Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.
Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:1-11 ESV)
Words. The Bible is full of them. They do not always mean what we were taught that they mean… I want to shine a new light on a word today.
Today I’m focusing on the word flesh. In the NIV – which is majorly used in our denomination – uses the word “sinful nature” often for the word flesh. This is used whenever the word “flesh” seems to lean towards sinning, but in my (quick) overview of the use of the words, there are times that it is not allowed to breathe for interpretation.
It is no secret that I am prone to literal-translations of the Bible. I want the scripture to be able to breathe for interpretation. I’m not looking to interpret the scriptures in my favor, but I want to know the true-truth. I love God’s word! I want to really know it! Saying that… I have no qualms with the NIV or NLT. I just don’t use them in my own personal study.
So… back to this word flesh, which we often think of as “sinful nature.” I want to introduce you to the multi-level-meaning of the word flesh in the scriptures.
There are times that this word has a lean on it, but it always means one thing. The flesh exists apart from Jesus.
The flesh has multiple meanings, some of mine are:
- The actual flesh which is temporary. (1 Cor 15:44)
- The part of me that desires to sin. (Romans 7:5)
- What my spirit lives inside of. (1 Cor 6:19-20)
- My self effort to please God. (Romans 10:3)
- My way of achieving righteousness without God. (Romans 10:5)
So when I read the scriptures I keep this in mind.
Now, when I read something like “the mind-set on the flesh is hostile towards God…” (Romans 8:7) I see more that just “when I sin, I’m hostile towards God.” No, but now I can see the broader scope… that when I try to achieve my own righteousness I will be hostile towards God!
So I thought it would be fun if we looked at the above passage of scripture to see this word “flesh” in a brand new light.
Here are a few notes…
Mutilate the flesh – this means the physically circumcised.
I put no confidence in the flesh - Based on what Paul is about to say, it’s obvious that he’s talking about his self effort. However… not putting confidence in the sinful nature is also very wise and great Godly advise!
Circumcised on the eighth day… under the law, blameless – This is Paul’s list of qualifications for self-righteousness. This is everything he had done right to earn God’s acceptance. This is the very thing he can’t put his confidence in.
not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – Here Paul essentially says, I can do nothing for myself, but I can only receive what Jesus has done for me.
In closing… I hope you saw that there is a depth of truth in the scripture. I am so enjoying my uncovering of truth in the Word. It’s like digging for treasure in treasure. I’m digging through gold-coins of good surface truth to find deeper crowns of truth. So, I hope today’s post will help you to see more expansive meanings of the word flesh.
Remember, if you’ll read slow enough and let the scripture interpret itself then the scriptures will come to life for you. When all else fails, call someone more mature in the word than yourself and ask questions.
God is about to speak to you.