Flesh is Self-righteousness, Because Being Embodied is Not the Problem

Self-sufficient and self-righteous people assume that they are going to live Somewhere, even if it’s without a physical body. These religious and “more moral” sinners think they are against the flesh, by assuming that they can continue to live even if they had no body and there were not earth. But Paul’s letter to the Philippians teaches the destruction of all who those who rely on their own righteousness instead of submitting to Christ’s outside righteousness.

1:28— not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their DESTRUCTION, but of your salvation, and that from God.

3:3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God[b] and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the FLESH—

8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

3:19— Their end is DESTRUCTION their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

According to Phil 3:18-19, those who remain enemies of the cross will perish, will be destroyed. Only God can save anybody, and God has not promised to save anybody without teaching that person the gospel. The promise of God is not to those who have a connection in the flesh to somebody else who is a Christian. The promise is to “as many as God will call”. Acts 2:39. God calls by the gospel. Not all who are externally called by the gospel are effectively called by God. But all who are effectually called by God are called by the gospel. (Romans 10:14-17).

The only way we can tell if our works are good fruit (instead of fruit unto death) is to make our calling and election sure. (II Peter 1) By what gospel were you called? Did the gospel you claim be called by talk about election? Did the gospel who claim to be called by talk about Christ’s outside righteousness, as opposed to some righteousness of your own which you are enabled to do. All of your morality and all of your “righteousness” is an abomination to God, if you think it adds to the equation by which God is not angry with you today.

if you think God is at peace with you today, because you think you have not sinned so seriously today, then you are still dominated by the “flesh”, which is your self-righteousness, which sin God hates more than any other, because it sets itself up in competition with Christ’s righteousness. And make no mistake, if you today are adding your own not sinning into the mix along with Christ’s righteousness, what you think is an addition to Christ’s righteousness IS IN COMPETITION WITH CHRIST’S RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Philippians 3:8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

Galatians 2:21 for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for NO purpose.

Galatians 5: 2…. if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of NO advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law

Romans 10: 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness

Phil 3:18-19 is in contrast to 3:21. Their end is destruction; but our citizenship is already from heaven. Their end is destruction, but our end is transformation and immortality. When it says that they mind earthly things, this does not necessarily mean immoral things; it may only mean non-gospel things. It may mean somebody who thinks he used to be in this legalistic cult but is now focused on being a healthy and happy and productive member of normal society.

Having a citizenship from heaven does not mean that we are in heaven or that we are ever going to be in heaven. It means that those who are justified get their hopes and commands from Jesus Christ, who is in Heaven, who is our King, and who one day is coming to us on earth from Heaven.

I Corinthians 15: 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is FROM heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are OF heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall[f] also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Again, being from heaven does not mean that we are in heaven or that we will ever be going to heaven. Being “of heaven” means that King Jesus tells us what to do on earth, and that our hope is for the resurrection when Jesus will come to earth from heaven. Being a citizen of heaven means that we cannot also at the same time be a citizen of the demonic powers which oppose Christ’s kingdom and which have been ‘disarmed” by Christ’s death and resurrection (Colossians 2:15) Satan offered Christ these kingdoms, and now Satan and the powers offer us a place as a citizen in these kingdoms, but we reject that offer, because we are already citizens of heaven. This we reject what the world calls strength in order to be found “weak in Christ”.

“Earthly things” cause those in the “flesh” to remain ignorant and not submitted to the gospel. The “earthly things” which are sinful are not the fact that we live on earth in physical bodies. The “earthly things” include the distraction of morality and religion as they come into competition with Christ’s completed work at the cross. The glutton is not the only person who worships his belly. The preacher or the editor who will not preach the gospel and expose the false gospel in order to “keep my ministry and still have influence” is also serving his belly. His flesh may not look like the flesh of the preacher who openly teaches freewill and losing your salvation. But it’s still flesh.

