The key to living in the liberty of Christ is to deny the flesh by keeping one important commandment: love your neighbour as yourself. This involves two parts. We will look at the first part today, and the second tomorrow.
While the Spirit can overcome the flesh, the flesh is powerless against the Spirit.
Paul knows that no external command can coerce us to serve one another humbly in love. The desire must come from within us, created by the Holy Spirit. Paul advises: keep walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16); follow Him closely and let Him empower you to do God's will by directing your every thought, word, and deed. Our total immersion in His leading-Paul is quick to promise-will shut out the flesh from our life.
Why is Paul so certain? Because the Spirit absolutely opposes the flesh. He shares nothing in common with it (v. 17). Being its direct opposite, His dominance in our life will spell the end of the flesh. But there is more. While the Spirit can overcome the flesh, the flesh is powerless against the Spirit. Furthermore, Paul continues, the purpose of the Spirit's fight against the flesh is to prevent believers from doing whatever the flesh wants. In short, the Spirit is not only capable, He is willing as well; hence the flesh stands absolutely no chance.
The good news that Paul brings us is that the power of overcoming the flesh lies with the Spirit, not the law-as suggested by the Judaizers-or some other rule, whether Jewish or pagan (v. 18). The flesh loves rules, manipulating them to imprison us. We once could find no way out, but led by the Spirit we are now free to do God's will.
But why is the flesh so detestable? ″Just look at how it acts and you will know,″ Paul replies. He then recites a list comprising five groups of the deeds of the flesh (vv. 19-21): sexual (immorality, impurity, and debauchery); religious (idolatry, witchcraft); relational (hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy); intemperate (drunkenness, orgies); and others. We understand from verse 21 that Paul does not mean the list to be exhaustive (″and the like″). Such acts are so obviously evil that no speculation is needed (v. 19).
Every act has a consequence. God will not sit idly by, and so Paul sternly repeats a warning he must have given out before: those who persist in living this way will neither enjoy nor experience the rule of God in their lives. They will not inherit God's kingdom (v. 21).
By walking in the Spirit, we are free to do God's will. It will also deny the flesh's control over us.