Today’s selected passage continues in the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul unto the churches which were in Galatia. More specifically, today’s selected reading is found in verses sixteen through twenty-six of the fifth chapter. When we come to this particular portion in the latter half of the fifth chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia we discover a stark contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. IF there is one thing we find as we approach the final portion of this letter to the churches, it’s that the apostle Paul seeks to clearly define and distinguish between that which proceeds from the flesh and that which proceeds from the Spirit. Even as early as the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Romans we discover this language concerning this conflict within ourselves between our flesh and the Spirit. It is absolutely imperative and necessary that we recognize and understand that so long as we are found to be present within this early and natural tent there is always and there will always be a conflict between that which is of the flesh and that which is of the Spirit. There is absolutely no escaping this reality, and no matter how many times we would seek to undermine and perhaps even deny this reality, there is absolutely no running away from or escaping the fact that we will always find ourselves engaged in this conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. I am convinced that one of the one of the greatest wars and conflicts we can ever and will ever face is that conflict that is found to be present within ourselves. It is true that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of darkness, against spiritual wickedness in high places. However, even with that being said, there is always and there will always be a tremendous conflict that exists within ourselves. In all reality, we must come to terms with the reality and truth that so long as we are in this natural and earthly tent we can and will find ourselves engaged in conflict and battle on two fronts—on the one hand we find ourselves engaged in conflict, battle and warfare in the supernatural and spiritual realm, and on the other hand we find ourselves engaged in an inner conflict that exists between our flesh and the Spirit.
In order to understand this more fully and more completely it is necessary that we turn and direct our attention and our focus to two distinct passages found within the writings of the apostle Paul. The first passage is found in the sixth chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote to the church and saints which were found in Ephesus, while the second is found in the second epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul writes unto the church and saints which were found in Ephesus: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breath-lasted of righteousness; and your feet shod with the predation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:10-18). When writing unto the saints which were at Corinth for the second time we find the apostle Paul again writing of this conflict that exists in the supernatural and spiritual realm. Beginning with the first verse of the tenth chapter of the second epistle which Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints we find the following words: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) casting down imaginations, and every high ting that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).
It is quite clear and quite obvious when reading the words in both of these epistles which the apostle Paul wrote that there is indeed and there is in fact a conflict each and every one of us encounters and faces day in and day out. To somehow believe the lie and the delusion that there exists no conflict in the supernatural and spiritual realm against principalities, against powers, against rulers of darkness, and against spiritual wickedness in high places is to be sorely deceived and utterly mistaken. I can’t help but also be reminded of the words which both the apostle Peter, as well as James the half brother of Jesus wrote in each of their epistles. In the fifth chapter of the first epistle which the apostle Peter wrote we find the following words: Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon Him; for He carets for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His enteral glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:6-11). In the fourth chapter of the epistle which James wrote we find the following words concerning our adversary who is the devil and Satan: “But He giveth more grace. Wherefore HE saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw night to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up” (James 4:6–10). Both the apostle Peter, as well as James the half brother of Jesus make us perfectly and abundantly aware of the fact that there is in fact a conflict that exists in the spiritual realm against a very real adversary who does in fact seek to destroy us. It is absolutely unmistakable that we do have a very real adversary who does in fact seek to utterly and completely destroy us.
In order to help illustrate and solidify within our minds that we do in fact have an adversary who can and will seek to destroy us we must turn and direct our attention to the prophetic books of Daniel and the Revelation of Jesus Christ, for it’s within these two books where we read of this conflict and struggle even more. Consider if you will what is recorded in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ:
“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceived the whole world: He was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame Him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:7-17).
There is further evidence of this conflict and war against the saints of God found in the very next chapter within the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the thirteenth chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ you will find the following words written concerning the beast which rose up out of the sea, which had seven heads and ten horns:
“And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten towns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority., And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindred, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:1-10).
