-Lust Of The Flesh

Unfortunately, many will use certain verses out of context to build their theology. There are many versus that talk about the "lust of the flesh," or "gratifying the desires of the flesh." These verses are used to claim that sexuality in the body is not of the spirit, and that the spirit is contrary to sexual pleasures. What's important is that we look at the context of these verses to see what they are really talking about and not just make them mean what fits our preconceived beliefs. The truth is that the "lust of the flesh" is referencing the sin nature that we have as humans from the fall. Not everything in the body is bad, but sin is bad. Let's take a look at these verses as none of them are talking about the subject of sex, but instead about sin. I've included the surrounding verses so as to read the context in which these phrases were written.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:15-17 (Does this mean that God hates everything of the world? No, if you read the context it tells you what is being referred to. The fact that these things pass away means that we should not put our trust in these things. God loves the world because he made it and it was good, but God hates the sin in the world. That is what is being referred to here as the word "world" is being used to depict sin.)

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the fleshFor the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desiresSince we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Gal. 5:13-26 (Does "indulge the flesh" or "gratify the desires of the flesh" mean that all bodily pleasure is evil? No, Paul contrasts this with being free. What constitutes freedom, and what is permissible? Paul makes a big list of what is considered an "act of the flesh" and what is considered "fruit of the Spirit." Fruit of the spirit is still acts within the body. So flesh does not equal all acts of the body. Flesh equals all acts of sin. Jesus crucifying the flesh is speaking of his atonement for our sins.)

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. Eph. 2:1-3 (Does this mean that everything our bodies crave for pleasure is evil? No, this verse shows that the desires of the flesh must be "followed." The context of the verse also shows that the desires of the flesh are in reference to sin. The ways of the world are in reference to the ways of the spirit of disobedience.)

This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority. 2 Peter 2:10 (This verse indicates that the desire of the flesh must be followed. It is not simply something inherent in the body as in everything the body does is considered evil.)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Col. 3:1-14 (Does this mean that all "earthly things" are evil and that we should sit around thinking about "things above?" No, if you read the whole context, "earthly things" refers to the "earthly nature" in which a whole list of sinful acts are listed. So "earthly things" refers to these sinful acts. Then Paul contrasts these sinful acts with another list of act that we should "clothe yourselves with" which is referenced with the phrase "things above." Both acts are made within the body, so the body doesn't equal the flesh. Sin equals the flesh.)

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 1 Peter 1:4 (The "divine nature" is contrasted with "lust." Does this mean that sexual desire is contrary to the divine nature? No, because that is not what lust is. To understand lust, please read The BIBLICAL Definition Of Lust.)

Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:11-12 (Does "abstain from fleshly lusts" mean to deny all sexual desire? No, Peter is telling them not to be hypocrites as that will diminish their testimony to the Gentiles. The context shows this as Peter contrasts "evildoers" with "good works." Peter also clarifies which lusts, the ones that "war against the soul.")

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. 1 Peter 4:1-6 ("Evil human desires" is also translated as "in the flesh to the lust of men." Does "whoever suffers in the body is done with sin" mean that we shall not enjoy any earthly pleasures in the body? No, the context of the verse clarifies the meaning. Living according to the flesh is referenced by a list of sins and is contrasted with living according to the spirit, which in the following verses after verse 6 talks about living in love.)

Ecclesiastes

The book of Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon and must be put into perspective. Solomon followed God at the beginning of his life. The many wives he married ultimately dragged him away from God. Solomon pursued every earthly pleasure there was whether it was sexual or pleasures in his labor resulting in many riches. Solomon went from saying all these things are meaningless and that all is vanity to saying all these pleasures are a gift from God as he pondered his life. In the end Solomon concluded...

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. Eccl.12:13

The end message of Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes is to put God first in your life. If you don't then all your other pursuits are in fact meaningless. If you do, then all your other pursuits are a gift of God and you should enjoy them with thanksgiving.

Are We To Pursue Earthly Pleasures?

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matt. 6:19-24 (
Does this mean that a man may not seek to earn money and have nice things for himself and his family? Certainly not, your treasure is the most important thing you have. It is saying that God should be number 1 in your life. Having 2 masters is having 2 number 1's, which is impossible. The eye being the lamp of the body is an analogy to illustrate that if the eyes aren't right, if the treasure isn't in heaven, if God isn't number 1; then the rest of the body is not right, then your treasure on earth is worthless, and you have another master. It is not saying that we can't enjoy earthly pleasures.)

A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just. Prov. 13:22 (Good men leave an inheritance to their children. This requires earthly riches, but your treasure, most important priority, is to be with God.)

Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God. Eccl. 5:19 (It is God's gift to enjoy that which we worked hard to produce.)

Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness. Psalm 52:7 (This verse also says that God should be #1 priority in your life. And it's not riches that are bad, but the trust in riches over God as the provider of those riches.)

He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch. Prov. 11:28 (Riches aren't bad, but trusting in them over God is bad.)

And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Mark 10:23-25 (Again, trust in riches, not simply having riches.)

Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoyThat they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. 1 Tim. 6:17-19 (Trust in God, not your riches. But riches aren't bad as God gives it to us to enjoy.)

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:12 (Paul himself knows what it is to both have riches and be poor. But whichever your situation, the important thing is having contentment in that and giving thanks to God.)
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