Let’s read Galatians 5:16-17: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things you please” (NASB). This passage teaches us that within the believer there is a perpetual battle going on between “the Spirit” and “the flesh.” But it also teaches us that if we yield to the indwelling Holy Spirit, the flesh will be kept at bay and thus its desire to sin will not be carried out.

What is “the flesh?” A good description is given to us in Romans chapter 7 where the Apostle Paul describes the conflict he experienced between his “new nature” (the Divine nature he received when he was “born again”) and the “old nature” (which he inherited from his parents when he born into the world). Paul wanted to please God by keeping the Law but he found himself doing just the opposite; in other words, instead of obeying the Law he ended up breaking the Law. Finally he made a needful discovery as seen in verses 17-20, “So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but SIN WHICH INDWELLS ME. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in MY FLESH; for the wishing is present with me, but the doing of the good is not.” Paul came to see that even though he was a true believer in Christ and possessed a new nature, the old nature that he was born with (which he refers to as “sin” or “the flesh”) was STILL IN HIM! He discovered that this evil, corrupt nature was ever ready to rear its ugly head and cause him to commit some act of sin. He also came to see that it can’t be improved, nor can it be eradicated; but that it is in the believer until the day we receive our glorified body when Christ returns for His church. Paul thought that this “battle between the two natures” would always meet with defeat. He expresses this in verses 21-24: “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (NKJV).

Paul was indeed a “wretched man” until he made another discovery! In Romans 8:2 he states: “For the LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS has made me free from the law of sin and death.” Ah, Paul came to see that besides possessing a “new nature” and an “old nature,” he also had the Holy Spirit living in him, and that the Spirit could set him “free from the law of sin and death.” He goes on to say in verse 4, “that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to THE FLESH, but according to THE SPIRIT.” In chapter 7 we saw Paul trying to keep the Law in his own strength and that he was constantly defeated. In chapter 8 Paul learns the secret of victory over sin; it is by walking “according to the Spirit.” When he allowed the Holy Spirit to guide him and control him, he was able to live a life of holiness and actually fulfill the Law by keeping God’s commandments.

In Galatians 5:16-17 Paul is teaching us the same truth; that if we “walk by the Spirit” (walk in the power of the Spirit by yielding our lives to His control), the flesh will be rendered powerless and the battle will be won. That’s not to say the battle is over, for the flesh will never quit trying to assert itself and bring us into bondage to sin. But if we allow the Spirit to have His way in our lives, the flesh will not have any power to carry out its desires. Praise be to God for giving us (believers in Christ) the Holy Spirit! (261.1) (DO)