Friday, 3 May 2013

Sinful Nature and the Flesh

I’ve been preaching on Romans recently. What a book! Last week we were in chapter 8. The key/hinge verse is v 5 which says, “Those who live according to SARX have their MINDS SET on what SARX desires but those who live according to the Spirit have their MINDS SET on what the Spirit desires”.

This word SARX literally means “flesh”. Translation is a notoriously complex task as it is very difficult to convey all the nuances of a word in one language into another equivalent one word translation (eg try translating Ulster ‘banter’ or ‘craic’ in one word to someone from another country). The NIV translators in the 1984 version translated ‘SARX’ as ‘sinful nature’. The newer 2011 translation has gone back to the translation ‘flesh’, originally favoured by the KJV.

The NT uses the Greek word effectively to mean “the meat on the bones”, literally “the flesh”. So for example in John1 v 14 “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” ie Jesus took on human skin.

But the NT also uses the expression to refer to the tendency to sin that is a part of fallen human experience. So faced with the challenge of translating ‘SARX’, the translators were a bit afraid of conveying the impression that ‘sarx’ referred only to the physical (as in our expression in English ‘the sins of the flesh’) so they went for ‘sinful nature’. But this could convey the impression that we have two natures when Paul clearly says that we have one – the new nature that comes from being in Christ. Hence “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8 v1) so in the 2011 version they have gone back to the translation ‘flesh.’

But Romans 8 v 5 is crucial in the sense that that it provides a very clear test as to whether or not you truly belong to Christ. Where is your “mind set”? What world/realm do you live in? What dominates you? What is your default mental position? What are the issues in life which really motivate you and mean most to you? What do you really live for? What controls you? What matters more than anything else? If you could only have one thing what would it be? If it is not Christ above all, then serious self examination is required.

We are all dominated by a certain “mindedness”. The only difference between an unsaved ‘moral’ person and the worst rogue you can think of is on the outside, not the inside. Counterfeit gods come in many shapes/sizes but unless our lives are dominated by the One true God, His cause and His glory, then according to Paul we haven’t really got it at all. Makes you think doesn’t it??

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