Galatians 5:17 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Galatians 5:17, NIV: "For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want."

Galatians 5:17, ESV: "For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do."

Galatians 5:17, KJV: "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."

Galatians 5:17, NASB: "For the desire of the flesh is against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, in order to keep you from doing whatever you want."

Galatians 5:17, NLT: "The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions."

Galatians 5:17, CSB: "For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don't do what you want."

What does Galatians 5:17 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Paul has urged the Christians in Galatia not to waste their freedom in Christ, a warning which applies to believers today, as well. The error to avoid is merely serving our flesh by doing whatever feels good to us. Instead, Paul has called us to serve each other in love. Free people in Christ have the opportunity to lead meaningful lives of service instead of meaningless lives of religious rule-following or endless pleasure seeking (Galatians 5:13–15).

But how can we live this way if it does not come naturally to us? In the previous verse, Paul urged us to walk in the power of God's Spirit. His Holy Spirit lives in the heart of every Christian (Galatians 4:6). When we walk by His power, we won't indulge our own desires at the cost of others.

Paul now describes a conflict that goes on in the heart and mind of every Christian. Our flesh wants one thing, and God's Spirit wants something very different. Human beings want to feel good, to be honored, and to possess what looks good to us. All of these, coming from our human nature, are tainted by our selfishness and pride. John identified these things as worldliness (1 John 2:16). We are willing to sin against each other and God to get them.

The Spirit of God, on the other hand, wants to honor God and serve others with His love. When the Spirit comes to live in our hearts, a battle sometimes rages. However, Paul will show that those who are in Christ can win that battle by allowing the Spirit to lead us; that power allows us to love in ways we never would have under the law.