Ye Cannot Gal. 5:17 Rom.7:15-21 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
What did Paul mean when he said, “ye cannot do the things that ye would,” [Gal 5:17]? Well, to understand this, we should look at Rom 7:15-21. In this passage, Paul describes the dilemma of a man who knows what he is supposed to by the law but doesn’t do it.
Paul shows us that when the law points out a sin, we know that we aren’t supposed to do it. Naturally, the thing a man knows he is not supposed to do is the thing he ends up doing and the thing that he is supposed to do he ends up not doing.
For instance, he says, “I’m not supposed to cuss; I hate it.” And then a situation arises and he cusses. He did the very thing that he despises and the very thing he said he wouldn’t do. He says, “I’m going to be faithful in church and read my Bible.” And then something comes up and the very thing he said he would do, he doesn’t do. He can’t do it; not on his own. And if for some reason he is able, on occasion, to fulfill the law, he will be proud, self-righteous or puffed up; and those are sins. They that are in the flesh cannot please God, Rom 8:8.
Now look at Rom 7:24-25. When a man receives Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God comes into him and he is now able, by yielding to the Spirit, to do things his flesh was incapable of doing. That’s what the first 14 verses of Rom 8 are about. Rom 8:13-14 are principle verses in this passage.
The Spirit in the man has a hunger for the word of God. Through the Spirit, he can read the Bible and get something out of it. The flesh has no desire for the word of God because “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God,” [1 Cor 2:14].
In Gal 5:16-17, we find that the flesh lusteth against the Spirit. That is, the things that the flesh desires are contrary to the things that the Spirit desires. We also see that the Spirit lusteth against the flesh. That is, the desires of the Spirit are contrary to the desires of the flesh. These two are contrary to each other. The Spirit in you is leading you to read your Bible while the flesh is leading you to watch a movie, for example.
Therefore, in Gal 5:17, Paul says, “ye cannot do the things that ye would.” That is, when the Spirit leads you and you are yielded to him, you won’t do what the flesh wants. Likewise, when you are yielded to the flesh, you won’t do what the Spirit wants. You cannot.
Thus, Paul tells us in Gal 5:16, “Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” At any moment you will either yield to the flesh or to the Spirit. When you are walking in the Spirit, you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh because the Spirit cannot do what the flesh does. He won’t.
Now, the best way to begin walking in the Spirit is to read the Bible daily and consciously obey what the Spirit shows you and brings to your remembrance. At first, you will barely be able to crawl [1 Pet 2:2]. However, the more you follow what he leads you to do in the words of God, the stronger you will become and you can start to walk [Gal 5:16]. After a while, you will be able to run [1 Cor 9:24-27].