For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other…
It is on this passage we offer the following reflections: —
1. Paul regards all the events that constitute the general course of the world, whether of private history or of public affairs, as the works of the flesh. As water cannot rise beyond its spring, so neither can life rise beyond its origin and inspiration. The natural life of man is " animal." The awful catalogue which is given of the "works of the flesh" (ver. 19) is a condensed history of the weed of mankind in all latitudes and in all ages. There is a close alliance between man and the animal races. In this state the gospel finds mankind.
2. They that lead this animal life, under whatever form of civilization or barbarism, "cannot please God" (Romans 8:7, 8).
3. But God, in His mercy, has provided redemption for man from his fleshly or animal condition — from sin and its consequences — by the Incarnation of the Divine Word, by the sacrifice of the Cross, by the Resurrection of Christ, and by His new creating Spirit. Christ is the new Head of life for mankind — the second Adam. Those who are not born twice will die twice.
4. But God affords His Spirit of renovation to dwell with all believers. The Spirit originates a struggle of forces within the nature of a Christian, the issue of which, as with the unborn Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:22, 23), is that the elder serves the younger, the newer vanquishes the older man — the wild and shaggy animal Nature is subdued in the Israel of God by the civilizing power of Divine grace. We are surrounded on all sides in the creation by the struggle of rival forces; gravitation and muscular power; the vital powers and the chemical laws; the opposing forces which combine to send the earth along its nearly circular orbit. But there is no struggle in physical nature half so interesting or half so glorious as this inward contest between the flesh and the spirit. It is emphatically a war between heaven and earth in the body and soul of man. The condition of the contest is that God by His Spirit supplies a new power in supplying a new life. It is the part of man, as a living and intelligent will, to yield to the inspirations of the new power and life, and so to overcome the works of the flesh. God does not operate irresistibly, as upon dead matter, but intellectually and spiritually, as upon honest mind. He "worketh in us to will and to do," but we must "work out our own salvation."
5. How does the Holy Spirit accomplish the work of renewal in the Divine image? As it were by infusing a new blood into the system — a new life. What is this life-blood? It is the truth of Christ. "Sanctify them by Thy truth" The old corrupt humanity is cut down. The new vine now bears fruit unto God, the "fruit of the spirit" of life in Christ Jesus. There is a new motive in life. God has become real, and near, and dear in Jesus Christ. Here are revealed the secrets of power, the mystery of that supernatural "life in Christ Jesus " which begins in the gift of God, and repentance from dead works is strengthened by the assurance of salvation from sin already visible, and will be perfected in the resurrection.
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.