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Read Introduction to Galatians


“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.”


Every Christian has two warring forces locked in spiritual battle inside their souls: a sinful nature or capacity and a divine nature or capacity (Ro 7:7-25). The Bible also refers to the sinful nature as the “old man,” the unredeemed nature that awaits the future and final redemption (Ro 8:23). 

For the flesh lusts against the Spirit,

The “flesh” counters the Holy Spirit and His work in the life of the Christian. The “flesh” is the believer’s sin capacity. In this verse, “flesh” is more than the physical body. It is the believer’s fallen nature. It is that part of the believer that stands against what the Spirit does in the believer (Ro 7:24). 

and the Spirit against the flesh;

The Holy Spirit counteracts the flesh and its influence on our lives. The provision of the Holy Spirit’s operating power represents the grace principle formulated throughout the book of Galatians.

and these are contrary to one another,

The word “contrary” is literally to lie opposite to, to be set over against. “Contrary” is a military term meaning to line up against someone in open conflict. There is an antagonism between the Spirit and the flesh. They are adverse to each other, so they oppose each other. They are at war. The Spirit and flesh are as different as light and darkness or fire and water. It is impossible to reconcile them. The believer must choose between these two principles that lie in mutual antagonism to each other. 


There is no peaceful coexistence between the flesh and the Spirit.


There is no such thing as peaceful coexistence between the flesh and the Spirit. Coexistence, yes. Peaceful coexistence, no. There can be no compromise between the flesh and the Spirit because to capitulate to sin is to violate the Spirit. If the flesh is up, the Spirit is down; if the Spirit is up, the flesh is down.

The power of the Holy Spirit is the check and balance to our sin capacity. We cannot allow the Holy Spirit to control us by suppressing or eradicating sin; we can only do so by counteracting the power of the Holy Spirit.

A spiritual titanic tug of war takes place in every believer. The non-Christian does not have that same kind of struggle, for he is nothing but “flesh.” He has no other reference point. Once a person comes to know Christ, he enters a significant spiritual struggle. This is partial proof that he is born again.

A Christian out of fellowship with the Lord is out of joint spiritually. Although he has the indwelling Spirit, that does not necessarily mean he “walks in the Spirit.” If he doesn’t walk with the Holy Spirit, he is out of sync with the Spirit.

The “flesh” of the believer is just as foul as the unbeliever’s. The believer’s sin capacity never gets better. God never regenerates it; it stands unregenerate. We cannot refine it. It never improves. God never blesses it. Our “flesh” is the same as an unsaved person. God will have nothing to do with it. We dare not ignore the power of the flesh in our lives.

When God saves a sinner, He imparts a brand new nature to him, which he never had before and cannot lose. We can no more lose the new nature than we can lose the “flesh.” We cannot lose either one of them. We keep the “flesh” until we see the Savior. Then He will remove it from us forever. God will not disown his own.

You may have become a disobedient child of God, a black sheep in the family of God. If so, God will take you to the woodshed. There, He will chasten you. Some spend most of their lives in the woodshed. Nevertheless, they are still children of God. They remain in the household of faith. They receive chastening because they come under the disciplinary care of the Father in the family of God (He 12:6-7).

We have a longer relationship with the “flesh” than the “Spirit.” We had the “flesh” from the moment of our physical birth, but we received the “Spirit” at the moment of our spiritual birth. The Holy Spirit is our Divine ally, who is closer to us than anyone. The Father and Son are majesties on high, but the Holy Spirit resides within us.

The Christian cannot get around the fact that he has two mutually antagonistic principles within him. These principles are mutually exclusive, making spirituality an absolute. Neither do they counterbalance each other, abandoning the believer to his own preferences.