For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other…
I. THE FACT STATED. "The flesh," etc. Remnants of indwelling sin remain. "Flesh" does not mean "sinews," "fibres," etc., but carnal propensities. Fact stated shared by apostles. They no exception to general rule. Not by nature more saintly than ourselves. Indwelling sin affects all. Sinners not perfected in holiness here. Why?
1. To make us watchful. Common idea, "way to heaven easy." Nature of sin misunderstood, so that men fly to it as moths to candle. But saints are taught another lesson. Sin is a deadly enemy. Truth is known, "flesh lusteth," etc. This keeps them alive, watchful, safe. Sleep is fatal. The story is told that Satan once summoned his angels to inquire what they had been doing. One said, " I saw a company of Christians crossing the desert, and I let loose the winds of heaven, and their bones are bleaching in the sun." "What of that?" said Satan; "perhaps their souls are saved." Another said, I saw a ship with missionaries on board, going to a heathen land, and I raised a storm and drowned them all." "What of that?" said Satan; "perhaps their souls are saved." And then came forward a subtle spirit, who said, "For fifteen years I have been trying to lull an old Christian to sleep, and I have just succeeded." Whereupon there arose a shout of triumph, the bells of hell rang for joy, and Satan spoke approvingly. So the old nature is never made better, but a new one added. Always an enemy within.
2. That we may never mistake the grounds of our salvation. Works have no meritorious part. All of grace. Beginning (1 Corinthians 15:8, 9), ending (Philippians 1:6). But only failures teach this. Past sins like past gales to the seaman — forgotten. Present sickness, distress, make us cling to friends. So indwelling sin and conflict bring the saint close to Christ.
II. THE ATTITUDE OF INDWELLING SIN. Not dead or restful, quiet or submissive. Romans 7:23, 24, describes a deadly feud, very unlike common idea of personal depravity. Never feud more deadly, not even the Wars of the Roses or the Indian Mutiny. Its nearness makes it so. If distant, less painful, less distressing. Near. I would press this. Saints contest every step. Bunyan's description of Apollyon's conflict with Christian graphically describes the state. Weapons vary, but enemy never. Pride, anger, lust, sloth, despair (Ephesians 6:11) "lusteth."
III. THE CONQUEST. "So that ye," etc. Not the flesh hindering grace. Vice versa. What a mercy! Shout of victory always follows cry of battle. Gospel purposes not accomplished when men, even Christians, are stationary. More glorious. Rich become liberal, godless godly, etc. (1 Corinthians 6:11). Not preach defeat. "Greater is He that is," etc. Are you ready to despair? Think of the issue. Not always slaves or prisoners. Deliverance. Wait as Wellington behind the lines of Tortes Vedras. So you behind the grace of God. Then go forth to victory.
(H. T. Cavell.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.