Old Man, Nature and Flesh

The biblical terms old man (or old self), nature and flesh often used interchangeably when they need to be clearly distinguished. The Bible says we were dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1) and “. . . were by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). The old self is who we were “in Adam.” Our nature was sinful, and the flesh is our learned propensity to live independently of God.

Such is the state of fallen humanity—sinful by nature and spiritually dead (i.e., separated from God. Fallen humanity had no other choice than to find their identity in their natural existence and determine their purpose and meaning in life independently of God. In addition, the heart, which is the center of our being, “is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9). Fallen humanity lives “in the flesh” and “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8).

Everything changed at salvation. First, God transferred us from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13). Second, the apostle Paul taught that we are no longer in the flesh; we are in the Spirit and in Christ. “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Rom. 8:9). “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22, emphasis added). This transformation can be shown as follows:

In Adam In Christ
Old Man (Self) By Ancestry New Man (Self)
Sin Nature
Eph. 2:1-3
By Nature Partaker of Divine Nature
2 Pet. 1:4
In the Flesh
Rom. 8:8
By Birth In the Spirit
Rom.8:9
Live according to the Flesh By Choice Live by the Spirit or by the Flesh Flesh Gal. 5:16-18

Dr. Neil

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