So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Paul is taking another swing at the Law, but then that’s the whole point of his letter. He does so here in an interesting way as he points out something so fundamentally obvious to even a brand new Christian that it should be impossible to argue with.
Living by the flesh is in conflict with living by the Spirit.
Anybody surprised by this revelation? I didn’t think so. Some time back, I called living by the Spirit “counter-intuitive” and so it is.
I come from a doctrinal background that has traditionally relegated the Holy Spirit to theoretical status. “The Holy Spirit speaks to us in God’s Word” is the policy. Of course, I would never deny that the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Word; after all, the Word is the mind of the Spirit, as they say. But is that it? Doesn’t the Spirit lead us in other ways? I’m thinking that He does, since Paul just said so. Oh, wait, what’s that? That’s the Word that’s saying that?
OK, maybe you got me on that point, but… when Paul wrote that, he couldn’t possibly have intended it to be taken that way, since there was no New Testament at that time. Did something change?
Yes, dear reader, these are the words that begin the debate… My doctrinal background, the one that relegated following the Spirit’s leading to an academic exercise ended up debating itself to death, and split up over the style of music more than a hundred years ago; can you imagine anything so silly? I highly doubt that the Spirit was leading anybody to that end, either in or out of the Word!
You might well know some other past errors that you could bring up here. What I think is important for us to understand is that we can overcome all this foolishness fairly easily. First, love your neighbor as yourself. Second, live by the Spirit, follow His leading, yearn for His presence and ask Him to help you discern. He will not let you down!