I am so tired of this verse and others like it being used to make helpless victims out of God’s chosen victors. Time to bury this lie! Got your shovel? Let’s dig!
“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
grēgoreuō: “keep awake, watch: – be vigilant.”
prothumos: “forward in spirit, that is, predisposed (willing): from “pro” & “thumos – passion, fierceness.”
sarx: “meat of the body, the ‘flesh’ of a human being as opposed to the spirit.” (Not to be confused with psuchē, “Living Being.”)
asthenēs: “(literally, or figuratively and morally): – more feeble, impotent, sick, without strength, weak:” from “A (alpha)” meaning first & “sthenoō.”
So what is Christ saying in those 19 little words?
You must stay awake, be vigilant, and keep watch and pray that you will not be tempted and brought into adversity. The spirit is indeed fiercely predisposed to stand with Christ; moreover, the flesh of the body has no moral authority and is impotent to begin with. (Stand with Christ? See verses 36-40 that precede this statement.)
This error in thinking is shelved in the same library as, “The Bible is the autobiography of God,” which we have already thoroughly debunked in Forgotten Hope and the post “The Auto-biography of God.” People who make these “flesh” errors look at the Manual through the flesh and thus see flesh and miss the instruction. Christ and the Holy Spirit, through the Apostles, the Prophets, and everyone else, are teaching us of “Spiritual Things.” The Holy Instructor and His Textbook teach us our image, designed in God’s Image, that gives unquestioned authority to the spirit over the flesh (sarx) and our living being (psuchē)… if we stand with Christ.
Tangent Alert! I will not provide the study here, just the conclusion in order to aid our understanding. A tree and a Venus flytrap have life of the body (sarx); therefore, a tree will turn over its leaves when rain approaches, and Venus will trap a fly when it lands. These are not conscious acts; they are responses to sense. Dogs have the breath of life that makes them living beings (see “The Hearts of Man” in Forged Hope). Dogs smell food and they eat it, or they smell something bad and do not. They do not eat out of a moral choice to sustain life but because their flesh (sarx) acts on what their senses perceive.
We Adams, unlike the tree, choose to get out of the rain because we don’t want to get wet. Unlike the dog, we eat, not just because we are hungry, but because we choose to live… and we have the moral authority to choose not to eat… and die. Our senses gather and transfer information just as with the tree and the dog, but that’s where the similarity ends. We act from a conscious choice of the spirit and that choice will depend on which spirit we follow.
Keeping all this in mind, let’s review a conversation Christ had with Peter. (Matthew 16:13-20)
Christ asks Peter, “…who do you say I am?” Peter responds, “You are the Christ, Son of the Living God.” To which Christ says,
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For this was not revealed to you by flesh (sarx) and blood, but by My Father in heaven.
Or… the fact that I am the Christ was not known to you because of the meat on your bones (human knowledge), but by the Spirit of God in heaven making it directly known to your spirit.
Then what did Christ say?
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”
One quick yet essential clarification. “Ekklēsia” is: “a calling out, meeting, assembly, congregation, church.”
OK, what rock? The spiritual relationship and revelation of God to man, Spirit to spirit, and the Truth it reveals. And, just like above, Peter’s “Standing with Christ.” Or, as John 1:14 says, Peter believed with his Entire Being that Christ is “the Word made flesh (sarx).” Finally, also like above, Peter’s “flesh” was without morality and impotent, but Peter’s spirit was predisposed to victory in Christ; therefore, temptation, adversity, and the Gates of Hell itself cannot defeat his spirit when it stands with Christ.
So, what was Christ telling (promising) Peter and us?
On these Truths I will call out My congregation to assemble in My Name. On these Truths I will build My Church (and temptation, sin, and Satan himself cannot touch you).
You know I always love to show the consistency of New and Old Testaments.
Peter quoted David, who said, “I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for He is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore, did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover, also my flesh (sarx) shall rest in hope.” Acts 2:25-26
Saleuō: “waver, agitate, destroy, disturb, incite, move, shake or stir up.”
