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Dictionary of Bible Themes – 6166 flesh, sinful nature
6166 flesh, sinful nature

6166 flesh, sinful nature

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 others Ps 84:2 See also Ge 2:23-24; Ge 29:14; 1Co 15:39 The 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

As the means by which Jesus Christ identified with the human race to bring salvation Jn 1:14 See also Eph 2:15; Heb 10:20; 1Jn 4:2

As subject to mortality Isa 40:6-7 See also Ps 78:39; Ac 2:31; 1Co 15:50

As subject to weakness 2Ch 32:8 See also Ps 73:26; Mt 26:41 pp Mk 14:38

Flesh as contrasting human nature with God’s perfection

The powerlessness of human beings contrasted with God’s eternal power Isa 31:3 See also Jn 3:6; Jn 6:63

Human or worldly standards contrasted with God’s standards Jn 8:15 See also 1Co 1:26; 2Co 5:16; 2Co 10:3-4

Flesh as denoting the sinful nature of human beings

The tendency to sin Ro 7:18 Paul 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 also Jer 17:5

The conflict in human experience between the sinful nature and the Spirit of God Gal 5:17 See also Ro 8:4-9; Gal 5:19-25

The sinful nature is opposed to God and his will

This opposition finds expression in a range of acts and attitudes Gal 5:19-21 See also Ro 7:14-25; Ro 8:7; Ro 13:13-14; 1Co 6:9-11; Eph 5:5; Jas 1:14-15; 1Pe 2:11; 2Pe 2:10,18; 1Jn 2:16

Confidence in the law is futile Ro 8:3 Because 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 also Ro 7:25; Php 3:3-9

The sinful nature controls human behaviour in ways which run counter to God’s purpose Ro 8:8 See also Ro 7:5

The sinful nature therefore makes people subject to God’s judgment and to death

Ro 8:13; Eph 2:3 See also Gal 6:8

Believers are not controlled by the sinful nature

Through Jesus Christ’s entering into human flesh, God delivers from the power and consequences of human sinfulness Ro 8:3 See also Eph 2:15

Believers have crucified the sinful nature Ro 7:5-6 See also Ro 8:8-9; Gal 5:24; Col 2:11

The power of God’s Spirit enables believers to continue to resist the sinful nature Ro 8:13 See also Ro 13:14; Gal 5:13; Col 3:5-6; 1Pe 2:11

God’s provision of church discipline in eliminating the sinful nature 1Co 5:5 The 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.

See also

2075Christ, sinless
5020human nature
5082Adam, significance
6156fall of humanity
6213participation in sin

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