In the twelfth chapter of the New Testament book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ we initially find the dragon—together with his angels—making war in heaven and fighting against Michael and the angelic host of heaven. The apostle John, however, saw that their place—the place of the dragon and his angels—was no longer found in heaven, and as a direct result of them losing their place in heaven, they were cast down to the earth. It’s absolutely imperative and necessary that we recognize and understand what is taking place in the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus, for a war that initially started and began in heaven between the dragon and his angels against Michael and his angels would eventually transition to the earth where the dragon would first set out to persecute the woman who brought forth the male child, and ultimately end up making war with the saints. If you study the natural progression of the war which is found in the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ you will find that the war initially began in heaven between the dragon and his angels against Michael and his angels, would eventually transition to the earth as the dragon would make war with and against the saints, and would continue through the beast which rose up from the midst of the sea, as the beast would now make war with and war against the saints. There is an unseen and invisible war and conflict that takes place between the dragon and his angels against Michael and his angels, and it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we are aware of this. With that being said, however, we must also recognize and understand that there is a war that exists upon the earth as the dragon seeks to make war with and war against the saints. In all reality the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ does speak of a war that takes places in heaven between the dragon and his angels and Michael and his angels, but this prophetic book also speaks of another war that takes place upon the earth—a war that takes place against the saints, which is waged both by the dragon, as well as the beast. In fact, there are two additional references which are found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel which highlight this conflict and war agains the saints which must also be considered.
“Thus he said, The Fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon the earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him. Hitherto is the end of the matter” (Daniel 7:23-28).
“And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall destroy manyZ: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand. And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days. And I daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king’s business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it” (Daniel 8:23-27).
It is quite obvious from each of the passages provided that the adversary and enemy truly does seek to engage in warfare and conflict with and against us. Scripture is replete with example after example of how the adversary does in fact come to steal, to kill and to destroy. We should not be ignorant of the schemes, the tactics and the devices of the adversary as though they are something to be astonished and surprised by. There are many who are somehow shocked, stunned and surprised when they face and encounter direct opposition and conflict from the adversary and the forces of darkness under his control, yet the truth of the matter is that this simply should not be the case. With that being said—as certainly and as surely as we should not be alarmed at the conflict that exists between the dragon who is the same serpent from the garden, we should not be shocked by the conflict that exists within ourselves between the flesh and the Spirit. Each and every morning when we arise from our beds we find ourselves engaged in the middle of two distinct conflicts and struggles, as we are assaulted and assailed by two different forces. Each and every morning we are assaulted and assailed by our flesh which is corrupt and is at enmity before, toward and against God, as well as by the adversary who like a roaring lion prowls about seeking whom he may devour. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand these two conflicts, for we cannot hope to walk in a place of victory, a place of authority, a place of dominion, and a place of overcoming if we are not aware of such conflicts and struggles which are present within and among us. What we read in the fifth chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia concerning the conflict that exists between the flesh and the Spirit is found through an allegory and example in the fourth chapter. It’s within the fourth chapter of this particular epistle where the apostle Paul speaks of the conflict that exists between that which is born of the promise and the Spirit, and that which is born of the flesh. Consider if you will the words which were written by the apostle Paul beginning with the twenty-first verse of the fourth chapter:
“Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hate many more children than she which hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the Scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free” (Galatians 4:21-31).
It is with these words where the apostle uses a natural and physical example of Abraham—not to illustrate the justification that comes by faith alone, but to illustrate the dramatic difference between that which is born of the flesh, and that which is born of the promise and born of the Spirit. In fact, when we come to the fifth chapter of this same epistle we find the apostle Paul continuing to write and speak of this fundamental difference between the conflict that exists and ensues between the flesh and the Spirit. Consider if you will the words which are found in the fifth chapter of this particular epistle beginning to read with the thirteenth verse: “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 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” (Galatians 5:13-17). This reality is further seen in the eighth chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Rome beginning with the first verse:
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh: but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, HE that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:1-11).
The apostle Paul is quite clear in what he wrote unto the saints which were at Rome concerning the tremendous conflict that does in fact exist between the flesh and the Spirit, for the two are continually at odds with and opposed to each other. There is absolutely no agreement, nor can there be any fellowship between the flesh and the Spirit for the apostle Paul emphatically writes and declares that the mind of the flesh is enmity toward and enmity against God. The apostle Paul knew, understood and recognized that there were essentially two different realities within the life of each and every saint of God—either the reality that one was a debtor and slave to the flesh which leads to death, or they are a debtor and slave to the Spirit. Perhaps one of the single greatest questions we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are indeed slaves to our flesh, or whether we through the Spirit have put to death, mortified and crucified the flesh with all of its sinful lusts and passions. What’s more, is that we tend to reference the words of the apostle Paul concerning the manifestation of the reality that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ, yet we stop there. We read of the conflict that exists within ourselves as it is found in the seventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Roman church and we immediately get all hyped up on the reality that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. The tragic part is that there are many commentators, scholars, ministers, preachers, and teachers alike who stop there. There are many students of the Bible who stop with and stop at the reality that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, and they completely ignore the second part of that reality. These are students of the word who read the words of the prophet Isaiah and use them to further strengthen their argument for what is written in the first verse of the eighth chapter. The prophet Isaiah writes the following words: “No weapons that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 54:17).
