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The only thing which counts is being. a “new creature,” reborn by the Spirit of, God. (Gal. 6:15) That is Paul’s starting-point, first and last! Notice how emphatically, in Galatians 6:16-26, Paul speaks of the Spirit. Here we have echoed the words of Christ: the Spirit is the one who maketh alive ( to zooopoioun), the flesh profits nothing. (John 6:63) Hence the battle, the conflict, and the outcome is all of the Holy Spirit, as He dwells in the sinner, whom He has made alive! I call your attention to the prominence which the Holy Spirit has in Galatians 6:16, 17, 18, 22, 25. Read these verses from you own Bible. The great conclusion of Paul is in this Gospel-precept: If we live by the Spirit (if that is our profession) let us also walk by the Spirit. The emphasis falls on “by the Spiritlet us walk,” making the law of the Spirit the guiding principle of our orderly walk. (stoichew = walking according to the new “canon,” the rule of faith and love in the Spirit, fulfilling the law.) This law of the Spirit in Christ makes us free from the law of sin and of death! All depends upon the sanctification of the Spirit in the justified saints, who are righteous before God and who are heirs of eternal life! (Gal. 5:21, 23Rom. 8:1, 2


This battle spoken of in Galatians 5:17 is very uniquely one in which only the Spirit-led Christian engages. The natural man knows nothing of this battle at all, for he is not led by the Spirit, neither does he walk by the Spirit. Whereas the natural man does not have the Spirit, he is none of Christ’s own elect children, who are heirs of the kingdom. (Rom. 8:9b) This excludes the natural man from this battle between the flesh and the Spirit. Here is a battle between the “old” and the “new” life in the Christian, who is anointed with the Spirit of Christ. This battle between the flesh and the Spirit will continue in the reborn saints, who have the right to be called the children of God, till the day of their death. Until that time the saints fight, as the anointed of God; with a free and good conscience against sin and the devil. Then they shall have the complete victory. The flesh shall be no more! 

We should notice, first of all, that the opponents in this battle are the “flesh” and the “Spirit.” Now the “flesh” is our old Adamic nature. The manifestation of this onslaught within us against the Spirit are our lusts, our sinful members: an evil eye, an ear that will listen to that which is evil, a hand which works unrighteousness, a mouth which speaks vanity and lies. It all comes forth from the sinful heart, and it proceeds from the mouth; and it is the very thing which defiles a man. (Matt. 15:16-20) Now the Spirit is He who renews us so that we place all these members as “servants of righteousness.” (Rom. 6:19) This Spirit works this in our hearts because we are legally sons; such is our new status before God, being justified by faith! 

And here is the great conflict in the Christian. 

In this conflict we must notice that the text says that the flesh “lusts.” In this flesh there dwells no good thing. (Rom. 6:18) This flesh “wars” (antistrateuomenon) against the Spirit. This is a constant and an incessant assault of this enemy within us. Notice the present tense in Romans 8:23, as well as the present tense inGalatians 5:17. What an incessant lusting of the flesh! That is what makes the Christian cry out, as did Paul, “O wretched man that I am.” For these are the lusts which “war” against the soul. (I Peter 2:11) Also in this passage from I Peter it is evident that these lusts wage a continuous and never-ceasing onslaught against our sanctified souls. For, according to Peter, our soulshave been sanctified through the Spirit. (I Pet. 1:22) Lusts cannot war against an unsanctified soul. The unsanctified soul agrees with the lust, is one with it in motive and operation! 

It should be borne in mind that in this conflict the initiative is on the part of the flesh in us. The text says that the flesh “lusts” against the Spirit. It is really “down upon” the Spirit, according to the Greek preposition “kata” with the genitive case. The flesh is negative; it is merely against all that which is good, keeping the law of God out of pure love and unfeigned faith. Now we must not attribute the activity of “lusting” to the Spirit. The Spirit does not lust against the flesh. It is evident from the original Greek, that Paul does not ascribe such counter-lusting to the Spirit in this battle. We must look for another verb. Perhaps we can say: the Spiritoperates in us both to will and to do of God’s good-pleasure. It is the Divine energy of the Spirit that comes into play, so that we have a holy desire after the inward man in the law of God. (Phil 2:13Rom. 7:22) Yes, we delight as it were in ourselves, with ourselves inwardly, in the law of God, which is holy just and good. What a conflict: evil lusting of the flesh and holy aspirations of the reborn heart by the Holy Spirit of Christ! What a misery, holy misery where we learn to know more and more how great is the redemption in Christ Jesus!! And such knowledge accrues in a thankfulness, which is joy unspeakable and full of glory. (Rom. 7:25I Pet. 1:8

Here we come upon the imperfection of the saints, whereby they confess that the most holy has only asmall beginning of the new obedience in this life. Yes, but they also have a desire not only to live according to some of God’s commandments, but. to live according to them all: by love to serve the neighbor! Both of these must be emphasized in their proper relationship!

