Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: It is the Works of the Flesh, Not the Substance of the Flesh, Which St. Paul Always Condemns.
Chapter XLVI.—It is the Works of the Flesh, Not the Substance of the Flesh, Which St. Paul Always Condemns.
You may notice that the apostle everywhere condemns the works of the flesh in such a p. 579 way as to appear to condemn the flesh; but no one can suppose him to have any such view as this, since he goes on to suggest another sense, even though somewhat resembling it. For when he actually declares that “they who are in the flesh cannot please God,” he immediately recalls the statement from an heretical sense to a sound one, by adding, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.” 7589 Now, by denying them to be in the flesh who yet obviously were in the flesh, he showed that they were not living amidst the works of the flesh, and therefore that they who could not please God were not those who were in the flesh, but only those who were living after the flesh; whereas they pleased God, who, although existing in the flesh, were yet walking after the Spirit. And, again, he says that “the body is dead;” but it is “because of sin,” even as “the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” 7590 When, however, he thus sets life in opposition to the death which is constituted in the flesh, he unquestionably promises the life of righteousness to the same state for which he determined the death of sin. But unmeaning is this opposition which he makes between the “life” and the “death,” if the life is not there where that very thing is to which he opposes it—even the death which is to be extirpated of course from the body. Now, if life thus extirpates death from the body, it can accomplish this only by penetrating thither where that is which it is excluding. But why am I resorting to knotty arguments, 7591 when the apostle treats the subject with perfect plainness? “For if,” says he, “the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Jesus from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies, because of His Spirit that dwelleth in you;” 7592 so that even if a person were to assume that the soul is “the mortal body,” he would (since he cannot possibly deny that the flesh is this also) be constrained to acknowledge a restoration even of the flesh, in consequence of its participation in the selfsame state. From the following words, moreover, you may learn that it is the works of the flesh which are condemned, and not the flesh itself: “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh: for if ye live after the flesh ye shall die; but if ye, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” 7593 Now (that I may answer each point separately), since salvation is promised to those who are living in the flesh, but walking after the Spirit, it is no longer the flesh which is an adversary to salvation, but the working of the flesh. When, however, this operativeness of the flesh is done away with, which is the cause of death, the flesh is shown to be safe, since it is freed from the cause of death. “For the law,” says he, “of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death,” 7594 —that, surely, which he previously mentioned as dwelling in our members. 7595 Our members, therefore, will no longer be subject to the law of death, because they cease to serve that of sin, from both which they have been set free. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and through 7596 sin condemned sin in the flesh,” 7597 —not the flesh in sin, for the house is not to be condemned with its inhabitant. He said, indeed, that “sin dwelleth in our body.” 7598 But the condemnation of sin is the acquittal of the flesh, just as its non-condemnation subjugates it to the law of sin and death. In like manner, he called “the carnal mind” first “death,” 7599 and afterwards “enmity against God;” 7600 but he never predicated this of the flesh itself. But to what then, you will say, must the carnal mind be ascribed, if it be not to the carnal substance itself? I will allow your objection, if you will prove to me that the flesh has any discernment of its own. If, however, it has no conception of anything without the soul, you must understand that the carnal mind must be referred to the soul, although ascribed sometimes to the flesh, on the ground that it is ministered to for the flesh and through the flesh. And therefore (the apostle) says that “sin dwelleth in the flesh,” because the soul by which sin is provoked has its temporary lodging in the flesh, which is doomed indeed to death, not however on its own account, but on account of sin. For he says in another passage also: “How is it that you conduct yourselves as if you were even now living in the world?” 7601 where he is not writing to dead persons, but to those who ought to have ceased to live after the ways of the world.
Rom. 8:8, 9.579:7590
Rom. viii. 11.579:7593
Rom. 8:12, 13.579:7594
Rom. 7:17, 20, 23.579:7596
Per delinquentiam: see the De Carne Christi, xvi.579:7597
Rom. viii. 3.579:7598
Rom. vii. 20.579:7599
Rom. viii. 6.579:7600
Col. ii. 20.
Next: St. Paul, All Through, Promises Eternal Life to the Body.
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