Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-134
Beginning the Journey (for new Christians).
1, 2, and 3 John
1 & 2 Thessalonians
1 & 2 Timothy
2 Peter, Jude
7 Last Words of Christ
Christ Powered Life (Rom 5-8)
Conquering Lamb of Revelation
David, Life of
Glorious Kingdom, The
Holy Spirit, Disciple's Guide
Jesus and the Kingdom
Lamb of God
Listening for God's Voice
Names of God
Names of Jesus
Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
Sermon on the Mount
Carla Rieger (artwork), Metropolitan Ministries, Chapel of Hope, Tampa, Florida. Stained Glass by Katglass.
As we surrender our lives to Christ daily -- as we "walk in the Spirit," as Paul puts it -- our character is transformed by the Holy Spirit and we are changed. This is the process that theologians call "sanctification."
We know that this produces the "fruit of the Spirit" that Paul outlines in Galatians 5:22-23. The Scripture is clear that the Spirit of God can transform our character so that Christ is formed in us (Galatians 4:19). But we also experience an intense struggle with temptation, sin, and failure. It can be disheartening.
Four key passages that help us understand how the Spirit works in this process of sanctification.
- Romans 8:1-9 -- Yielding to the Spirit rather than the flesh (in this lesson).
- Galatians 5:16, 22-24 -- Walking in the Spirit and the Fruit of the Spirit (in this lesson).
- John 15:1-11, 16 -- Abiding in the Vine and Bearing Much Fruit (Lesson 11).
- 2 Corinthians 3:18 -- Transformation by beholding Christ (Lesson 11).
Of course, there are other passages, but these are the ones we'll focus on.
To begin, we need to understand what Paul refers to as "the flesh." This Greek word sarx is variously translated as "the flesh" (KJV, ESV), "the sinful nature" (NIV), "self-indulgence" (NRSV, NJB), and "sinful self-interest" (The Message). Sarx in this sense refers to corrupt human nature, dominated by sin and rebellion against God, the unregenerate personality of man apart from God, controlled by his self-seeking whims and desires -- that character which influences man to live as a god to himself. In Ephesians, Paul describes their state of affairs in this manner:
"1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." (Ephesians 2:1-3)
The flesh, the sinful nature, is unconsciously led around by Satan. We're duped and controlled. This is what Jesus has come to deliver us from -- not only the penalty of sin but the power of sin.
In Romans 7:7-25, Paul vividly describes the struggle with the flesh. Here the portrayal is intensified as he uses the first person:
"18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature [flesh]. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do -- this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it." (Romans 7:18-20)
A few verses later, he cries out:
"What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24)
These verses are controversial for two reasons. First, is Paul talking about himself? Does he use his own personal experience to describe the common experience of us all? Probably. Second, is Paul describing his struggle before becoming a Christian, or his ongoing struggle with sin? Theologians have argued back and forth about these questions for centuries. Certainly, it's difficult to read this section without thinking about our own present struggles with sin.
No matter how you interpret Romans 7:7-25, however, Paul does not leave you in a hopeless struggle with sin. In answer to his question: "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (verse 24b), Paul's resounding answer is: "Thanks be to God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (verse 25a). In Romans 8:2 he declares, "the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." For now, we've established that the Spirit is in the business of changing us and in giving us victory over sin.
Be clear, however, that Paul doesn't assert that our "sinful nature" is somehow eradicated. It's still there as part of our fallen, imperfect, and broken being. But God replaces the old "operating system" (the sinful nature, the flesh), with a new "operating system," the Holy Spirit. As we learn to yield more and more to the Holy Spirit, we are freed from our slavery to the "sinful nature."
Just how does that work? Two passages in Paul's writings talk about this process of walking with the Spirit: Romans 8:1-17 and Galatians 5:16, 24. Just what does it mean to "walk in the Spirit"?
Q1. (Romans 7:7-25) What does Paul mean by "the sinful
nature" (NIV) or "the flesh" (ESV, KJV)? Is this ever eradicated? Can there ever
be victory over temptation?
As Romans 8 begins, Paul contrasts living by the flesh vs. living by the Spirit. Then he explains the key for those of us "who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:4, ESV).
"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." (Romans 8:5)
"Have their minds set on" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "mind the things of" (KJV) is the verb phroneō, "to think," which means here, "to give careful consideration to something, to set one's mind on, be intent on,." Verse 6 uses a related word, phronēma, "the faculty of fixing one's mind on something, way of thinking, mind(-set)." Walking in the Spirit has to do what you set your mind on (Colossians 3:1-4; 1 John 2:15-17).
