Author: Ron Graham
Grace and Human Flesh
—How use of the body relates to God’s grace
Our human fleshly bodies generally don't have a very good name in Christian theology. In fact, some belief systems view deeds of the human body as providing no access into the grace of God. The Bible does not take that view when it relates the grace of God to acts of human flesh.
In this lesson we will simply look at some instances where a certain use of human flesh had a very real bearing on human access to God’s grace.
1 How Adam Used His Flesh
Adam used his flesh to fall from grace.
¶“16And the LORD God gave this command to Adam: 'You may freely eat from every tree in the garden, 17except you must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For in the day that you eat of that tree, you shall surely die' ” (Genesis 2:16-17).
¶“6The woman saw that the tree was good for food, a delight to the eyes, and desirable to make one wise. Then she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he also ate. 7Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover their loins” (Genesis 3:6-7).
¶“22Then the LORD God said, 'Now see! The man has become like one of us. He now knows good and evil. So now we must stop him from reaching out his hand to take also of the tree of life, to eat and live forever.' 23That's why the LORD drove man out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24And the LORD drove out Adam [and Eve]. Then the LORD placed cherubim at the east of the Garden of Eden, along with a flaming sword that turned in all directions. These guarded the access to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:22-24).
Consider those excerpts from the Bible’s account of the Fall. Adam and his wife Eve were living in grace, having been given to dwell in a beautiful garden replete with fruit trees. Better still, they had the promise of everlasting life which would not be taken away unless they ate of the one forbidden tree. On the very day they ate of that tree, they would die —cast away from the life and fellowship of God.
Who Caused the Fall?
Now what brought about this fall from grace? The LORD God made his grace conditional by the command not to eat of one particular tree. But did God cause the fall? No, the command was not a trap. It was simple to obey.
Did the serpent cause the fall? Yes, but who allowed him? All Adam and Eve had to do was say No. Then Satan would have caused nothing but embarrassment to himself.
So, Adam gets the blame. “Through one man sin entered the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all humanity because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
What Did Adam Do?
What did Adam do to cause the fall? He reached out his hand to take the forbidden fruit, and he ate the fruit. He caused the fall from grace with an act of human flesh. Adam used his body to die to grace. His body lost its innocence, and his spirit lost the life of God. Clearly this is one way in which the use of human flesh was closely related to the grace of God. Through that use of Adam’s body, access to eternal life was lost.
2 How Jesus Used His Flesh
Jesus used his flesh as the means of grace.
¶“13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. As it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.' 14He did this so the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles in Christ Jesus. He wanted us to receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:13-14)
¶“14And the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15The saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance —that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst” (1Timothy 1:14-15).
¶“28So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. He will appear a second time, not be to bear sin, but for the salvation of those who eagerly wait for him” (Hebrews 9:28).
¶“19So my brethren, be bold to enter the most holy place with the blood of Jesus. 20[By that blood] Christ dedicated a new Way. This is a living way that enters through the veil. [I speak of 'the veil' figuratively] meaning the flesh of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19-20).
Those verses are a small sample of many Bible passages, teaching us that we are saved by grace through the flesh and blood of Jesus.
What Did Jesus Do?
He permitted himself to be crucified. He used his human body as a sacrifice for our sins. Had he not done so, there would be no salvation by grace. This sacrifice is what the Bible is really all about. Clearly this is the principle way in which the use of human flesh was closely related to the grace of God.
3 How We Use Our Flesh
We use our flesh to access grace.
¶“1 So what shall we say? Should we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2No way! How can we who died to sin still live in sin? (Romans 6:1-2).
¶“12So don't let sin reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its lusts. 13Don't present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness. Rather, present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life. Offer the members of your body to God as instruments for righteousness” (Romans 6:12-13).
¶“14[If you present yourselves to God as instruments of righteousness] sin will not be master over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? No, never! 16Don't you know that if you yield and obey as slaves do, then the one you obey claims you as slaves? You are either slaves to sin, leading to death, or slaves of obedience to Christ, leading to being judged by God as righteous” (Romans 6:14-16).
¶“1So I appeal to you brethren, by the mercies of God —present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. This is your reasonable service. 2Don't be conformed to this world. Rather be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Then you will prove what the will of God is —what is good and acceptable and perfect’ (Romans 12:1-2).
These passages from Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians show how closely the use of our fleshly bodies is related to our salvation by grace. If you read the passages carefully, you will see that the right use of our bodies is a condition of our being in God’s grace.
Not Only Adam and Jesus
Adam and Jesus were certainly unique. Adam was the first human. Jesus is the only human who is also God. But Adam and Jesus are not the only ones whose use of their fleshly bodies was closely related to God’s grace. All other human beings have access to grace conditional upon the right use of their flesh.
What Do We Do?
What if we use our bodies wrongly in disobedience to God? We will die as Adam did when he reached out his hand, took the forbidden fruit, and ate it. We will be cut off from grace. This is true of all who “fulfill the lusts of the flesh” by doing “the [evil] works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16,19).
What if we use our bodies rightly as Jesus did when he offered his body as a sacrifice? We will live in him and have access to grace. This is true of all whose “bodies are members of Christ” and “the temple of the Holy Spirit... bought with a price” (1Corinthians 6:15,19-20). It is true of even you, if you “glorify God in your body and in your spirit which both belong to God” (1Corinthians 6:20).
Our Access to Grace
Paul says that “Through our Lord Jesus Christ, we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand...” (Romans 5:1-2). When does this access occur? Is it at the moment you first believe as some say, or is it when you first use your body in an act of faith?
Is salvation given through the spiritual act of believing only, without any fleshly act of obedience? What is the first bodily act of faith commanded after one first believes? Jesus names it: “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved...” (Mark 16:16).
Now notice that submitting your body to baptism is closely related to Christ submitting his body to his sacrificial death: “Don't you know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3).
Surely, entering into Christ’s death is having access to grace. The bodily act of being baptized is the act that gives us “access by faith into this grace in which we stand” (Romans 5:1-2). Then by grace we “present our bodies as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13).