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Galatians 5:1626comment (0)

July 2, 2009

By Jay T. Robertson

Related Scripture: Galatians 5:1626

Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

Galatians 5:16–26

Walk Behind the Spirit (16–18)

Release from the Law and the power to love are results of God working in us by His Holy Spirit. The Law is powerless to help us overcome the desire of the flesh. We may want to please God, but our sin nature continually pulls us into disobedience (Rom. 7). The answer to this battle is found in the inward ministry of the Holy Spirit. To experience victory, we must walk by the Spirit — go where He is going, listen to His voice, discern His will and follow His guidance. When we live in obedience to the Spirit, we will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

In verse 17, the apostle Paul demonstrates the need for the Holy Spirit’s enablement. On earth, we will continually experience conflict between the Spirit and the flesh. “Flesh,” in Paul’s vocabulary, cannot be reduced to the physical dimension of the human person. It encompasses the mind, will and emotions as well as the physical body. This is Paul’s term for everything aside from God. In verse 18, Paul says victory over sin is not the result of living under the Law. Rather actively yielding to the Spirit results in our victory. We must  remember the first step of salvation and its ongoing steps of sanctification (growth in holiness) are fostered within us by God’s Spirit working through faith.

Avoid Forbidden Trails (19–21)
The acts of the sinful nature are divided into four categories. First, three sexual sins are listed. Sexual immorality is a broad term covering fornication, adultery and homosexuality. Moral impurity is also a broad term referring to moral uncleanness in thoughts, speech and actions. Promiscuity speaks of the total loss of limits and the lack of restraint, decency and self-respect. The second category of these sinful acts is religious sins. Idolatry involves bowing down to pagan gods. Sorcery conveys the idea of black magic, demonic control and using drugs for various evil purposes. Third, Paul lists eight societal sins. They run the gamut from hatred to the acts of strife and jealousy that result in factions. Loving others is not easy. When the flesh controls us, interpersonal problems are the result.

Fourth, Paul lists two alcohol-related sins. Carousing or orgies refer to drunken sexual perversions associated with Bacchus, the god of wine. Alcohol controls people, distorts thinking and often results in grievous sexual sins. Rather than being controlled by alcohol, we are to be controlled by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18). Those who continually, habitually practice these sins are not true Christians and will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Display All the Spirit’s Fruit (22–26)
After listing 15 specific sins — 15 illustrations of the “works of the flesh” — Paul turns to consider the contrasting graces of the Spirit-controlled life. The fruit in this passage is called the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of self-effort. The Holy Spirit produces this fruit in every faithful Christian. 

Paul begins with “love.” Love is an act of the will accompanied by emotion that leads to action on behalf of its object. “Joy” is marked by celebration and expectation of God’s ultimate victory over the powers of sin and darkness. “Peace” is a condition of wholeness and well-being that includes both a right relationship with God and a loving harmony with others. “Patience” is the ability to put up with others, even when it is not easy to do so.

“Kindness” speaks of tender concern, and “goodness” conveys the idea of generosity toward someone else. “Faith,” as referenced in the Holman Christian Standard Bible, refers to faithfulness, while “gentleness” is strength under control. “Self-control” refers to the mastery over one’s desires and passions. 

The basic demand of Christian discipleship is that we take up our cross daily and follow Christ (Luke 9:23). No second blessing, rededication or spiritual quick fix can take the place of consistent, obedient, vigilant renunciation of the world and mortification of the flesh. Paul wrote since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. We are to be conformed to Christ under that leadership.

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