Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 4 Study # 3
April 28, 2013
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, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
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.
1901 ASV Translation:
17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would.
18 But if ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties,
21 envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 meekness, self-control; against such there is no law.
24 And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof.
25 If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk.
26 Let us not become vainglorious, provoking one another, envying one another.
- I. The Inner Conflict.
- A. The competitors.
- 1. Paul calls the negative competitor "the flesh".
- 2. Paul calls the positive competitor "the Spirit".
- B. The specific identities being identified.
- 1. The "flesh".
- a. Clearly, the text identifies "the flesh" as something that produces a potent "desire" (lust).
- b. Just as clearly, the text identifies "the flesh" as diametrically opposed to "the Spirit".
- c. The question: does Paul have something more than "the body" as a fleshly reality in mind?
- 1) Physical bodies do have pain/pleasure sensors built in that register these realities to something "greater" than the body, but it is that "something" that actually has the dominion. Bodies do produce a far more potent "automatic" response to "pain" than their responses to "pleasure", but even those responses can be overruled by the "something".
- 2) Paul calls the entity that is subject to the law of sin in his members "the body of this death" in Romans 7:24. He also says the Law of Sin in this "body" is able to completely overrule the "mind" so as to force behavior that is unwanted (Romans 7:23).
- 3) It seems that we must conclude that "the flesh" is more than the body, but is heavily "body" oriented (why call the "body" "flesh" if the physical entity does not have a dominant part to play in the choices and activities of the human being who wears it like a tent?). It seems that there is a "complex" of parts/elements that make up "the flesh".
- 4) It seems to be a part of Paul's theology that Adam was "fleshly" and was able to pass on both the outer reality of the physical body and the inner reality of the dominant ruler of that outer reality.
- d. James, as with Paul in our current text, lays claim to the fact that "fleshliness" has a main by-product: conflict (James 4:1-2). This is the reason for discontentment. It is why the letter to the Galatians became necessary. Moreover, it is the most basic reality of man's opposition to God and the reason there is a need for reconciliation. Peace is its major antithesis.
- 2. The "Spirit".
- a. As a word, "spirit" does two things simultaneously: first (and foremost) it inserts the issue of behavior into the conversation because it is the "spirit" that sponsors all of the activities of the body at the most decisive level (without regard for the underlying issues of motive, etc.); and, second, it inserts the issue of a most fundamental "core" into the conversation because it is the "spirit" of a thing that makes it what it is (as, for instance, the "spirit" of the law in contrast to the "letter"). These twin issues are at the core of the use of "spirit" in the Bible.
- b. When the word is elevated to the position of identifying "God" (God is a Spirit: John 4:24) and is used to identify the third Person of the Trinity, it takes on enormous significance in that it argues for the "core" reality that makes God Who He is and for the "works" of God as the outworking of this "core". Essence and Expression.
- c. When the word is used in respect to man's "essence and expression", it sets about to illuminate what men are, why they do what they do, and how they do what they do.
- d. In our text, the antagonists are called "the flesh" and "the Spirit", but they both have to do with "spirit" in a most fundamental way. The "flesh" has no power to "lust" or "do" except that it has a way to dominate some form of a "spirit" in order to get that "spirit" to empower the activities of the body. Thus, we can say that it is the spirit of fallen man that is "lusting" against the Spirit of God. That the spirit of the fallen man is called "the flesh" is an indication that Paul sees an undercurrent of "war" that has its roots in Adam, the man of flesh who has passed his "fleshliness" on to all of his generations.
- C. The identification of the nature of the conflict.
- 1. The "problem" as Paul sees it is that there is an antagonistic "lusting" going on. One "spirit" is heavily invested in (lusting) getting its way and the other "Spirit" is just as heavily invested in Its agenda.
- 2. This "lusting" is the root issue.
- a. To "lust" is to place an intense emotional drivenness "upon" the spirit to attempt to force its action in a given direction.
- 1) The word, etymologically, is derived from the concept of "intense hostility" and the concept of placing that hostility "upon" someone/thing.
- a) The word's root is used in the New Testament 18 times and 10 of those are used in the Revelation to address God's enormously destructive activities toward an ungodly world that has come to its final stage of "ripeness".
- b) With the addition of the preposition "upon" the word is both intensified and given direction as a potent motivator.
- 2) The entire point of "lusting" is to forcefully press a "case" so that it will be resolved in the direction of the "lust".
- b. To call it an "emotional" drivenness is to simply bring a level of intensity into the picture. There are few, if any, situations of intense motivation that have no "emotional" overtones involved.
- D. The outcome of the conflict.
- 1. Paul declares that the conflict results in the inability to follow through on choices made.
- 2. The question is this: did Paul mean that the conflict works both ways?
- a. Does the presence of a "lustful" flesh mean people will not be able to "walk by the Spirit"?
- b. Does the presence of a "lustful" Spirit mean people will not be able to "walk in the flesh"?
- 3. The problem: what would be the point of declaring the inability of people to do the things they desire in either direction?
- a. We have already seen that "walking by the Spirit" does not guarantee "no failure", i.e., a completely effective control of the flesh.
- b. Paul seems now to be saying that the Spirit does guarantee a certain degree of "failure" to be able to walk "by the flesh".
- c. Is Paul talking about "failure", or is he addressing a more pertinent issue?
- 1) Since "methodology" is the point of the paragraph, what if Paul is simply declaring that a successful pursuit of a godly life is not rooted in "desire"? He wrote of this reality in Romans 7:15 and seems to be saying much the same in this text.
- 2) So, what is the issue? It would appear to be the ability to set aside "desire". The behavior of a physical body is rooted in an empowering spirit and that "spirit" will produce according to the factor(s) that control it. God's Spirit is controlled by God; man's spirit is controlled by his Adamic heritage and what Paul calls "the Law of Sin in my members" (Romans 7:23). Thus, there is nothing more dangerous to man than his fixation upon his own "desires" (Romans 7:19). If this is the case, the believer is most successful in living by the Spirit when he/she abandons "desire" and allows the Spirit to decide what/when/where because why is most crucial.
- a) The prohibition against "covetousness" ("Thou shalt not covet...") employs the word translated in our text as "lust" (Romans 7:7).
- b) In as much as Paul is writing about "lusting" in our text, he is writing about "desiring".
- c) Thus we could say that the prohibition extends to the issue of "desire": Thou shalt not. The point cannot be that we should not have any desires for that is an impossibility. It must, therefore, be that all desires are to be put under the "desires of God" in such a way that we do not over commit to anything except the will of God.