One of Paul’s most important contributions is the distinction between being led by the Spirit or the flesh.
Today’s article and video feature the influence of the flesh. Tomorrow will cover the work of the Spirit.
Paul frames his discussion with what is the most important truth.
On one side of the frame, he writes, “Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 6.16).
Within the frame is a contrast between flesh and Spirit.
The other side of the frame comes at the end of the discussion: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit” (Galatians 5.25).
If we learn nothing more from Paul’s letter to the Galatians than this great truth, we’ve given ourselves a magnificent gift.
God’s great gift to us is the ability to live and be guided by the Spirit. By all means, let’s take advantage of this awesome gift from our loving Heavenly Father.
The Flesh and Spirit in Conflict
In yesterday’s article, we noted that “flesh” in the New Testament most often refers to the tendency to live life apart from God.
Self-reliant and self-centered behavior is characteristic of the flesh. It opposes surrender to the direction of the Holy Spirit.
— Galatians 5.17 – For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.
Most followers of Jesus know the internal struggle between being self-centered and Spirit-led.
It is like a daily wrestling match between different tendencies in our personality.
Daily Bible reading, prayer, service, solitude, worship, and the like are all means that God has provided to help us to be guided by the Holy Spirit.
What happens when the flesh dominates?
Paul contrasts the attitudes and actions of the Spirit and the flesh. Tomorrow’s article will feature the fruit of the Spirit.
Today, we will consider a list of problems that occur when we allow the flesh to rule our lives.
— Galatians 5.19-21 – Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery,
Idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.
I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Two points come to mind as I read Paul’s list.
(1) As Rudy Ross and I discussed in today’s YouTube video, you can be a “good” Baptist preacher and be guilty of some items in this list.
Enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, and envy are tragically present and seemingly acceptable in today’s church.
“Enmities” is a word that is not often used today. It involves disagreements and dislikes of others. It can extend to hatred of others.
The church tends to condemn the sins that we don’t commit. Some of the items in Paul’s list fall under the category of “bad behavior.”
While not justifying the “bad behavior” items, let’s not let them excuse the “acceptable” sins that seem to be prevalent in the church.
(2) In verse 21, Paul writes that “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
A Greek lesson is in order to help us understand Paul’s message. “Do such things” is the present active participle of the Greek word “to practice.”
This refers to a habitual practice, where the person is identified by the sin they commit.
For example, people who are occasionally angry or jealous are not in danger of missing out on the kingdom of God.
If we habitually practice and are identified by jealousy, anger, or one of the other traits, we are in trouble.
Our attitudes and actions show that we are dominated by the flesh and not by the Spirit, no matter what we claim.
We need to turn away from the flesh and surrender to the Spirit. We need to be guided in every way by the Spirit.
Rudy Ross and I have produced a video on this passage. It can be seen on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
Please email your prayer request to email@example.com. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.