In the Flesh

Daily Reform, Day 225

Galatians 3:3 and Romans 8:13-14

From the Reformer

Paul now begins to warn the Galatians against a twofold danger. The first danger is: “Are ye so foolish, that after ye have begun in the Spirit, ye would now end in the flesh?”

“Flesh” stands for the righteousness of reason which seeks justification by the accomplishment of the Law. I am told that I began in the spirit under the papacy, but am ending up in the flesh because I got married. As though single life were a spiritual life, and married life a carnal life. They are silly. All the duties of a Christian husband, e.g., to love his wife, to bring up his children, to govern his family, etc., are the very fruits of the Spirit.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

The vast majority of young people in the United States are highly interested in spirituality. Most of them say that they believe in god. Indeed, most of them say that they pray. It is not a specific sort of spirituality however, often finding a malleable and informal expression. In other words, “I pray to an unknown god who is not of my own making as much as of my own feeling.” Now this may sound spiritual but it is quite the opposite. This sort of spiritual interest is of the flesh.

If I am interested in spiritual matters as directed by my own reason, I am fleshly, carnal, driven by my own desires. They are a desire of the mind that have a kind of religious quality, but they are very much human desires all the same. The life of the spirit is driven by the Spirit of God, not by the mind of a man or woman. If I do not know who the God is whose Spirit works with my own spirit, then I am driven by shadows. If it is possible to be in a worse state than being driven by a phantom, then if I am not directed by the true God, and if I am not led by a dark spirit, then worse, I am led by self.

Many these days though, believe themselves to be the best leaders of all. I am not of that class, discovering after a lifetime of objective study of myself, that I am a rather unreliable person. I am driven along by the desires of the flesh all too often, even if it sometimes seems spiritual. It is not; it is just me in the flesh.

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with Luther in Galatians

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