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. (5:17)
Who ever lusts against something? You don’t hear anyone use the word like that. We lust for things, but who ever talks about lusting against something.
Webster defines lust as:
- a strong feeling of sexual desire
- a strong desire for something
(Emphasis not mine)
Even Strong’s concordance defines the Greek word here (epithumeó) as:
- I long for
- lust after
- set the heart upon
To lust against something is an odd use of the term.
Paul goes on to outline specific “lusts of the flesh,” and they’re things we lust for. But at the beginning of this part of the conversation he’s speaking in broad terms about the Spirit vs. the flesh, and it’s interesting the way he phrases this.
It would seem to say that in individual temptation and sin we lust for things, of course, but in general, the flesh simply lusts against the Spirit. Period. It is always opposed, always contrary. The desire and passion isn’t for one thing in particular, which is probably why sin and compromise are never as fulfilling as they promise to be. Do it once, and we want more; buy one, and we need something else; etc.
The flesh passionately desires to be against the Spirit, to rebel. It’s not about specific temptations that each of us battles, as though if those things weren’t there – or if we could just master obedience in this one area – we wouldn’t be tempted, the lust would go away. Not so. With the same passion that we yearn for momentary pleasures, our flesh constantly yearns to push against the Spirit of God within us.
It’s not the lusting for anything that’s at the heart of our trials and temptations, but the general lusting against the Spirit of God that is the root of our daily battle.
But before that becomes an overwhelming discouragement, read on: The Spirit lusts against the flesh. And God is stronger. Our hope is always and forever in Him and His strength.