Phil 3:16 Let us walk by the same rule. Let’s not practice the ungodly practice of judging only by outward appearance or by our own standard of saved and lost. Without the imputed righteousness revealed in the gospel, the person who commits less immorality is no better off than the person who commits more sin, if that person who is “more moral” using that difference to find assurance or to think he is more blessed by God or more pleasing to God.

It is FLESH to boast that we are converted because other people are less moral than we think we are.

II Corinthians 10:12 “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves by themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise.” Notice what the verse says: WE are NOT like THOSE people. THEY have an unrighteous standard of judgment.

Most commentators on Philippians 3:18-19 focus on the word “belly” and assume that it means greed, not only the desire for too much food but the lust for money and sinful pleasures. They do not connect “belly” to the desire to have one’s own righteousness from the law, even though that has been the topic of the entire chapter to that point. But the lust of the flesh is subtle.

The unlawful desires of the flesh are most subtle when it comes to self-righteousness. The law of God should not be blamed for the sin of self-righteousness, even though God has predestined the abuse of the law. When a person thinks that his not tasting and his not touching brings him blessing, that person is not only self-righteous but also an antinomian, because that person is thinking that God is satisfied with something less than perfect obedience to the law.

The only way that God can be (and IS) pleased with the good works of a Christian is that the Christian knows that these good works are blessings from Christ’s righteousness, not a supplement added to Christ’s righteousness. And this distinction is not only something that God knows, or only something that smart “Reformed theologians” know. Every Christian knows that Christ’s righteousness is the only reason for every love-gift from God.

The sin which deceives us all by nature is that WE DESIRE WHAT WE PRODUCE TO BE PART OF OUR SALVATION. We will give God’s “grace” the credit for helping us produce it. If asked about it, we would even say that “particular election” is the reason we produced it. But, like Cain, we want to take what we produced and offer it to God as some small part of what God will accept as our righteousness.

We don’t mind of God has to produce some righteousness also to “make up the difference”. But the one thing we want, the one thing which the people who killed Jesus wanted, is the one thing Cain wanted, and that is to have God accept what we have produced and what we sincerely (even if ignorantly) offered to God.

But God will NOT accept it. It’s either what we do in this life, or what God has already done in Christ. It’s either destruction or salvation.

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10 Comments on “Flesh is Self-righteousness, Because Being Embodied is Not the Problem”

  1. joey Says:

    Howdy Mark,

    Is there any sense in which God is still angry or at least displeased with the Christian when he falls into sin–a “you are in the family and I love you, but am angry with you for your wrong-doing” type situation? That’s what I’m struggling with lately. I believe the doctrine of election and that jesus’ righteousness was imputed to me, and I believe there is no condemnation for me as a result of that. But when I sin–which is more often then I’d care to admit–I struggle to shake the feeling that He is in some sense still upset with me…


  2. Alien Pebble Says:

    1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

    The lust of the flesh is the desire to produce a part of righteousness that God will accept.

    The lust of the eyes is the desire to judge by visible “transformation” than by faith in the gospel.

    The boast pride of life is the hope in “progressive sanctification” of the present life than in the better country from heaven to come.

  3. Genesis 3:19 . For you are dust, and you will return to dust.”

    1 Thessalonians 4:11 to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands

    In dualism, the spiritual life is pitted against our embodiment –whether “high church” or “low church,” liturgical or not. The constant allure of escapism is always at hand to turn religious practices into a fearful longing to abandon the task of living patiently, generously, lovingly in a world marked by pain and sorrow. We must go through our bodies, not away from them, as living sacrifices.

    Hebrews 13: 15 Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name. 16 Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.

    I Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

    The neurotic burden which is the knowledge of the inutility and unimpressiveness of our efforts can lead us toward either triviality or despair. We can sacrifice the unimportant, and in this way not really care about what we are doing, Should we give up watching Chinese movies or sports on TV?

    We ask how much is enough, or even compare our own actions and non-actions against what those around us do or do not do. ,

    We can spend way too much thinking about ourselves and what we are doing. But then I also need to pay more attention to my habits, to what I am always doing and not doing. In the age to come, I will be a lot less selfish. Will being less selfish makes us happier in the age to come? Or does being unselfish mean that the age to come is not about our happiness?