It's important to know that you're saved by Jesus dying for your sins, not by your record of yielding to the Spirit. But as you learn to yield to the Spirit, as you begin to focus on the Spirit in your living, you'll begin to experience in your own life the freedom and salvation that Jesus already secured for you (Philippians 2:12-13).
Having the Spirit living in you is what connects us to Christ. Paul reminds us
"You ... are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him." (Romans 8:9, ESV)
We've used these terms so much that it no longer registers. But pause for a moment to consider the difference that God works in us by living in us by his Spirit. We are not controlled by the flesh! Paul argues insistently. We are controlled by the Spirit since the Spirit himself dwells in us as would a welcome guest in our home.
There's a passage in Isaiah that describes this practice of placing our mind on the things of the Spirit.
"Steadfast" (NIV, NRSV), "stayed" (ESV, KJV) is sāmak, "lean, lay, rest, support." The primary idea of the root is "to lean upon." This brings to mind a chorus from the 1970s:
"I'm learning to lean, learning to lean,
I'm learning to lean on Jesus.
Finding more power than I'd ever dreamed,
I'm learning to lean on Jesus."
The idea is also contained in an old Gospel song from the African-American tradition based on this verse:
- "I woke up
this mornin' with my mind stayed on Jesus.
I woke up this mornin' with my mind stayed on Jesus.
I woke up this mornin' with my mind stayed on Jesus.
Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelu-ah."
- "Ain't no harm to keep your mind stayed on Jesus...."
- "I'm a-walkin' and a-talkin' with my mind stayed on Jesus."
You keep living with your mind stayed on Jesus, on the Spirit, and his power will transform you. Placing our minds on the Spirit -- enabled by the indwelling Spirit to be free from the power of the sinful nature -- is one metaphor. Paul also characterizes this way of life in terms of "walking."
"... Us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:4, ESV)
Q2. (Romans 8:1-9; Isaiah 26:3) What does it mean to "set
the mind on the things of the flesh"? What is involved in "setting the mind on
the things of the Spirit"? What does it mean to have your mind "stayed" on
Jesus? How much of this requires will-power? How much does the Spirit assist us?
Can this become a habit as we practice it?
The Galatian church experienced the same struggle of learning to walk in the Spirit, the same conflict with the flesh. Paul explains that the Mosaic Law, to the extent that people follow it, restrains the worst human actions -- murder, stealing, adultery, etc. But we Christians are not under the Mosaic Law. God has something better for us -- the Holy Spirit.
"16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." (Galatians 5:16-18, ESV)
These verses teach a two-fold action of the Holy Spirit to keep the corrupt sinful nature ("the flesh," sarx) from controlling our lives.
- The Spirit Releases (Galatians 5:16). The Holy Spirit frees us from bondage to the corrupt sinful nature.
- The Spirit Restrains (Galatians 5:17-18). The Holy Spirit contends actively with the flesh to keep us from sinning like we otherwise would if the Spirit were not active in our lives.
Let's look carefully at these verses.
"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16, ESV)
This sentence has two parts. First, the command to live empowered by the Holy Spirit, translated variously, "live" (NIV, NRSV), "walk" (ESV, KJV), "be guided by" (NJB). The verb is peripateō, literally, "to walk around." Then the word takes on a figurative meaning: "to conduct one's life, comport oneself, behave, live as habit of conduct." The word is in the present imperative, thus a command to the continuous action of walking in the Spirit. We'll look at what this means in practical terms in just a moment.
The second part of the sentence discusses fulfilling the desires of the flesh. Because we are human, we'll always have temptations, that is, the "desires of the sinful nature" or "flesh." And we'll always struggle with the sinful nature to some extent. But to be tempted with a desire doesn't mean that we have to act on that temptation or desire. We are not animals -- even though we sometimes act like them. We may feel a desire, but we don't have to carry out that temptation.
Verse 16 is a conditional sentence and a powerful promise to believers. Here's a paraphrase:
walk in the Spirit,
THEN the impulses of the flesh won't find fulfillment and thus they lose their power.
