by Dr. Robert R. Seyda



Another thing that Paul wants to warn the Galatians about is that while there are apparent sinful tendencies of which they were very much aware, there were other tendencies that were still in hiding. King David was certainly conscious of that when he wrote that no one could know all the sins lurking in their heart. That’s why it takes a spiritual cleansing to find and expose these hidden faults. Constant submission to the reborn spirit’s urging can keep a believer from committing deliberate sins! So, ask God to keep these tendencies from getting control of your thoughts. Then you will be free from the guilt of unforgiven sins.[1]

Paul confessed the same thing to the Roman believers when he told them about his dealing with sinful tendencies. He explained it this way: I know that nothing good lives in me – I mean nothing good lives in that part of me that is not spiritual. I want to do what is good, but I can’t seem to do it. So, I have learned this rule: When I want to do what is holy, but evil is always there to offer an unholy choice. In my mind, I am happy with obeying God’s Law, says Paul. But I feel another urging in my body. Such inclinations make war against the law that my mind accepts. This other force at work in my body is the actions of sin, and that law makes me its prisoner. What a miserable person I am! Who will save me from this body that will drive me to death?[2]

We are told that in Roman mythology, Mezentius king of the Tyrrhenians, noted for his cruelties and impiety. He was driven from his throne by his subjects and fled to Turnus, the King of the Rutuli. When the Trojan hero Aeneas arrived, he fought with Mezentius and slew his son Lausus who was protecting him. Mezentius was so ashamed that his son died in his place, that he often put his subjects to death by tying a dead man face-to-face with the living man who was forced to walk around until he too dropped dead. Could it be that Paul had this in mind when he spoke about this “body of death” to which he was hopelessly attached?

The reason Paul was so miserable is that he learned the hard way that people who live following their sinful tendencies think only about what they want. But those who live supporting their spiritual aspirations, are thinking about what their spirit wants them to do. When a person’s thinking is controlled by their sinful tendencies, spiritual death will be their end. But when a person’s thinking is influenced by the Holy Spirit, then there is joy in life and peace of mind.[3]

But to prevent the Galatians from misunderstanding, Paul tells them the same thing he told the Romans. They might think that he was saying that sin and the Law are the same. That is not true. Knowing the Law was the only way he could learn what sinning was. He would never have known it is wrong to want something that was not his until he read it in the Law that a person must not want what belongs to someone else. That’s when his sinful tendencies found a way to use that command and make him want all kinds of things that weren’t his. So, he sinned because of the commandment. You see, without the Law, sin has no way to tempt you[4].

But all was not lost. Paul found that the power of the Gospel and the action of the Holy Spirit was more than capable of helping him conqueror these harmful tendencies. Even though he didn’t give himself much credit for having anything he could offer to help. There was one thing that helped carry him through to victory. We find this same concept in the writings of the Jewish Fathers. In the Tzror Hamor, it tells us that when the angels came from Abraham to visit Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah, he met them in the city square. He wanted them to enter into his house for a meal and rest, but they said they’d rather sleep out in the open near the gate. But Lot insisted that they come in with him. And here’s what the Rabbi says: “Lot’s insistence that the angels come to his house showed that a small fraction of the Holy Spirit was still alive in him, that’s why he was so insistent.” [5]

 This way, you will be more liberated to yield to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.[6] There is no better way to start a day than a private talk with your heavenly Father.[7] The prophet Ezekiel shared God’s promise that He would put His Spirit inside believers to inspire them to live by His Word and His will by following His Teachings.[8] The indwelling Spirit we received from God did not make us humble and passive, but it made us strong and unafraid to confront any threat to our spiritual well-being, whether it comes at us from without or within.[9] The Apostle John gave his readers excellent instruction on this subject.[10] As Paul told the Romans, never let sinful tendencies become your master since they have no legal control over your spirit.[11]

So, says Paul, you Galatians who continuously tear each other down and get involved with things more in common with the sinful-self than your spiritual oneness with the Anointed need to realize this battle is won at the highest level of your consciousness. Radical turn arounds are more than a simple change of heart, or an adjustment in your feelings, or adapting emotionally, or a modification of your desires, but by a total transformation of your mind – the control room of your spiritual oneness with the Anointed. It will help you survive this constant struggle for the rest of your life until your body is transformed in the resurrection. But this conflict does not need to be a daily win or lose fight for you. The more you submit your spiritual-self to the Anointed, the more you gain mastery over these carnal tendencies to keep them in check. Before long, the sinful-self will have to mount a powerful urge or temptation before the resilient and committed spiritual oneness with the Anointed will even feel affected by any enticement.

