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Knowing No One After the Flesh

by David A. DePra


For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if

one died for all, then were all dead: And that He died for all, that

they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto

Him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth

know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ

after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. Therefore

if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed

away; behold, all things are become new. (II Cor. 5:14-17)


     Paul spoke continually about dying and being raised in Christ.

He spoke of it as a finished fact, but as a finished fact which is an

ongoing process -- as to it's effect in us. In other words, in Christ, we

are new creations. THAT is finished. But progressively, our new

creatureship must be made manifest through a process of spiritual


     A comparison to a child is appropriate. A child IS born and IS a

human being. That is a finished fact. But what he will become

through growth is yet to be seen. What he is by birth must grow and

be made manifest.

     When it comes to the new birth in Christ, however, there is one big

difference between it, and the natural birth. The new birth in Christ

is a RE-birth. I am born AGAIN. My natural birth is not a rebirth. It

is the point at which I come into existance.

     Now what this does is create a sort of parallel universe in which

a Christian lives. Paul spoke of it in Romans 7. He likened himself

as having TWO "laws" within himself, working against each other.

There was the new nature in Christ which seeks to love and obey

God. But there continues to be his flesh which "likes" sin, and

which cannot do what he wants it to do.

     Thus, we see that being a new creation in Christ does not mean

the flesh ceases to exist. Neither does it mean the sin nature is

obliterated. Rather, it means that we are set free, through the

resurrection, from bondage TO those things. We then spend the

rest of our Christian lives overcoming the flesh, and learning how

to walk in the Spirit.

     We must grasp the fact that there is such a thing as our flesh, and

such a thing as our new man in Christ Jesus. The two are not the

same. In fact, Paul considered them so distinct that he was able to

say, "Henceforth, no we no man after the flesh." We are to know

others for what they are as new creations.


Knowing Not After the Flesh


     The term "flesh" in the NT is used in a number of ways. Often it is

used to refer to the elements of our makeup which are subject to

the fallen creation. The mind, emotions, temperment, and physical

body would be the "flesh" in this case. Never does the "flesh" mean

something spiritual. For Jesus said, "That which is flesh is flesh,

and that which is spirit is spirit." (John 3:6)

     Note that the "flesh" is not necessarily an evil thing unto itself.

For example, emotions are not evil. It is when we "walk according

to the flesh," that is, are controlled and governed by it, that it can

be USED for sinful purposes. New creations in Christ Jesus are

not supposed to be emotionless people. But we are not to be

controlled by emotions, or serve them like a slave.

     Now, here is Paul's point in the verse quoted above. He is

saying that we are all trained to know people "after the flesh." We

know them based on their personalities. We also know them

greatly based on how they effect us personally. Of course, how we

know others is a subjective matter. How I know someone is based

on MY agenda for living. It is based on MY perception -- within

which are all of MY bias and ways of responding.

     Paul says there is yet another way to know someone. And

rather than be based on MY point of view, it is based on God's

point of view. It is to know someone as they are in Christ. It is to

discern them -- to the degree possible -- the way God's discerns


     Now, at this point, it is important that we do not misunderstand.

There are some Christian people in this world who make it their

business to go around analysing everyone else. They like to look

at people, categorize them, figure them out, and accrue to

themselves much pride for being able to do so. This is NOT what

we are talking about here. Anyone who is deluded in to thinking

that God has appointed them to be everyone else's spiritual

thermometer has not seen the Truth. They are completely off the

track as to God's love and grace.




     Why does God tell us to know people "no longer after the flesh?"

Doesn't that seem a little impractical? I mean, what is wrong with

knowing people the way we've always known them? And even

more importantly, how do you get to the point where you can know

them the way Paul describes -- as new creations in Christ?

     First of all, it is not wrong to "know" people by their personalities.

After all, we cannot simply pretend we are oblivious to that. This

isn't what Paul is suggesting. We do remain free to enjoy other

people. Paul is, however, getting at something basic to the

Christian experience. He is saying, "What you see with your eyes

and hear with your ears, and experience in your interaction with

other people, is fine. But it is not yet the real. The real is what that

person is in Jesus Christ."

