What is the Flesh ?

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Puritan Board Junior
Can someone explain clearly what the (sinfull) flesh is, and how it is that a christian still struggle's with the flesh, while he is a new creation in Christ ?


Puritan Board Freshman
I think that MacArthur teaches that the "flesh" and the "old nature" are distinct.
I think the popular belief among the Reformed is that the flesh is the "residue" of our old nature. The old nature has been crucified and is dead. But the residue (the flesh) remains till our sanctification is complete. The good news is this residue has been cut off from its source, so reckon it dead and trust in the power of your new nature -- put on the mind of Christ.

At least that is the way I understand it. I am open to being taught on this subject -- it goes to the heart of practical holiness.


Puritanboard Amanuensis
Flesh in the unregenerate, Gen. 6:3, 5, refers to every imagination of the thought of his heart being only evil continually.

Flesh in the regenerate, Rom. 7:25, refers to the remnants of corruption adhering to a man in whom grace now reigns and the dominion of sin has been broken.

For the ongoing struggle between flesh and spirit in the regenerate, consider these excellent comments from James Fergusson on Gal. 5:17:

2. As the regenerate man hath a renewed principle of grace in all the faculties and powers of the soul, wrought in him by the Spirit of God, so he hath in all those some remainder of corruption yet unmortified, whereby his whole mind, will and affections are partly spiritual, partly carnal; both flesh and Spirit are in him: “for the flesh lusteth against the Spirit,” saith he.
3. None of those powers or principles in the regenerate man are dead, dull, or merely passive, but both of them are working and active; for “the flesh lusteth and the Spirit lusteth,” whereby is meant that both of them do sway and incline the whole man to work in a way congruous to their respective natures, the one to good and the other to evil.
4. The activity of these two active principles is in a flat opposition the one to the other; so that in one and the same man, and while he is about one and the same action, there is a conflict and battle betwixt these two contrary parties, Rom. 7:19, 21. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.”
5. As there is a mixture of both these principles in all the powers and faculties of the regenerate man, so there is a mixture of their respective influence and efficacy in every action of his; whereby, though there be a prevalence of the one above the other in some actions, yet there is not one action to which both of them do not contribute somewhat: if not by a causal influence, yet by some measure of active resistance; “for the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.”
6. Hence it followeth, that as the actions of the regenerate are not perfect and free from a sinful mixture, so there is some difference betwixt his worst actions and those same actions as gone about by the unregenerate man; even this, that the flesh doth not advance with a full gale, but meeteth with the contrary tide of resistance from the Spirit in some degree. For, as the “flesh lusteth against the Spirit, so the Spirit lusteth against the flesh: and ye cannot do the thing that ye would,” saith he.
7. Though unregenerate men may have somewhat like to this spiritual combat, even a conflict sometimes betwixt the natural conscience and rebellious affections, Rom. 2:1; yet they have not this same very combat here spoken of, wherein one faculty is not carried against the other, but every faculty, as it is flesh, is carried against itself, as it is spirit. Now that this combat is not in the unregenerate man, appeareth from this, that he is wholly flesh, Gen. 6:5, and not at all spirit, and this combat is betwixt flesh and spirit; for “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit.”
8. The mutual resistance and opposition of those two parties, “flesh and spirit,” in the regenerate man, as it beginneth at the very first rise of every action in the understanding, will, or affections, so it continueth and waxeth always more fierce as the action is carried on towards its full accomplishment by the executive faculties. For, saith he, “ye cannot do the things that ye would;” importing that our willing of good or evil is more free from this opposition (though not altogether free) than our actual doing or accomplishing of it, being so willed. See Rom. 7:18.


Puritan Board Junior
inward man is renewed

Whatever the scripture says to mortify [deprive of power] is the flesh; In col .3

1If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

2Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

3For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

4When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

5Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

6For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:

7In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.

8But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

9Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;

10And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

In romans 8; 8So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

9But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

10And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

11But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

12Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.

13For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.


Puritan Board Graduate
From Easton's Bible Dictionary

Flesh [N]

in the Old Testament denotes (1) a particular part of the body of man and animals (Genesis 2:21; 41:2; Psalms 102:5, marg.); (2) the whole body (Psalms 16:9); (3) all living things having flesh, and particularly humanity as a whole (Genesis 6:12,13); (4) mutability and weakness (2 Chronicles 32:8; Compare Isaiah 31:3; Psalms 78:39). As suggesting the idea of softness it is used in the expression "heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 11:19). The expression "my flesh and bone" (Judges 9:2; Isaiah 58:7) denotes relationship.

In the New Testament, besides these it is also used to denote the sinful element of human nature as opposed to the "Spirit" (Romans 6:19; Matthew 16:17). Being "in the flesh" means being unrenewed (Romans 7:5; 8:8,9), and to live "according to the flesh" is to live and act sinfully (Romans 8:4,5,7,12).

This word also denotes the human nature of Christ (John 1:14, "The Word was made flesh." Compare also 1 Timothy 3:16; Romans 1:3).
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