Living in the “Flesh” -- By: I. Howard Marshall

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 159:636 (Oct 2002)
Article: Living in the “Flesh”
Author: I. Howard Marshall


Living in the “Flesh”*

I. Howard Marshall

* This is article four in a four-part series, “Four ‘Bad’ Words in the New Testament,” delivered by the author as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, February 6–9, 2001.

I. Howard Marshall is Honorary Research Professor of New Testament, University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

the world, the flesh, and the devil are a familiar triad that sums up the major evil influences on believers. Many have the impression that whenever they are tempted to do something wrong, this is because Satan is enticing them to do evil. However, New Testament references to Satan or the devil are more sparse than one might expect. Paul invoked Satan comparatively infrequently and not always as tempter.1 Recourse to the devil as the source of human evil-doing is certainly there, but it is not the most characteristic explanation offered by Paul.

The second element in the triad is the world. The term κόσμος is used of the universe (Acts 17:24), or the earth itself as a totality (2 Pet. 3:6; sometimes in the phrase “the whole world,” Mark 14:9; Rom. 1:8), or, more narrowly, the inhabitants of the world (cf. the hyperbole in John 12:19). The inhabitants are often seen as fallen humanity, and so “the world” tends to mean “the totality of human beings as sinners and rebels against God” (Rom. 3:19). This rebellious attitude or indifference to God constitutes worldliness. Christians are sometimes tempted to “love the world” (1 John 2:15), to see what it has to offer as an attractive way of life and to fall in with the crowd that is going that way. Again, however, the world is not characteristically seen by Paul as the source of human sinfulness. His usage speaks of the arena in which human beings live. The same can be said even of John, who used the term much more frequently; the world is the sphere in which believers exist and which is largely opposed to them, a sphere of darkness in which the light of Christ is shining and offering life and salvation (John 8:12).

In Pauline theology the third member of the triad, the flesh, is probably the most significant.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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