     God is getting at the root of things in these matters. He does

not want us merely living on the surface of life. He doesn't want

us all bound up in those things which are eventually going to pass

away. Sure, we can enjoy them while they last. But the point is,

things like human personality -- in our flesh -- is not going to last.

It is going to pass away when we pass away.


The Real Us


     Have you ever considered what is going to pass away when

you die, and what will go on? Clearly, all that is of this flesh of mine

cannot continue. Anything which is of the old creation cannot live.

Every single element of our frame which is in any way tied to our

"old creation fleshly body" is going to pass away. This even

includes our brain. Only that which is the real us -- of our spirit -- can

continue. The rest -- anything that is a product of the physical --

cannot. It will wear out and return to the dust.

     Now, what this means is that much of what we call "human

personality" will no longer be us. It can't be us, for we express

human personality through a body; through emotions; through

reactions. But this does not mean we will be without individuality

or personality. Rather, the exact opposite will be true. We will

have individual personality. It's just that the means, or vehicle,

of expression, will no longer be the temporal body of flesh. It will

be expressed through a resurrected body.

     Yet ask: Do we actually think that the human personality we

NOW possess -- subject to all of the scars and damage of sin

and of life -- is going to be the same in us when we pass on and

gain our resurrected body? No. What will pass on is NOT that

which we see here as expressed through a fallen creation. What

will pass on will be the fundament of it -- that which is redeemed and

made whole by Jesus Christ.

     Death is not going to turn us into non-persons. It is not going to

erase who we are, and make us unrecognizable. Rather than

change us into something different, death is going to SEAL and

ETERNALIZE what we are -- both morally and spiritually. Therefore,

while it is true that our means of expression WILL change, that which

is there TO express will not change.

     I am born a new creation in Jesus Christ. And I am, because of

this, becoming someone in Christ -- through faith and obedience.

When I die, THAT is what God will take. Not all of my damaged

and malfunctioning emotions and reactions. No. He will take the

MORAL and SPIRITUAL individual I am in Jesus. That will be what

goes on as the foundation for the ages yet to come. The rest -- all

that I was physically and "of the flesh," will pass away.

     Never think that this is going to be a bad thing. Never think that

this will mean we are going to LOSE something. No. Rather, all of

the potential of the new creation in Jesus will be released to it's

fullness -- totally unemcumbered by our body of flesh. Now, that is

worth looking forward to. It is eternal freedom.

     One example here will suffice. Remember the most wonderful

emotion you ever experienced. Maybe it was joy. Yet despite that

great experience, you were hindered by flesh. Imagine what it

would be like to be unhindered, and to be able to experience the

fullness of joy in Christ Jesus. We can only wonder and marvel.

     Now we can see a little more why God emphasized the REAL

person we are in Christ. It is that real person which is going to live

forever. The rest passes on. So when God talks about knowing

each other this way He is talking about reality. He is talking about

seeing through this fleshly facade we have erected for ourselves,

into something much better and much more real. God is talking

about cutting through this darkness and flesh, and getting through

to what is vital and eternal.


Our Version of the Flesh


     Despite the fact that none of us are alike, we are all cut from the

same broken mold. We are all born of Adam and are born totally

geared to the sin nature. The sin nature is basically self-ownership.

It is a pension for living independent of God.

     Now, something happened to Adam when he decided to live

independent of God. He saw that he was naked. Remember?

     Sure. But this was something more than he bargined for. He did

not realize how terrible this would be. In fact, when God sought him

out and found him hiding among the trees of the garden, Adam had

already tried to cover his nakedness with fig leaves. And we have

been doing the same ever since.

     From birth, human beings are one one mission. It is not

something conscious, nor is it even considered to be wrong. But

it is literally the engine which drives us as people. That mission is

to cover our nakedness. It is to compensate for what Adam lost.

