The last post in this series ended by stating that I would consider the Biblical usage of the would “sarx” (flesh – translated “sinful nature” in the NIV) and provide an illustration that helps us understand how causation eliminates moral accountability.
The essential usage of the word “sarx” in the Greek language refers to the physical body. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines sarx as, “flesh (the soft substance of the living body, which covers the bones and is permeated with blood) of both man and beasts.” The word is used in this regard in many passages, such as, “…born of a descendent of David according to the flesh…” (Ro.1:3 – in reference to Jesus). Obviously, in this context, no one would translate this “according to the sinful nature.”
Beyond the above usage, New Testament literature uses the word to refer to our physical urges, impulses, and appetites. It must be understood that such urges, impulses, and appetites are not evil in and of themselves. This is why the concept and usage of the phrase “sinful nature,” as a translation for sarx, is misleading. The phrase “sinful nature” most commonly leads people to assume there is something evil in us that causes us to sin. First, this is not true and second; it robs us of understanding the true nature of the battle we face. In reference to our urges, impulses, and appetites, we are instructed that we are not to allow them to control us and, consequently, dictate and determine our character and ultimate goal in life – not because they are bad but because this is not the goal of our God-given design and purpose. Obviously, a part of life consists of satisfying our appetites, but within healthy, God-honoring parameters.
Though the verbiage can be confusing, the above point is communicated by Paul when he writes, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Ro.8:5-9). The point is, do not allow the appetites of your flesh to lead, guide, control and govern your ultimate purpose in life, look to the Spirit of God for this. It is important to realize that we have the God-given ability to determine whether we set our minds on (walk by) the flesh or the Spirit.
Finally, this is also the point John makes when he writes, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1Jn.2:15-17).