[This post is part of a series covering eight little known theological truths about the Christian’s body]
I have heard it countless times over the years. Well meaning Christians encourage someone struggling with sin by saying something like, “You have a new spirit that is being sanctified, but your body is dead because of sin. Your new spirit has to go to war against your old dead body.”
This certainly feels true in times of temptation. Your mind and maybe your heart wants to obey God but your body’s urges pull you in to sin against your will. It seems like the battle is between your new spirit in Christ and your old body in sin.
The closest verse I can think of that would support this belief is Romans 8:10: “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”
This seems like an open and shut case in favor of the body-is-the-enemy position. But there are three important reasons why this passage is actually making the opposite argument:
Paul’s belief in the unity of the body and soul
As we saw earlier in this series, the body and soul are intimately united so that anything that happens to one always deeply effects the other. There is no such thing as something that effects the one but not the other.
So if the spirit is given new life, the body is right there receiving the benefits. This is why both Paul and James will affirm that faith without works is dead. A new spirit will necessarily renew the body.
Paul’s use of body and flesh in the passage
Again, as we saw earlier in this series, it is better in many instances to read flesh as a reference to the person whose nature is of this earth and is thus sinful. The flesh is not outside of your identity so that you can shift blame to it. The flesh is the whole person, body and soul, emphasizing his origin from a cursed earth and cursed lineage.
Paul speaks of the flesh and the body as a reference to your origin. You are a descendant of Adam and Eve, an earthly being under the curse of sin.
When he says the body is dead but the Spirit is life, he is contrasting the two natures in you. Your original sin nature and your new Spiritual nature. You have not merely been given a new soul but a new nature. You are a new creation. That is not a metaphor; it is a literal truth. You have a new nature if you are in Christ.
The verse immediately following Romans 8:10
“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (8:11).
You are not waiting for your new soul to be freed from your old dead body. You’re waiting for your new nature to be freed from your old nature. And that starts happening now.
Perhaps you might object and say Paul is talking about the resurrection when Christ returns. Ultimately I think he is. But there is an already-but-not-yet to the resurrection that he is focusing on. The focus of the passage is how you live right now, walking in the flesh or in the Spirit.
Verse 11 is a promise of hope for the here and now as well as the future. He doesn’t reference our immortal bodies but our mortal. Certainly the resurrection is giving life to our mortal bodies but so is the sanctification we are currently undergoing. Our bodies, in particular our neurological functions, are already being given new life through the Spirit.
Your body is not the enemy, your sin nature is.
Tomorrow we will look at the battle of old vs. new nature and what that means for the body and soul.
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