1 Jan 2001

Obedience and the deeds of the flesh

Submitted by theshovel
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionSend to friendSend to friendPDF versionPDF version

This series of questions came in response to this article on obedience.

Hello K, thanks for your questions!

First let me tell you how excited I am to hear of your desire to know of God's grace! It thrills me to see people discovering their true freedom in Christ. :) Okay, to your question:

Why then was it necessary for Jesus to pray to the Father three times, in the garden of Gethsemane; during which time He sweated great drops of blood and stated that the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak? K

I don't see a connection here that makes this into the necessity you seem to be suggesting. Sure, Jesus prayed three times to his father (intensely at that), but do you really get the idea that this was an attempt to be obedient? Consider his question to his parents when they found him back in Jerusalem:

Did you not know that I had to be in my father's house? Luke 2:49

Jesus was driven according to the life of the Spirit that was in him. I do see a necessity in this, for he could not help to do otherwise! The story of Gethsemane is the account of what Jesus went through as he learned obedience. The following 2 paragraphs were from the original letter:

although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered; and having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation; Hebrews 5:8-9

Somehow we read this and think that maybe obedience was on the line for Jesus. That's only because we are reading it backwards, and are projecting our own thoughts of inadequate obedience into it. But it simply states that suffering was how Jesus LEARNED obedience. There was never any question to whether or not he would obey, it was about how obedience was played out.

Regarding his comment about the spirit being willing, but the flesh being weak was a powerful statement to his disciples ... who had made great claims of loyalty and faithfulness. He spoke it to them as he woke them up asking if they couldn't even stay awake for one hour. The evidence of this shines through their lives and writings after they had received the Spirit for they all testified that it was NOT their power that brought their deliverance, but HIS!! It is the same lesson we go through when we discover how weak our supposed power is.

In addition, Paul states in his letters that the flesh and the spirit are always at war with one another. K

Indeed, for they are totally contrary to one another. Interestingly, the context of this "war" (Galatians 5) is NOT about trying to be obedient, but a standing firm AGAINST any attempt to produce such an obedience! :) Yes, Paul told them to stand firm in the freedom of Christ by which they were set free, and not to be entangled in the bondage of the law (because that is exactly what had been happening to the Galatians).

Why is it necessary for us to put away the deeds of the "flesh" K

Once again, don't read an attempt to be obedient into this incredibly sane reality of our life in Christ. What I mean by this is that "putting away the deeds of the flesh" is not some kind of activity to be performed, but is instead the only sane and living perception for us adopt. The place in Ephesians 4 where Paul wrote of it starts out:

This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, IN THE FUTILITY OF THEIR MIND ... Ephesians 4:17

This whole discussion has to do with the perception of reality, not with some kind of effort to work on. Notice, he was telling these people not to live their lives in the insanity of the old empty life that characterized the mindset of the Gentiles.

That mindset is this:

being darkened in their understanding, EXCLUDED FROM THE LIFE OF GOD, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; Ephesians 4:18

After he described that insanity he stated:

But you did not learn Christ in this way! Ephesians 4:20

We did not learn Christ in the ignorance of darkened understanding, but instead we were made alive in him.

if indeed you have heard him and have been taught in him, just as truth is in Jesus Ephesians 4:21

See where this reality is found? We have been taught IN him ... for we have heard HIM. We did not learn a set of principles, for those are the same things that are learned in the flesh that end up only bringing more darkened understanding and callousness, by which we learned how to live lives based on what made sense to our ignorance. Our life in Christ is something REAL, something put within us.

that, in reference to your FORMER manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be RENEWED in the spirit of your MIND, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Ephesians 4:22-24

Renewed in the spirit of your mind is the contrast to the futility of the old mindset. It is the insanity of the futile mind that reinterprets this whole concept back to us as just one more fleshly struggle that sounds so spiritual. Putting off ("laying aside") and putting on were terms used regarding such things as clothing. Paul uses "put off" after he describes the old clothes (old reality - fleshly mind) that no longer fit us, and "put on" as he describes the new clothes (new reality - Christ) that is now ours. Putting off refers to how we view what is no longer true about us so that we stop holding on to that FALSE perception! Putting on Christ refers to how we view what is true about ourselves so that we hold this one and only sanity in our minds as being true about us. "Putting off the DEEDS of the flesh" takes that same perception to the specific insanities of the old life that used to appear to be fitting ... but, in reality, no longer do ... and we know this on the inside.

To "die daily" is an often misapplied comment. It takes on many different meanings ... usually quite mystical ones. In Paul's one use of it (1 Corinthians 15) he relates it to sufferings he experienced in an attempt to make a protest to the Corinthians fleshly attitudes regarding death and resurrection. Our uses are not very similar to his.

Anyhow, that's enough for the evening. :) Please feel free to question anything, okay?

Jim Minker

As a side note, the one who sent me these questions wrote back to inform me that she "set them aside" - it seems the questions were posed more as a rebuttal than as a sincere desire to hear my response.


Hi Jim, Thanks SO much for preaching[proclaiming] and teaching[instructing] according to Life! I was sad to read the very end of this correspondence but, then again I would much rather someone be honest with me about matters of LIFE than I would have them seek to hide it in the shadows and keep there poisonous position.

Now, do you then see Paul as having been the one dying ‘daily’ as a descriptive statement of intense suffering while using his boldness to confront the Corinthians according to Life? Do you suppose this was from the Corinthians themselves[the suffering] or rather more attached to the false teachers in there midst? Were the Corinthians being directly troublesome to Paul or was it the false teachers? Again was the fellowship of believers arguing with Paul according to death?
theshovel's picture

Why are we also in danger every hour? I protest, brethren, by the boasting in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? 1 Corinthians 15:30-32

Yes, I am pretty sure Paul's comment "I die daily" was in direct reference to his own experiences. I think Paul's sufferings stemmed from both the believers and the false teachers. Real inner hurt came from those Paul loved dearly (especially in their insanity), while much of the outward problems came from those who desired him harm.


I wonder though if the hurt was more as a byproduct of the fleshly wisdom he knew to be going on with them? Or if the hurt was more connected to something they were aiming directly at him in there dealings with and about him.[throwing him under the bus..despising him etc..maybe arguing with him]I guess that is more of my true question? thanks Jim!
theshovel's picture

For sure, the real hurt was found in his heart toward them, for he loved them as a father loved his children. The judgments thrown at him may have stung because of who it came from, but as he told them, such examinations meant nothing.


YOu are right! I had forgotten that. Yes, indeed that tis an important and helpful thing to remember! They were viewing HIM according to the flesh.[judging and comparing and probably insulting-resisting]They were a for a time, blinded to his love for them huh?

Add new comment

Random Shovelquote: Only the New Creation in Christ (view all shovelquotes)

In Christ there is neither insider nor outsider, there is neither center nor fringe, there is neither status-quo nor non-conformist! There is only the new creation.   source