Kataskēnoō: “camp down, remain, rest” – from skēnoō: “encamp, to occupy, reside, dwell (as God did in the Tabernacle of old, a symbol of protection and communion).”
So, a Christian keeps God “always in front of them” and at “their controlling side.” A person that does this cannot be “agitated, disturbed, incited, shaken or stirred up, much less destroyed.” This person has truly and sincerely taken on the Name and Spirit of Christ, and their Heart, spirit, rejoices victorious. Standing victoriously, “their flesh/body makes camp, remains, and rests in confident expectation that they are safely in God’s house and under His protection.”
This person is indeed fiercely predisposed to stand with Christ; moreover, their flesh/body is without morality and impotent to begin with, but rests securely in the strength of the Spirit.
Maybe I got this wrong? Let’s see what the Lord told Jeremiah directly:
“This is what the LORD says: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind, who makes the flesh his strength and turns his heart from the LORD.’” Jeremiah 17:5
At this point you’ve seen exactly how I get my understanding, so let’s just get to the point.
The “Lord says,” therefore beyond dispute, “the person who makes the flesh their ‘right arm,’ their ‘strength,’ instead of relying on the strength of His Spirit directing their spirit/Heart (relying on His Lordship) is cursed.” Need clarity on cursed? Read Jeremiah 17:6
“But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him.” (Jeremiah 17:7) Sounds like Peter to me.
Need clarity on blessed? “…does not fear when the heat comes…does not worry in a year of drought…does not cease to produce fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:8)
Time to take it to the big ones… the two Adams.
I’m not going to provide the quotes, just the point. Feel free to read Genesis 2 for yourself. The first Adam, the fleshly embodiment of a member of the spiritual world, was created Victorious in Christ. Adam was Created by God, the Triune One: God the Father, Power, and Authority of all that was Created; Christ, who existed before Creation and through whom all things were created; The Holy Spirit, the Breath of Life who imbues that bag of meat (sarx) with a spiritual being.
The first Adam was created perfect, without even the knowledge of sin. Adam enjoyed a Victory over the Adversary in a battle he didn’t even know had been fought. Adam was given the gift of Victory at the moment he was Created and then instructed to Stand in that Victory and not go looking for a battle. Adam chose to ignore this instruction and found his battle, and the moment he found it… he lost. Adam embodied the Truth that we can choose to give the Adversary victory through our giving flesh, which is absent moral judgment, power over the spirit.
The second Adam, the fleshly embodiment of the King of the spiritual world was created Victorious as Christ. He showed that the design God gave the first Adam was one who stood Victoriously, in authority over the flesh. The second Adam showed that the Power of God and of all His Creation lies in the spiritual world. As we discuss in Forgotten Hope, Christ demonstrated in His battle in the desert that God’s Spiritual Authority has no rival, whether in “the outer darkness,” “the inner demon,” the flesh (sarx) of the physical world, or the temptations of our human senses. In any and all situations, Christ stands Victoriously, and we have the authority to stand with Him should we so choose!
The sum-up? The first Adam showed that man only falls when he chooses to give the flesh power God did not. The second Adam showed that Christ’s defeat over the enemy is Full & Complete… not kinda!
Oh, but Romans 7:25! You know what, stop it. “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh (sarx) the law of sin.”
This is Paul’s closing statement to a discussion not unlike the one we just had. He discusses choosing the Law of God or choosing to follow the temptations of the senses of the flesh. He says that through the Lord Jesus Christ he understands (mind/nous) and serves the law of God. He in no way even hints that they share space. He then closes with, Thank God! that through Jesus Christ our Lord I can have victory by choosing for myself to serve God and to deny the flesh power!
Quite often, once a post is complete, God will provide confirmation of our conclusions through some long dead servant. Today was no exception.
First, from F. B. Meyers commentary explaining the meaning of another verse misused by religion, 1 Thessalonians 5:22: “Abstain from every form of evil.” (We will be writing another post, “Religion vs. Righteousness,” on the prideful misuse of this Scripture, starting with Mark 2:15-17.) Actually, his comments included the surrounding verses, as they should, so, verses 16-22.
