Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Remarks on "Sarx"

We've been looking at the warfare between "Spirit" (pneuma) and "flesh" (sarx), and my argument has been that Romans 7 does not describe this battle (the struggle there is between the Jew and the Mosaic law that binds him). The battle in Galatians 5, however, does effect us as New Covenant saints, but the warfare is not an internal struggle between the good and bad sides of our nature, but a clash on a more cosmic scale. Let me explain....

In the Old Testament, the word for "flesh" (ba┼Ťar) denoted physical corpses (Gen. 2:21, 23) and, by extension, came to connote humanity and its frailty (Gen. 6:12; Ps. 78:39). Paul's use of "flesh," however, rarely denotes "physical bodies," but often describes the human condition (life kata sarka or en sarki). Flesh, in this sense, is not pejorative but simply descriptive of natural human existence.

Where Paul's use of sarx is unique, however, is in its eschatological formulation. Because the resurrection of Christ ushered in the power and dynamic of the age to come (which the apostle calls "Spirit"), everything associated with "this present age," including Torah, has passed into the realm of "flesh" (Eph. 1:14; 4:30; II Cor. 5:5, 14-17; Rom. 7:4-7). Christian living, therefore, is described by Paul as "walking not according to the flesh [this present earthly age] but according to the Spirit [the heavenly age to come]."

Paul's use of sarx, therefore, highlights the progression from anthropological creatureliness (humanity) to theological creatureliness (sinful humanity), and finally, to eschatological existence (life in accordance with this age).

New Covenant saints, therefore, are "Spiritual" (pneumatikoi), not spiritual schizophrenics with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Our calling is to live out our heavenly citizenship in the here and now, being seated in glory while standing in the path of sinners.

Or as the beloved German reformer put it: Simul iustus et peccator.