There is much discussion over the flesh and the spirit in today’s theology. Being ‘in the flesh’ is our condition when we arrive in this world and until God changes it. Not all will get the change of regeneration and those who do not remain in the flesh. The bible makes the distinction between the two classes of people: Those in the spirit, and those in the flesh. A person not born again can only be in the flesh.
All mankind enters this world, ironically, in a state of death. It’s commonly referred to as being “spiritually dead,” but that’s a misnomer. Spirit-less might be a more accurate description. We are born dead in trespasses and in sins, (Eph 2:1) a condition we inherited from Adam’s fall, encapsulated in a doctrine called total depravity. Our condition is such we do not seek God or anything good (Rom 3:10-18). This is the nature the bible refers to as the flesh. It runs to the negative and sin.
Adam’s disobedience put everyone in the flesh condition of dying and depravity. Our soul and flesh are dying from our first breath. Without the new birth, we would all face the certainty of eternal death. God’s children are rescued from that spirit-less, dying condition when God separates our dying flesh and unites our soul with His eternal spirit. (Heb 4:12, Col 2:11, Rom 2:29, Eze 36:26, Deu 30:6). He makes us a new creature in Christ, born again, and secure. This is eternal life.
A Lifelong Struggle:
But being born again doesn’t completely resolve the flesh issue. In regeneration, a new spiritual nature is placed beside the flesh and begins to battle to restrain the old self. Because our flesh nature is not repaired, or renewed in the new birth when our soul is, we too face a certain grave, but with a hope of bodily resurrection. We continue to sin, albeit less than before, because our new mind is now seeking the things of God whereas before it could not. Paul details that daily struggle in Romans 7:14-25.
Who’s Who in the Kingdom of God?
We are not to judge another’s eternal condemnation. Yet, Jesus said “ye shall know them by their fruits.” It makes sense then, that we should be able to identify who’s in the spirit (those who have been born again) and those who are in the flesh. Primitive Baptists are unique in their understanding of spiritual life; we do not condemn someone as lost because we don’t know God’s timing in the matter. A person in the flesh today, may well be among the just in the future. Just as were we. (1 Cor 6: 911)
Doctrine is Important.
So it we are not to judge, why make the distinction? We must understand what transpired in the garden and the nature of sin if we are to battle and subdue it. And in the matter of eternal salvation, understanding how it comes about and to whom it applies is vital if we are to give God the honor, praise and glory He deserves in the process. In order to worship Him in spirit and in truth, which He has said is a “must,” we “must” be able to understand and rightly divide the truth.
Because no greater outside force (the spirit of God) has acted upon those in the flesh, they continue as they were. In their depraved state, they cannot show faith, believe, seek, ask, act, confess, come to, repent or understand the gospel. Nor could we in that condition. The flesh is disposed to rebellion against God and sin. Their actions cannot please God. Their inclination is only to self, and sin. Rom 8:8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
Man says he can generate a spark of faith, come to God, believe the gospel and obtain eternal life with a few steps or conditions. Not so. Unless God has already created in him, he would not desire these things. The spirit of God in the new birth operation arrives long before man shows signs of such a visit. That’s why we say someone who shows the fruit evidence of the spirit (Gal 5:22) is already a child of God and all the work they undergo to “obtain eternal salvation” are just the ego of the flesh trying to claim credit and rob God of glory for that which He was already done.
Scripture details the difference between the natural man, who serves only himself, and one who has been born again, capable of understanding spiritual things, and serving God. Paul explains how the spirit of God in a child is distinctive from those still in the flesh:
Rom 8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Only the Spirit of God can give us the power to walk not after the flesh.
8:5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; (as did we all in our depraved state) but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity (look it up – there’s no way to sugarcoat its meaning) against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8:8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. (This is the declarative statement defining our previous condition versus our current state.) Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
Rom 8:10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. 8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (Now we chose obedience or continue to suffer the consequences of sinful living. Before we could only choose sin.)
Rom 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 8:15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 8:16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
Brother Royce Ellis