After all, these things do not take over your minds and bodies without your consent or against your will. These are choices we make to please some lower or higher authority and power. The sinful-self will always desire that which satisfies the flesh, the old man, the Carnal “Id.” But once one’s Carnal “Ego” is regenerated, the Anointed’s influence through your super “Spiritual Ego” will be to fulfill God’s will and purpose for your life. Paul warns the Galatians, whichever one you choose, the other will be grieved and feel hurt. You cannot satisfy both at the same time. One must be superior to the other. So, decide now which one you don’t mind upsetting. Of course, Paul aims to get the believers to go with the Super Spiritual Ego and let the Carnal Id grieve for another day.

What are those carnal things that cause spiritual death, and what are the spiritual things which lead to life? Paul tells the Galatians: Your sinful-nature is jealous of your spiritual-nature, and your spiritual-nature is envious of your sinful-nature. These inclinations are so contrary to one another that you end up not doing the things you want to do. Here is a list of the thoughts your sinful-nature desires that involve your mind and body: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, witchcraft, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, divisiveness, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and others like them.[12] Let me tell you, those who do such things will not get into the kingdom of God. On the other hand, the fruit of your spiritual-nature is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. For those who belong to the Anointed have crucified their flesh, with its vices and lusts.[13]

Augustine (354-430 AD) interjects a wise truth that must always be kept in mind. He says that while the “flesh struggles against the spirit,” yet it does not subdue it since the spirit also “struggles against the flesh.” Although the actions of sin may hold the body as its prisoner, and, thereby, resists the rules of the mind, it does not, however, reign in your body, though it is human, as long as your body does not voluntarily submit to its supremacy.[14]

Augustine then goes on to explain that while some people think that the Apostle here denies that we possess free will, they do not fully perceive what he is saying to them: If they refuse to hold fast to the grace they received, through which alone they can walk on a spiritual level and avoid fulfilling the desires of the flesh, they will end up not being able to do as they wish – it is love that “fulfills the Law.” But “the wisdom of the flesh” by following natural desires opposes spiritual love. How can it be made subject to the Law of God (that is, freely and obediently fulfill righteousness and not be opposed to it) when it tries to gain control, it must be defeated? The flesh imagines that it can procure a greater natural good by iniquity than by maintaining righteousness. As we can see, Augustine sees the believer’s righteousness as something they attain. The prophet Isaiah calls this “filthy rags.” [15]  And the Apostle Paul states that all our righteousness is to be found in Jesus the Anointed.[16]

Augustine then finishes up by stating that Paul did not say “Walk in the Spirit so that you will not have desires of the flesh” but “so that you will not gratify them.” Not to have them at all, indeed, is not the struggle but the prize of struggle, if we obtain the victory by perseverance under grace. For it is only the transformation of the body into an eternal, immortal state that will no longer have desires of the flesh.[17] This is not as easy as saying to someone, “If you don’t want to get wet, don’t walk in the rain.” It is even more intense than letting someone know that if they don’t want to get bit by a snake, don’t walk in the desert without boots. It is more like if you don’t want to be swept out to sea by a rip current, don’t let go of the rock you are holding on to.  What the Apostle Paul is talking about here is a life or death situation.

[1] Psalm 19:12-14; See 51:1-5, 10-12; 65:3

[2] Romans 7:18, 21-24

[3] Ibid. 8:5-6

[4] Ibid. 7:10-14

[5] Tzror Hamor, Rabbi Avraham Saba, op. cit. Genesis 19:3, p. 262

[6] Psalm 25:4-9

[7] Ibid. 143:8-10

[8] Ezekiel 36:27

[9] 2 Timothy 1:7

[10] 1 John 2:20-27

[11] Romans 6:14-15

[12] From the New Living Translation

[13] The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5, op. cit., The Treatises of Cyprian, Testimonies 64, p. 1127

[14] Augustine: On Marriage and Concupiscence, Edwards, M. J. (Ed.), op. cit., p. 84

[15] Isaiah 64:6

[16] Philippians 3:9

[17] Ibid. p. 86

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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