Death to the flesh!

Galatians 2:20 – I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

When we study a translation of a Scripture passage we often miss out on the nuances hidden in the original Hebrew (Old Testament) or Greek (New Testament). Often, it’s not that a word is mistranslated, but that rendering the meaning in one English word is difficult if not impossible.

One such word is the word “flesh”. The often-used Greek word for “flesh”, “sarx”, forms the etymological root for our English word, “sarcophagus”. Sarcophagi are ornately adorned stone coffins where the mortal flesh of humans (usually significant in some way during their lifetime) becomes entombed. They can be quite ornate and beautifully crafted. Thus, the Greek word for “flesh”, ironically, carries in its meaning a hint of the mortal nature of the stuff we are made of, and the vessel to which it is destined. Normally, the simple word “flesh” doesn’t necessarily connote “mortality”…unless you spend some time thinking about it…

Our flesh can also be made beautiful, and many spend quite a bit of time and resources beautifying it. Yet our “sarx”, or mortal human body is also a kind of “sarcophagus” since it’s destined to decay, a temporary vessel no more eternal than a coffin.

The apostle Paul affirms that he is “crucified with Christ”; that his mortal flesh with its irrevocably sinful tendency and bondage to decay, has been identified with the Messiah in His death on the cross. Throughout his epistles, Paul frequently warns believers not to live a life “after the flesh”, that is according to its predilections and desires. Living that way could be described as being trapped within a “coffin”.

Yet Paul says in another place that “we carry this treasure in jars of clay”…[2 Cor. 4:7] i.e. that the “sarcophagi” in which we walk around are vessels of resurrection life– the very life of Messiah which was regenerated by His Spirit in us.

The great mystery and challenge of a believer’s life is that we have the constant choice whether to be a walking self-serving “sarcophagus”, or a living breathing jar of clay filled with God’s Holy Spirit and bearing all the fruit of love, joy, peace, etc.

Your “sarx” can be a self-serving coffin, or a life-giving vessel. If you are born from above, the sinful nature of your body has been crucified with Christ, and your constant life choice will be the extent to which you recognize that reality, and are filled with the resurrection life which the new birth affords. You were not given a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind. Don’t be an ornate living tomb; be a life-giving, spirit-filled jar of clay!

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