Too often we refer to things like jealously and strife as a spirit, and we make references such as “the spirit of jealously” or “the spirit of strife.” Yet, the scriptures refer to these things as THE WORKS OF THE FLESH and not a spirit that we should bind or blame.
When writing to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul says, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).
The word carnal means fleshly, or ruled by the flesh. Notice that Paul refers to envy, strife, and divisions as carnality or being ruled by the flesh.
The Corinthians were Christians, but were held in a state of spiritual infancy. Paul refers to them as BABES IN CHRIST. Spiritual babies are ruled by their flesh so that they live according to their fleshly desires rather than living according the new life given to them in Christ. This results in repeatedly succumbing to the temptations of the fleshly desires rather than yielding to righteousness.
In the book of James we read that every man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lusts (the desires of the flesh) and enticed(James 1:14).
In James 4:1. James says, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” The NLT says, “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?”
Those things which are often attributed by Christians as “a spirit of…” are actually the desires of the flesh which Christ has given us victory over through His death, burial, and resurrection. Specifically, this is THE OLD MAN of which Paul refers when he says, “our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Romans 6:6).
The body of sin is the flesh, and through the power of the cross of Christ the flesh is subdued so that the life of Spirit might be manifested through us. When strife and divisions and the such like run rampant, it doesn’t mean that there is “a spirit” that needs to be dealt with, but rather the flesh is unbridled. Men who are not spiritual, but who are ruled by the flesh are going to display fleshly conduct.
In Galatians 5 Paul make a distinction between the “works of the flesh” and the fruit of the spirit.
Now THE WORKS OF THE FLESH are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law (Galatians 5:19-23).
Paul goes on to say, “And they that are Christ’s HAVE CRUCIFIED THE FLESH with the affections and lusts” (verse 24).
The flesh has ALREADY been crucified through Jesus Christ, and we are instructed to put on the new man and to reckon ourself as dead to our old man (our fleshly carnal desires).
MORTIFY therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: for which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also PUT OFF ALL THESES; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have PUT OFF THE OLD MAN WITH HIS DEEDS; And have PUT ON THE NEW MAN, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him…(Colossians 3:5-10).
Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise RECKON YE ALSO YOURSELVES TO BE DEAD INDEED UNTO SIN, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God (Romans 6:9-13).