Not the physical body


The body is not bad, nor does it tempt us to sin. These tendencies are from the soul residing in the spiritual realm and tangled up with the spirits of darkness and wickedness. Confusion in this by Christians has its roots in the blending of Christianity with Greek philosophy from the earliest of days.

The word "flesh" in the New Testament has various meanings. It is common for a New Testament writer to use several different meanings of a word in the same book or letter, and even in the same passage.

Sometimes people create doctrines by mixing up these meanings.

The various meanings of the word "flesh"...

People

The soul/spirit in the spiritual realm

The part of the soul more easily influenced by sin

The part of the soul that sins

Biological humanity

Cultural humanity

The body

The physical aspects of life

The spiritual body in the spiritual realm

Human nature, physical plus spiritual, body and soul

Works as opposed to faith

The pus which exudes from diseased skin

Flesh and bones vs flesh and blood


People

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 16:17)

The phrase "flesh and blood" refers to people, not to the physical body.

To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood. (Galatians 1:16)

Paul didn't go to the apostles or to anyone else to confirm that his revelation from Christ was real and true.

Other passages:


The soul/spirit in the spiritual realm 

And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? (Matthew 19:5)

The souls and spirits of a married couple become intertwined. I don't believe this is referring to conjugal relations as it is often interpreted — Jesus seems to be talking about something more profound. This seems to refer to a continual state, not an occasional act.

For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. (Ephesians 5:30,31)

In receiving salvation through faith in Christ, we become part of the family of God. Our souls become spiritually united with Jesus in a similar manner as occurs with a married couple. I don't believe this is referring to conjugal relations as it is often interpreted — Jesus seems to be talking about something more profound. This seems to refer to a continual state, not an occasional act.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12,13)

This verse refers to spiritual rebirth of a believer. This spiritual rebirth is not like human birth nor is it something we can provide for on our own (3 examples)...

Other passages:


The part of the soul more easily influenced by sin

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41)

One part of the soul (the spirit) is strong, the other (the flesh) is weak. I don't believe the flesh referred to here is the body. It is not the physical world that tempts people to sin but it is, rather, the spiritual realm.

I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. (Romans 6:19)

The word "members" refers to every part of the body which can express sin including: vocal chords (sinful speech), face (hateful grimaces), hands and arms, etc. But the sinful expressions of people originate within their soul and attitude so the physical members of the body are merely expressions of the soul of humans.

For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:13)

The purpose of the Old Testament animal sacrifices was to cleanse from sin. It is not the body which is stained by sin but the soul, specifically, the sin nature.


The part of the soul that sins

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness [lust], idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance [conflict], emulations [rivalries], wrath, strife, seditions [rebellions], heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings [noisy parties], 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. (Galatians 5:19-21)

This verse makes it clear what the flesh is. It is not the body

These works of the flesh each have a mental and a physical component. The important point is that it is not the body which causes these, it is the depraved soul. Therefore, the word "flesh" does not mean "body". It refers to that part of the soul which entices us to commit sin and which drives us to sin.

For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. (Romans 7:5)

In this verse the word "flesh" clearly does not refer to the body, it refers to that aspect of our soul and will which is influenced by sin and which performs sinful behaviors.

And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (Galatians 5:24)

Paul uses the word "crucify" to mean kill. Notice that it is not the body which is killed upon redemption but, rather, the sin nature which resides in the soul and which causes sinful actions and attitudes.

Other passages:


Biological humanity

That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:6)

Humans have ancestors and descendants.

That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. (Romans 9:8)

The word "flesh" refers to ancestors and descendants.

Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. (Jude 7)

The phrase "strange flesh" refers to promiscuous homosexual relationships.

Other passages:


Cultural humanity

If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. (Romans 11:14)

Paul is referring to the Jews.

Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more. (Philippians 3:4)

Paul goes on to recite his pedigree as well as his religious achievements as a Jew.


The body

Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. (Luke 24:39)

Jesus is telling them that he is not merely a phantom, an apparition, but that he is fully present in the physical realm, that he has a body.

