One of the most fundamental things we get wrong is always thinking that, we are still in the flesh or that sowing in the flesh is sin.
This is perhaps due to a failure to understand things from a “book division” view rather than from a “chapter division” view.
What I mean by this is that we fail to interpret reading the whole book but reading it chapter by chapter.
Take for example this verse.
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
You would actually think the believer can live in the flesh and live in the Spirit.
Note I have quoted from chapter 8 of Romans. Now let me quote to you what Paul had said previously.
For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death.
That’s the NIV
Now let quote you the KJV.
For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
I want you to note it both translations the past tense is used.
“We were”. Past tense.
This is important as you can see Paul is setting us up for the next verse.
But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
We have been released from the Law.
You may say, wait a minute. It does not say we are set free from the flesh but just the law.
In order for us to fully understand this we must know what is this flesh.
Paul tells us it is the sinful passions which are aroused by the law.
Take a look at this.
Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:
Here Paul calls certain people mutilators of the flesh. He also calls them dogs. Notice Paul also calls the believers the true circumcision.
Right hold that thought. Let’s go to the part where Paul speaks about his confidence in the flesh.
circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
Notice the first thing he said? Circumcision. The last thing he said? Legalistic righteousness based on the Law!
Now we know 2 things. The flesh has to do with:
a) the law; and
Let us now read from the famous passage in Galatians: “sowing in the flesh”.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Again when you read this in isolation of the chapter without the whole book, you get the idea that a Christian has two natures.
However that is not the theme of the book. The book is telling the Christian not to go back to the Law.
Let’s look at what sowing in the flesh actually means.
Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.
It’s simple it’s circumcision. Then these verses make sense.
Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
“A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”
You see it has be about putting your trust in the Law. It has nothing to do with moral sinning but embracing the wrong covenant.
Paul is saying if you allow yourself to be circumcised you are bound by the whole law. That’s how you are alienated from Christ.
Now do you understand why the flesh is about placing yourself under the Law.
Hence when Paul said you died to the Law your flesh literally died with you on that cross. Let’s read those words.
But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
We have been released from the law. Having died to what held us captive. We now serve in a new way of the Spirit.
Notice “now” we are in the Spirit. Paul in this verse tells us there is no 2 ways about it. We are either in the flesh or in the Spirit.
In fact we used to walk in the flesh. We NOW walk in the Spirit. Let me show you.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.
You are NOT in the flesh. You are IN the Spirit.
Note the word HOWEVER. That breaches any idea of the misconceived notion of a believer being in the flesh and in the Spirit alternatively.
Also this is what he then says we don’t owe the flesh anything.
Heirs with Christ
So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.
Last but not least. Thinks what Paul tells us.
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
Remember I spoke to you about being the “true circumcision”?
You are the true circumcision because you have been circumcised from head to toe in your death with Jesus.
He cut off your flesh your whole body of your flesh. When you cut of a piece of flesh from your foreskin, that piece of skin is removed totally. If it is left dangling, it is torture to person being circumcised. Hence when Jesus cut you from your flesh, he cut you completely. He also completely severed you from the Law.
So when you tell some one he is still in his flesh or that he has two natures in him, you are telling him the foreskin is still dangling on his organ and has not been completely cut off. It’s not only mixture. It’s torture.
Let me end with a happy note.
2 Peter 1:4
by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
Notice the words “you have escaped”. It’s in the past tense.
The reason is this. You are now partakers of the DIVINE nature. Not sinful nature.
I find that there is a great error that being taught by the grace community. They say that the Law never applied to the Gentiles.
Hence the passages which speaks about how Jesus set them free from the Law does not apply to them.
It is true that the Law of Moses was given to the Jews. However all humanity is bound by the “Law of Conscience.”
The 10 commandments is the codified version of that conscience for the Jews. However there remains a law that the Gentiles which are to be set free from.
This is what Paul says.
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.
They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.
He then goes and speaks to both Jews and Gentiles about how the Law could not justify them. Otherwise the book of Romans has no application to the Gentiles.