     We will do this. We have no choice but to do it. Something got

ruined in Adam and we cannot live normally until it is fixed. So we

are trying to fix it.

     This too, is part of the sin nature. Note the word "nature." It is our

nature, in Adam, to try to fix what went wrong. We do not even have

to realize what we are doing. Human beings have a built-in, totally

unconscious realization that they are naked and in need. And we

do all we can from birth to try to cover it up and fix it.

     Now, the way in which I try to cover my nakedness without God

may vary widely from the way you try to fix yours. Much of the

human personality is molded through an ongoing process of trying

to fix ourselves. As I grow up, I am going to develope my flesh into

a certain version of Adam -- through my upbringing and choices.

And you will develope yours. Yet it is all in Adam. It is all flesh.

     Did you ever wonder why some unbelievers can have such

pleasant personalities? I mean, some of them are actually nicer

people than some Christians? Or even nicer than ME? How can

this be?

     It's because all of the influences upon them from birth, molded a

pleasant piece of flesh. Perhaps they were born with good body

chemistry, or a nice temperment. And maybe they came from a

nice family. Maybe they even made some decent choices. All of

this may have developed their flesh into something quite pleasant.

But, you know, it's STILL flesh. And even nice flesh has no life in it.

Nice flesh, despite being nice, is nevertheless the result of

trying to cover one's nakedness. Except nice flesh usually has

progressed to the point where the person thinks they have done

it. So because they don't feel exposed and threatened, they have

what we call "high self-esteem." This is entirely possible totally

apart from God.

     Others may not be so blessed. Maybe I am tempermental. I

react to everything and feel things strongly. Maybe all of my

childhood I was exposed to contention and arguing. So l end up

with not so nice flesh. I have a crabby personality. I am not happy

with myself. I have "low self-esteem." I haven't done such a good

job at covering my nakedness. And it shows in my personality and

affects my relationships.

     It is actually possible to be a faithful believer in Jesus Christ, and

yet appear to others to be crabby and tempermental. That is

because your version of the flesh didn't quite have the pleasant

traits that perhaps some other people had. It is also possible to

completely reject Jesus Christ and be the most pleasant, friendly,

and calm person. Totally possible. That's because in neither case

are we talking about anything spiritual. We are talking about flesh.

We are talking about the development of a human being APART

from God -- and about nothing which commends us to God. That

is why Paul says that we must no longer know anyone "after the

flesh." There we do not find the real person -- the new creation in



The Real Person


     It is totally impossible for me to know anyone spiritually unless I

first allow God to know ME. Know me? Doesn't God already know

me? Yes. But in many cases, He knows us in spite of ourselves.

God wants us know us with our full and voluntary cooperation. He

wants us to open and expose ourselves to Him.

     There is no way we are going to do this unless we are convinced

that God loves us. Adam hid in the garden because he was afraid.

Fear motivated him to hide from God; to cover himself up from God.

Yet "perfect love casts out fear." When I know God loves me, I

know I can drop my religious facade and stand before Him naked.

     But how many of us actually do this? How many of us -- despite

believing and reciting from memory the many doctrines of God's

love -- actually live like God loves us? How many of us actually

believe that God loves us just as we are, and that when God says

there is NO condemnation in Christ Jesus that He really means it?

Unfortunately, not many of us. Such is the root of every problem

Christians have spiritually. We don't believe God loves us. We

don't believe what He says. So we act, feel, and exist accordingly,

in unbelief.

     The good news is that we don't have to continue on this way. We

can begin believing NOW. We may not understand everything, nor

be able to string together a list of Biblical doctrine, but we can turn to

God Himself and believe. And that, afterall, is what it is all about

anyways. We are going to spend eternity with God. We may as

well get started. If not today, then when?

     God knows us. And He wants us to begin knowing each other,

not after the flesh, but according to the new creation -- according

to the real us in Christ Jesus. If we would do this, then matters such

as forgiveness for each other, walking in love, etc., would naturally

follow. We would view each other as fellow heirs with Christ. We

would have in each other, not our own interests, but the interests of

God Himself.

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