The Flesh of Man
Bro. Wayne Tanner

Fact: The inspired apostles and the pioneer brethren of Christadelphia clearly taught the principle of “defiles” or “Unclean flesh”; also referred to as “sin in the flesh”.

Question: Is the flesh of man as referred to in the Bible and the pioneer writings the same as the flesh of the first man Adam when he was first created?

For the answer, ponder the following considerations.

Before the transgression: Gen. 1:31 “very good”.

After the transgression: Jer. 17:9 – “deceitful” and “desperately wicked”

Rom. 7:18 – “In my flesh no good thing”.

I John 2:16 – All that is in the world is the “lust of the flesh”

Facts: 1. It is a documented fact that the leaders of Amended Christadelphia maintain that there is no such thing as “sin in the flesh”; that the term is only used as metonymy. Metonymy means to borrow the meaning that properly belongs to one word and apply it to something else.

  1. The Amended also maintain that the prompting of the flesh is only called sin because it leads to sin.

Proof: The concept of “sinful human nature is nowhere found in the Scriptures” (Christadelphian Tidings for May 1997, page 186).

“In a small number of verses, Scripture applies terms to human nature which normally describe committed transgressions”. (Same page as above).

“We must not preach sin that dwells in us, which is a word used metonymically for the impulses within us” (Unity in Australia, page 33).

Fact: If there is no such thing as sin in the flesh, the proper understanding of some passages is impossible to ascertain.

Examples: 1. Heb. 2:14-17 with Rom. 8:3; Rom. 6:6; 7:20,23; Col. 2:11; Matt. 5:28; 15:19; Gal. 5:17-21.

Question: If there is no such thing as sin in the flesh, what does Rom. 8:3 teach regarding that in which Jesus came?

  1. A personal sin?
  2. A personal sinner?
  3. A person having sin in the flesh nature like his brethren? WHICH?
  1. “Foreasmuch, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself took part of the same, that through death he might destroy him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil.”


  1. The sense of the above passage is a declaration that whatever Jesus came to accomplish, he took part of it in order to destroy it, (and Rom. 8:3 tells us what it was). Paul declares that it was flesh and blood in his letter to the Hebrews, and calls it sin in the flesh in his letter to the Romans.
  2. Paul could not have meant that Jesus partook of personal sin; or that he was a personal sinner. He could only have had reference to the sin nature of the descendants of Adam and the fact that Jesus equally partook of it with the rest of us.

Question: What has the power of death?

Answer: Rom. 5:12; 6:23; I Cor. 15:56; James 1:13-15.

Question: Jer. 17:9 uses the term “heart” while other passages use the term “flesh”. Is there a difference between the two terms? Compare Matt. 15:19-20 with Gal. 5:17-21. Explain.

Consider: Do the two above passages prove that God considers the reality in sin in the flesh apart from an actual act of personal sin, an outward act transgressing the laws of God? In what way?

Are the terms sin in the flesh, sinful flesh, and flesh of sin used as metonymy? Explain.

If the terms are not as a metonymy, can there truly be such a thing as sin in the flesh?


  1. One of the terms which is translated “sin” in the New Testament (harmatia) means to miss the mark.
  2. Question: How can we be astray of the mark apart from an actual transgression?

  3. There are a number of things in Scripture which are ceremonial, that is, they are as God estimates them and not necessarily so in reality.


  1. The leper.

After the Leper is healed (Lev. 14:3), the man is in the same physical condition he was in before he was overtaken by the disease. However, he is not clean as in one sense as he was before.

Notice Lev. 14:4. Even though the leper is healed he is not yet clean in God’s sight. This is so because once anything has contracted uncleanness, it is not remedied simply by removing the condition. It must first receive a ceremonial, symbolic cleansing. In verse 4, even though he has been healed, the leper is yet to be “cleansed”. Remember this in the instance of our unclean nature. A remedy for the condition, a change of nature, is not all that is involved. A sacrifice is always necessary to effect a cleansing atonement in God’s sight. The natural man who is not instructed in the things of God would think that when the healing was complete, that everything was all right again; that the uncleanness and estrangement was over. Not so in God’s sight, for even though the leper was healed he was yet to be cleansed. That was accomplished by a sacrifice representing the crucifixion of Christ.

Even the house was to be cleansed (Verses 33-57); not by sweeping or burning it, but by a process, the last step of which is a blood sacrifice representing the shed blood of Christ. Then and then only was it clean.

Notice the symbolism involved here.

  1. Birds – These are in the heavens above the earth. They must be brought down to the earth to be used as a cleansing sacrifice; even as Christ came down from above (John 3:31) to be a cleansing for himself and for us (Heb. 7:27).
  2. Earthen vessel – flesh and blood; we are earthen vessels, mortal men (Acts 9:15 with I Cor. 15:47-48; Rom. 9:21-22; II Tim. 2:19-21).
  3. Running waters – associated with the Spirit of God (John 7:38-39).
  4. Slain bird – Christ crucified.
  5. Living bird – Christ redeemed by his own blood (Heb. 9:12; 13:20).

These are but a few of the symbolic elements here.

Question: If sin is the transgression of the law (I John 3:4), can the flesh transgress without the mind willingly participating in an unlawful act?

Consider: Deut. 21:23 with Gal. 3:13. Deut. 21:23 deals with a man in violation of the precept found in that passage. Such a person, even after he has died, is continuing to be in violation of that law, thereby incurring a curse of the law.

In view of the above, can a man sin without full agreement and participation in the mind?


  1. A man conceives the impulse to commit an act before perpetrating the deed. He can either stifle the impulse; or he can follow through and commit the deed. This is called in Scripture, “sin when it is finished” (James 1:15).

Consider Ex. 20:17 and Deut. 5:21. What do these passages have to do with sin in the flesh as opposed to personally committed sin?

Answer: A man violated this commandment when he allows the temptation to do the things that are prohibited in the passages to enter his mind. He may not follow through and commit that which he is tempted to do, but it is a fact that the man had sin in his flesh or heart.

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Updated last on 2023-02-07.