What Is The Conflict Between The Flesh And Spirit?

What Is The Conflict Between The Flesh And Spirit.

May God help us to understand what is the conflict against the flesh and the spirit, so we can truly overcome the flesh and walk in the spirit.

Until man comes to the knowledge that he is made up of two elements; dust of the ground and breathe of life as recorded in Genesis 2:7.

He will forever remain blind to the fact that, there is a conflict going on within him. Because, these two elements do not agree nor like each other, and at such are always at war.

Bible verse about the conflict between the flesh and spirit.

For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

Galatians 5:17.

The conflict between the flesh and the spirit.

In Romans 7:15-24, Paul the apostle, who made the above discovery, clearly shows how the conflict between the flesh and spirit goes on in the human mind.

For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate; that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.

Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer i who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.

For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  

(Romans 7:15-24) .

As we can discover in the above scriptures, this conflict presents man with a choice; or the option of submitting to one of the element at any given point in time.

We call this freewill.

Why the flesh has more advantage than the spirit.

The flesh has more advantage than the spirit because it possesses the physical aspect of which humans can always behold at any given time.

As a matter of fact, the flesh and all that surrounds it are destined to pass away one day. And as birds of the same feathers we know, they must always flock together.

That is why, even though we all know what is good; which is what we are supposed to do, we will always find ourselves doing the bad things we do not want to do and afterwards hate ourselves.

The worst thing the flesh will do is to deceive man into thinking that he doesn’t even have a spirit. That he is carnal by nature and once he dies, it will be the same as when he never came into existence.

So with this idea, the flesh urges man to do whatever is necessary; now that he has the opportunity – incase tomorrow never comes. 

He will show man places he should club, alcoholics he should drink, cigarettes and marijuana he should smoke, cocaine he should sniff, things he should loot and steal, boys and girls he should have sex with, people he should hate and perhaps kill etc. And will try by all means to blind him to the dangers associated with these habits.

The flesh is even wicked to the point that, even after one has discovered himself i.e. comes to this knowledge of truth; he will try to torture the individual with all kinds of false imaginations, doubts and fears, miseries: sickness, weaknesses, misfortunes, etc. so that he could yield to its lusts.

Works of the flesh and fruits of the spirit.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outburst of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

(Galatians 5:19-23).

Beloved, the biggest obstruction we have as human beings is the flesh. Because it knows that he is corruptible i.e. he must inevitably return to its source – the dust of the ground – sooner or later.

And so he envies the Spirit because, he knows that, the Spirit has a chance to live forever – if only the spirit can subdue him – the flesh – while they both engage in this timeless, limited war.

So all the flesh longs for is to make the Spirit share the same fate that inevitably awaits him i.e. everlasting death.

But the Spirit must keep the understanding that, the flesh will become unconscious i.e. totally unaware of what will happen after his death, while he will face an everlasting torture in a lake burning with fire and brimstone.

So he must by all means, subdue the flesh by never allowing him to satisfy whatever lusts he has while they co-habit.

The flesh and spirit will separate.

And we must always keep a constant reminder of the fact that one day; both elements must surely depart from each other:

Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the Spirit will return to God who gave it.

(Ecclesiastes 12:7)

And when they do, it is the Spirit that will receive the final reward and not the flesh; but the reward will be according to what he did while in the flesh.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

(2 Corinthians 5: 10).

Origin of the conflict between the flesh and spirit.

This can be traced back to the Garden of Eden; when our first parents disobeyed God, and ate the fruit from the tree which gives the knowledge of good and evil.

There is one understanding I want us to establish here from the biblical story of creation because, before this time, we have been made to believe that God created Adam and Eve as grown-ups. But the scripture below helps us to understand better:

And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

(Genesis 2:25).

Logically, we all know that, it is only the little children that can go around naked without being ashamed. And this is because, they have not yet tasted of the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

(Note: people misinterpret the forbidden fruit to mean sexual intercourse; forgetting that God had earlier told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply”, and there was no other way they could fulfill that command except, through sexual intercourse.

So I see no reason why He could afterwards set that as a law which went with a deadly sentence – ‘for the day you eat of it you shall die’-.

Therefore, I want you to come to the understanding that the forbidden fruit symbolizes maturity i.e. a time when mankind starts to know what is good and evil; and that also is the time when the conflict begins to take effect on him. ) 

Hence, we come to the understanding that God began creating Adam and Eve as little babies.

And during that time, the devil was unable to trick them into understanding what was good and evil because, they were immature.

So he had to wait until they came of age before he succeeded in making them disobey God.

Therefore, as little children, Adam and Eve helplessly had to depend on God for everything; (same as our children depends on us). And there was no fault in them since they lacked the knowledge of what was good and evil.

But once they grew into adults and began to understand their selves and environment; as well as the good and evil therein. God gave them their independence by driving them out of the garden; and they were the free to look out for himself.

