The physical aspect of human beings, which distinguishes them from God and is therefore frequently used in the NT as a symbol of human sinful nature in contrast with God’s perfection. (The Greek word for “flesh” is sometimes translated by other words and phrases in the passages cited in this theme.).
Flesh as the bodily substance of human beings
As individuals or in relation to othersPs 84:2See alsoGe 2:23-24; Ge 29:14; 1Co 15:39The following two examples from Paul, where the normal word for “flesh” underlies the translation “body”, make clear that to live “in the flesh” is normal human experience; the phrase does not necessarily imply that human nature is sinful, even though in many other instances a specific connection between “flesh” and “sin” is intended:Gal 2:20; Php 1:22-24
Flesh as denoting the sinful nature of human beings
The tendency to sinRo 7:18Paul does not mean that no goodness at all exists in people; nor that the physical aspect of human beings is inherently evil. He means that humans are invariably infected by evil and subject to its power. See alsoJer 17:5
Confidence in the law is futileRo 8:3Because of the sinfulness of human nature, God’s law is powerless to bring people into relationship with God; Gal 3:3 Even the attempt to find acceptance with God through keeping his law is an act of the sinful nature because it involves rejecting his offer of salvation through his grace. See alsoRo 7:25; Php 3:3-9
The sinful nature controls human behaviour in ways which run counter to God’s purposeRo 8:8See alsoRo 7:5
The sinful nature therefore makes people subject to God’s judgment and to death
God’s provision of church discipline in eliminating the sinful nature1Co 5:5The discipline of excluding a sinner from the church community is intended to bring him to repentance and so abandon his sinful course of action. Repentance provoked by physical suffering is possibly also in mind.
Dictionary of Bible Themes Scripture index copyright Martin H. Manser, 2009. As Editor, Martin Manser wishes to thank all those who compiled or edited the NIV Thematic Study Bible, on which this work is based.