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Holman Bible Dictionary
Flesh and Spirit
Nevertheless, it remains true that the Bible frequently contrasts flesh with spirit. Once our first parents had sinned, all subsequent offspring were born with a tendency toward evil that manifests itself particularly in the flesh. Hence, we are told in Mark 14:38 (NAS) that “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Thus, we are introduced to the fact that many of the temptations to which the human family is subject are those that relate to the flesh. We are, therefore, instructed not to fulfill “the lust of the flesh” ( 1 John 2:16 ). We are warned, in fact, that “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit” (Galatians 5:17 ). Perhaps the fifth chapter of Galatians, Galatians 5:16 and Galatians 5:17 , focuses on the problem more decisively than any other verses. Paul wrote,
“Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”
The walk of obedience to the Holy Spirit, who is enshrined in the human spirit of twice born men, is the only way to avoid allowing the flesh to rule. Essentially, the emphasis that Paul provides is not intended to suggest that the Spirit is good and the flesh is evil, but rather that the flesh should never rule the spiritual life of a man. Instead, the flesh must be subjugated and made useful to the spiritual purposes and goals of humanity.
Sometimes the Bible speaks of carnality. The word translated carnal, for example, in Romans 8:7 , in which we are told that the “carnal mind” is enmity against God is a derivative of the Greek word for “flesh.” Some Christians are carnal Christians (1 Corinthians 3:1 ) meaning that, while they have been saved, they nevertheless are ruled more by their fleshly desires than by the Spirit.
One final limitation of the flesh is its limited duration. 1 Peter 1:24 informs us “all flesh is as grass.” Flesh, therefore, passes away, but the spirit of man survives the grave and lives on in either hell or heaven.
W. A. Criswell
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Flesh and Spirit'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/f/flesh-and-spirit.html. 1991.