by James Bryan Smith
Paul uses the phrase walking in the flesh in opposition to being led by the Spirit. “Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16-17) Many people assume that flesh refers to the body. But the “flesh” here is not the physical body but rather living from one’s resources, in opposition to (or at least neglect of) God and his resources. The early church preacher John Chrysostom wrote, “The flesh is not the body, nor the essence of the body, but an evil disposition.” There is a disposition within us that is prone to wander from God, and when we roam we are “walking in the flesh.” Those who live (or walk) in the flesh rely on their own capacity to solve problems. When people think of fleshy or carnal sins, they think of lust and fornication, or drunkenness and carousing, which certainly are carnal. These behaviors are used to find happiness in something other than God. But fleshly sins also include pride and jealousy, worry and false judgment, resentment and anger. Unrighteous anger rarely happens when we are led by the Spirit. It is spawned by not seeing our situation in light of God’s kingdom.
Taken from The Good and Beautiful Life, p. 74.