The word “flesh” appears often in Scripture. But what exactly does it mean? As Christians seeking God’s truth, it’s important we understand the biblical meaning of terms like this. In this post, we’ll explore the meaning of “flesh” throughout the Bible and what it signifies for our walk with Christ.
The term “flesh” can refer to a few different concepts in Scripture. At its most basic, it means our physical bodies – the meat, muscles, tissue, and bones that make us human. But biblically, “flesh” implies much more. It’s often used to represent the sinful tendencies and desires of our fallen human nature that lead us to rebel against God.
The flesh refers to the part of us still corrupted by sin, prone to temptation and selfishness. It’s the opposite of the redeemed spiritual life we can have in Christ. As the apostle Paul says, “The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another” (Galatians 5:17 NKJV).
Understanding what Scripture means when it talks about the “flesh” is crucial for every Christian. It can help us identify sinful patterns and walk in the freedom of Christ rather than giving in to temptation. Looking at how this term is used throughout the Bible provides valuable insight.
- The “flesh” refers to our physical bodies, but also to the sinful nature within us.
- Life in the flesh leads to spiritual death, while life in the Spirit leads to peace.
- We must crucify the flesh daily and walk by the Spirit to follow Christ.
- The flesh represents human weakness, while the Spirit represents divine power.
- Victory over the flesh comes from Christ’s transforming work within us.
The Flesh Represents Our Sinful Human Nature
One key meaning of “flesh” in Scripture refers to the capacity for sin innate in all people. Our flesh represents the part of us still under the power of sin. As Paul explains:
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. (Romans 7:18-19 NKJV)
Due to the Fall, the flesh is naturally prone to sin. It contains no inherent goodness in itself that can earn favor with God. The flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit:
For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. (Galatians 5:17 NKJV)
Our fleshly nature was corrupted by the entrance of sin into the world. As humans, we are vulnerable to temptation and evil impulses unless we live by the Spirit:
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. (Galatians 5:16-17 NKJV)
The flesh represents the sinful compulsions and desires at war within each of us. Life controlled by the flesh cannot please God.
Life in the Flesh Versus Life in the Spirit
Scripture contrasts living in obedience to our fleshly impulses versus walking in the freedom of the Holy Spirit. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh and now derive life from the Spirit:
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6 NKJV)
Pursuing the sinful passions of the flesh leads only to spiritual emptiness and death:
For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13 NKJV)
In Christ, we can now overcome the flesh and experience new life through the Spirit:
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1 NKJV)
As Christians, we must continually crucify the flesh and submit to the Spirit’s leading:
And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5:24-25 NKJV)
The flesh will fail us, but the Spirit gives eternal life to those who walk in faith.
The Flesh Represents Human Weakness
Biblically, the flesh highlights our human limitations apart from God. Whereas the Spirit represents divine strength and power:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12 NKJV)
Trying to wage spiritual warfare in our own fleshly strength is futile. The flesh cannot inherit God’s kingdom:
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. (1 Corinthians 15:50 NKJV)
But by the Spirit’s power, we can experience victory:
The flesh is temporary, but the Spirit gives eternal life:
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:63 NKJV)
Rather than self-reliance, we must depend on the Spirit’s strength working within us.
Victory Over the Flesh Comes from Christ’s Transformative Work
Defeating the sinful passions of the flesh is not something we can accomplish in our own power. Scripture is clear – victory comes from Christ’s life and power at work within our hearts.
For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4 NKJV)
Through Christ’s sacrificial death, our sins are nailed to the cross. Now, we can walk in newness of life through the empowering of the Holy Spirit. This is key to defeating the flesh:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NKJV)
As we yield to the Spirit’s leading, He produces His fruit in our lives:
Living by the power of Christ’s Spirit within us is the key to overcoming our sinful flesh.
How to Walk in the Spirit Daily
Defeating the desires of the flesh requires more than willpower – it requires walking daily by the Spirit’s power. Here are some tips:
- Start each day praying for the Holy Spirit’s control over your thoughts, words, and actions.
- Study Scripture for reminders of your new identity in Christ. We are no longer slaves to sin!
- Take every sinful thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Refuse to dwell on lustful, prideful, or rebellious thoughts.
- When facing temptation, proclaim Gospel truths aloud and choose to fix your mind on Christ’s sacrifice and redemption.
- Memorize encouraging verses about the Spirit’s power and submit your feelings to Scriptural truth, not vice versa.
- Confess and repent of sins quickly. Don’t let the flesh gain ground through unaddressed sin.
- Pursue community and accountability. Sin thrives in secrecy, but is defeated through confession and Spirit-led counsel.
- Remember that we now can walk in power – Christ lives within us! Allow the Holy Spirit to lead each step.
Understanding the biblical meaning of “flesh” provides great insight for every believer. While it can represent our bodies, more importantly it signifies the innate sinful tendencies in all of us that lead to spiritual death. But praise God, in Christ we have victory over the flesh!
As we daily crucify sinful desires and walk by the control of the Holy Spirit, we can experience freedom from the flesh and new life in the Spirit. Christ now lives within us, transforming us at the deepest level. Understanding how Scripture contrasts the flesh and the Spirit motivates us to keep in step with Him. We now have His power to overcome and walk in righteousness.