But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do 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 prevent you from doing what you would.Galatians 5:16-17 RSV
In this passage is the key to righteous living, Everyone is familiar with the seductive force of carnal, or fleshly desire, a force that operates subjectively within the minds of people, aided, of course, by all kinds of external suggestions and allurements.
Even in the Old Testament, the climax and pinnacle of the so-called “seven deadly sins” (Proverbs 6:18) was revealed as “a heart that deviseth wicked imaginations.”
The total corruption of the antediluvian world had been achieved by the evil one when the “imagination of men’s hearts” had become evil, and only evil, without intermission (Genesis 6:5).
This was the essence of pre-Christian debauchery of the Gentiles (Romans 1:21); and it was “imaginations” which Paul identified as being “exalted against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5), the Christian warfare being simply that of “casting down,” eliminating, reducing and controlling the imaginations of the heart.
The pursuit of sacred studies, the thinking of loving and generous thoughts and the soul’s welcome of the thoughts and attitudes of the Saviour, all of these things coming from the indwelling Spirit but remaining only if they are desired and welcomed – all of these things “lust against the flesh.”
This means that such Spirit-induced thoughts, if permitted to dwell within, will actively dissipate and destroy their opposites, namely, the fleshly lusts.
These two verses are the summary of the thoughts in mind in the following verses, where Paul described the two kinds of life, that of the flesh and that of the Spirit.