In my last post on What is an Antichrist? we saw how the apostle John stated in the first part of 1 John 4:3 “and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God…” Most Christians are looking for an antichrist that denies that Jesus came as a human being on this earth. After all, what else can be meant by the term flesh? I believe that this interpretation is in error. It insults Satan’s intelligence. Satan never comes to us with one hundred percent error. He usually comes with a fair bit of truth mixed with a small amount of error. Look at what he did at the very beginning with Adam and Eve.
In response to the serpent’s question, Eve tells the serpent in Genesis 3:2-3 “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” In response the serpent shoots back the following in verses 4-5 of Genesis 3. Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” God said that if Adam and Eve ate the fruit they would die. The serpent told them they wouldn’t die. Eve chose to believe the snake over God and the rest, as we say, is our history.
Now look at the lie that the serpent told here in Genesis 3. He said that Eve wouldn’t die when she took of the fruit. She believed the serpent, ate the fruit and lo and behold she didn’t die. At least not in the way that she thought she would. Satan knew that God would have some contingency plan in place for Adam and Eve’s fall. You can read a glimpse of it in Ephesians 1:4. The short answer is that God knows everything. He therefore knew that Adam and Eve would sin and so, before God even created the world He had decided to save mankind from sin. Adam and Eve didn’t know that this was the reason that they didn’t die in place and Satan took advantage of their lack of trust in God and their lack of knowledge of God’s character to deceive them.
So let’s turn our attention back to this concept of Jesus coming in the flesh. On the surface this would seem to imply that an antichrist is someone who denies that Jesus came as a man to the earth. Simple answer. The problem is that it is too simple. It is too easy to spot. Why would John even have to warn his followers to watch out for someone who denies that Jesus came as a human being to the earth a mere sixty to seventy years after his resurrection! John himself was a living witness to the fact that Jesus came as a human being! Clearly this can’t be what John is so concerned about.
The Concept of Flesh in the Bible
When we use the term flesh today we mean our physical, human flesh. In other words, our skin or our person. That isn’t the primary way we find flesh used in the writings of Paul and in the New Testament in general. The term for flesh in the New Testament is generally used for the part of our minds that are given over to sin. The part of us that is evil. That craves evil and loves to practice it. These desires and cravings come from what the Bible calls our flesh. Let’s take a look at some verses in the Bible that mention the flesh in this context.
“Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Matthew 26:40-41
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” – John 3:6
In these two verses Jesus wasn’t talking about flesh simply meaning a human being or the skin of a human being. In the passage in Matthew he is making the point that while the disciples wanted to stay awake in their spiritual natures, the desires of their body didn’t have the strength to stay up to pray. In John 3:6 Jesus is talking to the pharisee Nicodemus about the need to be born again. The need to have the Holy Spirit living inside of us if we want to be saved. This concept of the war between our sinful human natures, our flesh, and our spiritual natures, the Holy Spirit, is clearly a concept that Jesus taught.
The apostle Paul also taught at length on this point. The central focus of the book of Romans is on the need for human beings to recognize that in and of themselves they cannot be righteous and please God. Human beings have to allow the Holy Spirit to crucify our natural sinful natures if we are going to please God. We can’t do this ourselves it is a gift of God.
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” – Romans 6:12-13
All Christians have within themselves a very battle. The battle between our natural evil desires, the flesh, and the promptings of the Holy Spirit that is constantly trying to lead us to let Him do good in and through us. Romans 7 details this battle inside of each one of us.
Part 2 of this article will continue developing this important truth on the ‘flesh’.