Christ's Sinful Flesh Versus Our Carnal Nature--Part 2
We concluded #15 by a quote from John Rayner's just-in post. Affirming a comment by Karl, he concluded that debate over whether Christ took the nature of Adam before or after sin is flawed because it forces a choice between the two part truths, neither of which conveys the whole truth. It is like asking: Is there only one God? Or is Christ also God?
An either/or question cannot produce a right answer when there are more than two alternatives. Since we fail to recognize the wrongness of this either/or question, we continue to debate, with no hope of reso- lution. For both sides provide an element of truth, yet each denies the truth the other defends.
Paul's seldom grasped key to this dilemma is to deny the either/or and require a both/but answer. Yet the emotional commitment involved in choosing one or the other partial truth makes an attempt to honor the whole truth appear as nothing but a compromise to defenders on each side. Thus we continue to defend one or another part truth as the whole, while ident- ifying the other part truth as heresy.
Careful examination of Rom 8:3 in the context of verses that follow and Chapters 5 to 7 reveal that Paul's answer to: "Was Jesus nature just like ours" is both Yes! and No! And yet, Neither. He sets the stage for his answer in his initial introduction:
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which He had promised afore by His prophets in the holy Scriptures,) Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was MADE OF THE SEED OF DAVID ACCORDING TO THE FLESH (Rom 1:1-3).
Several things in this brief passage deserve attention:
a) Paul's statement identifies "the gospel of God" that he is appointed to proclaim with David's Seed; b) that gospel was proclaimed by all the OT prophets and underlies that "which [God] promised through them; c) the promises are thus based on the Son Who would be "made of THE SEED OF DAVID"; d) and David's Seed was only "ACCORDING TO THE FLESH"; e) which suggests another kind of inheritance that was not "according to the flesh."
Thus, according to Paul, Christ's genetic inheritance is not that of pre-fall Adam, but of David, three millenia or more after the fall. In two full chapters (4 & 9), Paul also identifies that flesh with father Abraham. Thus, it was clearly "sinful flesh" that Jesus acquired, which was passed genetically by the seed if fallen Adam to Abraham and then to David, whose seed Christ was, "according to the flesh."
Paul settles the question of Christ's genetic inheritance by declaring this the gospel of "all the prophets." Indeed, that very gospel was first proclaimed by God Himself right after the fall:
I will put enmity between thee (Satan) and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; [He] shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel (Gen 3:15).
Whose seed? Not the seed of un-fallen Adam but of fallen Eve. To bruise the serpent's head Christ would need to come through the genetic Seed of fallen Adam--to whom authority had been given to rule this world, but who surrendered that kingdom to Satan, who had subverted every son and daughter.
Christ must enter the blood stream of fallen Adam and "condemn sin in the flesh" derived from him via David, etc. Only thus could he reclaim by His sinless choice the authority to rule this earth which the first Adam forfeited. As the second Adam, He had full rights to vanquish and destroy the deceiver and all his seed.
But who are the seed of the serpent (Satan)? Every child born into the kingdom Adam surrendered to him!
Every child? Yes, every child born of the flesh ONLY. For by his choice, Adam had surrendered his innate relation to the Holy Spirit. But Christ was not only born of the flesh. He was also born of the Spirit by His own sinless will. He thus surrendered His body to the Creator's power over both the flesh and satanic agencies that had hi jacked it:
... for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost, ... and that shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us (Mt 1:20, 23).
Then said He, lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first [shadowy covenant] that He might establish the second [new covenant]. By the which will [to come in "the likeness of sinful flesh"] we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb 10:9-10).
Thus, by being born of the seed of the woman (via Abraham, David, etc.) Christ was THE inheritor of all promises made to the first Adam and his seed. But, had He not been simultaneously born of the Spirit, He would Himself have become Satan's slave. For Adam had delivered himself and his kingdom into the deceiver's rule or ruin control.
Yet, though being "the seed of David according to the flesh," this very expression suggests a birth also that was not "according to the flesh," but "according to the Spirit."
