The Flesh is Weak
This is our biggest problem.
Jesus told Peter: Watch and pray, lest you enter into
temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak
Because our flesh is weak, we need God’s help to avoid and
Our flesh is not inherently bad.
Jesus became flesh. And the Word became flesh and dwelt
among us (John 1:14). God was manifested in the flesh (1 Timothy
3:16). Jesus had flesh after His resurrection: A spirit does not have
flesh and bones as you see I have (Luke 24:39).
There is nothing wrong with having a body of flesh but the
problem is that our bodies have strong desires.
Our desires tempt us to sin.
God created man with these strong desires that are essential for
life. We have physical needs for food, water and shelter. We have
social needs for companionship, approval and sexual fulfilment. All of
these God-given needs are supported by desire.
God also gave man responsibility to rule over his desires,
restraining them when necessary, and fulfilling them in upright and
moral ways. Responsibility entails freedom of choice, which means
that right or wrong choices can be made by anyone who has been
In Eden, Eve had all the food she needed, but she chose to eat the forbidden fruit.1 She chose to believe a snake rather than God. Adam chose to listen to Eve rather than God. Eve tried to blame the snake. Adam tried to blame God for giving him Eve. But in reality, Eve and Adam were responsible for their own sinful choices and for the consequences.
Their first child, Cain, also made sinful choices. He was of the
wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him?
Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous (1 John
3:12). Abel was the first prophet and the first martyr (Luke 11:50,
51). By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than
Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous
When God rejected Cain’s sacrifice because of his evil deeds, and
accepted Abel’s sacrifice because he was righteous, Cain was very
angry (Genesis 4:5). God asked Cain, Why are you angry? ... If you
do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at
the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it
(Genesis 4:6, 7). God promised to accept Cain if he did what was
right, and God warned him to rule over his evil desires. Instead, Cain
murdered his brother.
Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for
God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires
and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin;
and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death (James 1:13).
We must strive to do what is right although our flesh is weak.
Jesus valued Peter’s willing spirit, even though He knew Peter would deny Him.2
The spirit is more important than the flesh. The desires of our
flesh relate only to temporary things, to things that will pass away.
God has provided a means of salvation for those who love God and
sincerely want to do what is right.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves
the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the
world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of
life - is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing
away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides
forever (1 John 2:15-17).
Jesus said: It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63).
Because our flesh is weak, we cannot save ourselves by lawkeeping (Romans 8:3).
Even those who want to do what is right, come short: For all
have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
Paul explained: We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate (Romans 7:14, 15 RSV). Paul discusses our hopeless situation because of the weakness of our flesh.3
Only Christ can rescue us from the weakness of our flesh.
Only in Him can we escape punishment for the sins we have
committed. And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses
and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this
world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who
now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once
conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of
the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just
as the others (Ephesians 2:1-3).
Worldly people try to fulfill the desires of their flesh with little regard for right and wrong. They are called children of wrath because their behavior makes God very angry.4
Others love God, want to do what is right, and try to do what is
right, but fall short because of the weakness of the flesh. God sent
His Son to suffer the penalty for their sins so they can be forgiven if
they put their trust in Him.
Believers must put on Christ to be saved.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the
flesh, to fulfill its lusts (Romans 13:14).
How do we put on Christ? Paul explained, For as many of you as
were baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Galatians 3:27).
Through baptism, a believer, who has repented of his sins, gains
access to forgiveness through the sacrificial death of Christ. Or do
you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him
through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the
dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in
newness of life (Romans 6:3, 4).
In Christ we walk according to the Spirit rather than the flesh.
In Christ we are a new creation. Therefore, if anyone is in
Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all
things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).
This new life in Christ means that we no longer walk according to the flesh,5 but according to the Spirit.6 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 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, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 5:1-4).
To walk according to the Spirit means that we focus on the things of the Spirit: For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5). When we set our mind on something, it is the focus of our thoughts and actions.7
We must be spiritually minded.
For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded
is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for
it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those
who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:6-8).
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life (Galatians 6:7, 8).8
We must resist evil desires.
Salvation by grace does not mean that we may give in to the
lusts of the flesh. Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
(Romans 6:1, 2).
Paul wrote, But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection,
lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become
disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:23).
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use
liberty as an opportunity for the flesh (Galatians 5:13).
Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh;
and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the
things that you wish (Galatians 5:16, 17).
We must avoid and resist temptation.
We must avoid temptation as much as possible. What is the value of the prayer, Lead us not into temptation, if we then go where we will be tempted? Someone with a drinking problem may not sit in a bar or visit someone he knows will try to get him to drink. Young people who are dating should avoid situations where they might be tempted to commit fornication. We must avoid people who try to get us to do bad things. Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals’ (1 Corinthians 15:33 RSV).9
The many unavoidable temptations in life, must be resisted. No
temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but
God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you
are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape,
that you may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse
ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness
in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).
What have we learned?
The Scripture quotations in this article are from The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise.
Endnotes1 She saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise (Genesis 3:6).
Published in The Old Paths Archive