Started in the Spirit (Begin in the Spirit)

Started in the Spirit
Robert Wurtz II

Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3 KJV)

In the winter months in the central United States we have our fair share of cold weather. Many places are colder, but we still endure temperatures that can make life challenging. One of those challenges is the simple process of starting an automobile. Generally a car is “started” by rotating the ignition key to the start position and when it starts the key is released and a spring rotates it back to its default position. Other cars have a either a push button or toggle type switch that is pressed until the car starts and then it is released. 

With this in mind I would like to draw a simple analogy from our passage that says, “…having begun in the Spirit.” All analogies break down at some point so we have to be careful how we use them. However, I just want to draw an illustration to help understand “starting.” First, the Galatian letter was written to people who had truly received the Holy Spirit. If you were to ask them, as Paul did the Ephesians, “Did you receive when you believed?” they would have answered “yes.” They would not have given proof-texts or anything like that. They would have answered according to their conscience experience. Secondly, Paul remind them that they have begun in the Spirit. This word suggests the start of their Christian life. This does not mean that they “began” when the Spirit came. They already existed long before that. It means that they started in the Spirit, whereas before they had been in the flesh (carnality and sin). 

By way of analogy, we can see in a sense how this plays out. When I go to start my automobile I switch it to turn the engine over. A small electric motor rotates the engine so it will fire and start running. If the engine does not start right away there is generally a reason why. Some people, especially in the winter months, turn their car over until the battery runs down because it does not start. Nevertheless, if the engine does not start, the button defaults back to the run position. It is dead. Unless your engine has started, the default state is “dead.” However, if the engine does start, then it defaults back to the run position and keeps running. The whole process is determined by whether or not the engine has started. 

Nobody ever yet held down the start button and then attempted to put the car in gear and take off. If they did, they would not get far. And nobody ever yet tried to help the engine out by turning it to the start position after it was already running. Likewise, if a person does not “start” in the Spirit, they will default back to “dead” in trespasses and sins. In the automotive world we call this a “no start.” There is a reason why they did not “start” in the Spirit. The best thing to do is go to God and have Him raise the hood and point out the problem. He will even fix it if we let him. The trouble is that most people refuse to raise the hood so God can get in there and do the work. When He does get in there they refuse to agree with Him concerning the problem. Hence, they keep running the battery down trying to start. Some even go to meeting to get a “jump start” and still can’t get started. Why? There is a problem under the hood and they refuse to have it fixed. In the words of Jesus… For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. (John 3:20–21 ESV)

God is the ultimate mechanic. He can fix anything if we will allow Him. But we got to let Him under the hood. We have to believe the diagnosis and then approve the repairs. Best of all it’s free. The tow, diagnosis, and repair… no charge. The only thing you will be giving up is the old dead life. 

Dangerous Carnality

Dangerous Carnality
Robert Wurtz II

I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and walking like men? (1 Cor. 3:2, 3)

Paul gives us a concise definition of carnality in our passage; walking like men. The idea is that the people at Corinth were living and acting like people that had never repented of their sins, believed on Jesus Christ and received the Holy Spirit. Paul encountered this behavior at the church at Galatia as well. Here we read, Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3) By implication the right way for Christians to live is to have begun in the Spirit and continue in the Spirit. If a person reverts back to walking in the flesh we call that carnality. It comes from the Greek word sarkikos (root sarx) and could be translated fleshly. The danger at both Corinth and Galatia was that they were conducting themselves as if they had never begun in the Spirit. They were living like unregenerate men. This is a very dangerous condition for Christians to find themselves in.

Indicators of Carnality

 ‎”The Bible without the Holy Spirit is a sundial by moonlight.” 
~ DL Moody.

Paul gives us a warning sign when he writes, I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able. Carnality has a direct effect on the understanding. The writer to the Hebrews brings this point out as well (Hebrews 5:12-14). Strong food (Spiritual knowledge) is for those that are full-grown in Christ. That is to say, they that are walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh. When a born again Christian reverts back to the carnal mind they can’t be fed spiritual truths. They eat spiritual pablum. Paul writes to the Romans, For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:6-8). Here we are introduced to the phrase ‘in the flesh.’ So we see then that to be ‘in the flesh’ is to be moving in a carnal mind that is at enmity with God and unable to receive the things of God because they are Spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). This is important to understand because a person that is walking in carnality rejects the counsel of God on various subjects. Couple this with the fact that they are not consciously yielding themselves to the Holy Spirit and you have the outworkings of a person that is not even saved. 

Capable of Anything

 Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:11Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Paul spends several verses leading up to this passage showing the people at Corinth that they were capable of committing the same sins as did the Children of Israel. This is carnality run amok. Pastor D.L. Burch used to say, “When you get out from under the hand of God, you don’t know what you are capable of.” Based upon 1 Corinthians 10, certainly we are capable of doing anything that happened in the Old Testament. This would seem impossible for people that have been Born Again by the Spirit, but it is not. I sometimes say that theology gets real fuzzy when sin and compromise comes into the picture. All the charts and graphs seem to break down. Yet the warnings are clear, all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition. It is very sobering to consider that men and women in whom God had wrought such a great work could actually fall back into a pattern of life like the unregenerate and in some cases even exceed the world in their sinfulness (1 Cor. 5:1). 

Not in the Flesh

Paul tells us plainly in Romans 8:9; But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. This is a sobering passage. If we are in the flesh (living in the flesh), by implication, we do not have the Spirit no matter what our profession. The Holy Spirit does not yield the lusts of the flesh. This is common sense. But there are those determined to say that they have the Spirit and yet live out a carnal (sarkikos) life. Paul says it plainly, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit if the Holy Spirit dwells in you. Paul goes on to qualify these remarks, And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. The Holy Spirit lives in believers both to eventually raise this body from the grave at the resurrection and quicken us to handle the natural desires of the body in this present evil world. Paul continues, Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Here we have a tremendous truth. The body has good natural desires that God has given us, but when these desires are excessively cultivated in order to find fulfillment in life, independent of the counsel of God and the leading of the Spirit, we are moving in the flesh and are at enmity with God. The solution? For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:14)


In Ephesians 5:18-21 Paul gives us the antidote for carnality, And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

1. Don’t be drunk on alcohol or anything else (Isaiah 29:9).

2. Be being filled with the Holy Spirit (ask and you shall receive).

3. Allow your mind and heart to be a place of praise and worship to God.

4. Maintain an attitude of thankfulness.

5. Maintain an attitude of mutual submission to one another.

6. Do these things in the fear of the Lord.       



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