Flesh and Body (last update to this study was made on11/22/2003)

Listed below are just a few brief thoughts on the "flesh" and the "body" in scripture. This is part of a response to a question.

I am sure you know, the word "sarx" is the Greek word translated flesh in the New Testament. Strong's suggest it is flesh as stripped from skin or meat of an animal (e.g., food), or the body. It also has other definitions such as human nature or human being, though I would have a slight disagreement on the latter due to my understanding that God is the Supreme BEING and we (though of the same substance) as Human Beings or lower in rank and order. So, for "sarx", we see many verses including:

Matt 16:17 blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for sarx and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven
Jhn 1:13 which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the sarx, nor of the will of man, but of God
Luke 24:39 for a spirit hath not sarx and bones, as ye see me have
Rms 2:28 neither is that circumcision which is outward in the sarx
Rms 7:18 For I know that in me, that is, in my sarx, dwelleth no good thing
Rms 8:5 they that are after the sarx do mind the things of the sarx
Rms 8:6 the minding of sarx (flesh) is death

note: I can find only one verse in the NT using the word "flesh" that comes from another Greek word other than "sarx." That is in Romans 14:21 when Paul was addressing eating of meat with idols.

Just by reading Rms 8:5 (as well as many other verses), we can see that the flesh speaks of more than just our physical body with its normal needs and desires (e.g., clothing, food, sleep, etc.). It seems to speak of a lower base nature, that which has its orientation of the natural realm. When man is subject to his physical senses and appetites, he is said to be minding the things after the flesh or carnally (outward) minded. When we read "the flesh", it also speaks of that inward nature which is earthly minded with its self-centeredness, ego, rebellion, lusts, etc., etc. When the soul yields to the body and its senses, it became fleshly oriented or minding the flesh (outward). In fact, the flesh wars against the Spirit.

Paul reminds us in Ephesians that prior to the conversion, they lived by the dictates of the flesh (Eph 2:3). In Col 2:11 he speaks of putting off the body of the sins of the flesh. So, as believers as can (but should not) obey the bidding of the flesh. Moreover, it would be wrong for me to think that the flesh is limited to the deeds of the body since so many of the listed works of the flesh in Gal 5:19-21 originate and take place in the mind.

I do not see the word "flesh" as always meaning muscle, bones, skin, etc., in scripture, though Luke 24:39 implies only the physical part. (I do not see Jesus as ever being "carnal or fleshly minded."). I would not see "flesh" and "body" as equivalent.

For all of men, both believer and nonbeliever, the body serves as a vehicle to be mobile (for most people) or at least to express. To some degree, I think it safe to say it is to be our servant. However there is a difference. For the unbeliever, the body is a servant to sin, whereas in a regenerate person the body (as the result of the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit) has the ability or power to overcome as serve as an instrument of righteousness to glorify God.

I needn't go into the Greek for "body" for it is pretty straight forward in scripture (though the word 'slaves' in Rev 18:13 is the Greek word for body). You quoted "know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost." This is the same word as the other words for body. I have heard a few suggest that the body here is not the natural body but rather a spiritual body. However, that doesn't settle with me as verse 20 seems to set the record straight.

Last, how do I understand Jesus being put to death in the flesh if it is not equivalent to the body? Well, my understanding is that there are places where it can only mean the physical outward flesh (or body) such as Luke 24:39, etc. I think it to be the same when it is said:

Jesus is come in the flesh
And the Word was made flesh
For Christ being ....... put to death in the flesh but quickened by the Spirit