(We can accurately observe this process continuing in our human life today; like it or not, there must come a time, a child must grow up and leave his parents to be on his own.)

That was why our Lord Jesus showed us – as we will see in the next scripture that; anyone who wants to be put right with God must return back to that childish days when he had to depend on his parents for everything, i.e. become as a little child.

How to escape the conflict between the flesh and spirit.

1. Being born again.

Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

(Mathew 18:2-3)

If you spiritually study the above scripture; you will realize that the kingdom of heaven Jesus was talking about is the same Garden of Eden.

And this is where Adam and Eve lived, and freely enjoyed all the graces of God.

So what Jesus was trying to tell us was that, we must again take on those childish characters, so we can be able to gain back the graces of God. In other words, we must totally become ignorant to what is good and evil.

But knowing that we had already attained that level of understanding what is good and evil, it is therefore impossible to become ignorant to them again.

So in another instance Jesus made it clearer to Nicodemus what He really meant in the scripture above:

Jesus answered and said to him, ‘most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus said to Him, “how can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

(John 3:3-5)

Peter explained how we can be born of water and the Spirit:

“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.

(Acts 2:38-39).

2. Walking in the spirit.

I say then: walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

(Galatians 5:16).

Now the Spirit we are told to walk in is the same gift we received after repentance and baptism as we can see in the last scripture.

But after that, we need to have a proper understanding of how we can walk in the Spirit because, it is not only about bragging that you have received the Spirit of God, but the manifestation of it cannot be seen in your life.

Now the most important thing about walking in the Spirit is that, the individual who does so will find his or herself obeying all the commandments of God at any given time according to the promise:

 “I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will keep my judgments and do them.

(Ezekiel 36:27)

And this promise means that, the Spirit of God will now live in our heart or conscience and control us to always submit to the yearning of the Spirit.

In so doing walk in the Spirit which will give us life; and ignore the lusts of the flesh, which will but lead us to destruction.

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.

(John 6:63a)

For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

(Romans 8:13)

For he who sows to the flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

(Galatians 6:8)

Now there are certain things we need to access in or lives; in order to be sure that we are truly walking in the Spirit.

Signs you are walking in the spirit.

A. Losing confidence in the flesh.

The first and most important thing is that anyone who is walking in the Spirit must find himself losing the confidence, or the comfort in the flesh.

That is to say, it will seem as if you are no more existing in the world; because you will lose all the desires of the good things or call it the pleasures of life.

For instance, if you used to love partying, drinking, smoking, womanizing etc. After repenting and receiving the Holy Spirit, you will find out that those attitudes has died out of your life.

And you will even hate those you see continuing in that lifestyle instead of having the desire to join them.

Also the thoughts to acquire expensive things like flashy cars, mansions, jewelries, clothing’s etc; will be a thing of the past, since you will now be eager to live a modest lifestyle.

That is why the scripture says:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it.

(1 John 2:15-17)

Aside from the above signs, you will often be physically sick; and at times it would seem as if you are going to die. But soon you will find yourself being well again and determined to continue living only to serve God; all this goes to prove that you have lost the confidence and comfort in the flesh.

That was why Paul wrote:

Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

(Galatians 5:24).

B. Sin unintentionally.

Another point to note is that since we still have the human nature in us: to forget and to err; there are times we will unconsciously, unknowingly and not on purpose fall into the occasion of sin.

And when this happens, it is the Holy Spirit that will alert us in our conscience; so we could go back to God and ask for forgiveness.

This example can be seen in the case of Peter, who denied Jesus; just because he forgot that Jesus had earlier told him such a thing will happen. (Luke 22:31-34, 54-62).

And also in the case of Paul who went to the temple to undergo the seven days preparation for the sacrifice of purification, until the Holy Spirit intervened and he was arrested by the Jews from Asia just a day to the event. (Acts 21:17-29.)

3. Studying and practicing the word of God.

To perfectly remain in the Spirit, one must study and practice the words of our Lord and Savior; Jesus Christ and His Apostles which were written down in the scriptures.

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only deceiving yourselves.

(James 1:22)

Because, this Word is the very Spirit that gives life.

The words that I speak to you are Spirit, and they are life.

(John 6:63b)

This means that, we must study the scriptures deeply; in order to know and do those things that Jesus wants us to do, as well as desist from doing those things he does not want us to do.

And that way, His promise in the scriptures below will be fulfilled in us:

“but the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

(John 14:26).

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot hear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on his own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak: and He will tell you things to come.

(John 16:12-13).

And finally, those that twist the word of God to deceive people will not be able to deceive us:

These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in him.

(1 John 2:26-27).


May God, even the Father of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, enable our Spirit win this inescapable war with our flesh, so we can receive that crown that awaits us when the war is over. Amen.