Notice that Paul doesn't appeal to will power to resist temptation -- though I'm sure that this is involved. He points to the dynamic power that the Holy Spirit has when we walk with Him. As we learn to walk with the Spirit as a way of life, we can break the hold that the flesh has had over our lives up to this point. Praise God!
"17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law." (Galatians 5:17-18)
If you've ever tried to push two magnets together, you know how difficult it is. Their magnetic fields repel each other. This war between the Holy Spirit and the flesh is expressed in two ways in verse 17. Both the flesh and the Spirit have desires which drive and motivate them. The flesh desires us to act like a god to ourselves; the Spirit points us to serve the true God in love and faithfulness.
Previously, the Mosaic Law was the believer's restraint from letting the flesh get out of control (Galatians 3:24) -- though it was weak. Now the Holy Spirit is present within us to keep us from doing what the old sinful nature wants.
The hopelessness and frustration of the "wretched man" of Romans 7 gives way to the joy and freedom of Romans 8, brought about by the Holy Spirit:
"Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:2)
Whether it was the Mosaic Law or the voice of our mother in our head that educated our conscience, the law had been our restraint. But now the restraint is the presence of the Holy Spirit himself within us, to whom we are called to yield as our guide. As a result, we see in verse 18:
"But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law." (Galatians 5:18)
Q3. (Galatians 5:16-18) How does
the Spirit enable us to resist the temptations of the flesh? How does He
restrain us? How does he enable us to break the hold the flesh has had over us?
At the end of this section, Paul comes full circle to where he started:
"If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit." (Galatians 5:25)
The flesh is dead, crucified (Galatians 5:24). The Spirit is now our source of life. "We live by the Spirit." Paul reminds us again that our very life as Christians (Greek verb zaō) is from the Spirit (Galatians 3:2-3, 5). So we must not turn back to the old way and yield continually to the pull of the flesh!
The phrase, "keep in step" (NIV), "be guided" (NRSV), "walk" (KJV) in verse 25 isn't the normal word for "walk" or "be led." It is stoicheō, "to be in line with a person or thing considered as standard for one's conduct, hold to, agree with, follow, conform." Phillips Translation paraphrases it: "If our lives are centered in the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit."
So let's summarize. In Galatians 5 we've seen the believer's relationship to the Holy Spirit expressed in several analogies:
- Walking. "Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16, NASB)
- Being led. "If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law." (Galatians 5:18, NIV)
- Conforming. "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." (Galatians 5:25, NIV)
What do these have in common? They all require the believer to be active rather than passive. You are to actively seek the companionship of the Spirit. You walk at his pace. You allow yourself to be led, rather than trying to go your own way, and you conform yourself to the Spirit's will.
Paul isn't accusing the Galatians of not having the Holy Spirit. He's acknowledged that they've received the Spirit (Galatians 3:2-5). Rather, he's telling them to actively embrace the Spirit they've been given. The Spirit is preferable to the law any day of the week, for He is the Spirit of God himself -- within you to guide, direct, and teach you.
It's kind of like brakes. I'm old enough to remember the days when you had to push down hard on the brakes in order to get the car to stop. But then they came along with a new-fangled invention -- power assisted brakes. All you had to do was to tap the brakes, and the power brakes would kick in and do the work of stopping the car without much effort from you.
Dear friends, the engine of your car is the Holy Spirit. He's the power in your brakes, too. Yes, you need to cooperate with him and tap the brakes when it's appropriate, but no longer do you have to resist the flesh by your will-power alone. Now the Spirit has come to conquer the flesh! Praise the Lord!
Sometimes we read passages about the conflict with sin, and are reminded about how often we fail to follow. We sometimes deliberately go our own way, even though the Spirit shows us God's way and prompts us when we are tempted. I've been there too!
But I want to encourage you with the words of the Apostle John. He wrote 1 John when he was an old man, and sometimes he refers to his readers as "little children." John knows all about the struggle. But this is what he says.
"6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. ... 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:6-7, 9)
Then he says:
"1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense -- Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:1-2)
Even when we sin after receiving the Spirit, Jesus' atonement covers us. We confess our sins, and get back to walking in the light.
Children don't learn to walk immediately. They toddle for a while, before they are able to walk confidently. Even teenagers and adults lose their balance and fall once in a while.
But as we learn to walk in the Spirit, it becomes a habit, a way of life. More and more we find ourselves walking in the Spirit, rather than in the flesh. And as we walk in the Spirit our character is changed. It's gradual. It doesn't happen overnight. But it does happen.