“A sketch is here given of the ideal: believe, full of joy, constant in prayer, giving thanks in everything, loving with the unquenched fire of the Holy Spirit, willing to listen to any voice that may bear a divine message, testing all events and utterances with a celestial solvent, steadfast in good, and persistent against evil. This is a high standard, and impossible of realization apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But when the inner shrine is truly surrendered to Him, He will possess the whole temple, even to our physical well-being. God is faithful and will never fail the soul that dares to be all that He wills.”
So, did Meyer agree that sin and the flesh could not be defeated this side of death? Quite the opposite! He said that this is only true “apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit” but that “when the inner shrine is truly surrendered to Him, He will possess the whole temple, even to our physical well-being.” Or, if the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is present, sin, in all of its shapes, forms, and appearances, is defeated.
For those who would discount these “modern” liberal comments, Meyer lived from 1847-1929, was a Baptist Pastor, friend of D.L. Moody and A. C. Dixon, and was known as “a crusader against immorality,” closing down many saloons and brothels.
Second, we decided to dive into a book of revival sermons, Victory Over the World, by Charles G. Finney. The second sermon is titled, “Death to Sin.” See how this is fitting in already? The Scripture he uses as the foundation of his discussion, Romans 6, is often misused to make the opposite case, that sin is so powerful that we spend every day after professing “Salvation” under its power. Don’t worry. I am not going to reprint the entire sermon here, just a few useful quotes.
“Paul speaks of the man, the old sinner, as being ‘crucified with Christ’ – so destroyed by the moral power of the cross that he who was once a sinner shall no longer serve sin.” Finney continues talking about what Paul is saying, “We are dead to sin in the sense that it is no longer to be our master, implying that it has been in power over us. But sin has never been in power over Jesus Christ – never was His master. Christ died to abolish its power over us…He died for the sake of making an atonement for sin and of creating a moral power that should be effective to kill the love of sin in all hearts; but the Christian dies unto sin in the sense of being divorced from all sympathy with sin and emancipated from its control.” Lastly, “…‘dead in sin’…is a state in which the soul is dead to all good through the power of sin over it. But right over against this, to be ‘dead to sin,’ must be to be indifferent to its attractions – beyond the reach of its influence – as fully removed from its influences as the dead are from the objects of sense in this world.”
While Finney has several more pages to go, we will just use this quote to sum-up his remarks,
“What is meant by reckoning yourselves alive indeed unto God through Jesus Christ?” What is “the true idea of Gospel Faith – embracing personally the salvation which is by faith in Jesus Christ?” “Plainly this: that you are to expect to be saved by Jesus Christ and to calculate this as your own. You are to esteem yourself as wholly dead to sin and as consequently brought into life and peace in Jesus Christ…A precept requiring us to account ourselves dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God, would be utterably untenable if there were no probability of the thing – if no provision were made for our coming into such relations to sin on the one hand and unto God through Christ on the other.”
But maybe Finney and I have it wrong. Maybe Christ doesn’t just take the power away from sin and defeat it? Maybe Paul did teach that the way to “win the race” is to spend all of our time struggling with sin which has such power over Christ’s co-heirs. Before I give answer to this, do me a favor. Look around you for something that you can grab and move………… got it? OK, set it aside, lay it aside, rid yourself of its presence. “…let’s rid ourselves of (KJV – lay aside) every obstacle and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with patient endurance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews chapter 12, verse 1. And no, the verses that follow do not contradict our conclusion, they describe hupomonē, “patient endurance.” They confirm another of Paul’s and Christ’s instructions. Because you are in the world yet not of the world and cannot leave it, you should expect the adversary to continue firing his “flaming arrows.” However, with the “Shield of Faith” (Ephesians 6:16) firmly in place, you can also expect that they will have no effect. (See also Romans 13:13-14, 1 John 2:14-17, 1 Corinthians 5:9-11)
So, as we set the gravestone of this lie in place, let me ask: If this flaming arrow (lie) sticks firmly in your chest, if you believe sin is alive and well in your sarx and has power over Christ, what does this say about your Shield? You might want to read “Stop Struggling Choose God!”
© Scott A Caughel 3/15/2023