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contrast with the usage of stoicheia in Gal. 4: 3 and 9, where Paul refers to the bondage
that they had been under the elements of the world, and calls their retrograde movement a
return to `weak and beggarly elements'. In Gal. 6: 16 this walk in the spirit is
associated with the rule of the new creation, and shows what the Apostle intended by the
words `walk in the spirit'. While the Holy Spirit Himself can never be completely absent
from anything or any sphere that is `spiritual', the thought here in Gal. 5: 16 and 25 is
rather the new sphere of life and activity, `spirit' as contrasted with `flesh'. The
argument of verse 26 is `If we live spiritually, or in this new sphere, let us walk also
spiritually, or in the selfsame sphere'. Walk is therefore to be understood as life
manifested. The reader is doubtless well acquainted with this fact, but even so, a
reference to `walk' in Romans, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians would be helpful.
Immediately following the reference to walking in the spirit, in Gal. 5: 16, 17 is a
double reference to the lusts of the flesh, and immediately preceding the exhortation to
walk in the spirit in Gal. 5: 24, 25 is a further reference to these same lusts.
These passages contain all the occurrences of epithumeo/ia in Galatians:
"This I say then, Walk in the spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the
flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the
one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would" (Gal. 5: 16, 17).
"And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we
live in the spirit, let us also walk in the spirit" (Gal. 5: 24, 25).
The first item to notice is that in verse 16 `lust' is singular, whereas in verse 24 it is
plural. That is, in the first case we are looking at a principle, in the second we are
looking at particularized lusts. The principle is set before us as in verse 17, in the
essential antagonism of flesh and spirit as such; while the particular lusts are enumerated
in verses 19-21 under the heading "The works of the flesh". Most, if not all, are able to
discern some one particular sin or short-coming, this passage takes us deeper and reveals
the root cause.
Before examining verse 17 more closely a word is necessary regarding the intention of
the Apostle in the word translated `lust'. Today, the word has lost most of its primary
meaning and is limited to `libidinous desire, degrading animal passion', but in earlier
days it had the meaning of `desire' without necessarily meaning an evil desire. For
example Foxe writes "Little leysure and lesse lust to hear sermons or to read bookes".
We still use the word in the sense of strong overmastering desire in such phrases as
"The lust for power". So in the N.T. epithumeo not only refers to the lower lusts of the
flesh, but is the word translated `desire' in a good sense (Matt. 13: 17; Luke 22: 15;
I Pet. 1: 12), and "desire" in a bad sense, namely `to covet' (Rom. 7: 7). Epithumia also
is used in the same way. Paul's "desire" to depart (Phil. 1: 23) had nothing evil or base
about it, yet the self same word is found in Col. 3: 5 where it is translated
`concupiscence'. Strong desire, however, if it arises from the flesh in which `dwelleth no
good thing' cannot but be evil. Consequently the `desires of the flesh' and the `desires of
the spirit' are "contrary" the one to the other.