If I had to nominate the greatest internally conflicted person seen in a fictional movie or T.V show I would have to nominate Gollum from, “The Lord of the Rings”.
A close runner up would be Gobble played by Cookie Monster in the Sesame Street parody called, “Lord of the Crumbs.” Both Gollum and Gobble experienced serious internal conflict.
Paul in our passage this evening shows us that believers experience serious factual internal conflict was we abide in grace. That conflict is between the flesh and the Spirit.
Tonight was we continue with Paul’s application of grace we’ll focus on three things.
- The conflict
- The contrast
- The choice
First in verses 16-18 we see the conflict.
So far in our studies we have seen Paul through both logic and scripture demonstrate that the law of God is insufficient to justify or to sanctify. Only basis that a sinner can be saved and more like Christ is on the basis of grace through faith alone.
Paul continues this same reasoning in chapters 5-6, but his focus is more on the practical outworking of grace in the believers daily life. Paul in these two chapters is going to show us four things that God is doing through His grace that is not possible by relating to God by the works of the law.
Two of the four were seen last week, first we saw that Christ has made us free from the law. Second God has been poured out His love in our hearts through the Holy Sprit. Now as we walk with Christ and love others we fulfill the law. The third thing we will see tonight is we can have victory over the flesh. Fourth next week we will finish the book of Galatians with looking at the fact that we are now a member of the body of Christ.
Concerning our victory over the flesh, Paul shows us that our victory is no light matter, this is an intense conflict.
16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Paul gives the believer both insight and assurance on how to be victorious over the conflict with the lusts of our flesh. Some of the lusts of the flesh will be seen in verses 19-21.
Notice the basis of our victory is not works of the law, but by walking in the Spirit. To walk in the Spirit implies a willing dependence on God’s power and direction for our lives.
A good example of walking in the Spirit is the life of Jesus in the gospels. Christ is seen being surrendered to both the Father’s power and His word.
If we as a believer chose to walk in the Spirit and deny the lusts of the flesh, then God through His Apostle promises us victory in this conflict. Now Paul describes our actual conflict in detail in verse 17.
17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
This conflict has two contenders, the flesh and the Spirit. Let’s take a moment and look at each one.
The Spirit: the Spirit can refer to both the indwelling Holy Spirit that is given to every person who puts their faith in Jesus and the regenerated immaterial nature of the believer that we receive when we put our faith in Christ.
Before we are saved we are spiritually dead and slaves of sin and of our sin nature. Our sin nature dominates every facet of our immaterial nature such as our spirit, soul, mind, conscience, will, heart. Because of this the unbeliever has no power to not give his or her body over to sin. In saying this it is important to note that I am not saying that every none believer is as bad as they could. But Paul does tell us in Romans three that man has no power to do good, they are totally depraved.
But when we believed in Christ through grace we have become temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), we have been made alive through the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:1). We are a new man being daily renewed daily by the Holy Spirit. This renewing is in reference specifically to our minds(Ephesians 4:17-20, Romans 12:1-2).We have the spirit in us to teach us God’s will and convict and lead us. We are given a hunger for the word of God like new born babies. We have the Spirit of God living in us who cries out, “Abba Father” (Galatians 4:6).
The believer is a new creation in Christ, with the desire to turn from sin and love God all with their heart, soul, strength and mind.
The Flesh: The term flesh has been used different ways in the scripture, it has been used to refer to the physical body, its also used generally of unbelievers.
In this context the flesh does not use this word to refer to the body, the unregenerate nature in all believers that exists as long as we are in this body of flesh. Better put the flesh refers to the evil impulses and desires after we are born again.
Paul in Romans 6:6-7, gives us some more insight concerning the flesh in relation to what is known as the sin nature.
6knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7For he who has died has been freed from sin.
There is two distinct phases that Paul used in these verses. They are, “ The Old Man” and “The Body of Sin.”
The Old Man: The old man refers to the sin nature which all mankind inherits from Adam. Sin is passed on from Adam to all mankind with the exception of Jesus Christ who was born of a virgin. This inherited sin results in the spiritual death, with is that all are born depraved of spiritual things and separated from God without hope apart from God’s grace.
The Body of sin: Notice that Paul says that your Old Man or sin nature was crucified with Christ. This is past tense. But then Paul goes on and talks about the body of sin that the believer still must wrestle with.
While our sin nature was judged and crucified when we put our faith in Jesus, the body of sin (the flesh) is active in the present. Because the sin nature has been put to death and no longer controls the believer, but we are a new creation in Christ, we through walking in the Spirit can daily do away with the body of sin. In other words we can say no the evil impulses that remain. Paul says know this! If Paul was a G.I Joe he would have said, “Knowing is half the battle.”
Now that we know the contenders, let’s talk about how they are in conflict. Paul says that the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. The word lust can be translated desires. In other words the desires of each of these contenders is to overcome and control the other.
These two natures with in you are contrary to one, they are in a constant, perpetual face to face battle. For evidence of this Paul says at the end of verse 17 Paul says just look at your, so that you don’t do the things you wish.
When you seek to walk in the Spirit and serve God you experience will be opposed by the flesh, but when you seek to walk in the flesh you experience the conviction of the Spirit.