    In this present age, there’s so many regrets, so little closure, so much unfinished business. But the older we get, it also seems like the bigger problem is that we have finished too soon. Sex is not so good when you finish too soon. Life is not so good when you finish too soon. if my life is finished, why am I still living? if am not dead yet, and life is not finished yet, Why can’t I have some unfinished things to do. Christ’s finished death is all my righteousness, so what does that leave me to do.

    we must give up. We must give up not this or that habit or food or particular sin, but the entire project of self-justification, of making God’s love and our future conditional on our own doing and not doing. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Give up!

    All power, all money, all self-control, all striving, all efforts at centering and fixing myself cannot stop our our return to dust , but in the meanwhile if we don’t do one thing, we do another thing to take the place of the thing we didn’t do.


  4. markmcculley Says:

    Calvin on II peter 1:4 —But the word nature is not here essence but quality. The Manicheans formerly dreamt that we are a part of God, and that ,after having run the race of life we shall at length revert to our original. There are also at this day fanatics who imagine that we thus pass over into the nature of God, so that his swallows up our nature. Thus they explain what Paul says, that God will be all in all and in the same sense they take this passage. But such a delirium as this never entered the minds of the holy Apostles; they only intended to say that we shall be partakers of divine and blessed immortality and glory, so as to be as it were one with God as far as our capacities will allow

  5. markmcculley Says:


    “I am going to the Father and you will no longer see Me” is teaching us that the the Lord Jesus is still incarnate, and therefore not here now on earth in His humanity

    Yes, the Spirit has given us a new standard of judgment, but that’s only because the Son by His death and ressurrection has already judged the world and its ruler

    John 16: I am teaching you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you.8 When He comes, He will teach the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: 9 About sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see Me; 11 and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

    12 “I still have many things to teach you, but you can’t bear them now.13 When the Spirit of truth comes, He will teach/ guide you into all the truth. For the Spirit will not teach on His own, but He will teach whatever He hears. The Spirit will also teach you what is to come. 14 The Spirit will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and teach it to you.

    John 3: 19 “This, then, is the judgment: The doctrine has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the doctrine because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who practices wicked things hates the doctrine and avoids the doctrine, in order that his deeds not be exposed by the doctrine. 21 But anyone who lives by the doctrine comes to the doctrine….

    Ephesians 3:10 God’s multi-faceted wisdom will now be made known through the called out to the rulers and authorities in the heavens

    I Cor 15: 25 For Christ must reign UNTIL He puts all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy to be abolished is death. 27 For God has put everything under His feet. But when it says “everything” is put under Him, it is obvious that He who puts everything under Him is the exception. 28 And when everything is subject to Christ, then the Son Himself will also be subject to the One who subjected everything to Him, in order that God will be all in all.

    Hebrews 2: 8 For in subjecting everything to Jesus , He left nothing that is not subject to Jesus. As it is, we do not yet see everything subjected to Jesus. 9 But we do see Jesus….crowned with glory and honor because of His suffering in DEATH

    i John 2:27 His anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie; just as He has taught you, remain in Him.

    II John 7 Many deceivers have gone out into the world; they do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves so you don’t lose what we[have worked for, in order that you receive a full reward.

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Donald Macleod’s The Person of Christ is a wonderful book. There Macleod writes on Jesus’ continuing incarnation—-The body is not just a memory for the risen Christ. He still has a body: a body which, by definition, is material and which stands in direct organic succession to the one he had in the days of his humiliation. (163)

    In his very helpful Jesus Ascended, Gerrit Scott Dawson writes—If Jesus dropped the hypostatic union with humanity, then he dropped us, and we are left forsaken on this side of the great divide, unable to fulfill our purpose, find forgiveness and restored communion, or enact our mission. A Nicene, historically orthodox view of the ascension safeguards our understanding of Christ’s continuing incarnation.