When I visit my granddaughters every week or two I see changes in them, that I wouldn't notice if I were with them 24 hours a day. Don't be discouraged, God is changing you gradually, incrementally, but surely, as you walk with him.
When we walk in the flesh, there isn't much character transformation taking place. But when we walk in the Spirit, change happens. In Colossians, Paul uses the figure of clothing to illustrate the change.
"9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." (Colossians 3:9-10)
In Christ we have changed clothes. The change, however, is not just external, but internal, in our spirit and in our character. And the renewal is not instantaneous. We are "being renewed," that is, literally, "made new again." This is the process of sanctification. We see several other uses of the word in Paul's letters:
"Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." (2 Corinthians 4:16b)
"Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2b)
This is the Holy Spirit's work:
"He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit." (Titus 3:5b)
In this process we are changed.
I am encouraged by Paul who writes about the process of sanctification, of putting into practice what we know:
"... Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12b-13)
The Spirit doesn't leave us to do this alone. Rather, he is working in us to change us -- and is patient with us.
Christian songwriter Sara Groves wrote a song about people who had gone through a broken relationship, entitled "When It Was Over." The song reflects lots of pain and struggle, but the chorus gives us a clear look at God's faithfulness through it all.
"There is a love that never fails,
There is a healing that always prevails,
There is a hope that whispers a vow,
A promise to stay while we're working it out,
So come with your love and wash over us."
I especially like the line, "A promise to stay while we're working it out," as we're learning to yield to the Spirit. God doesn't give up on us. His Spirit is faithful, even when we fail. Praise God!
What does that change look like? In our final passage for this lesson, Paul outlines for us "the fruit of the Spirit," the result of walking in the Spirit.
First, Paul lists the range of results from yielding to the flesh:
"19 The acts of the sinful nature are
obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;
20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions
21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21)
It's a depressing list. Paul warns us elsewhere about going down this road and it's enlightening to see what lies down the road for those who yield to the flesh rather than the Spirit that God has so graciously put within us to help us. Many so-called Christians are quite happy mocking God, that is, sinning like hell while expecting heaven. Paul's concern "is to warn believers that they must therefore not live as others who are destined to experience the wrath of God" (Colossians 3:6).
Paul's list of the "works of the flesh" provide a powerful contrast with the "fruit of the Spirit." Paul lists the results of yielding to our flesh. Now he explains the fruit, result, or product of yielding to the Spirit.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)
As the Holy Spirit works in our lives he changes us gradually, he makes us holy in our character. It is sometimes called sanctification or spiritual formation. It is a process that is activated on our part by walking in the Spirit and on God's part by bringing about change in us by his Spirit.
Q4. (Galatians 5:22-23) How does the Holy Spirit produce
this fruit in our lives? What theological term would you use to identify this
process? How can it be that a person who has been a "Christian" for years
displays few or none of these fruits? Are they saved, but just immature? What
does James 2:17-19 say about this? Is that too harsh?
It's time to pause and summarize what we've learned here. Our focus has been on how the Holy Spirit transforms us. In this lesson we've concentrated on the passages that emphasize the Spirit helping us in our conflict with the sinful nature, or flesh. In Lesson 11, we'll consider the transformation that comes from the Spirit from "beholding Christ" (2 Corinthians 3:18) and "abiding" with Christ (John 15:1-11, 16).
- Our "operating system" before conversion is "the flesh," "the sinful nature" that caters to our own desires and is wide open to Satan's influence (Romans 7:18-20; Ephesians 2:1-3). The flesh is not eradicated by the Spirit, rather, circumvented as we learn to follow the Spirit.
- The flesh is powerless to resist sin's temptations; for that we need the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 7:7-25).
- Paul calls on us to "set our minds" on the things of the Spirit, rather than the things of the flesh (Romans 8:5; Isaiah 26:3).
- Paul also uses the metaphor of "walking" or living by the Spirit (Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16), referring to the way we conduct our lives.
- We are promised the Spirit's power to release us from bondage to the flesh as we "walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). In addition, by the Spirit we are restrained from the lawless tendencies of our flesh, our sinful nature (Galatians 5:17). In this way, the Spirit supersedes the Law as we follow his lead (Galatians 5:18).
- The Spirit is now our source of life, thus we are to "keep in step" with the Spirit, that is, conform to his pace (Galatians 5:25).
