Sarx! Phonetically you could be forgiven for thinking I am a New Zealander and I have just used the word ‘sex’ to get your attention. If that thought worries you, turn your alarm bells off.

Sarx is a Greek word used 147 times in the New Testament. Commonly translated ‘flesh’, sarx in some circles, historically, had the negative connotation for bodily functions and desires.

 Humanity

IN OUR HUMANITY: Lloyd Harkness says Jesus' life exemplifies "what is possible when the totally human remains connected to the fully divine". PICTURE: Jan Willem Geertsma

"Sarx refers to our physicality with all its abilities and limitations but also incorporates personhood. When the New Testament speaks of our flesh, flesh is our humanity with all our desires and affections."

The extended version of this connotation saw our bodies as the source of sin. Hopefully that understanding will remain in the past and this Word piece will sharpen an accurate definition.

Flesh. The flesh. More flesh. 147 times more flesh.

You can see how the repeated use of this word begs for clarification.

Sarx refers to our physicality with all its abilities and limitations but also incorporates personhood. When the New Testament speaks of our flesh, flesh is our humanity with all our desires and affections.

In this sense, sarx is a figure of speech where a part (flesh) is substituted for, or literally means, the whole (body, soul and spirit); as well as sometimes being just the part (flesh=body).

An example for a part equalling the whole would be; many hands helped, meaning many people helped. The part (hand) references the whole (people).

This understanding of sarx is critical to John’s statement Jesus ‘came in the flesh’. John is quite simply saying Jesus became fully human when He came to us. It is a clear statement of incarnation not a statement of the obvious; that He had a body.

Paul, in agreement with John, says Jesus emptied Himself of everything divine so He could be fully human. Only a fully human Jesus could achieve what He did for mankind.

He is "the way, the truth, and the life" who walked with His Father to the cross and beyond, opening the means for humanity to do similar.

Jesus' life exemplifies what is possible when the totally human remains connected to the fully divine (God, the Father, and Holy Spirit).

When the Bible speaks of the sarx being weak it is noting that we humans are frail and prone to blunder. Without a fresh start, thanks to Jesus; a God orientation, thanks to our Heavenly Father; and a ready help, thanks to the Holy Spirit, we will always stumble and ultimately miss what God’s grace offers.

Hence, we need one master, God, not sarx, our humanity with all its desires and affections.

The epistles warn us against being ruled by sarx. ‘Put away’ sarx, don’t ‘gratify’ sarx ‘and its passions’, redirect your life away from sarx’s weaknesses to ‘righteousness’, rid yourselves of contamination both in sarx and spirit, and similar thoughts, prevail.

"[W]hile sarx can refer to our physicality, especially when considering genealogies, it also asks readers to consider our humanity in many verses."

The Galatian Christians were told not to sow to please sarx but rather sow to please God’s Spirit. Desires such as greed and enmity/revenge do not normally sprout from the ground overnight and the pleasure(?) they offer requires water to bloom. The Galatians are being asked to review what their lives are focussed on. Is it their humanity with all its desires, impulses and affections or is it a responsiveness to His Spirit?

The Corinthian Christians were encouraged to rid themselves of contamination in their sarx and mind. Ephesian’s Christians were reminded of the very same thing; that they once pursued the desires of their sarx and mind while Rome’s Christians were to focus their minds on God’s law and not allow their sarx direct them towards sin.

A different thought is found in Paul’s first letter to Corinth where he declares not many people were wise by sarx standards when called to follow Jesus. Sarx standards relate to ambition, power, success in any forum or even alternate philosophies like Epicureanism which defines the good life as refined tastes and habits in the pursuit of pleasure.

Sarx here is unequivocally a reference to the whole person not just to the part, their body or flesh.

Likewise, when John writes in his first letter "the lust of your sarx, the lust of your eyes and your pride in what you have and what you have done stems from the world and not God", he is saying the seat of sin is in the whole person not just their flesh/body.

So while sarx can refer to our physicality, especially when considering genealogies, it also asks readers to consider our humanity in many verses.

To finish on a distinct use of the latter, no discussion of sarx should omit its use to define marriage. Marriage is two people becoming one sarx. This is not a reference to the wedding night but to the whole of the couples’ beings united in one functioning and directed commitment.

Sarx. Sarx. Sarx. A great word when comprehended correctly.