THE WORKS OF THE FLESH

Too often we refer to things like jealously and strife as a spirit, and we make references such as “the spirit of jealously” or “the spirit of strife.” Yet, the scriptures refer to these things as THE WORKS OF THE FLESH and not a spirit that we should bind or blame.

When writing to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul says, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).

The word carnal means fleshly, or ruled by the flesh. Notice that Paul refers to envy, strife, and divisions as carnality or being ruled by the flesh.

The Corinthians were Christians, but were held in a state of spiritual infancy. Paul refers to them as BABES IN CHRIST. Spiritual babies are ruled by their flesh so that they live according to their fleshly desires rather than living according the new life given to them in Christ. This results in repeatedly succumbing to the temptations of the fleshly desires rather than yielding to righteousness.

In the book of James we read that every man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lusts (the desires of the flesh) and enticed(James 1:14).

In James 4:1. James says, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” The NLT says, “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?”

Those things which are often attributed by Christians as “a spirit of…” are actually the desires of the flesh which Christ has given us victory over through His death, burial, and resurrection. Specifically, this is THE OLD MAN of which Paul refers when he says, “our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Romans 6:6).

The body of sin is the flesh, and through the power of the cross of Christ the flesh is subdued so that the life of Spirit might be manifested through us.  When strife and divisions and the such like run rampant, it doesn’t mean that there is “a spirit” that needs to be dealt with, but rather the flesh is unbridled. Men who are not spiritual, but who are ruled by the flesh are going to display fleshly conduct.

In Galatians 5 Paul make a distinction between the “works of the flesh” and the fruit of the spirit.

Now THE WORKS OF THE FLESH are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law (Galatians 5:19-23).

Paul goes on to say, “And they that are Christ’s HAVE CRUCIFIED THE FLESH with the affections and lusts” (verse 24).

The flesh has ALREADY been crucified through Jesus Christ, and we are instructed to put on the new man and to reckon ourself as dead to our old man (our fleshly carnal desires).

MORTIFY therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: for which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also PUT OFF ALL THESES; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have PUT OFF THE OLD MAN WITH HIS DEEDS; And have PUT ON THE NEW MAN, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him…(Colossians 3:5-10).

Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise RECKON YE ALSO YOURSELVES TO BE DEAD INDEED UNTO SIN, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God (Romans 6:9-13).

REFUTING TOTAL DEPRAVITY

We are not even out of Genesis 4 before the concept of totally depravity is found to be a faulty premise for interpreting the effects which Adam’s sin had on humanity.

After Cain became angry because God had accepted Abel’s offering and had not accepted his offering, God told Cain that sin was knocking at the door and that he should not to allow it to rule over him, least it become his master (see Genesis 4:6-7).

God did not deal with Cain as if he were totally depraved, God instructed Cain to rule over this sin that was knocking at the door.

Now, the Bible tells us exactly why Cain murdered his brother.

For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous (1 John3:10-11).

Notice that the apostle John says “Cain was of the wicked one and his works were evil.” On the contrary, his brother’s works were righteous.

If Cain had inherited a sin nature which made him totally depraved, Abel would have as well, but this is not the testimony which the scriptures give us concerning Abel.

The Lord Jesus Christ declared that Abel was righteous (Matthew 23:35)and the writer of Hebrews tells us, “Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that HE WAS RIGHTEOUS, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh (Hebrews 11:4).

Abel obtained witness that he was RIGHTEOUS!

No matter how you stack it, that statement “Abel obtained witness that he was RIGHTEOUS” completely dismantles the concept of total depravity.

The concept of total depravity is a theology that does not take into account the testimony of scripture concerning the real people who lived for God.

When we read of men like Abraham who had integrity of heart (Genesis 20:5-6) and Joseph who fled from sin when he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:7-12) we see that the concept of total depravity is a very distorted lens through which we should read the scriptures.

Adam’s sin did not give every human being a heart of rebellion against God, nor did it give everyone a heart to desire sin. The Psalmist said “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God” (Psalm 84:2).

When God sent Samuel to anoint David to be king over Israel, God said to Samuel, “for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

The scripture testify that David was a man after God’s own heart, and not a man who was corrupted to the core by a sinful nature. David walked with God in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart (2 Kings 3:6) and David’s heart smote him after he sinned against God (2 Samuel 24:10).

Likewise, Josiah who was a descendant of David and the King of Judah, had a tender heart before the Lord and he humbled himself before God when he heard the Word of the Lord (2 Kings 22:19).

It has been my observation that many Christians, including myself in times past, have no clue as to what they mean by “inherited sin nature.”

I have also observed that people have been conditioned to read the word “death” as sin nature. Yet, the letters D.E.A.T.H do not spell sin nature. They spell death.

Death is that which the scriptures teach has affected all men through Adam’s disobedience.

I have also discovered that those who attempt to piece mill together scriptures from the book of Romans so as to to prove “total depravity” or whatever their version of inherited sin they embrace, tend to leave out Romans 4.

What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord WILL NOT IMPUTE SIN (Romans 4:1-8).

Adam’s sin brought death (futility, decay, mortality) to humanity. In Adam we are all under the limitation of the flesh without the glory of God. There is not one verse in all of scripture which teaches that Adam’s personal sin was imputed to the rest of us, not one! Every man is accountable for his own sin in the sight of God.

One does not need a sinful nature to sin against God. The angels who left their first estate and sinned didn’t and neither did Adam. The scriptures reveal that iniquity is a mystery, yet many have attempted to make it something they can explain and in doing so they have shut off the testimony of scripture.

We all sin in the weakness of our flesh, but not all have wicked hearts before God. Those in scripture whose sought after God, like Abel, were those who offered sacrifices to God because they knew God was perfect and holy in all his ways and they were not.