Mar 20, 2019
In this episode Brother Jonathan leads a home Bible study. There are gaps in sound quality for questions that are asked or testimonies.
The Role of the Spirit in our Lives
(13-15) “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.”
The “liberty” Paul is speaking of is the Law of Moses, the Old Covenant; which taught that “if you do these things then you shall live by them.” (Gal. 3:12) Some people had come in the churches of Galatia and were telling people that they had to keep the Law of Moses. It was the external check-list way of salvation that most people want. All it brings is death because none of us can keep it. But the reason that it was given in the first place was to show us our need to be saved, and for salvation to be by grace. (Gal. 3:19, 24)
The fact that we have been saved from this method of salvation (the external check-list) should not be used for an excuse to sin. This is the primary contrasting being done by Paul in the book of Galatians. Most of us tend to think that Paul is mainly talking about works versus faith, but the main thrust of Paul’s arguments is flesh versus spirit. If you are trying to live by the external check-list means of salvation (“I can do this God, I can keep your law by myself”) then you are in the flesh and cursed in the sight of God. (Gal. 3:10)
“For all the law is fulfilled in this” – So after Paul says that we are set at liberty from the Law he proceeds to emphasize what fulfills it. This is because the new covenant in Christ’s blood achieves the same goal as the Law of Moses. The goal is loving service to God first, and others second. Christ Himself said that it was these two commandments that fulfilled the whole Law. So, in essence, the Spirit of God dwelling in us and being the guiding moral agent of our lives has replaced the outward checklist of the Law. The Law of Moses has been replaced by the Spirit of God to achieve the same desired end.
(16-18) “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 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. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”
Paul tells us very explicitly what will end our fulfilling the lusts of the fles (sin): walk in the spirit. Paul uses the verb tense that makes clear it is a commandment. He is directly telling us that it can be done if we are Christians, but because it’s a commandment it takes a freewill choice on our part. This is the “how” answer to v.13-14. If we walk in the Spirit then we fulfill the Law, and if we are fulfilling the purpose of the Law then we are not sinning. There is no room in what Paul says for us to come to the conclusion that we can somehow be Christians and live like unbelievers. I like how Gordon Fee sums this up:
“Life in the Spirit is not passive submission to the Spirit to do a supernatural work in one’s life; rather, it requires conscious effort, so that the indwelling Spirit may accomplish the ends in one’s life. One is urged to ‘walk in the Spirit’ or ‘live by the Spirit’ by deliberately ‘conforming one’s life to the Spirit’ (v. 25). If such a person is also described as being ‘led by the Spirit,’ that does not mean passively; it means to rise up and follow the Spirit by walking in obedience to the Spirit’s desire.” (Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul, p.433)
Some try to use v.17 to say that Christians will live ungodly lives from time to time and that this is okay. They also twist Romans 7 for the same reason. I don’t want to belabor the issue now, but there’s one point that makes it clear for me. Paul tells us exactly how to NOT fulfill the lusts of the flesh! If it is not that simple, “walk in the Spirit”, then Paul has lied. The presence of the Spirit of God in us is what enables us to not walk in the flesh. We have to choose to yield to His leading and deny those things offered to us in opposition to Him. The flesh and the Spirit have different desires, and so to yield to one is to deny the other. These two are not equal parts in us. We are choosing one or the other in all that we do. The basic principle here is that if we are Christians we are not free to do our own will. We have given ourselves to God and now our will is to do HIS will. As the Spirit leads we will follow or we revert back to the state of “doing our own thing” under the law, and according to the flesh.
V.18 makes clear what Paul is talking about. In v.16 Paul was stating the sufficiency of the Spirit to enable us to not continue to fulfill the lusts of the flesh. In v.17 he explains that the two are in opposition to each other. So that if we are under the Spirit then we cannot do the things that we will. Now, in v.18, Paul reinforces the point that if we are led by the Spirit we are not under that Law of Moses. It is not that we have no standards or guiding moral principle for our life. We have not become lawless by not being under the Law of Moses. We have someone leading us by their will: the presence of God in the person of the Holy Spirit.
(19-23) “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.”
