This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
If, therefore, you would judge of the life in the soul by the command which is exercised over the body, you must bring into account the agency employed, as well as the result effected. You must calculate whether the non-fulfilment of the lust of the flesh be in consequence of a radical change of the heart, or nothing more than the proud device of a weak, and self-sufficient nature.
1. It is not necessary that a man should be what Scripture calls a renewed man in order to his effecting a vast reformation in his ordinary conduct. Reformation, indeed, will unavoidably follow on renewal; and when thus produced, will be far more vigorous and decided than when traced to any other origin. But Satan, yea, oven Satan, can busy himself with the reforming of a man; for has the devil nothing to do with self-righteousness? has he nothing to do with the substitution of morality for faith? There will, indeed, have been all this outward change if an individual has been renewed by God's Spirit; but, alas! it is not true, that because there is a change there must have been renewal! For you should remember that there follows, in the chapter from which our text is taken, a catalogue of the works of the body; and this catalogue contains "emulations, wrath, strife" — though these may have seemed to be mental rather than bodily actions. We are bound, therefore, to set down as works of the body many works which are not wrought by the agency of our corporeal members. Pride, for example, is classed as a work of the flesh, though it passes ordinarily as a disease of the mind. We argue, therefore, that since a man may gratify his pride by the higher discipline which he exercises over appetite and passion, he may be fulfilling, in one sense, "the lust of the flesh," whilst to others he may seem to be mortifying that lust. Pride is emphatically a sin of the devil, and, therefore, to trace the action of pride is to trace it to the devil. Thus, we think our first proposition sufficiently established. There may be a struggle with "the lust of the flesh" where there is no "walking in the Spirit," and, therefore, well might the apostle fix our thoughts on the agency as well as on the result. — "This I say, then" — oh! be not content with the appearance of resistance to the corruption of nature without searching into the origin of that resistances "this I say, then, Walk in the Spirit," then, and then only, shall you really and actually "not fulfil the lust of the flesh."
2. We proceed to set more definitely before you our second position, that there can be no effectual non-fulfilment of the lust of the flesh — none such as shall prove spiritual — unless there be "walking in the Spirit." It is unquestionable, as we have already admitted, that a man may mortify many deeds of the body. He may climb the mountains, and there, far away from all companionship with his fellows, the rock for his couch, and the wild fruits for his sustenance, he may live down the fierceness of passion, and win over carnal desires so effective a sovereignty, that though they have heretofore been most imperious in their cravings, they shall ever after yield obedience to the severer calls of the Divine law. We know of nothing that may more confound those who have embraced true religion — who prefer deliverance through the satisfaction of Christ — than the ready submission to every kind of toil and privation which is presented by the votaries of false systems of theology. But, whatever the appearance, there is no thorough mortification of "the lust of the flesh" unless it be with the heart that the mortification begins. Yes, when the flesh is covered with the ashes and torn with the stripes, may pride be abroad in its strength, and man be regarded by the Holy Spirit of God as cherishing that self-sufficiency which it is the first object of the gospel to eject, and which must be subdued ere there can be admission to the kingdom of heaven. And if it be thus true that "the lust of the flesh Scannel be thoroughly unfulfilled unless the heart be overcome and brought into subjection, then no withstanding of the lusts can be that which proves a man quickened from the death of "trespasses and sins," unless effected by the Spirit of God. As to outward conduct, a man may change it for himself, and, even as we have shown you, be assisted by Satan; but an internal change, the bringing order and harmony out of confusion and discord in the human soul, the crucifixion of the flesh, the renewal of the heart, can only be brought about by the Holy Ghost. See, then, whither you must turn for instruction and strength if you would live and not die. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." Oh I not to be Christ's, after Christ has taken flesh, and sorrowed, and suffered, and died in order to make us His! Oh! not to be Christ's, though redeemed by Christ at the untold cost of His agony and His blood! And what is wanting to make us Christ's? Just that we have His Spirit, that Spirit which is freely promised to all by whom it is earnestly sought.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.