One of the greatest illustrations of this conflict is given by Paul himself in Romans 7:14-25. Paul in poetic way describes the daily battle between his flesh and spirit, he says,
14For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
Even a mature believer like Paul, with the gifting of an Apostle realized this conflict. I think the closer you draw near to God the more you will recognize this conflict.
As Paul press forward with Christ and drew nearer to God to obey His word and follow His will, he realized there was a law of sin that remained in the his body. Paul’s conclusion was that even though his body still had evil desires and impulses he would serve Christ who would give him victory until Christ finally believers us from our flesh, either by death or rapture.
18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Paul established that the victorious Christian life is the life of walking in the Spirit, which has to do with being lead by the Spirit. Paul reminds the believers in Galatia as he was been saying that those who are born again and walking in the Spirit are not under the law.
In light of this great conflict, why turn to the law, when the spirit lead life by grace is what gives us victory over the flesh. Legalism can’t give us victory over the appetites over the flesh, only a life that is filled with the Spirit and surrendered to God.
This is what Paul told the Colossians in 2:20-23,
Col 2:20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—
Col 2:21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,”
Col 2:22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?
Col 2:23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
Second it could be said that those who are walking in the Spirit and experiencing the victorious Christ life will have no desire to be under the law. Our hearts and minds will be so occupied with Christ and the blessing and of having a relationship with Him.
Now we come to our second point in verses 19-24 we see the contrast.
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,
20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,
21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Paul gives some of the outworking behavior of those who give into the impulses and desires of the flesh: here’s a quick summary of these works of the flesh:
Adultery: Adultery: is unfaithfulness in the marriage relationship. Jesus also said unlawful divorce and remarriage leads to adultery.
Fornication: Fornication is unlawful sexual intercourse. Or any sexual act outside of marriage.
Uncleanness: uncleanness is moral evil or sensuality.
Lewdness: Lewdness is shameless conduct involving the absence of restraint.
Idolatry: Idolatry not only refers to the worship of idols, but it also has to do with immorality that accompanies demon worship. Idolatry also can be described as putting anything before God.
Sorcery: Sorcery is witchcraft. The Greek word used is pharmakeia, which is where we get our word drugs. Drugs were used in the sorcery of Paul’s day. This can refer to any form of drugs that alter the mind.
Hatred: Hatred means strong feelings of malice directed toward individuals. Contentions: Contentions are discord, variance, quarrels.
Jealousies: Jealousies are distrust, suspicions. Wrath: Wrath is outbursts of hot anger or passions.
Selfish ambitions: Selfish ambitions are self-centered strivings to be “number one,” even at others’ expense.
Dissensions: Dissensions are separations caused by disagreements. Heresies: Heresies are sects formed by men with self-willed opinions. Envy: Envy is displeasure at the success or prosperity of others. Murders: murder is the unlawful killing of others.
Drunkenness refers to becoming intoxicated by drinking alcohol.
Revelries: Revelries are riotous gatherings for entertainment, accompanied by drunkenness. In other word wild sinful drinking parties.
And the Like: Those behaviors that are not mentioned, but that are clearly against God’s word and nature.
Paul closes this list of sins by reminding the Galatians of what he taught them when he was with them, that those who practice these things will not inherent the Kingdom of God. Paul is not saying that is a believer falls into sin, they will lose their salvation. But Paul is saying the person who claims to be a Christian and yet practices these things, or lives a habitual lifestyle in the flesh has never been saved, they are not going to heaven.
In contrast to the works of the flesh is the fruit of the Spirit.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Commenting on these characteristics the Bible knowledge commentary says,
“The word “fruit” is singular, indicating that these qualities constitute a unity, all of which should be found in a believer who lives under the control of the Spirit. In an ultimate sense this “fruit” is simply the life of Christ lived out in a Christian.”
As you and I walk in the Spirit and become more like Jesus the following godly characteristics should grow naturally from our lives.
Love: the word love is agape. This love is a supernatural sacrificial love. God will grow this in our lives for God and others.
Joy: this word refers to a deep abiding rejoicing that is not based on circumstances. Peace: this is the peace of God, which is a deep inner peace, it is the opposite of worrying and fretting.
Long suffering: I am told this Greek word is makrothymia, which means long tempered. Scholars a say that long suffering is used in relation to people while endurance refers to circumstances. This being the case God will give us strength to bear with one another in love.
Kindness: kindness is love and mercy in action.
Goodness: goodness can be understood as an uprightness of the soul and also reaching out to others with good even when they don’t deserve it.
Faithfulness: to be trustworthy and dependable as a servant of God.
Gentleness: the word gentle and meek comes from the same word. This word implies strength that is under control. If you think meekness is weakness remember that Jesus called Himself gentle or meek (Matthew 11:29).
Self control: self control is the ability supplied by the Holy Spirit to say no to the flesh and its evil desires.
This is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in a believers life. Paul finishes this list as he did in verse 18 and says again, the fact that we are born again by the Spirit of God demonstrates that our salvation or sanctification is not based on the law. The Christian is no longer under the law.
24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Once again the fruit of being a Christian and walking in the spirit is you will live a life that is dead to sin. This will be demonstrated by your daily walk of saying no the impulses and desire of the flesh. A person who lives a lifestyle other wise is either not a Christian or walking in the flesh.
Now we come to our third point in verses 25-26, we see the choice.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
The believer has a daily choice of whether we will choice to walk in the spirit. Let’s choice the spirit tonight so we can have victory.