- This renewing of our mind (Colossians 3:9-10; 2 Corinthians 4:16b; Romans 12:2b) or "sanctification" is a process, not instantaneous.
- Don't become discouraged when you fall into sin. Christ has provided continuous forgiveness for you. Just confess your sin and get back into walking in the light (1 John 1:7-9; 2:1-2).
- The result of yielding our lives to the Spirit is spiritual fruit -- "the fruit of the Spirit." Paul lists nine character traits that the Spirit builds in us -- though I'm sure the list isn't exhaustive. These are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)
Available in paperback, Kindle, and PDF formats
Learning to walk in the Spirit takes some time, but as we practice it, it becomes a habit. Brother Lawrence (1614-1691) became a lay brother in a Carmelite monastery in Paris. There his work assignments were primarily working in the kitchen and repairing sandals -- pretty menial tasks. The small book, The Practice of the Presence of God, is a record of his persistence to try to think of God each minute of his waking hours.
Your assignment is to find and begin to read the book. (Search for the title with the word "free" on the Internet.) But more important yet, begin to practice this week developing a life habit of constantly turning your mind to God. This is keeping your mind stayed on Jesus. It is also "setting your mind on the things of the Spirit." As you do this -- and you'll need to persist to develop this habit -- you'll learn to walk in the Spirit.
Father, help us in our struggle with the flesh. Our character needs a lot of help. We need you to take our mixed motives and purify them, to take our anger and impatience and selfishness and replace them with your gentleness, forgiveness, and peace. Let our hearts become fertile ground for the Spirit to grow his crop of abundant fruit! Help us set our mind continually on you. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." (Romans 8:5, NIV)
"You ... are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him." (Romans 8:9, ESV)
"You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you." (Isaiah 26:3, ESV)
"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." (Galatians 5:16-18, ESV)
"Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." (Colossians 3:9-10)
"Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." (2 Corinthians 4:16b, NIV)
"Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2b, NIV)
"He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit." (Titus 3:5b, NIV)
"... Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12b-13, NIV)
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV)
"If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit." (Galatians 5:25, NIV)
 "Live" (NIV) or "walk" (ESV, KJV, NRSV) is peripateō, "walk," here by figurative extension, it means "to conduct one's life, comport oneself, behave, live as a habit of conduct" (BDAG 2aδ). The word is used in a similar context in 2 Corinthians 10:2.
 Phroneō, BDAG 1065-1066, 2b. Here it has the added connotation, "to take someone's side, espouse someone's cause." Liddell-Scott defines it as, "to have certain thoughts for or towards any one, to be so and so minded towards him" (Liddell-Scott, p. 1956, II.2.a).
 Phronēma, BDAG 1066.
 "Perfect peace" is literally shālôm shālôm. In Hebrew, doubling a word is a way of intensifying it.
 "Mind" is yēṣer, "form, framing, purpose." Here Isaiah refers to "a steadfast purpose (or frame of mind)" (BDB 428).
 Sāmak, BDB 703; R.D. Patterson, TWOT #1514).
 "Learning to Lean," by John Stallings, © 1976, HeartWarming Music.
 Peripateō, BDAG 803, 2aβ. Gordon Fee (God's Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Baker Academic, 2011, originally published by Hendrickson Publishers, 1994) sees this as a combination of the instrumental dative or locative dative of sphere.
 "Desires" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "lusteth" (KJV) is epithymeō, "to have a strong desire to do or secure something, desire, long for" (BDAG 373, 1).
 NIV, ESV, KJV, NASB, and NJB. The first part of the sentence is present imperative, the second part is Aorist subjunctive. Greek expert Burton sees the negative ou mē with the Aorist subjunctive as an "emphatically predictive subjunctive [which] is of frequent occurrence in Hellenistic Greek" (Ernest De Witt Burton, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in New Testament Greek (fourth edition, University of Chicago Press, 1900), §167). NRSV takes this as a pair of commands calling for decision: (a) walk in the Spirit and (b) do not gratify fleshly desires. This takes the second part of the sentence as a subjunctive of prohibition. From a grammatical standpoint, however, this isn't as likely based on the usage of the period. However, it fits Paul's other teachings that we must choose between these two opposing principles.
 The word "gratify" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "fulfill" (KJV), "carry out" (NASB), "follow through on" (GW) is teleō, with the basic meaning, "to complete an activity or process, bring to an end, finish, complete something." Then there is a derived meaning: "to carry out an obligation or demand, carry out, accomplish, perform, fulfill, keep something" (BDAG 997, 2).
