Born of the Flesh: The Natural State of Humanity and the Need for Spiritual Rebirth
John 3:5-6 (ESV) - "Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.'" Jesus teaches that to enter the kingdom of God, one must be born again of the Spirit, implying that our NATURAL BIRTH into this world leaves us in a fleshly state, separated from the life of God.
John 3:5-6 is a significant passage that highlights the distinction between being born of the flesh and being born of the Spirit. In this conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council, Jesus emphasizes the necessity of being born again to enter the kingdom of God.
When Jesus speaks of being "born of the flesh," He refers to the natural human birth, which is a result of human procreation. This natural birth, as Jesus points out, results in individuals being "flesh." The term "flesh" in this context represents the inherent sinful nature and the state of separation from God that all humans are born into due to the fall of Adam and Eve. It conveys the idea that from the moment of our birth, we are in a state of spiritual alienation from God, unable to comprehend or access the spiritual truths necessary for salvation.
In contrast, Jesus introduces the concept of being "born of the Spirit," which is a spiritual rebirth that transcends the limitations of our natural birth. This spiritual rebirth is essential for anyone to enter the kingdom of God. The new birth, brought about by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, transforms the individual from being "in the flesh" to being "in the Spirit." This transformation results in a restored relationship with God, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the ability to live a life that is pleasing to God.
The use of the term "born" in John 3:5-6 underscores the idea that our natural birth into this world inherently leaves us "in the flesh," separated from the life of God. This separation is due to the sinful nature that we inherit from Adam as a consequence of the fall. The passage emphasizes the necessity of a spiritual rebirth, which is only possible through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit which brings about faith in Jesus Christ.
The Bible describes several characteristics of those who are "natural men" or "in the flesh." These characteristics reflect the sinful nature and spiritual condition of individuals who have not experienced the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Some of these characteristics are:
1) Unable to please God: Romans 8:7-8 (ESV) says, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." This passage indicates that a person in the flesh is at odds with God and cannot submit to His will.
2) Spiritual blindness and lack of understanding: 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV) states, "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." This passage describes the spiritual blindness of those who are in the flesh, which prevents them from understanding and accepting the truths revealed by God's Spirit.
3) Living according to sinful desires: Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV) provides a list of the "works of the flesh," which includes various forms of sinful behavior such as sexual immorality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, and orgies. Those who are in the flesh are prone to indulge in these sinful desires and actions.
4) Facing eternal separation from God: Romans 6:23 (ESV) states, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Those who remain "in the flesh" face spiritual death, which is eternal separation from God's favor. This stands in contrast to the promise of eternal life for those who are in Christ Jesus.
5) Lacking the indwelling of the Holy Spirit: Romans 8:9 (ESV) explains, "You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him." The presence of the Holy Spirit in a believer's life is an essential aspect of being "in the Spirit" rather than "in the flesh." Those who are "in the flesh" lack the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and do not belong to Christ.
This demonstrates that the terms "natural man" or "in the flesh" encompass both the inherent sinful nature that humans are BORN WITH and the actions that stem from this nature. These biblical characteristics of individuals who are "in the flesh" highlight the spiritual state of those who have not experienced the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. By contrast, those who have been born again and are "in the Spirit" demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit in their lives (Galatians 5:22-23) and are enabled to live a life that pleases God.