Defining The Flesh – Our Enemy Within

Our Three Spiritual Enemies

The Flesh Is The Christian’s Most Active Enemy

There is an important principle of biblical interpretation that’s often overlooked. It’s the importance of the words of Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16 says,

All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness ESV

The Greek word translated “Scripture” in this verse is “graphe” and means “that which is written.” Paul tells us the words of Scripture, that which is written down, have the quality of being breathed out by God. The words are important.

Scripture talks about the flesh

Jesus also emphasizes the importance of the words of Scripture. In Matthew 5:18 he says,

For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. ESV

The “Law” is a reference to the first five books of the Bible. The iota is the smallest Greek letter and the dot refers to the smallest Hebrew letter. Jesus said even the smallest letters of Scripture is important.

This doesn’t mean we take a woodenly literal view of Scripture. We recognize when the Bible uses figures of speech and poetic language. When Isaiah says “the trees of the fields will clap their hands” Isaiah 55:12 we recognize that is a figure of speech.

A problem occurs when we don’t notice the distinctions that the Scripture makes. For example read these verses Ephesians 2:1-3.

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Paul tells us that before we were Christians we were spiritually dead. Our spiritual lives were dominated by three evil forces. Who are they?

  1. “this world”
  2. “the prince of the power of the air”
  3. “our flesh”

These are the Christians’ three spiritual enemies and they’re different from one another. Spiritual warfare is often viewed as our battle with Satan and his followers. That’s true, but it is much more than that. Our spiritual battle includes our struggle with the world and the flesh. Many confuse these enemies. They blame things on Satan that the Bible says the flesh or world does. Or people say Satan controls our flesh. Nowhere does the Bible say that. Let’s take a closer look at the flesh.

Definition Of The Flesh

Here is my definition of the flesh based upon studying the flesh throughout the Bible.

The flesh (Ephesians 2:3) is also called sin (Romans 6:12) or sin nature in the Bible. It’s that inclination to sin that produces evil moods (Galatians 5:24) and desires (Galatians 5:16) within all people. It came into the world as a result of the first sin (Romans 5:12). It renders all humanity sinners (Romans 3:23). Consequently we’re spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1) separated from (Ephesians 2:12) and hostile to God (Romans 8:7).

The flesh is the most active enemy we have as Christians. This is because it’s within us all the time. In the next few posts we’re going to take a closer look at flesh.

Can you tell when you’re attacked by the flesh versus Satan or the world? How can you tell? Leave a comment below.