Indeed, immediately and in the same sentence, after declaring Christ the "seed of David according to the flesh," Paul uses the same exact phraseology in ref- erence to the Spirit:
And declared to be the Son of God with power, ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT OF HOLINESS ... (Rom 1:4)
Thus, Paul declares that Christ was:
a) "the seed of David according to the flesh"; but
To rescue the human race from satanic tyranny--the dominant theme of Paul's entire letter to Romans-- Christ from from birth bore within Himself both the "sinful flesh" of Adam in order to restore the sinless temple, filled with the Holy Spirit. In this way He restored to the Spirit the temple from which Adam chose to expel Him by disobedience.
Significantly, this introduction of Christ's two-fold heredity also introduces Paul's flesh versus Spirit theme. But first, let us return to Hebrews, where Paul presents the same principle. Having emphatically de- clared Christ's physical nature the same as that of "His brethren" (Heb 2:11-18), he explains in Chapter ten that before the incarnation He surrendering His body to God's will:
For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are [being] sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that He had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them: And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more (Heb 10:14-17).
The new covenant promise was, from the beginning, based on Christ restoring the body temple to God. And having born the sins of the world to the tomb, made it possi- ble for all men, by dying with Him to sin, to rise to newness of life.
But, some say, if Christ was not made exactly like us He would not be a perfect example. To that I answer, if He had been born just like we are He Himself would have become a slave to the flesh He took. Nor is there any unfairness. For He stands continually ready to for- give our offenses, whereas none could have forgiven Him had He sinned by even a thought. Thus, whatever advantage may be seen on His part, was not for Him but for us. And we continually receive that advantage.
Note the statement: "For by one offering He hath per- fected forever them that are [being] sanctified." As long as we are "in Him" and "being sanctified," we are declared "perfect forever"! What an advantage is ours!!!
That flesh versus Spirit that first underlies and then becomes the primary primary theme of every chapter was first implied as Paul zeroes in on the internal corrupt- ion of the Gentiles (Ch 1) and then the Jews (Ch 2).
Paul becomes more specific in the closing verses of Chap- er 2, by introducing circumcision of the flesh versus circumcision of the Spirit. Only circumcision of the heart has ever been accepted by God. Chapter 3 treats this as justification which is only by faith. And Chapter 4 shows that Abraham himself was first circumcised (justified) by faith before receiving external circumcision as a "sign" and "seal of the righteousness of the faith" (Rom 4:11).
Chapter 5 then specifically introduces the conflict between the two reigns--that of the flesh and that of the Spirit." He carries this theme through Chapter 6 in terms of servitude. Baptism is the sign of change of service to the flesh to that of the Spirit. Chapter 7 uses the analogy of marriage to teach the same truth. And Chapter 8 finally breaks forth in the great- est mystery of all time--which establishes just how transfer from the reign of the flesh to that of the Spirit can take place:
8:1-2 [There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
Note that only those who "are in Christ Jesus" cease to be under "condemnation." And they are "in Him," only by virtue of dying with Him and rising with Him to "walk in newness of life," that "henceforth [they] should not serve sin" (6:4, 6).
But we now come the most vital issue of all. How can we be "in Him"? Only because He took our physical nature that He might offer us of His spiritual nature:
8:3-4 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Only after bringing his theme of victory over the flesh to a climax "in Christ Jesus" in a flesh restored to the Spirit does Paul explain the theological meaning of what it means to be "in the flesh" versus "in the Spirit.
8:5-9 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 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, neither indeed can be.
Five times Paul refers to the mind in relation to the flesh in contrast to the Spirit. "In the flesh" equates with "carnally minded," and does not refer to the flesh itself, but to surrender of the mind to its impulses instead of to those of the Spirit.
Christ came in our flesh, but was never "carnally minded." He was ever "spiritually minded" because He yielded His body, before coming, to the will of God and thus to the direction of the Holy Spirit, to Whom He restored it as His temple.
But there is more. Paul never ceases this theme until he finally closes his letter. We will pick up from here in our next post, #17.
A. Leroy Moore