The Old Man (the old self) – The Flesh (the Sinful Nature)
Romans 7: 23 NIV “..but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members…” (Romans 7:7-25, is the larger context related to the ‘internal struggle/war we have with the ‘sin’ entity at work in our body).
Romans 7:5 NIV “For when we were controlled by the sinful nature…”
Romans 7:18 NIV “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.”
Romans 7:25 NIV “…but in the sinful nature (I am) a slave to law of sin.”
Romans 8:7-8 NIV “…because the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law nor can it do so.”
Ephesians 4:22 NIV “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;…”
Colossians 3:9 NIV “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices..”
There is ‘something’ inside us, a law, an entity, a thing with a distinct existence, that is at war against the light and truth of God’s intention and design for how He created us to live/operate. The bible refers to this entity as ‘sin’, the law of sin, the old man, the flesh, and the sinful nature. Many translations of the New Testament use the ‘sinful nature’ in place of ‘flesh’, and they use the ‘old self’ in place of the ‘old man’. There are also places in scripture that refer to the old man as the ‘first’ man. We will reference the understanding of the ‘first’ man in future posts. I prefer the NIV translation for my personal use and study, thus I will use the NIV translation.
The old self, or the flesh, has a core nature of, or a mind toward, or principle of selfishness. Its objective is to care for self, even above moral character. Some translations and teachers in characterizing the essential nature of the old self/flesh/sinful nature use the word ‘carnal’, wherein other translations use the word/term worldly, sinful mind, and sinful nature. The old self’s primary objective is to achieve and sustain self-gratification. Its mission is to seek the highest degree of comfort within its hierarchy of felt needs. It is presented within the context of scripture as being a force and power with intention and purpose to please self above all other things. It works to influence the mind/will to achieve its ultimate outcome of self-gratification without regard for and in contrast to the existence of God’s intention and design for how we are to think, live, and have our being.
2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV “The god (not God the Creator) of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.”
So the essential function of the sin nature that resides in our flesh is to keep us from ‘seeing’. Seeing what? It is to keep us from seeing, from coming to a personal revelation of, from coming to a personal knowledge of God and a personal relationship with God. Let me use my analogy of the default program software. The default programs’ purpose is to ‘blind’ us, keep us from seeing the light of truth about God.
Let us regress a bit in order to provide further understanding. Let’s reiterate the consequences of the ‘fall’. In Adam, we inherited the sin nature. It resides in us. We are born with the default program software installed inside our mind from the time of our birth. We are also born without a personal knowledge of God, because we were cut-off from God. Post Adam we cannot know God at an intimate personal awareness level. We can know about Him like we know about all other things, but we are not born with a personal level awareness of Him. Why can’t we in our fallen state ‘know’ God? Knowing God is a spirit level ability. At the ‘fall’ man’s spiritual capacity was greatly diminished. Man could no longer ‘know’ God because such ‘knowing’ occurs at the spiritual realm level.
Man has a spirit. God is spirit. Human beings are distinct in all of creation ‘in that’ we were created with a ‘spirit’. I am not saying we are a spirit. I am saying we have a spirit inside our being. We have a spirit capacity. Think of it as a compartment or think of it as a ‘system’ like the respiratory system, the neuro system, the digestive system. Our systems have purpose and function. Think of the spirit as our spiritual system. But the spirit does not belong to our organic realm. It is of spirit essence and belongs to the invisible realm of the spiritual realm.
Genesis 2:7 NIV “And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” Job 32:8 NIV “But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.” Proverbs 20:27 NIV “The lamp of the Lord searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being.” Ecclesiastes 12:7 NIV “and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” I Corinthians 2:11 NIV “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him?” 2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23 NIV “May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
John 4:24 NIV Jesus says “God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
God is spirit. In John 4:24, there is no article in the Greek text before the word spirit, and such is to emphasize the essential quality or essence of the word. Note the word spirit occurs first in the sentence to create such essence. A literal expression of the intent of the verse would be akin to, “In the purest since of His existence as a being..God is spirit.” Jesus had intention in saying…” God is spirit!”
But a spirit is also a person, not an impersonal force which acts without purpose or reason. Only a ‘person’ has awareness, knowledge, beliefs, intents, goals, relationships. An impersonal force or principle has none of these. God possesses the basic characteristics of personality—intellect, emotions, and will. He thinks, He feels, and He acts. And that is good news. Because He is a living person we can get to know Him personally and communicate with Him freely. If He were an inanimate object or an impersonal force there would be no hope of a personal relationship with Him. (One needs to only do a search engine search of ‘God as a person’ to find reference to the clear biblical evidence).
(Next we will dig deeper into ‘how the default system functions.’)