The flesh vs the spirit – two good books
For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these things are opposed one to the other, that ye should not do those things which ye desire. ~ Galatians 5:17 (Darby)
Paul describes the Christian life as a tug of war between the flesh and the spirit. The flesh is that part of us that lives purely by natural experience – what we see, hear and smell, etc. – while our spirit is that part of us that is united with Christ and lives by the word of God. Did you know it’s possible to be in the Spirit (i.e., saved) yet walk after the flesh? Indeed, this is exactly how many Christians live. They are trusting in God for the forgiveness of their sins, but in most every other respect they live no differently from their unsaved neighbors. When they get sick they queue up in the waiting room and when they get in debt they look for extra work. (I’m not against doctors and hard work!) They may be moral and decent people, but their lives are untouched by the supernatural power of God.
I suspect most Christians walk after the flesh simply because they don’t know any better. They don’t know that Christ’s atonement provided not only for their complete forgiveness, but also for their healing (1 Pe 2:24), deliverance (Mk 16:17), and provision (Ph 4:19, 2 Cor 8:9)). They are not receiving the full benefits of the cross because they don’t know the full benefits of the cross or, if they do, they think they must work to get them. They live like this because their minds have not been renewed. If this sounds like you, here are two good books that will help sort out your thinking and set you free.
“Spirit, Soul and Body” by Andrew Wommack
When you were born again, your spirit – the real you – was instantly made new but your old habits of thinking and your body were essentially unchanged. If you battled with health or emotional issues before you were saved, there’s a good chance you continue to battle with those same issues now that you’re saved. Don’t misunderstand me. There is a huge difference between a sinner and a saint! But until the saint learns to think like a saint, he will continue to think like a sinner and in many ways this is fatal (Rm 8:6).
Paul didn’t challenge the Roman Christians to renew their minds in order to get saved but so that they would see the will of God manifest in their lives – His will for healing, deliverance, and provision. This is a life-long process. At every decision we either choose to walk after flesh (what do our five senses tell us?) or we renew our minds and walk after the spirit (what does God say?). You can walk by sight or you can walk by faith. Some Christians try to do both! They say they’re trusting God to come through for them but at the same time they’re busting their humps trying to fix things themselves. Perhaps they think they’re mixing faith with works but in reality they’re just walking after the flesh. They may talk differently from their unsaved neighbors, but their walk is exactly the same.
A book which will help you come to grips with these issues is Spirit, Soul and Body by Andrew Wommack. Personally I am not convinced that there is a broad distinction between the spirit and the soul and I object to the implication that only part of you is saved. But I like the way Wommack explains how we work out God’s salvation in our lives.
If I told you that there was a rich treasure hidden in your yard, you would either believe me or reject me, but nothing would actually change until you started digging. Similarly, we will never see the spiritual blessings that God has already given us revealed unless we dig. Whether your need is healing, deliverance, or provision, this book teaches you how to dig.
“Extra Virgin Grace” by Ryan Rufus
Another good book on this subject was published just yesterday. Extra Virgin Grace, by Ryan Rufus, provides a sweeping study of many topics that have long been misunderstood and misrepresented, including the Beatitudes, holiness, eternal security, discipline and one of my all-time favorite subjects, true rest.
In Extra Virgin Grace, Ryan Rufus takes a close look at Galatians 5 and asks “What does it mean to walk by the spirit?” Traditionally “the spirit” has been interpreted as meaning the Holy Spirit. To walk by the spirit thus means doing whatever the Holy Spirit tells you. But if you look at the context of Galatians 4, you will see that Paul was referring to our reborn spirits. Your spirit is one with Christ and is in constant fellowship with the Holy Spirit. So the choice Paul was describing was whether to walk by the limited sensory experience of the flesh, or the unseen reality of our perfectly sanctified spirits. To live by the spirit means learning to make decisions from our spirit rather than our minds. Sometimes we just know things that reason cannot explain because they are spiritually discerned. We sense a prompting to pray for someone only to learn later that it was for them a moment of great need. This is how Adam and Eve lived before the Fall – their thinking was spirit-led rather than flesh-based.
If we understood that our spirits are perfect already (see Heb 10:14), and that we lack nothing (1 Co 1:7), we would spend less time teaching godly character and more time renewing our minds to live by the spirit. Instead of preaching on faith and sanctification, we would seek to reveal our true identity in Christ. As Ryan says, “The church preaches too much about who we aren’t.” Knowing who you now are and Who lives in you is the key to Christian living.
This may sound like a stupid question but I’m going to ask anyways. It has to do with walking in the Spirit. You write,
“You can walk by sight or you can walk by faith. Some Christians try to do both! They say they’re trusting God to come through for them but at the same time they’re busting their humps trying to fix things themselves.”
