Grace & Peace


Monday, April 11, 2016

The Flesh vs. the Spirit

The Flesh vs. the Spirit
The battle we face.

To best describe the battle we face between the flesh and the spirit, I believe the Apostle Paul’s question found in Gal. 3:2 poses one of the greatest insights. Here I’ll use several Bible translations to illustrate:

Gal. 3:2-3 (TLB) “Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by trying to keep the Jewish laws? Of course not, for the Holy Spirit came upon you only after you heard about Christ and trusted him to save you. Then have you gone completely crazy? For if trying to obey the Jewish laws never gave you spiritual life in the first place, why do you think that trying to obey them now will make you stronger Christians?”

Gal. 3:2-3 (KJV) “This only would I learn of you, received ye the Spirit by the works of the law? Or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?”

Gal. 3:2-3 (NLT) “Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?”

As you can see, one translation used the word ‘flesh,’ another inserts for the word flesh, ‘by your own human effort,’ and still another inserts for the word flesh, ‘trying to obey the Jewish laws.’ All three are correct and pretty much synonymous with each other. We received the Holy Spirit the moment we became born-again. Once again, before we were born-again, we could not clean ourselves up and do enough to earn salvation. We received it as a free gift after hearing the gospel which reveals the righteousness of God or our “right-standing with God,” all accomplished by the work of the cross. So, when a believer is now trying to become perfect by his own human effort, he is trying to be made perfect by the flesh. He or she is not resting in the fact that he received an imputed righteousness the moment he became born-again, a righteousness which is of God apart from the law, or without the law. (ref. Rom. 3:20-22 and Rom. 7:5) The Apostle Paul said, in his epistle to the Philippians, that he counted what he had accomplished as loss-so as to win Christ. (ref. Phil. 3:7) “and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” So understanding that the same way in which we received the Holy Spirit is the same way we walk in the Spirit, is crucial to our faith walk. (ref. Col. 2:6) Understanding this is the root. Walking in the Spirit, or understanding that we remain righteous apart from our works or performance, is the root that gives us the fruit of the Spirit. Not understanding this is the root that produces the works of the flesh. A dead work is something we do as a Christian, thinking it will put us in right-standing with God, other than receiving what has already been done for us.

[Note: Through all of this, the born-again Christian still remains the righteousness of God, but is carnal in his thinking.]