The Flesh

Scott Hoezee

Read: Galatians 5:16-21

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (v. 16)

The Bible affirms the goodness of God’s creation. Even after creation fell into sin and ruin, God determined not to wipe out this physical world of birds and oak trees but to redeem it. A key sign of this is that Jesus was born a real person. The fact that Jesus came as a flesh-and-blood human tells us that our bodies have a future in God’s kingdom.

In Paul’s letters, however, “the flesh” is almost never used positively. This is not because Paul despised our earthiness but rather because he used “flesh” as a summary term for everything that goes wrong with human desires. In this fallen world, we do not respect our fleshly bodies as temples of God’s Spirit but overindulge them with too much sex, too much booze, too much food, too much everything.

These days it’s easy to look around society and conclude that things have never been worse. But they were plenty bad in Paul’s day. The Greco-Roman world was rife with promiscuity, ritual prostitution, orgies, adultery, rape. Paul knew that to act in these ways is contrary to nature. This is how people behave when they are out of their minds.

The Holy Spirit has come to put us back in our right minds. When the Spirit leads us, the flesh is not indulged but respected, nurtured. And at the same time we bear fruit that builds up human life instead of tearing it down. —Scott Hoezee

Prayer: Keep us always in your ways and in your Spirit, dear Lord.