The Battle Is the Spirit against the Flesh


There is a battle going on in us between the Spirit and the flesh.

Galatians 5:17 says, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh.”

Romans 8:15, 19 says, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what i want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep doing.”

This is exactly what see going on today’s reading. The battle between Israel and the Philistines in the promised land is a picture of the battle between the spirit and the flesh in our hearts for the kingdom of God is within you.


In yesterday’s post, I wrote that we must pour out all of our soul, all of our carnal mind and fleshly understanding, so that the Spirit of the Jesus, the son of God, can be poured into us.

So, 1 Samuel 4:1 says, “And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.”

Samuel pictures each one of us as a son of God by the Holy Spirit. We have taken the name of God, which is the meaning of the name Samuel. Because we have been born of the Spirit, the word of this new man comes to our entire heart, mind, and soul. The word of this new man born by the pouring out of the soul is Jesus.

How does the word of Jesus come to us?

In John 14:16-17, Jesus says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

Then, in John 14:26, Jesus says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

The Holy Spirit, who birthed us as sons of God when he was poured into us, brings the word of Jesus within us as ones who have taken the name of God.

It’s at this moment of new birth, becoming the sons of God, that a battle begins within us.


“Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek.” (1 Samuel 4:1)

There are several possible meanings of the name Israel:

  • God strives
  • He will be prince with God
  • God’s governor

Regardless of the meaning you prefer, Israel is a picture of the Spirit-filled man. We saw at the beginning of this post that it is the Spirit that strives against the flesh. As Spirit-filled people, we are at war against our fleshly natures and carnal minds.

It is the Spirit-filled man that has been raised from the dead  that will be a prince with God.” Ephesians 2:5-6 says God “made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up together with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places with Christ.” Christ is seated on the throne at the right hand of God as king. Raised to the life with Christ by the Spirit, we are seated with him as princes.

Revelation 20:6 says, “Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and Christ, and they reign with him for a thousand years.” Raised with Christ by his Spirit, we will be governors, ones who reign, with him.

Israel was encamped at Ebenezer, which means stone of the help. The Spirit-filled encamps with Jesus, who is the stone of the help. But, a camp is temporary dwelling place. The Spirit-filled man has not yet arrive at the place of abiding in Jesus and Jesus abiding in him (John 15:4).

The Philistines represent the natural man, the man of the flesh, within us that our Spirit-filled man is at war with us. The Philistines were ruled by five lords, which represent the five natural senses that strive to rule our soul and our body. Therefore, the Philistines represent those that roll about, migrate, move to and fro, wander, and deviate a true course.

Ephesians 2:1-2 says, “And you were dead in the trespasses ad sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is not at work in the sons of disobedience.”

Natural men are “children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Ephesians 4:14)

The Philistines, the flesh, were encamped at Aphek. Aphek means strong, holding firm, tenacious, fortress. The flesh is strong. We know this because of our personal struggles with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. And, in 2 Corinthians 10:3, Paul alludes to our carnal minds being strongholds.

When we become sons of God, the spirit begins to battle against the flesh.


“The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 4:2)

God is for us and not against us. God is all powerful. Jesus has been given all power and authority. He has crucified the flesh. So, how it is it that the Spirit-filled man loses the first battle between the Spirit and the flesh?

Israel asked just this question in 1 Samuel 4:3, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines?” However, Israel wrongly attributed their defeat the Lord.

How so?

“Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” (1 Samuel 1:3) Remember that the ark of the covenant was symbolized the place of God’s presence in Israel.

The Spirit-filled man loses the battle, not because the Lord is working against him but because he doesn’t even bring the Lord to the battle. The Spirit-filled man loses the battle when he tries to fight in his own strength. We are weak. Therefore, we have to rely on the strength of God to fight our battle for us.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:9-11, But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

When we fail to recognize our weakness to usher in the power of Christ, then we lose the battle to the flesh.


After losing the first battle against the flesh, we realize we need to bring the presence of God to the battle. We need his strength.

“So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.”

What does this say about how we bring God’s presence, his strength and power, to the battle between the Spirit and the flesh within us?

The name Eli means my God, but perhaps the meaning is more appropriately God of me.

Hophni means pugilist. A pugilist is a professional boxer.

One meaning of Phinehas is a brazen mouth.

So, we lose the first battle against the flesh but failing to bring God’s presence to the battle. Then we bring the presence of God by saying the God of me is a pugilist with a brazen mouth. In other word, we attempt to bring God’s presence as a verbal boxer of judgment.

In 1 Corinthians 10:26, Paul says, “I do not box as one beating the air.” Paul doesn’t fight by just throwing words into the air, spewing just anything our of his mouth.

To box as one beating the air is to be one that fights with a brazen mouth, a mouth of judgment.

Even though we are trying to bring the presence of God to the battle, we do bring it in judgment.

Romans 2:1 says, “For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”

Romans 5:16 says, “For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation.”

But, the ark of the covenant, the presence of God, was dwelling in Shiloh when Israel brought it to the battle. Shiloh means pacificator, tranquility, tranquility town, or pleasantville.

So, we take the presence of God from his peaceful place and try to fight as a verbal boxer bringing judgment and condemnation.

When Israel did this, they lost the battle to the Philistines. Except this time Israel was thoroughly defeated. In the first battle, 4,000 men died. But, in the second battle, Israel lost 30,000 men. The ark of God was capture. Israel lost the presence of God completely.

The same is true for us. When we try to fight the flesh with judgment and condemnation, the Spirit-filled man loses the battle to the flesh in an even grander fashion. Not only do we lose the battle, but we lose the very presence of God that brings peace and tranquility.


In the second battle, not only was the ark of God captured, but Hophni and Phinehas died. Once our Spirit-filled man has thoroughly lost the battle, we are willing to give our verbal fighting by judgment.

It’s at this point we realized that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

Recall Ephesians 2:14 from above. But, note what Paul says we should instead.

“So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”

Instead of judgment and condemnation, which causes us to lose the battle against the flesh all the, we need to speak the truth in love for there is no condemnation in Christ.

When we reach this point, the Spirit begins to win the battle against the flesh.

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