“Lust” means a strong desire (Eph.2:3), and when we lust for the sins of the flesh, the Spirit lusts “against” us (Gal.6: 1). He wants something “contrary” or opposite (cf.Acts 27: 4) for us. This sets off a battle Paul says we “cannot” win (Gal.6:1)—if you put yourself under the law like the Galatians did! Not even Paul could win then (Rom.7:15-24)!
That’s because the law riles sin up (Rom.7:5) and revives it if it starts to nod off in your life (7:9). The way to have victory over sin is not by the law, it’s by walking after the Spirit (Rom.8:4; Gal.5:16). That involves being “led by the Spirit” (Rom.8:14) as opposed to being driven by the law.
The law drove the Jews by telling them “Thou shalt” and “shalt not,” and punishing them if they disobeyed. But it can’t drive us to obey God, for He is no longer punishing us if we don’t.
Instead, the law “worketh wrath” (Rom.4:15) the same way fathers can provoke children to wrath (Eph.6:4). Spanking doesn’t do that; a father’s rules anger a child. Spanking provokes fear. But then, if you don’t spank him, all that’s left is the anger he feels for your rules. And now that God is not spanking us, all that’s left is the anger we feel for His rules due to our fallen Adamic nature. So remember that we are led by God’s Spirit instead (Gal.5:18).
Legalists say no real Christian could commit sins like fornication (Gal.5:19), and if he does, it proves he’s not saved. That’s a dispensational error based on Matthew 7:16-20, words the Lord spoke to people heading toward
Pentecost, where they’d be filled with the Spirit and couldn’t sin (Jo.3:9). If they did, it proved they weren’t saved (v.10). You can’t know a man by his fruits today though. If it were not possible for us to commit fornication, Paul wouldn’t’ve had to tell us not to (Eph.5:3). Any of us can commit any sin.
Why would Paul say if you’ve ever committed fornication you can’t inherit God’s kingdom (Gal.5:19-21)? Well, he said the same thing to the Corinthians, but added “ye are washed…justified” (ICor.6:9-11). Now you’re no longer a dirty fornicator, you’re a washed saint (ICor.1:2) who’s capable of committing fornication. God has given you a new identity that can’t sin. Only your old man can (Rom.7:20). But you shouldn’t sin just because you know you’re immune from the wrath of God that will fall on men because of their sin (Eph.5:3-7). That’s why Paul uses words like tell and told to say you can’t inherit the kingdom, not warn (Gal.5:21).
While the new you can’t sin like unsaved men can, unsaved men can’t bear the fruit of the Spirit like you can (Gal.5:22). When they are “longsuffering,” it is a work of iniquity (cf. Mt.7:22,23). They can’t bear the fruit of the Spirit because they don’t have the Spirit. Good works done by unsaved men are works of their self-righteous flesh. Remember, God warned Adam not to eat of the tree of “good and evil.”
The law makes us sin because our fallen nature wants to defy God’s law, but there’s no law against the fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:23), so there’s nothing in our nature to make us want to bear it to defy God’s law. We must choose to bear it.
Your flesh may feel alive and able to lust after sin, but it was “crucified” with Christ (Gal.5:24) when your old man was crucified with Him (Rom.6:6) when you got saved. That’s how you got your new identity. When your old man died, God raised you with Christ (Rom.6:4) and gave you a new man. All you have to do is act like him (Col.3:3-5).
Since it was the Spirit who made you one with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection (ICor.12:13), you “live” in Him (Gal.5:25), i.e., you have your eternal life in Him. If so, verse 25 says you should walk in Him. If you put yourself under the law instead, you’ll be “desirous of vain glory” (v. 26), i.e., desiring men to tell you how well you’re keeping the law, or “envying” those you think are keeping it better.
A video of this sermon is available on YouTube: The Holy Spirit’s Desire (Galatians 5:17-26)