“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Gal. 5:17)
You’ve heard of polarization, where two things are at extreme opposites like the North and South Poles. That describes the flesh and Spirit. They are worlds apart. However, you describe one, you must use the opposite adjective to describe the other. Paul is big on comparing these two motivators of human life. He goes so far as to use them as descriptive terms for the law and gospel.
To Paul, the law is compared to flesh while the gospel is compared to Spirit. One produces death and one produces life. The law is a dead letter written on stone but the Spirit is a living letter written on hearts. Jesus also spoke of the dichotomy of flesh and Spirit. He said you can’t serve God and mammon. They are oppositional.
The Spirit is opposed to the flesh and by being so enables us to live more spiritual lives than we would if we were led by the flesh. Paul talks a lot about that in his letter to the Romans. The Spirit is willing he tells us but the flesh is weak. When led by the flesh we do what the flesh desires even if we have decided not to. The only way we can outmaneuver the flesh and its desires is to be led by the Spirit.
That is important in the case of the Galatians because Paul sees them being led into a fleshly arrangement if they go back to the law. To go back into a position of slavery is to be a slave to the flesh, to sin, the very thing that Jesus came to rescue us from. He put the law and its slavery to death on the cross and gave us the Spirit to guide us. To go back to living by law rather than grace is to reject the Spirit and accept the flesh.
When life choices are as far apart as the poles of the earth, that is, as far apart as possible it is impossible to walk in both of them. One must choose to make their life one of the flesh or one of the Spirit. This is, in the vernacular, all in. Exactly what Joshua was challenging the Israelites to do when the covenant was renewed at Shechem. Here is what he said, “…choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Jos. 24:15).
Task for Today: You must choose as well; the gods of this world or the God of heaven. It’s flesh or Spirit. Its works or grace, earn by doing or accept salvation through faith. Without the Spirit living in you, you will be doomed to obeying the flesh. You are not strong enough to overcome it. Let the Spirit guide you. Today, ask the Spirit to take control. If the Spirit is not dwelling in you then submit to the gospel call, trust in Jesus, be buried in baptism, and receive the gift of the Spirit.