The problem with stopping only at there being no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus is that it is only part of the picture. It is true that in Christ there is no condemnation—a reality that’s made evident and manifested in the account of the woman caught in the act of adultery, as well as the woman who broke open her alabaster box and poured the fragrant perfume upon the feet of Jesus. With that being said, however, the apostle Paul doesn’t simply stop with the reality that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ, but he goes on to write concerning those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Essentially what we find and what we read in this particular verse is two sides of the same coin, for on hand we find there being no condemnation in Christ Jesus, but on the other hand we find that there is no condemnation to those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. In other words, the fulness of the reality that there is no condemnation in our lives is not merely that we are in Christ, but that we walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. IT is true that if any man is in Christ he is a new creature, and that old things have passed away, and all things have become new, however, even that reality is only part of the picture. Those who are in Christ are indeed a new creation, and old things have passed and are passing away, and all things have become and are becoming new, yet it’s not enough merely to be in Christ. I am utterly and completely convinced that this reality doesn’t stop merely with our being in Christ, but continues on to a conscious and deliberate decision to walk not after the flesh, but to instead walk after the Spirit. In fact, the apostle Paul goes on to connect the righteousness of the law being fulfilled and manifested in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. ;Those who walk after the flesh do in fact mind those things which are of the flesh, but those who walk after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. What’s more, is to be carnally minded is death, and minding the things of the flesh leads to and produces death. The carnal mind is enmity against God, and to be carnally minded is death. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that those things which are of the flesh are in fact enmity, hostility and antagonistic toward and against God, and thus produces death within our hearts and lives.
In the fifth chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote to the churches which are in Galatia we not only find the works of the flesh, but we also find the fruit of the Spirit. When writing to the saints of Corinth the apostle Paul wrote of the gifts of the Spirit and listed nine gifts of the Spirit which were used for the edifying of the body. When seeking to understand the gifts of the Spirit it is absolutely imperative and necessary that we understand that the gifts were never given for us, nor have they ever been about us in the slightest bit. The gifts of the Spirit which are given by the Spirit severally as He wills and desires is for the edification, the growth, the maturity, and the building up of the body. With that being said, we must recognize and understand that when speaking of the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit which the apostle Paul speaks about is a direct manifestation of our being in Christ, and our truly and indeed being disciples. I have never known that gifts define anyone as being in Christ and being a disciple and follower of Jesus, for it was Jesus Himself tho declared that many will come to Him in that day and cry out, saying, “Lord, Lord, did not we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons,” and yet the Lord will clearly declare unto them “Depart from me, ye worker of iniquity; I never knew you.” I am convinced that in that day there will be many “gifted” people who will be turned away from the Christ and hear that He never know them, yet nowhere in Scripture do I find that those who cultivate and bring forth fruit will ever be turned away by Christ. In fact, Jesus even used the fruit of the Spirit to define Idenity, intimacy and relationship, for fruit is a clear and definitive manifestation of the reality that not only are we in Christ, but we also know and are known by Christ Himself. We dare not get caught up in thinking that it is by our gifts we are known and will be known, but it is by our fruit that we are known and identified. We must remember that it was Jesus who declared that we shall know them by their fruit—speaking of the false teachers and false prophets. The question you must ask yourself is whether or not you want to be known by gifts, or whether or not you want to be known by fruit. This reality doesn’t merely speak about being known by and known of men, but also being known by and known of Jesus the Christ Himself. IT is possible to be gifted and yet bear not fruit, but I have never known anyone who bears fruit and is not gifted by the very Spirit of Christ. Oh that there would be a people in this generation in whom both the gifts and fruit of the Spirit work in glorious harmony and unity with each other.