For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. (Colossians 2:5)

Paul is not in Colossae with them but is thinking about them from somewhere else. The phrase "in the flesh" means "in person".

It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. (Romans 14:21)

Paul is referring to food sacrificed to idols.

For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church. (Ephesians 5:29)

We take care of our physical bodies. Just as we look after our physical body, Jesus looks after the church.

Other passages:


The physical aspects of life

Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord? (Philemon 16)

There are two aspects to life: the physical (in the flesh) and the spiritual (in the Lord.) Paul was asking Philemon to consider his slave Onesimus to be his equal in the physical realm, that is, to free him as his slave. He was also asking Philemon to consider Onesimus to be a brother in the Lord.

Other passages:


The spiritual body in the spiritual realm

Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. (John 6:54,55)

Jesus is referring to his literal body, but not to his physical body. In the spiritual realm Jesus manifests his human nature in various forms...

Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope. (Acts 2:26)

This is a citation from Psalms 16:9. The word "flesh" refers to the person after death, clearly not the physical body which decays, but to the person who lives on after death. It seems to me that the spiritual body animated by the soul is referred to rather than the soul itself.


Human nature, physical plus spiritual, body and soul

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Jesus was fully human with a human body and soul. He was also fully divine. The word "flesh" in this verse refers to full humanity in all its aspects. In taking on human nature (the flesh) Jesus "deified" human nature making it possible for us humans to become deified as well. This occurs at the final resurrection just before the Great White Throne judgment. Once deified we are not God nor gods but we will have the same nature that the human side of Jesus had (and still has).

Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God. (1 John 4:2)

Jesus took on full human nature. This includes body and soul.

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)

Jesus took on full human nature. This includes body and soul.

Other passages:


Works as opposed to faith

Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3)

Every aspect of salvation is by the spirit, not of the flesh. The word "flesh" in this verse refers to the activities of people who are trying to perfect themselves in faith through emphasis on works, by working, by doing devotions and prayers and ceremonies

Note that this use of the word "flesh" refers to the soul and the spiritual realm — it is not the body which attempts to perfect itself spiritually but, rather, the soul. Some commentators I've read seem to limit the word "flesh" to the physical body but this is incorrect. Some uses of the term do mean this but many do not as I have shown.

This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:2)

But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. (Galatians 4:23)

The word "flesh" refers to Abraham's attempt to fulfill God's promise by having a child with Sarah's maid. He was not acting in faith.

Other passages:


The pus which exudes from diseased skin

And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. (Jude 23)

The image of a garment spotted by the flesh refers to the Old Testment Levitical law of ceremonial uncleanness. The example in Jude is of a person with a skin condition which stains the clothing rendering both the person and the garment unclean. The garment must be burned and the person quarantined until the condition heals.

When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising, a scab, or bright spot, and it be in the skin of his flesh like the plague of leprosy; then he shall be brought unto Aaron the priest, or unto one of his sons the priests. (Leviticus 13:2)

But when raw flesh appeareth in him, he shall be unclean. (Leviticus 13:14)

He shall therefore burn that garment, whether warp or woof, in woollen or in linen, or any thing of skin, wherein the plague is: for it is a fretting leprosy; it shall be burnt in the fire. (Leviticus 13:52)

This meaning of the image of flesh in this verse is that we should avoid people who teach error and should rescue innocent people who are deceived by their lies.


Flesh and bones vs flesh and blood

Jesus uses the phrase "flesh and bones" which seems to have all the same meanings as the word "flesh" as the following passages make clear.

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. (Genesis 2:23)

And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him the space of a month. (Genesis 29:14)

Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and spake, saying, Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh. (2 Samuel 5:1)

But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. (Job 2:5)

A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones. (Proverbs 14:30)

Some make a strong distinction between the phrases "flesh and bone" and "flesh and blood" but I doubt such a distinction exists (except when referring to literal blood or literal bones). It seems that when the word "blood" or "bone" is associated with the word "flesh" it means the same as when the word "flesh" is used alone.