Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 4 Study # 3
Thesis: Our internal conflicts arise from opposing "masters" and effectively press us to submit every "desire" to the Spirit of God (walking by the Spirit fundamentally requires this).
Introduction: In our look into Paul's exhortation to walk by the Spirit, we have seen two principles surface so far: first, that the issues of "spirit" must be exalted to the highest priority over the issues of "body" and "soul"; and, second, that there should be an adamant corollary devaluation of any/every "lust" of "flesh". The outworking of these two principles consists of a willingness to yield to understanding when we are shown where a certain path is taking us.
This evening we are going to look into Paul's explanation for why these two principles are established as the "steps" of our "walk". He says that his reasoning is rooted in the absolute antagonism that exists between the Flesh and the Spirit and what the conclusion is that we are to draw from that reality (5:17).
April 28, 2013
- I. The Absolute Antagonism.
- A. In an age of "dialog" and "compromise", all talk about "absolutes" is demeaned.
- 1. There is a legitimate place for dialog and compromise in some situations.
- 2. But, when the issues are of life and death all such talk is a tool of death.
- B. The biblical context for Paul's absolutism is a practice of Life that arises out of a Gospel that is true and any/every/all distortion(s) will produce death.
- 1. The "anathema" pronounced against those who distort the grace of God does not stand because God is a "stickler" for the letter of the law; it stands because eternal life is absolutely at stake.
- 2. Paul's argument is rooted in the truth of 5:9 (the least lie will eventually destroy everything it touches [illustrated by the impact distance makes upon the precision of "aim"]).
- a. It goes without saying that no one can live under the reality of 5:9 in any kind of "across the board" way (life is too complicated and we are too ignorant and weak).
- b. But it also goes without saying that God is fully aware of both our need and what will address it (Himself) so that we may have confidence in His indwelling Spirit to, at the least, bring to light the major flaws in our aim (this in the point of 5:18).
- II. The Antagonists.
- A. Paul calls one "The Flesh".
- 1. What Paul means by "The Flesh" is crucial to our understanding.
- 2. Paul's use in Galatians is illuminating (he uses the word 16 times in Galatians; only Romans has more references to it  but Romans is three times as long a letter).
- a. His uses consistently refer to "human beings" (1:16; 2:16).
- b. His uses often point to a failed mechanism for "Life" (2:20; 3:3).
- c. In the contexts closest to our text, "the flesh" refers to a physical body (4:13, 14).
- d. The clearest texts that address "the flesh" as a methodology for "living" are 4:23 and 29.
- 1) These texts both focus upon one historical situation: the birth of Ishmael.
- 2) The elements of "fleshliness".
- a) Thelema is inescapably at the root. b) Epithumia is dominant (a focused, emotionally loaded, "settled" place).
- c) The "mind-set" of manipulation through "wisdom" dominates the process (answering the "How do we get this done?" question).
- d) There is no reliance upon the fundamental issue of "Promise" (that the One making the promise is the One Whose task it is to bring it to pass). [Note the alternative contrast between "flesh" and "promise" and "flesh" and "spirit" in 4:23 compared with 4:29].
- e) There is, at the very least, a subtle misrepresentation of God's Truth somewhere in the mix that is set against Faith/Promise as in Determination/Lie.
- f) There is at least an appearance of "success" with no need for special divine input.
- 3. In summary, Paul's meaning for "the flesh" is a complex mechanism for the achievement of the establishment of an idol.
- a. Idols are, essentially, false deities that are viewed as capable of giving "Life" to those who are committed to them.
- b. "The Flesh" is the mechanism of the unbelieving application of human wisdom to human goals.
- B. Paul calls the other "The Spirit".
- 1. "The Spirit" is the Spirit of God, but with a particular focus in mind.
- 2. "The Spirit" is that One Whose fullest intention is to bring the child of God to the maturity of understanding and confidence so that the body is the instrument of the manifestation of the Life of Jesus.
- III. The Major Issue: the Starting Point.
- A. At the root of everything is what Paul calls thelema (desire).
- B. The internal conflict is set so that "what things you desire, these things you may not do".
- C. The point is not that the conflict makes achievement impossible; it is that the conflict makes the root "wrong" ("...IF you should desire..., you will fail).
- D. The believer's main "approach" to life by the Spirit is the permission given to that Spirit to set all agenda issues.