    The apostle John insists that the flesh of Jesus and the person of the preexistent Christ are inseparable after the incarnation. 1 John 4:2: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” Notice it does not say “came in the flesh,” as though that union with flesh and bones happened for a while and then stopped. He says, “has come in the flesh.” (146) http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/jesus-humanity-now


    Donald Macleod summarizes well the doctrine of anhypostasis in his book The Person of Christ:

    Christ took human nature, but he did not take a man. He took the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7), but not a servant. He did not even take an existing human genotype or embryo. He created the genotype in union with himself, and it’s ‘personality’ developed only in union with the Son of God . . . [H]e is a divine person who, without ‘adopting’ an existing human person took our human nature and entered upon the whole range of human experiences. (201)



    Donald Macleod writes in The Person of Christ, “The import of enhypostasis is that the human nature of Christ, although not itself an individual, is individualized as the human nature of the Son of God. It does not, for a single instant, exist as anhypostasis or non-personal” (202).

    There is a kind of asymmetry in Christology. While (symmetrically) Jesus is both fully God and fully man—and has fully divine and fully human minds, emotions, and wills—Jesus has been divine much longer than he’s been human (asymmetrically). As the second person of the Trinity, Jesus has been fully divine from all eternity, while he added full humanity to that divinity at a certain point in time, the incarnation

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Romans 8: 3 What the law could not do since it was limited by the
    flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like ours under sin’s domain and as a sin offering

    the law could not “condemn sin in the flesh”

    Christ’s law-keeping could not “condemn sin in the flesh”

    the law had ceremonial sin offerings but Christ’s death was and is the only effectual sin offering

  8. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Many who find salvation in their death find salvation from being born in the flesh. Either they find no salvation in Christ having come in the flesh or they deny that Christ has risen in the flesh
    I John 4:2 Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.
    2 John 1:7 Many deceivers have gone out into the world; they do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh
    John 1:14 The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw His glory, the glory as the Only Begotten Son from the Father,
    Romans 8:3 God condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son IN FLESH like ours under the guilt of sins imputed
    Romans 1:3 God’s good news concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was a descendant of David according to the flesh 4 and who has been declared to be the powerful Son of God by the resurrection from the dead
    Acts 2:31 Seeing this in advance, he spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ–: He was not left in Hades, and His flesh did not experience decay
    1 Timothy 3:16 The mystery of godliness is great: God was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory
    Hebrews 10:20 He has opened for us a new aand living way through the curtain (that is, His flesh),

  9. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Christ’s humanity was not entirely like ours after all. Christ does not identify with us to the extent of being himself a sinner. Christ has a peculiar distance from our own performance, does not follow our path, and always has an “estrangement from us”
    Throughout, the authors oppose the idea that Christ took into union a nature like Adam’s before the fall. However, this is not the only alternative. Christ lived in a state of humiliation, sinless and righteous but with a nature bearing the consequences of the fall in its mortality, its vulnerability and its suffering—but not fallen. Furthermore, the NT witness is that the incarnation is a new creation, the start of the new humanity, not a reform of the old. Christ is the second Adam, not the first.

    There are a range of problems with the claim. At best, it entails a Nestorian separation of the human nature from the person of Christ. It teaches that the eternal Son—the person who takes humanity into union—is absolutely free from sin but that the assumed humanity is fallen.
    But since Christ’s humanity never exists by itself, any idea of fallenness to that human nature is a statement about Christ, the eternal Son. Romans 5:12–21 is not mentioned. If Christ had a fallen human nature it is unavoidable that he would be included in the sin of Adam and its consequences. Christ could not have saved us since Christ would have needed atonement himself, if only for his inclusion in the sin of Adam.
    The authors state that Christ assumed flesh “corrupted by original sin in Adam” (p. 116) They teach that Christ took a humanity “ruined and wrecked by sin” (p.119), “corrupted human nature bent decisively toward sin” (p.121). They teach that Christ healed the nature he took from us (p 117).
    Thus the authors acknowledge that a sinful nature and original sin are inextricably linked and that they are teaching that Christ himself needed healin http://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/review/the-incarnation-of-god-mystery-of-gospel-foundation-of-evangelical-theology

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