Summary: Why did Paul write about the battle between the flesh and spirit in almost every one of his letters?
Flesh & Spirit Sermon Series
Part One: “What is so bad about my flesh?”
1. Over the past few weeks, God has been speaking to me about the power of the Spirit led life and the tragedy of the flesh led life. The consequences for a church, for a family or for an individual are dramatic, depending upon what/or who is leading their life.
a. There are many misunderstandings about our flesh and its nature (is good or evil?)
b. These have been compounded even by the church, which has over the ages almost condemned the flesh with praising the ascetic behavior of the monks…
i. Asceticism is a denial of all bodily comforts in the belief that the body/flesh is so bad that it must be starved of any comforts.
ii. The proponents (including the Roman Church) based this view on 1 Cor 9:26-27 “Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
iii. The early monastic movement saw food, marital pleasures, even the comfort of a mattress as worldly and corruptive to purity, holiness or spirituality.
iv. Denying oneself of everything but the spiritual disciplines was considered to be of the highest form of devotion.
c. Over the centuries this led to a “my body is bad” “spirit or religion” is good sort of attitude.
i. This dualism which views the physical realm as evil and the spiritual realm as good.
1. This dualism was advanced by the early Gnostic heresies, and has persisted off and on throughout the centuries.
ii. The Puritans reflected this attitude in early America.
iii. Evidences can still be seen around us in some of the “primitive” forms of Christianity that declare music, electricity or colorful clothing or jewelry to be sinful.
iv. This has led to a backlash against the church, which was perceived to be “against” the body, against marital relations, against anything that reflected a healthy enjoyment of our body.
d. The truth is the body is good. God made us with a body.
i. God examined His creation at the completion of each day and declared it good.
ii. He gave us many things to enjoy in their proper context.
iii. The Jews understood this and celebrated life in a number of feasts each year with joy and revelry.
iv. Jesus understood this truth and evidenced it by his attendance at feasts and parties.
v. He didn’t declare the body as evil but instead He focused upon the human heart.
a. We need to make some definitions of what we mean when we talk about the “flesh.”
i. The word for flesh is sarx –
1. (Romans 8:3 “sinful flesh” - Robertson translates as “flesh marked by sin.”)
2. But flesh is not sinful in itself, but rather is simply weak.
3. Having flesh does not mean you are destined to sin, because Jesus was flesh and blood like you and I.
4. What Jesus did not have was the estrangement from God that we call “original sin.”
5. That occurred as a result of Adam’s disobedience in the garden.
6. Because Jesus was born of a virgin, he did not inherit that original estrangement and thereby didn’t need to be redeemed from it.
ii. Jesus was born into sarx flesh.. John 1:14 “The Word became flesh”
1. He was without sin.
a. Christ became a flesh and blood person but did not give in to the desires of the flesh.
b. Instead, he was perfect in life and death,
c. He died to provide salvation for all other persons, since they do give in to fleshly desires.
b. Adam did not have a sin nature and he was tempted.
i. He was flesh and blood. He lived in “temptable” or “weak” flesh.
ii. It was not sinful flesh but flesh.
iii. Once he sinned, he was estranged from God, he became a slave to sin, and his heart and life was corrupted by sin, which he passed on to all of his descendents through “his seed.”
iv. Because you and I are born into the original estrangement from God, the inherited sin and sinful bent called original sin, we need to be redeemed…from the penalty of sin, from the consequence of sin, and from sin itself.
v. Sin is something that resides in our hearts and not our flesh.
vi. (Our heart is our mind, will and emotions, defined as our soul, our core eternal being)
c. So when the bible, speaks of “sinful flesh” it is actually speaking of man’s lower, sin disposed nature that is governed by his heart that is or was estranged from God’s rule and fellowship, and now must be changed.