In the battle between flesh and Spirit there is no stalemate. One wins and one loses, — always in relation to our response!
Galatians 5:16 – “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
- Command – “live or walk by the Spirit.”
- Promise – “you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
Solution to destructive relationships
Walking by the Spirit is presented in Galatians 5:15-16 as the solution to destructive relationships. Note the connection made in these verses –
- 15 – “But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.”
- 16 – “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
“so I say”, (but I say) – This is a common formula used by Paul to introduce an emphatic point. It means, “Here is my advice” Or, “Here is the remedy for “always biting and devouring one another.”
To protect the community from destructive relationships (15), each member must “live or walk by the Spirit” (present tense) —“go on walking…” (16).
He is not saying, “Try not to fulfill the lusts of the flesh and then you will walk by the Spirit,” – as though the latter were a reward for the former. Many fall for this reversal of Galatians 5:16. We cannot depend on the flesh (our own strength and sufficiency) to accomplish anything spiritual.
When the apostle says, “live” or “walk” – “by the Spirit,” he means, “let your conduct be continually directed by the Spirit.” This is a command with an emphatic promise (based on a double negative) — “you will by no means fulfill the desires of the flesh (or sinful nature).”
We are not passive recipients of God’s work in us, but active appropriators of it. We are unworthy recipients, but not passive.
Our call to action is “live/walk by the Spirit.” It’s a call to, “let your conduct be directed by the Spirit.” It is a command that requires our obedience.
The command comes with an emphatic promise based on a double negative in the Greek language – “you will by no means fulfill the desires of the flesh (or sinful nature).”
Victory requires, “The voluntary subjugation of one’s will to the Spirit who leads.” But, as v. 17 indicates, it will involve a battle: “Does man choose evil, the Spirit opposes him; does he choose good, the flesh hinders him.”
“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:21-25).
Walking by the Spirit is not done without a battle or conflict (Galatians 5:17).
“For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you.” (NIV)
“Does man choose evil, the Spirit opposes him; does he choose good, the flesh hinders him.”
Be encouraged by the presence of such a battle. It’s another evidence that God dwells in you by the Spirit (James 4:4-5; Rom. 7:14-25).
The conflict is real
We must take an active role with regard to the powerful ministry of the Spirit! It begins with an admission that says, “I am powerless in myself” and “I need God’s power to overcome the flesh.”