils our friendships, in the vanity we feel when we have done something pretty good, in the easy conversion of love into lust, in the meanness which makes us depreciate the efforts of other people, in the distortion of our own self-interest, in our fondness for flattery and our resentment of blame, in our self-assertive profession of fine ideals which we never begin to practice.