Having talked about how the flesh and the Spirit are in opposition to each other, Paul now sets the works/fruits of them in contrast. These are not exhaustive lists either, nor are they lists given to examine ourselves by. That’s not the reason that Paul is talking about this now. He is merely setting the two in contrast. That there are other things not mentioned on this list is clear from Paul saying “they which do such things”.
It is almost certainly intentional on Paul’s part to state it as “works” as opposed to “fruits”. The “works” of the flesh are because of human effort. The “fruits” of the Spirit are because of God’s empowering.
Notice also that Paul says that if we practice the things stated here, or do “such things”, that we will not inherit the kingdom of God. This also undermines the idea that such works are common or normal for Christians.
(24-26) “And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.”
The Greek word for “walk” emphasizes conforming to a standard. The Jews used the term “walk” to mean how we live. Paul is telling us here (it’s an imperative) that WE are to CONFORM ourselves to the pattern of the Spirit of God. Also, the fact that it’s an imperative shows us that conscious effort is meant. It is not a passive waiting for God to change us.
(6:1-3) “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”
Paul begins talking about how we should behave. He states in v.26 how NOT to treat brethren, and then states here about how we should treat brethren.
V.3 tells us that if we think that we are a proper Christian, and are not actually doing the things that are in agreement with the Spirit of God (we are nothing), then we are deceived about our true state. This is stated elsewhere in the NT:
“He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1Jn. 2:4)
V.2 “the law of Christ” means the pattern that Christ Himself has given us. Paul sets the standard of Christ, who indwells believers by the Spirit, in opposition to the Law of Moses. We are to “fill to the full” the standard of how Christ lived and commanded in our lives. We are to follow His steps.
The same type of reasoning Paul uses here is mentioned in Philippians:
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Php 2:1-8)
Because of our living in/by the Spirit we ought to behave a certain way and conform ourselves to the standard of Christ Jesus.
(4-6) “But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.”
Paul is going through some general imperatives to illustrate life in the Spirit.
I will clear up any confusion. Paul says in v.2 that we are to “bear one another’s burdens” and in v. 5 for us to “bear [our] own burden”. This is not a contradiction: it is a translation issue. The two Greek words underlying the English word “burden” are different. In v.2 burden is referring to our personal griefs, while in v. 5 it is referring to a person’s load in the sense of ministry. In this sense, we are all accountable for ourselves to God. But in the former sense, of personal griefs or struggles, we are to watch and care for our brethren.
V.6 Is really saying, “Let him that is taught the word support the one who teaches.” It is really a “support the ministry” command. The word “communicate” means “distribute, be partaker, share”.
(7-10) “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
V.7-10 is usually ripped from the context and said to have nothing to do with the Spirit of God or the life of the believer. But the content of what Paul says only makes sense in the context of the life of the believer.
Paul is now wrapping-up what he began back in 5:13: The role of the Spirit in our lives.
Paul here warns that God will deal with us according to our manner of living. He will not be “mocked”. Because the flesh and the Spirit are in opposition to one another, and all those that belong to Christ have crucified the flesh and are conforming themselves with the Spirit of God and the pattern of Christ, if you live after the flesh it is because you have rejected Christ in some way. There is no other logical option. Though, there are many deceived about this.
“Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” (1Jn 3:7)
Paul emphasizes this point with his warning about the eternal consequences of how we live. If we live after the flesh we reap eternal destruction (corruption). The language that has dominated what Paul has said is “walk in the Spirit”, “be led by the Spirit”, bear the “fruit of the Spirit”, and “conform yourself to the Spirit”. (5:16 and 5:25 have two different words for “walk”. In v.16 walk means to follow in and in v.25 it means to conform yourself to) The “fruit” of these things that are “sown” by us is everlasting life.
We know also that “corruption” is eternal because it is set directly in contrast to everlasting life. If we live after the flesh we are eternally condemned by God no matter what we profess.
“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16)
Paul’s warning is not about filling an early grave. We know this because even Christians who live righteously still physically die. It cannot be warning us about that then. It is because if we choose to live after the flesh, when to live after the Spirit has been made completely possible for us by what Christ accomplished in His death and resurrection. He bore it all, He rose from the dead, and the Spirit of God makes all that Christ accomplished in breaking the bondage of sin real in our lives…if we yield to it.
Paul then finishes his point by encouraging them to not give in and as we have opportunity to do good.
So let’s summarize Paul’s points.