What does it mean that Jesus came in the likeness of sinful flesh?
The difference between sin in the flesh and a sinful flesh.
We believe that Jesus had sin in the. But how can we say that? Isn’t that blasphemy? Wasn’t Jesus divine? Doesn’t it just say that He had a likeness of sinful flesh? To answer these questions, we need to look at the difference between having sin in the flesh and having a sinful flesh. We also need to consider what it was that Jesus came to earth as a man to do.
“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh.” Romans 8:3.
All of mankind is born with sin in the flesh. This means that we are born with a human nature, in which lie lusts and desires that can lead to sin. (Romans 7:18; 1 John 1:8) Every child is born with sin in the flesh, but we cannot say that they have a sinful flesh, because they have never consciously sinned.
A sinful flesh is the result of giving in to our lusts and desires when we are tempted, and thereby actually sinning. (James 1:14-15) When we understand that to do something would be wrong, it would be sin, but we do it anyway. That is the moment that our flesh becomes sinful.
Jesus did not have a sinful flesh
Jesus was born with sin in the flesh, just as the rest of mankind. This is crucial to understand. (Hebrews 2:14) However, since He did not once give in to temptation and sin, since He never allowed the lusts and desires of His flesh – envy, pride, impurity, malice, greed, etc. – to live, His flesh never became sinful. That is why it is written that He came in the likeness of sinful flesh. It is because He had sin in the flesh that it could be condemned there. (Romans 8:3) He could not have condemned sin in another’s flesh. A work was done in Him, to show how the work can be done in all who believe in the redeeming power of victory over sin in the flesh. Transformation from human nature to divine nature. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
That is where Jesus differs from the rest of us. Not that He had a different nature and different possibilities than we do. The difference lies in the fact that all of us have sinned at one time or another, but Jesus never did. That is why He was able to be the sacrifice for sins. The just for the unjust. Because of His sacrifice on the cross, we are now able to receive forgiveness for committed sins. (Ephesians 1:7) Satan cannot hold sins that we have committed against us, so long as we have repented and been forgiven for them. Jesus has already paid that debt for us.
No obligation to sin
Likewise, because of His sacrifice on the cross of daily life – crucifying His flesh and never allowing sin to live – He has opened up a way through the flesh, so that it no longer has the power to control us. We are now able to follow the example that He left us and put to death on the cross all the sin that would come forth as a result of our lusts and desires as well. (Matthew 16:24) We are not under any obligation to sin, but we are to rule over sin, just as Jesus did when He was a human like us. (Romans 8:12) Sin is to be put to death each and every time that we are tempted. (Colossians 3:5-10) That is what Jesus did, and that is now what we can do. The fact that we have sinned in the past doesn’t hinder us from becoming overcomers today; we can start on this way of overcoming sin as soon as we understand it and have faith for it in our own lives. (Matthew 10:38; Luke 9:23; Galatians 2:20; 1 Peter 4:1)
Forgiveness could also be obtained in the Old Covenant. What we have now, in addition to forgiveness, is the possibility to become completely free from sin, and not be bound to committing the same sins over and over again. (Hebrews 10) Because sin was condemned in Jesus’ own flesh, we now have the opportunity to go the same way, so sin is also condemned in our own flesh. We do not have to be slaves to living according to it, but rather freely perform that which is good. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
So there you have it. What Jesus actually did for all of mankind in coming with sin in the flesh, and the battle He fought to keep His flesh from becoming sinful. By the time of His death on the cross, He had conquered all sin, and was finished with sin in the flesh. (John 19:30) What a tremendous sacrifice He made for our sake. Because of this labor of love that He did on our behalf, the sinful flesh that we had can be washed pure through the grace of forgiveness, and the sin in the flesh that we carry can be eradicated through the grace to overcome. (1 John 1:9) This is liberty, freedom, and light.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.