For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other…
Here is a battle — a struggle — described: one in which we must all fight. Our own corrupt and wilful hearts, and the Holy Spirit of God, are ever drawing us different ways; and we have to choose between them. This is the work of the will. God leaves us free. The Spirit draws, but does not drive: invites, not compels. There are four states in which we may be.
1. Before the struggle begins. The soul living utterly regardless of any will but his own, any law but his own desires; sin slumbering within him, lying hid and unknown; at peace with himself, and having no idea of his danger. Terrible condition; yet, alas! how many baptized Christians are in it.
2. The struggle going on. The sinner sees what God commands, and tries to obey. Then comes the difficulty. The mind approves one thing, but the flesh strives after another; and alas! how often the flesh comes off victorious.
3. The spirit subduing the flesh. Still a struggle, but by God's grace the good is now conquering the evil, the Holy Spirit dwelling in the heart and making the will strong to persist in following the law of God. Oh, how happy, how blessed a state is this!
4. The struggle over. In the first state there was no struggle, because the evil held undisputed sway. In the second state there was a struggle, but it was the helplessness of the natural man striving in vain to fulfil the law of God. In the third state there is a struggle too, but now it is the grace and power of God striving in us against the rebellious nature which before held us captive, and that grace and power gain the victory. In the fourth state there is again no struggle. But it is because the battle has been fought, and the victory gained for ever. No more foes to oppose, no sins to do battle with. A state we may not look for in this life; but it shall be reached by all who persevere. A little while, and the last struggle will be over; and then — rest, peace, joy, glory, victory!
(Bishop Walsham How.)
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.