Studying Paul’s teachings in Romans 6 – 8, Galatians 2 and 5, provides a very clear picture of the difference between walking in the Spirit and walking in the flesh. But I say, walk by the Ruach/Holy Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Ruach/Holy Spirit, but the Ruach/Holy Spirit sets its desire against the flesh—for these are in opposition to one another, so that you cannot do what you want. But if you are led by the Ruach/Holy Spirit, you are not under law” (Gal.5:16-18). The Spirit will lead us in the way of God’s laws; however, instead of focussing on laws, we need only follow the Spirit’s lead. It’s not that we no longer obey the laws; it’s that when we walk in the Spirit we need not focus on the law, for the Holy Spirit will lead us in accordance with God’s laws.

The flesh is the natural self, the carnal man, if you would. “When Adam lost the Spirit of God, he became ruled by the flesh. ‘The flesh’ is the expression for the evil, corrupt nature that we inherit from Adam. Of this flesh it is written, “Our old man was crucified with Him” (Rom.6:6). And here Paul emphasizes: “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh” (Murray, p.194). Paul states:  “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find” (Rom. 7:18). Even for Paul, the flesh presented a struggle. Without submission to Holy Spirit power, we will not live the crucified, resurrected, victorious life. On our own, as Yeshua said: Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4,5); we cannot do the work of the Kingdom. Kingdom work requires “walking in the Spirit.”

Upon our acceptance of Christ’s Lordship over our lives, we have essentially agreed to put this ‘flesh’ to death on the Cross. Unfortunately, due to lack of discipleship, failure to study God’s Word, etc., few believers truly understand and enter into this degree of surrender.  As Andrew Murray puts it: “many Christians have never for a moment thought of such a thing! It may be that the preaching of Christ crucified has been defective. It may be that the truth of our being crucified with Christ has not been taught. They shrink back from the self-denial that it implies, and as a result where the flesh is allowed in any measure to have its way, the Spirit of Christ cannot exert His power” (Andrew Murray, p.194).  So many believers live defeated lives, when they could/should be living and walking in victory. “I have been crucified with Messiah; and it is no longer I who live, but Messiah lives in me. And the life I now live in the body, I live by trusting in Ben-Elohim—who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God—for if righteousness comes through Torah, then Messiah died for no reason! I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal.2:19-21).   

“As we hold fast the truth that we have been crucified with Him, and that now we no longer live, but Christ lives in us, we receive power to conquer sin. The life that we have received from Him is a life that has been crucified and made free from the power of sin. This is a deep and very precious truth. Most Christians have little knowledge of it. This knowledge is not gained easily or speedily. It requires a great desire to be dead to all sin. It requires a strong faith, given by the Holy Spirit, so that the union with the crucified Christ and the fellowship of His cross can each day become our life. The life that He lives in heaven has its strength and its glory in the fact that it is a crucified life. And the life that He imparts to the believing disciple is a crucified life with its victory over sin and its power of access into God’s presence” (Andrew Murray, p.192).    

Paul said it well in Gal. 5:16: “But I say, walk by the Ruach, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.” Because only the Holy Spirit can enable us, by our surrender to Him, to act out of His power, His strength, His love, rather than our own. As in John 3:30,31: “He must increase, but I must decrease. He that comes from above is above all: He that is of the earth is earthly, and speaks of the earth: He that comes from heaven is above all.” We must get our flesh out of the way, so that the Holy Spirit can manifest in and through us. And if we are to get our flesh out of the way, we must submit to God’s Pruning, Refining Touch:  Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2). 

“As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). “The Spirit alone can guide us as the flesh in living faith and fellowship with Christ Jesus, is kept in the place of crucifixion” (Andrew Murray, p.194). When people attempt to live the Christian life by their own effort, by “works,” etc., it becomes an exercise in futility and frustration, for “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jer.17:9). There is no hope in/of ourselves; that is exactly why the Laws without the Holy Spirit could not achieve anything. In the flesh, it is virtually unachievable. That is why the Father sent His Holy Spirit.


Gal. 5:16-18

Rom. 7:18

John 15:2,4,5

Jer. 17:9


John 3:30, 31


Rom. 8:14

Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

God’s Best Secrets, Andrew Murray, Whitaker, 1998.

© 2015, revised 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 by Verna Crowther. All rights reserved.