PUTTING OFF THE BODY OF FLESH
Don K. Preston D. Div.
Resurrection is normally understood as the putting off of the human body of flesh and taking on the immortal body. Yet the only Bible passage that explicitly speaks of putting off the body, specifically the body of flesh, speaks of being raised from “sin-death” to everlasting life in Christ.
Sin-death is the death resulting from sin. This is “spiritual death” and not physical. God told Adam and Eve that they would die “in the day you eat” “Genesis 2:15-17). They did not die physically. They died “spiritually” by being cast out of the presence and fellowship of God.
“In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” (Col 2:11-12, NKJ)
Resurrection and Colossians 2
In the original language, the words “the sins of” are not present. The text literally reads, “putting off the body of the flesh.” Paul speaks of death, resurrection, the body of flesh. This has caused commentators no little consternation for it seems that Paul was proclaiming “realized eschatology.” He seems to be saying that the Colossians had already been resurrected! Yet the traditional view of the resurrection of the biological body is totally absent.
There is probably no element of Paul’s theology that is more misunderstood than his doctrine of the body, of flesh, and the resurrection. One of the reasons the apostle is so misunderstood is because most Bible students approach scripture with a Greek world view and not a Hebrew. Yet Paul was “a Hebrew of the Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5); he thought and wrote from the Jewish mind set.
Resurrection and Hebraic Thought- Not Grecian
Western civilization is dominated by the Greek world view. In regard to man that means that we think of man as possessing a body and an eternal soul. Yet as Robinson expresses it, the Hebrews believed, “Man does not have a body, he is a body.” (John A. T. Robinson, The Body, A Study in Pauline Theology, (Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1952)14). Further, whereas the Greeks defined “flesh” as the soft tissue parts of the body, the Hebrew thought was that, “Flesh represents mere man, man in contrast to God–hence man in his weakness and mortality” (Robinson, 1952, 19). To summarize, the Greeks thought of flesh and body in crassly materialistic terms– human flesh. The Hebrew thought of these in theological terms; they thought of man in relationship to God- or out of fellowship, in a “body of death.”
Resurrection and “Flesh and Blood”
In my recent debate with Joel McDurmon, (July 19-21, 2012– DVDs and MP3s of the debate are available here) during the Q&A session, he was asked to explain Paul’s statement: “Flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom.”
Joel responded with what I believe to be the truth. He said that the term “flesh and blood” as used by Paul, did not refer to the human body, but, to a manner of life of the flesh, and Israel under the power of Torah! All I can say is Amen, and Amen!
Therefore, the resurrection of 1 Corinthians 15 would be when Israel under Torah were put aside– and this was unequivocally in AD 70!
It is little wonder that Joel did not respond to my twice made argument. He had hopelessly entrapped himself, and defeated his own futurist eschatology.
Paul fully concurred with Hebrew thought. In Romans 8:8f he said, “those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” It is readily apparent that Paul was not saying that anyone biologically alive cannot please God. He continued, “You are not in the flesh, but in the spirit” verse 9. The apostle was not speaking to disembodied spirits. He was speaking to Christians who had stopped living a kind of life that was antithetical to God– a life of the flesh. This relates directly to his concept of the body. And in our next installment, we will discuss Paul’s concept of “the body.”
Also, be sure to watch my series on the resurrection on YouTube. Here is one of my latest videos.