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Is your body led by God’s Spirit or by sin?

Vital points of doctrine to put everything in its rightful place and help us overcome sin.
The body of sin, the body of the sins of the flesh, the body of death

The Scriptures speak about:

  1. The body of sin (Romans 6:6)
  2. The body of the sins of the flesh (Colossians 2:11)
  3. The body of death (Romans 7:24)

1. The body of sin

The body of sin is the sin that dwells in our body. This sin is to be regarded as dead as long as we do not consciously agree with its demands. The old man is crucified with Christ so that the body of sin can be destroyed, so that we no longer serve sin. “If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Romans 8:10. The Holy Spirit is the driving force that leads us directly against the lusts in our body. As a result, the body becomes dead because its sinful demands are no longer satisfied. This body becomes a sacrifice for the demands of the Spirit and is destroyed. In the power of an eternal Spirit, Christ offered Himself as a well-pleasing sacrifice to God. (Hebrews 9:14)

The body of sin, however, is not inactive. In the areas where we lack knowledge and light and where we are not yet made alive, our human spirit is still connected to sin, and the result is what the Scriptures call deeds of the body. These deeds are done against our will and better judgment—in other words, against the mind that serves the law of God. These deeds must be put to death through the Holy Spirit after they have been committed. (Romans 8:13) Paul is referring to these deeds when he says, “But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” Romans 7:17. If I have done these deeds, how can I say that it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me? It is because my mind was not in agreement. Sin in my members took me—my flesh—captive and forced me to do what I actually hate. Nothing that is born of flesh can ever obey God’s law.

After we have been born again and have received the Spirit of God as a guarantee, that Spirit strives against the flesh, and the flesh against the Spirit. (Galatians 5:17) Where my human spirit has not yet been made alive, the flesh takes the upper hand, and this results in deeds of the body. But when we put these deeds to death by the Spirit as soon as they are committed, the Spirit gets revenge. In this way, the light of knowledge strengthens our will to do right, while at the same time, according to the flesh, we are being restrained by judgment, sufferings and death. Once we receive light about a deed of the body, it belongs to the old man, and along with the old man, it is crucified on the accursed tree and eventually dies in the body of Christ, together with Him.

There is no condemnation for deeds of the body. Paul even thanked God through Jesus Christ our Lord that he served the law of God with his mind, but the law of sin with his flesh. (Romans 7:25) It cannot be any other way. Flesh will always be flesh.

Nevertheless, there is hope that the body of sin will be destroyed as the old man is crucified. People ask, “What is the old man, then?” It is that person who lived according to his fleshly lusts and desires, even when he knew better. Now we have been crucified to everything we know to be sin. Where we lack light, however, sin will still manifest itself. But we are not condemned for this because we do not see it yet. The light of the Spirit exposes the deeds of the body. Even these hidden sins are brought before our mind’s eye and must be put to death by the Spirit so that we can live.

2. The body of the sins of the flesh

The body of the sins of the flesh is that body which allows itself to be used by sin in the body. Thus sin reigns. The works that are manifest as a result are called works of the flesh, as opposed to deeds of the body. Works of the flesh are manifest when the mind serves the law of sin, whereas deeds of the body are manifest when the mind serves the law of God. “The works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like … those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21.

These works cannot be put to death by the Spirit, for those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. They serve the law of sin with their mind, and desire conceives, bringing forth sin and death. Works of the flesh require cleansing—the forgiveness of sins. The foreskin of the flesh must be cut away. The body of flesh must be unclothed with the circumcision of Christ and buried with Him in baptism. (Colossians 2:11-12)

The body of the sins of the flesh does works of the flesh, which are transgressions of the law. As a result, the curse of the law is active, convicting the person of sin, because he does not believe in Christ. A person has a body, a soul and a spirit. The old man is the man whose mind is bound to sin in the flesh and who makes use of the body of flesh. The new man serves the law of God with his mind and presents his body as a well-pleasing sacrifice to God as an instrument of righteousness. The old man can now be put off, and must be put off, and the new man put on.

This is the same as saying that sin in the flesh must receive its judgment and death in the body of Christ’s flesh. We will receive ample resurrection power to use the members of our bodies for righteousness, in every area where we possess light and life. This is precisely where we find true freedom for our spirit. The flesh, as the slave of Christ, is kept in place and is not allowed to boast of its freedom.

3. The body of death

The body of death is that body which will pass away; it is subject to the laws of corruption because sin dwells in it, whether it is presented as an instrument of righteousness or used in the service of sin. In any event, this body will die. If it lives to experience the return of Christ, it will be swallowed up by life. It is God’s will that it be unclothed. It is of the earth—earthly—and, like everything else in the natural world, it is subject to the laws of decay. “The whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” Romans 8:22-23. (2 Corinthians 5:2)

As long as we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord; but when we leave the body behind, we will be at home with the Lord. “… we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. … For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’” 1 Corinthians 15:51-56.

On the resurrection morning when we are clothed with an incorruptible body, we will no longer sigh as Paul did, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” What is mortal will be swallowed up by life, and then all teachings about the body of sin, the body of the sins of the flesh and the body of death will vanish in the shining light of the glorified body. Nonetheless, as long as we are at home in this tent, we need these teachings of Christ so that we can learn to put everything in its rightful place and overcome sin, so our glorified body can become even more glorious. In the resurrection of the dead, one will have the glory of the sun, one the glory of the moon and another the glory of the stars. Let us be diligent so that we can have an abundant entrance into God’s eternal kingdom.

This article has been translated from Norwegian and was first published under the title, “Our corruptible bodies: Led by the Spirit or by sin?” in BCC’s periodical Skjulte Skatter (Hidden Treasures) in November 1915.
© Copyright Stiftelsen Skjulte Skatters Forlag

You may be interested in reading more articles by Johan Oscar Smith here.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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