Galatians 5:16-26: "This I say then, walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17: For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18: But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19: Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20: idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21: envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, 23: gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24: And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25: If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26: Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another."
The present section of this epistle very plainly brings before us the truth of the two natures in the believer. We have liberty to do many things and yet we do not have license to do many others. The apostle reviews a number of those things in this portion.
Itís important to remember that when God saves us He does not destroy the carnal nature which we received at our natural birth. The new birth does not imply that the old carnal nature has been eliminated, nor does it imply a change in it, the believer in Jesus Christ receives an absolutely new nature born of the Holy Spirit, and these two natures abide side by side in the believer in Christ.
This explains the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit that all converted people know at one time or another. Jesus said, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh," thatís our old nature, ďthat which is born of the Spirit is spirit," that is the new nature, and these two natures reside side by side until we receive the redemption of this body which will be at the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ. At that time, He will transform our present carnal body and make it like the body of His glory and He will deliver us forever from all inward tendency to sin. As long as we are here on this earth, we are subject to the errors of the old nature and sometimes experience things that are very painful. Romans 8:6-9. ďFor to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7: Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8: So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9: But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.Ē
That old nature is so corrupt that it can never be sanctified, and the new nature is so pure and holy that it doesnít need to be sanctified. Consequently, there is no mention in Scripture of the sanctification of the old nature. What needs to be sanctified is man himself, and he is sanctified as he walks in accordance with the leading of the new nature. The believer is not only born of the Spirit but indwelt by the Spirit and is lead by the Spirit.
Donít confuse the new birth by the Spirit with the reception of the Spirit. The new birth is the work of the Holy Spirit and He produces the new birth through the Word. We receive the Word in faith, we believe the Word, and the Holy Spirit brings about the new birth. James 1: 18. "Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth." Peter wrote, in 1 Peter 1:23, 25; "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.... And this is the Word which by the gospel is preached unto you."
When we believe the Word of God, we are born again, and there is an inward change in us. We receive new life and it is eternal life. As the TV salesmen say, ďBut wait, thereís more!Ē And there is something much more worthwhile than the TV salesman offers. It has been true in all dispensations, from Adam right down to the day of Pentecost, that wherever people believed God's Word they were born again, but the Holy Spirit Himself, as a divine Person, did not come to dwell within the believer until Pentacost. Since Pentecost, the very moment we believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins we are sealed with the Holy Spirit and He creates the new nature within us. He indwells the one who is born again and when the believer recognizes the fact that the Spirit of God dwells within him, and turns everything over to His control, he will find deliverance from the power of sin.
Verse 16: "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh." The lust of the flesh means fleshly desires and itís easy to fulfill the desire of the flesh. The word "lust" doesnít always mean things base and unclean. The word simply means "desire," and whatever the desire of the flesh is, itís manís way of pleasing self before we please God. We have no difficulty in realizing the vileness of one who indulges in carnal desires of all kinds, but there are those who desire the praise and adulation of man and thatís also the lust of the flesh, or of the mind, and thatís as obnoxious to God as the other. If the believer in Jesus Christ wants to be delivered from walking according to these selfish lusts and to remain free from that lifestyle, he has to walk in the Spirit.
It is one thing for the believer to be indwelt by the Spirit and another to walk in the Spirit. When we walk in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit is controlling us, and we can only walk in the Spirit when our lives are truly surrendered to Christ.
Many Christians live for years on a somewhat worldly plane. They love the Lord, they read His Word, they enjoy Christian fellowship, and try to walk through this world as upright men and women, but they may never have truly yielded themselves wholly to the Lord.
There is something between them and God that is keeping them back, and as long as this continues there will always be conflict until they heed the Word.
Romans 12:1: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
When we surrender our will to God, the Holy Spirit is free to take possession of our lives and operate through us and use us for the glory of God. This enables the Spirit to use us in a way He couldnít as long as we werenít wholly surrendered to the Lord.
Verse 17: "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.Ē
The Spirit and the flesh donít agree, they are contrary to each other, so the believer should not follow the desire of the flesh and do the things the flesh suggests. In our natural state of un-belief, we had only one nature, the sinful nature we were born with, but when the Holy Spirit moves into our heart, a new life comes into the heart. John 3:6: ďThat which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.Ē
When God saves a sinner, He saves the spirit, the inner man. The spirit lives eternally while the flesh is destined to return to the dust.
The believerís conflict is shown in verse 17. Itís not exactly, "So that ye cannot do the things that ye would," because God has made provision that we might do the things that we would, but it should be rendered, "So that ye may not do the things that ye would." This is the believer's conflict. The flesh desires one thing, the Spirit another.
As long as there isnít a full surrender to the will of God, these two are in constant warfare. The things I donít mean to do, I do, and the things I mean to do, I donít do. When the Holy Spirit doesnít have complete right of way in my heart, my life is not a life of full surrender to God as He intended it to be.
Verse 18: "But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law."
Regardless of how holy, sanctified and dedicated you may be, as long as you live, you will be living on this earth in a body of flesh. Paul warns, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" I Corinthians 10:12.
Since the Spirit and the flesh donít agree, they are contrary to each other. If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law and you canít be led by the Law. The Spirit is in the world to glorify Jesus, and Jesus is the Author of Grace, so you canít be led of the Spirit and be under Law at the same time!
If you yield to the Spirit and He has the control of your life, you are led by Him and the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in those who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. Verses 19-21: "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20: idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21: envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."
In order to help us understand this, Paul listed the lusts of the flesh so that we can see them in all their ugliness in verse 19. I donít think itís necessary to enlarge on what the Holy Spirit tells us. The works of the flesh are clearly stated and there is no way to misunderstand it.
In these verses he is referring to people who have never been born again. He gave the same warning to the people at Corinth: I Corinthians 6:9-11: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves. nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
These things come from the flesh. People who are characterized by these things prove they are not Christians at all. Actual Christians may fall into them, but they will be miserable until they confess them to God, but the unsaved revel in them and go on without judging them.
All born again believers are washed in the blood, sanctified by the blood, justified by the blood. The sins named in our present Scripture as the works of the flesh are not characteristic of the lives of born again Christians.
Verse 22-24: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, 23: gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24: And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."
This is the opposite of the fruit of the flesh in verses 19-21, this is the fruit of the Spirit. This fruit comes from the new nature and is actuated by the Spirit of God.
Wherever you find someone wanting fame or manís recognition above all else, you know that one is still walking in the flesh. Those who have a sincere desire to give godly recognition to others are those who are walking in the Spirit. "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." They have put their trust in the Lord Jesus and can say, "I have been crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live" Galatians 2: 20. If you have recognized the fact that Christ's crucifixion is yours, you are dead to the world and alive in Christ eternally.
Verse 25-26: "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26: Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another."
If we have this new life, we are joined to our risen Christ and should be yielded to Him and walking in the Spirit, not be looking for fame or glory for ourselves. Leave jealousy and envy to those of the world. Abstain from anything that would lead to empty boasting and from saying and doing things that may cause others needless pain. Thatís a standard you can never attain in your own strength, but if the believer is yielded to the Holy Spirit, and will allow Him to work in our lives, then we can attain the goal set before us here.
It wonít be of ourselves,
it will be Christ living in us
manifesting His life through us.