Galatians 5:16-18 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you would. But if you be led of the Spirit, you are not under the law.
‘This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.’ To keep you from devouring each other, you must live a Christian life.
There are seven secrets mentioned here of victorious living: Stand fast in the liberty of the gospel and renounce all keeping of the law (5:1-3). Maintain justification in grace and obey the truth (4:1-31-15). Walk in the Spirit (5:16-17). Be led by the Spirit (5:18). Crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts (5:19-21, 24). Demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit in daily life (5:22-23). Live in the Spirit (5:25-26).
‘For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you would.’ This verse is much misunderstood as referring to constant warfare between the flesh and Spirit, making one a victim of the flesh and helpless to live right. This is not the thought at all. It does describe the condition of Galatians or anyone else fallen from grace and seeking perfection through the flesh and self-efforts (1:6-8; 3:1-5; 5:1-9, 13-15, 26). That it does not refer to the normal life of a Christian in grace, living and walking in the Spirit is clear from Galatians 5:16, 18, 22-24; Romans 6:14-23; 8:1-13; 2Corinthians 10:5-7; Ephesians 6:10-18; Colossians 3:5-10 and 1 John 1:7-9; 3:8-10; 5:1-4, 18.
‘You be led of the Spirit, you are not under the law.’ This verse also refers to the Galatians who had left grace to go back under the law (1:6-8; 3:1-5; 4:9-11, 21-31; 5:1-4). Paul simply told them that if they would receive again the gospel of the grace of God and permit again the working of the Spirit in their lives, as they used to do (in Gal. 3:1-5) and if they would renounce the law again, they would not be under its bondage. If they would do this, they would not have the struggle of Galatians 5:17. The flesh with its affections and lusts would be crucified again and they could live the Christian life again (5:16, 22-24).