flesh & Spirit20-06-2013 - Posted by Andre Piet
flesh & Spirit
The recently held GoedBericht-weekend focused on the topic, “the fruit of the Spirit.” In Galatians 5, this is presented in contrast with “the works of the flesh.” Spirit and flesh, in the Galatian-letter refers to God’s promise versus our own works (Galatians 3:3; 4:29). Elsewhere in Scripture, we also encounter, many times, the contrast of spirit and flesh; where flesh symbolizes what is visible (of man) and spirit what is invisible (Col.2:5). The spirit also pictures our thinking (which also is invisible) and hence is spoken of as “the spirit of your mind” (Eph.4:23).
led by flesh or spirit?
The flesh is often synonymous with the body. The flesh is not something that should be fought against, as is called for in ecclesiastical forms. On the contrary, Paul says: no one ever hates his own flesh (Eph.5:29). God Himself is the Designer and Creator of our bodies! But the flesh needs guidance. “The works of the flesh” are the result of being led by the impulses of the body: the senses are stimulated and evoke sensations (anger, jealousy, lust, etc.) and whoever yields to them without control (=the spirit) walks “in accord with the flesh” (Rom.8:4). That is to say, he or she is controlled by the primary reactions of the body. Those reactions themselves are not wrong – this is how our body functions. But all the impulses of the flesh are to be “filtered” by the spirit, i.e., by our thoughts (“renewed mind” (Rom.12:1,2)). “The flesh” continuously expresses her needs of the moment: I want to eat a fatty snack; I want to hit that guy on the head; I want to step on the gas; I want to have sex; I want to stay in bed, etc. Such ‘desires’ or emotions are not necessarily wrong, they are signals. But they should not be in control of our actions. We all know that to yield to all such feelings is wrong and harmful, in the long term. To judge whether it is wise to do something or not, we need proper understanding, i.e., spirit.
led by God’s Spirit
God’s spirit is, of course, of a much higher order than the spirit of man. Of the human spirit it is said: “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mat.26:41). Our spirit (mind) is easily overruled by the flesh. Only when our own spirit is directed by God’s Spirit (cf Rom.8:16), the story changes! It is God’s “Spirit that makes alive” and Jesus added, “My words are Spirit and Life” (John 6:63). God’s words are not only a compass, they are a source of strength and energy! When we have an abiding connection with those words, we are actually led by God’s Spirit (Gal.5:18) and it will also produce the desired fruit in our lives (Gal.5:22).