The text says: in order (so that?) you do not do the things ye will to do. The KJV translates: that ye cannot do the things ye would. The Dutch “Staten Vertaling” has “thus that ye do not do the very thing that ye willed to do.” We never do a perfectly obedient act of faith, which works by love, in this life. Our best works are all imperfect and polluted with sin! Never can we do any work of merit which is beyond the requirements of the law, nor do we perform a work of gratitude which reaches heaven’s perfection in this life! 

At the same time the apostle teaches that those who walk by the Spirit do not, in this very battle, fulfill the lusts of the flesh. This battle is not a seesaw battle in which two equally strong foes are struggling for mastery. The mighty God has a mighty Spirit in us which empowers us against every onslaught of Satan, the world, and our own flesh. The dominion of sin is broken in us. Romans 5:17 reads, “For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” Do not forget that where sin abounded, grace does much more abound, not only in justification, but, also in sanctification of life. (Rom. 5:20) And, therefore, this titanic struggle between the flesh and the Spirit is not uncertain in the daily outcome of those who walk by the Spirit. We shall not at all fulfill the lusts of the flesh. There will be progressive sanctification of the Spirit in us, leading us through daily conversion and repentance to the higher ground of God’s perfect law of liberty! We shall not be forgetful hearers of the law, but doers of the law, having not a dead faith, but a living faith, which is verified by good works of the Spirit. 

Yes, we do not do what we would do: perfection! 

However, we do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh either. 

Thanks be to God Who gives us the daily victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Yes, then I do indeed serve with my sanctified mind, (nous) with my deepest affections the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin! (Rom. 7:25


Those who walk by the Spirit are led by the Spirit. As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Rom. 8:14) Such are legally sons of God, heirs of everlasting life. The Holy Spirit testifies with their spirit that they are sons of God. (Rom. 8:16) Such have not, received again the spirit of bondage to fear, but they have received the spirit of adoption by which they cry, Abba; Father. (Rom. 8:15

Our text says that we, who are Christians, are “led” by the Spirit. This guidance of the Spirit is not to be conceived as upon the human plane of human guidance and counseling; it is preeminently a Divine, efficacious work of the Holy Spirit of Christ, calling us to faith and hope which works by love. Those who are led by the Spirit have the love of God shed abroad in their hearts, constituting them a fruitful branch in the Vine, Christ Jesus. In Him they abide and bear much fruit of the Spirit. (John 15:4, 5) To be led by the Spirit lies back of and is the possibility of walking in and by the Spirit. John calls this “his seed remaining in him”; such a one “cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (I John 3:9) Peter writes, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” (I Peter 1:23

Now such are actively led by the Spirit unto all good works. They have the “right” to walk in good works, because they are sons. (John. 1:12) Paul is arguing that we, tie called to freedom in Christ. We have been called into legal freedom from the curse of the law, and, therefore, also to the spiritual freedom to keep the law. We now may keep the law and are able to keep the law, be it imperfectly. Such, who are led by the Spirit; are not “under law.” The law is in our hearts; we are under grace. 

Therefore we must, as free-born sons, walk in grace and not use our liberty to fulfill the lusts of the flesh. God forbid! For the Spirit never leads the saints in the way of sinful lusts. The Spirit works by the Word and the precepts of the Gospel! The Spirit-led Christian is never lawless. He is no antinomian; neither is he a legalist, a nomist. He travels on higher ground; he walks as being holy as God is holy. His is not a balance-act between the two extremes of legalistic work righteousness and careless profanity, but he is a new creature in Christ for whom the end (to telos) of the commandment is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and unfeigned faith. (I Tim. 1:5) In him we see the fruit of righteousness, much fruit which is to the glory of God the Father!