 "Contrary to" (NIV), "opposed to" (NRSV), "against" (KJV) is the preposition kata, "down upon, toward, against someone or something," here in a hostile sense (BDAG 517, 2bγ).
 "In conflict with" (NIV), opposed to" (NRSV), "contrary to" (KJV) is the verb antikeimai, "be opposed to someone, be in opposition to something" (BDAG 88). Its basic meaning is "to be set over against, lie opposite to (Thayer 343, 1), from anti, "opposite, over against" + keimai, "to lie."
 The grammatical issue is whether to take hina in verse 17 as telic (denoting intention or purpose) or ecbatic (denoting a mere result or consequence; hina, BDAG 472, 3). While the telic sense is much more common, probably, we should see this as ecbatic on logical grounds, otherwise both flesh and spirit must be personified as dual conscious agents of purpose.
 "Want" (NIV, NRSV), "would" (KJV) is thelō, "to have something in mind for oneself, of purpose, resolve, will, wish, want, be ready" (BDAG 448, 2). In this context, I think that Paul is talking about the desires of the flesh that the Spirit counters. However, it is true that the "wretched man" that Paul portrays in Romans 7 wants to do good, but his flesh is so strong that he ends up doing the opposite (Romans 7:15-16).
 The verb "led" is agō, with the basic sense of "to drive, to lead." Here it carries the figurative idea, "to lead/guide morally or spiritually, lead, encourage (in the direction of)" (BDAG 16, 3). It is in the present indicative, indicating continuous action of being led as a pattern of life.
 "Live" is zaō, "live," here, "to live in a transcendent sense" (BDAG 426, 2a). Alternatively, it could have the sense, "to conduct oneself in a pattern of behavior" (BDAG 426, 3).
 Stoicheō, BDAG 946. The word originally meant, "be drawn up in line." Here it has a figurative meaning.
 "Taken off" (NIV), "stripped off" (NRSV), "put off" (ESV, KJV) is apekdyomai, which means, "to take off, strip off," of clothes. Here it is used figuratively (BDAG 100, 1).
 "Put on" (NIV, KJV), "clothed yourselves with" (NRSV) is endyō (from which we get our English word, "endue"). It means, "to put clothing or apparel on someone, dress, clothe someone." It is used figuratively here an at Colossians 3:12 (BDAG 333, 2b). We see a similar uses in Ephesians 4:24; Romans 13:14; and Galatians 3:27. In Luke 24:49 it is used of the baptism of the Holy Spirit: "clothed" (NIV, NRSV) or "endued" (KJV) with power from on high.
 "Renewed" is anakainoō, from ana-, "again"+ kainoō, "make new" (BDAG 64). The noun is anakainōsis, "renewal."
 Present tense (continuous action), passive voice.
 Sara Groves (words and music), "When It Was Over," Album: "Add to the Beauty," © 2005, Sponge Records.
 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 5:5.
 Gordon D. Fee, God's Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Baker Academic, 1994), p. 443.
 "Fruit" is karpos, "fruit," in a literal sense, of trees and crops, then in a figurative sense, "result, outcome, product" (BDAG 510, 1b).
In-depth Bible study books
You can purchase one of Dr. Wilson's complete Bible studies in PDF, Kindle, or paperback format.
- Songs of Ascent (Ps 120-134)
- 1, 2, and 3 John
- 1 Peter
- 2 Peter & Jude
- 1 & 2 Thessalonians
- 1 & 2 Timothy
- 1 Corinthians
- 2 Corinthians
- Abraham, Faith of
- Apostle Paul
- Christ Powered Life (Romans 5-8)
- Christmas Incarnation
- Colossians and Philemon
- Conquering Lamb of Revelation
- David, Life of
- Glorious Kingdom, The
- Great Prayers of the Bible
- Holy Spirit, Disciple's Guide
- Jacob, Life of
- Jesus and the Kingdom of God
- JesusWalk: Beginning the Journey
- John's Gospel
- Lamb of God
- Listening for God's Voice
- Lord's Supper
- Luke's Gospel
- Moses the Reluctant Leader
- Names and Titles of God
- Names and Titles of Jesus
- Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
- Resurrection and Easter Faith
- Sermon on the Mount
- Seven Last Words of Christ