So, let’s say that I am unemployed and looking for work. I could say to myself, “I’m trusting in God to find me work,” but then not do the necessary things like create a resume, fill out applications, etc. To me, this might be walking in the Spirit because I am trusting God to do His part, but until I do my part, it is likely that nothing will happen. Again, I know it sounds stupid and everyone knows they have to do certain things if they want to find a job, but what if we apply this to everything in life. When do we know when we are trying too hard versus trusting in God?
That is an excellent question! It is equally foolish to strive or be passively idle and call it walking in the spirit. God said he would bless the work of our hands, so our hands need to be working to be blessed. Not filling out a resume is not living by faith by living presumptiously. It’s foolishness. Faith comes by hearing. Has God told you to forego resumes? If not, then don’t. But if he has, you will be blessed if you do it.
This is not really the place for a deeper discussion. Check out my posts on walking in the flesh and walking in the spirit.
That really was an excellent question (Paul, how does one italicize like you did or does that privilege belong only to a select few?) Laura.
Paul, “Faith comes by hearing”. Do you explain that anywhere? I have always pondered the deeper meaning of it. Obviously “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God”, etc., but the deeper meaning, if there is one. Most “preachers” I know infer it’s the Word spoken by themselves anointed / inspired by the Holy Spirit. Hearing what? Hearing how?
Thanks, and Blessings,
Warren (South Carolina)
Can you help me better understand these words? I know they have huge implications as to how I live and pray but I can’t fully understand how. For example, if His atonement has already provided for my healing, how do I pray this?
“They don’t know that Christ’s atonement provided not only for their complete forgiveness, but also for their healing (1 Pe 2:24), deliverance (Mk 16:17), and provision (Ph 4:19, 2 Cor 8:9)). They are not receiving the full benefits of the cross…”
Paul in reviewing Wommacks book you said, “…I strongly object that only part of you is saved.” I completely agree and I appreciate that you have helped me clear up the topic of sanctification.
However, this verse puzzles me – Romans 8:10 – the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness.
If we are sanctified spirit, soul and body than why is the body dead because of sin? Could you shed some light on this? Thanks so much for your insight and time.
The context of my comment is that your spirit is saved while your soul remains unsaved. I totally disagree with this sort of division. You are either saved or you need to be. You can’t be half born again or half in the kingdom.
As for Romans 8:10, I note two things: (1) You are not your body (it’s your earthsuit, as some call it) and (2) Paul is saying the body is subject to aging and death on account of sin. He’s not saying “Your body is a temple of sin” because it’s actually the temple of the Holy Spirit. Elsewhere he says present your bodies as holy, living sacrifices (Romn 12:1). Is your body living? Then it is holy.
I have listened to hundreds of hours of teaching by Andrew Wommack. 99.9% of it I agree with. One of the teachers I have listened to, that explains a little more fully the difference between the spirit and soul, is Dr. Jim Richards (impact ministries). Regardless, both agree that your spirit is sealed and saved at rebirth (born again) by the Holy Spirit.
Warren (South Carolina)
Thanks Paul. I agree it’s not a temple of sin but rather it’s holy. However, why does are spirit quicken our mortal body? Why is the body affected by sin but the spirit not? Aren’t we completely sanctified?
It seems like we expect to age and have degeneration. I’m of the mind that we should be able to run our course in faith, and when we are ready to go we call our family members around, bless them and give ourselves to the Lord. I understand we will put off this tent, but would you agree that we can run this race free from the effect of “sin in the members”?
Romans 8:9, 13b “You, however, are controlled not by the flesh but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.”…” but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
God set me free recently when He led me to see that He clearly says that those who have the Spirit of God in them are controlled by the Spirit. To me, this has just set me free from the fear of walking in the flesh and has been one more step in the journey of renewing my mind and believing God for all of my salvation and ongoing walk. I used to feel condemned if I thought I had spent time walking in the flesh, etc., but lately, have been confirming the truth that I am controlled by the Spirit of God, regardless of my behavior and whether it looks very Spirit filled or not. I am choosing to believe what at times I cannot see and, of course, have been seeing the fruit of the Spirit more since this time. I have spent lots of time agonizing over whether I was following the Spirit and whether I was hearing Him or my own thoughts. Result is much deeper rest and trust in Him. My soul thrills knowing He has more and more truth to reveal like this. It’s just too good, too much. 🙂
I think the most problematic thing about this grace message is the simple fact that I personally am not smart enough to know whether not living by sight includes not living by the words of scripture and grace ministries such as this. I thought it was self-effort. And in many ways it was. While I would have sinful desires, I wouldn’t be exposed to great danger. Rather than see lives devistated, I gave them hope.
Yes, this has been hard. I don’t want to boast in what I do. But I do know that it’s hard to walk in “self-respect” when your battling to think well of yourself because of our lack of knowledge of what is in our born-again spirits through the scriptures. God is good and He loves us. Now THAT is something.