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Life-Study of Galatiansby Witness Lee

ISBN: 0-7363-0961-6
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry

Currently in: Chapter 16 of 46 Section 1 of 2

LIFE-STUDY OF GALATIANS

MESSAGE SIXTEEN

THE SPIRIT VERSUS THE FLESH

Scripture Reading: Gal. 3:2-3, 5, 14; 5:16-19; 1:16; 2:16; 4:23, 29; 5:13, 22; 6:8, 12-13; 4:6; 5:5, 25

In this message we come to a very crucial subject: the Spirit versus the flesh. Because of the influence of our background in Christianity, our understanding of the terms Spirit and flesh in the New Testament is limited. Actually, these terms have a very broad significance. They are two of the most important expressions used in the New Testament.

DEFINITIONS OF THE FLESH AND THE SPIRIT

In 3:3 Paul asks the Galatian believers, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” The Spirit, who is the resurrected Christ, is of life. The flesh, which is our fallen man, is of sin and death. We should not begin by the Spirit and attempt to be perfected by the flesh. Those of us who have begun by the Spirit should be perfected by the Spirit and have nothing to do with the flesh. In 2:20 the contrast is between Christ and “I”; here the contrast is between the Spirit and the flesh. This indicates that the Spirit is Christ and the flesh is “I” in our experience. From chapter three to the end of the Epistle, the Spirit is Christ in our life experience. In revelation it is Christ; in experience it is the Spirit.

The flesh is condemned and repudiated throughout this entire book (1:16; 2:16; 3:3; 4:23, 29; 5:13, 16-17, 19; 6:8, 12-13), and from chapter three, every chapter gives a contrast between the flesh and the Spirit (3:3; 4:29; 5:16-17, 19, 22; 6:8). The flesh is the uttermost expression of the fallen tripartite man, and the Spirit is the ultimate realization of the processed Triune God. The flesh inclines to keep the law and is tested by the law. The Spirit is received and enjoyed by faith. God’s economy delivers us from the flesh to the Spirit that we may participate in the blessing of the riches of the Triune God. This cannot take place by the flesh keeping the law, but takes place by the Spirit being received by faith and experienced through faith.

In the book of Galatians, the flesh does not refer merely to man’s fallen and corrupted body. Rather, it refers to the totality of man’s fallen being. The flesh is therefore the uttermost expression of the fallen tripartite man. Hence, the flesh in this sense includes man’s body, soul, and spirit. If you consider the works of the flesh listed in 5:19-21, you will find that some, such as fornication, uncleanness, sensuality, and drunkenness, are related to the lust of the corrupted body; others, such as enmities, strife, angers, and divisions, are related to the fallen soul; and still others, idolatry and sorcery, are related to the deadened spirit. This proves that the three parts of our fallen being are involved with the evil flesh. Therefore, in Galatians the flesh denotes the whole of man’s fallen being. The flesh is not just a part of man’s fallen being; it includes the totality of the fallen tripartite man.

According to the revelation in the New Testament, the Spirit is the ultimate realization of the processed Triune God. God is the Spirit, and fallen man is the flesh. God is the processed Triune God, and the flesh is the fallen tripartite man. Have you ever realized that man today is the fallen tripartite man and that God is the processed Triune God? The fallen tripartite man is the flesh, and the processed Triune God is the Spirit. Just as the flesh in Galatians refers not only to the corrupted and lustful body, but to the totality of fallen man, so the Spirit refers not only to the third Person of the Triune God, but to the Triune God who has been processed through incarnation, human living, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. The flesh refers to our entire fallen being, and the Spirit, to the entire Triune God, to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Having been processed through incarnation, human living, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, the Triune God is today the Spirit. When we read of the flesh in the New Testament, we need to realize that it denotes the totality of man’s fallen being. In the same principle, when we read of the Spirit in the Epistles of Paul, we need to understand that the Spirit denotes the Triune God—the Father, the Son, and the Spirit—processed to become the all-inclusive life-imparting Spirit.

SATAN’S MISUSE OF THE LAW

God’s economy is to dispense Himself as the processed Triune God into our being to be our life and our everything, to make Himself one with us and us one with Him so that we may express Him in a corporate way for eternity. However, in the attempt to frustrate God’s economy, Satan, the enemy of God, uses the law, which was given by God to serve His purpose temporarily, to keep God’s chosen people from His economy and to distract them from it. If we look at the book of Galatians from this point of view, we shall find that it is not difficult to understand. As we read this Epistle, we need to see that God’s economy is to impart Himself as the all-inclusive life-giving Spirit into us to produce an organic union between us and the Triune God so that we may express Him in a corporate way. But Satan utilizes the law given by God in order to distract God’s people from His economy and to hinder the fulfillment of God’s economy.

It is important to understand clearly what it means for the law to be misused. The law is misused when it is used to stir up fallen man’s desire to uplift himself by keeping the law in order to have a self-made righteousness. The Judaizers misused the law in this way to distract the believers from God’s economy. What we see in the book of Galatians is this misuse of the God-given law. The law given by God was misused by Satan to keep God’s chosen people from God’s economy.


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