The Conflict Between the Flesh and the Spirit

Bible Book: Galatians  5 : 16-24
Subject: Flesh and Spirit; Spirit, Fruit of; Spiritual Living

In light of our natural inclination to sin, the only way to prevent us from totally unleashing our worst passions was to establish a system of laws that set boundaries on behavior and that carried penalties severe enough to promote conformity out of fear.

In contrast to the law, the Apostle Paul speaks of being “led by the Spirit” or “live in the Spirit” or “walk in the Spirit”; the “fruit of the Spirit.”

The flesh is powerless to fulfill the law, and the law is powerless to conquer the flesh. His Story affects life by not only guiding me, but empowering me to live a life of victory.

Romans 8:3-4, “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

EXAMPLE: John Bunyan, in his Pilgrim’s Progress, describes Interpreter’s House, which Pilgrim entered during the course of his journey to the Celestial City. The parlor of the house was completely covered in dust, and when a man took a broom and started to sweep, he and the others in the room began to choke from the great clouds of dust that were stirred up. The more vigorously he swept, the more suffocating the dust became. The Interpreter ordered a maid to sprinkle the room with water, with which the dust was quickly washed away. Interpreter explained to Pilgrim that the parlor represented the heart of an unsaved man, that the dust was original sin, the man with the broom was the law, and the maid with the water was the gospel. His point was that all the Law can do with sin is to stir it up. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can wash it away.

Rom 7:7-12


“walk” (conduct) behavior; imperative and indicates He is not giving believers an option. Life walked in the Spirit is life patterned after the teaching and example of the Lord Jesus.

When obeyed, we find ourselves loving in face of hatred; peace and joy in the midst of chaos and grief; we can control self by the power of the Holy Spirit.


“shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” – a double negative used with the verb fulfill. The presence of the Spirit in the Christian’s life makes it possible for the “lusts of the flesh” to be completely set aside. Only by the Spirit of God can we properly handle the desires of the flesh.

MODEL PRAYER/DISCIPLES PRAYER Luke 11:1-4 “Lord, teach us to pray…”

“So He said to them, "When you pray, say:

Our Father in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name.

Your kingdom come.

Your will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us day by day our daily bread.

And forgive us our sins,

For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.

And do not lead us into temptation,

But deliver us from the evil one."

1 - INTIMACY “our Father”

2 – SUBMISSION “Your kingdom come” (your will)

3 – DEPENDENCE “Give us this day”

4 – FORGIVENESS “Forgive us our sins”

5 – OBEDIENCE “Do not lead us into temptation”


The same principle of Romans 7:14-25

The flesh in lust is a selfish expression of life

The Spirit in the human life is God’s expression of life

“the flesh” – refers to the unredeemed humanness, the part of a believer’s life that awaits future redemption at the time of his completed salvation (glorification). It is man’s fallen nature.

The flesh opposes (stands against) the Word of the Spirit in the believer’s heart.


“so that you do not do the things that you wish” –

A believer cannot accomplish anything for the Lord in his own power with his own resources. The Spirit can accomplish little through a believer apart from the believer’s submission and commitment.

Romans 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”


“works of the flesh” – these are the products/deeds of life lived in the flesh, side-by-side with the products of life lived by the Spirit. (22-23)

These “works of the flesh” are not just challenges from the outside but problems on the inside.

Mark 7:20-23, “And He said, ‘What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.’"

These are works produced by man’s own unregenerate nature.

“Sexual Immorality” (porneia) pornography

“Impurity” (uncleanness) – any kind of sexual uncleanness. Kept one from drawing near to God; affected worship

“Sensuality” (lewdness) – an appetite that knows no shame, lack of restraint, sexual excess, indulgence

“Idolatry” – worshipping man-made images of whatever sort

“Sorcery” – derived from word we get pharmacy; drugs

“Hatred” – hateful attitude which results in strife; bitter conflicts

“Contentions” – causing discord or dissension

“Jealousies” – form of anger and hateful resentment caused by coveting

Outbursts of wrath” – unrestrained expression of hostility

“Selfish ambitions” – self-seeking, selfish ambition

“Dissensions” – divisions

“Heresies” – factions; to follow one’s own chosen course of action and thought rather than God’s

“Envy” – grief at someone else’s good fortunes

“Murders” – to kill in body, mind, spirit, hope

“Drunkenness” & “Revelries” – together speak of wild parties, worldly indulgences, carousing

“And the like” – only representative and not exhaustive



Deeds of the flesh are done by a person’s own efforts but the Fruit of the Spirit – is produced by God’s own Spirit. The Spirit never fails to produce some fruit in a believer’s life, but the Lord desires “much fruit” (John 15:8). Matt 7:16-18 teaches, “you will know them by their fruits.”

In v.22-23, Paul lists 9 characteristics of the godly fruit produced by the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life. These are multiple characteristics of but one fruit and are therefore related to one another. They are not produced nor can they be manifested in isolation from each other.

Jesus is the supreme example and the Holy Spirit is the source. “Love” is the supreme virtue of Christian living. (1 Cor 13:13). Many believe love is a synonym of fruit and encompasses the other characteristics in the list. “The whole law is fulfilled in one word,” “You shall love your neighbor as yourself...”

Love reflects personal choice, a willing self-giving service.

Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.”

1 John 3:16, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

It is a mark of salvation:

1 John 3:14, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.”

1 John 4:7, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”

JOY - Does not come from favorable human circumstances but sometimes greatest when those circumstances are the most painful and severe. Joy is the deep-down sense of well-being that abides in the heart of the person who knows all is well between himself and the Lord.

God’s joy is full, complete in every way. Nothing human or circumstantial can add to it or detract from it.

PEACE - Speaks of the exhilaration of heart that comes from being right with God. Verb refers to binding together; everything is in place and as it ought to be. Like joy, peace has no relationship to circumstances.

Philippians 4:9, “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

LONGSUFFERING (Patience) – tolerance that endures injuries inflicted by others. The calm willingness to accept situations that are irritating or painful. Slow to anger.

The steadfastness of the soul under duress. “Love suffers long” Speaks of Christ.

2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

KINDNESS – tender concern for others; a genuine desire of a believer to treat others gently
GOODNESS - has to do with moral and spiritual excellence that is known by its sweetness and active kindness.

Galatians 6:10, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

FAITHFULNESS – pertains to loyalty and trustworthiness

Lamentations 3:22-23, “Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

1 Corinthians 4:1-2, “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”

GENTLENESS – does not consist in a person’s outward behavior only; it is an inwrought grace of the soul, and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God. It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good and therefore without disputing or resisting. It’s being patiently submissive in every offense, while being free of any desire for revenge or retribution.

In the New Testament three attitudes are described:

1. Submissiveness to the will of God

2. Teachableness

3. Consideration of others

SELF-CONTROL – has reference to restraining passions and appetites.

“against such there is no law” – those who are living out these concepts need no laws to keep them in check.

2 Peter 1:8, “For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The believer who walks in the Spirit and manifests His fruit does not need a system of law to produce the right attitudes and behavior, they rise from within him.