The Spirit vs. The Flesh
By Pastor J.D. Link
I encourage you to carefully read John 3:1-6. Vs. 6 says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Jesus said we must be born again, born of the Spirit. If one is only born physically, born of the union between father and mother, they will not inherit the kingdom of God. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (1Cor 15:50). One must be born again, born of the Spirit, through faith upon the Lord Jesus.
What is born of flesh is flesh, and (in this life) can be nothing other than flesh. What is born of the Spirit is spirit, and can be nothing other than spirit. The flesh cannot be changed in this life, but only subdued; put under; mortified; etc.. We are not to hate our bodies, but rather nurture them (Eph 5:28-29). However, we must understand that after our spiritual rebirth, our flesh and blood bodies still contain a remnant of the corrupt nature (also called flesh), that motivates our flesh to do those things contrary to God.
Gal 5:16-17, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit (spiritually, as a way of life), and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh (execute the longings of the flesh). (17) For the flesh lusteth (sets it’s heart) 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.” EW Bullinger said, “It is not until the new nature is given, that there can be conflict. Until then, the peace of death reigns. The moment the new nature is given, that moment, conflict begins. We find we cannot do all the good things the new nature would have us do; and, thank God, we find also that we cannot do many of the evil things our old nature would have us do.”
One of the signs of the new birth is the struggle against the flesh. Why? Because our flesh is no different after salvation, than when we were unsaved; but now our spirit is joined in union with the Holy Spirit. The spirit inside the Believer is set against the flesh, and the flesh is set against the spirit; and hence, the struggle.
Gal 5:24 says, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the (inordinate – Col 3:5-6) affections and lusts.” If we say we are Christ’s, and that He dwells in us; then the fruit of that union is the fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22-23), and a putting off of the deeds of the flesh (Gal 5:19-21). Not that any Believer does this perfectly, but that it is the rule in their life, and it is what is the constant, rather than the exception. Gal 5:25 says, “If we live in the Spirit (positionally, factually), let us also walk in the Spirit (functionally, as a way of life).”
Read Romans 7:14-25 carefully. There is a corruption that dwells in the flesh, called sin (vs. 17, 20; Jam 4:1; 1Pt 2:11), that compels the Believer to do those things contrary to God; though they do not want to do them. If one is born of God, they desire to please God and obey Him. However, they also dwell in a flesh body, which wars against the spirit. Hence, the Believer can never be perfect in their flesh, for flesh is not perfectable. This is in no way to excuse sinful behavior in a Believer, but rather explain it. Through being led by the Spirit, the Believer can and should in large measure gain victory over the flesh (Gal 5:22-23).
Paul then cries out in Rom 7:24-25, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord…”. While we acknowledge that corruption dwells within the mortal body, we are not to hate ourselves. We have victory through Jesus Christ our Lord. He saves to the uttermost, and His grace is sufficient. Greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world (1Jn 4:4). Sin shall not have dominion over us, because we are under grace (Rom 6:14).
Whatever is born of flesh is flesh. We cannot hate ourselves because our flesh is what it is. We must only acknowledge that we are also spirit; a spirit joined in union with Almighty God. We can do all things through Christ which strengthens us. There is therefore now no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit (Rom 8:1). Those who walk after the Spirit (are yielded to and led by the Spirit) are in Christ Jesus, and there is no condemnation.
The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in those who walk after the Spirit (Rom 8:4). For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God (Rom 8:14). As believers in Christ, we take comfort in knowing this corrupt body and it’s nature will be transformed at the appearance of our Lord from heaven, and made fit for eternity (Philp 3:20-21; 1Cor 15:44-58; Col 3:4; 1Jn 3:2). In the mean time, through the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we mortify the deeds of this flesh (Rom 6:6, 13; 8:13, Gal 5:24, Col 3:5), and remain confident in our victory through Christ (Rom 8:2). Selah.