Category Archives: GALATIANS 5

Walking after the Spirit and not after the flesh

GALATIANS CHAPTER 5:1-15
SIXTH REASON    GRACE HELPS US PROGRESS, LAW ONLY HINDERS

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS CHAPTER 5, VERSES 1-15

 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

5:2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.

5:3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.

5:4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

5:5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

5:6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

5:7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?

5:8 This persuasion cometh not of Him that calleth you.

5:9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

5:10 I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.

5:11 And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.

5:12 I would they were even cut off which trouble you.

5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

5:15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

STRUCTURE OF PASSAGE

(a)    5:1-6        Profit enjoyed and endangered

The Galatians could either enjoy their inheritance as sons, and thus derive profit from Christ, or they could put themselves, by being circumcised, into debt to the law, and thus miss the enjoyment of the things of God.

5:1    Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free- instead of being found outside the father’s house, as Ishmael was after he had been cast out, God’s sons abide in the house.  The Lord Jesus spoke of the servant abiding not in the house, but the son abides for ever.  The Galatians needed only to remain in the position Christ had brought them to, to enjoy all the privileges of sonship.  It is the Son Himself who makes free, and the truth makes free, John 8:32.  A passage such as Romans 6 will make free as we realise the liberty that the Spirit brings us into through association with Christ risen.  And be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage- they had formerly been entangled in the bondage of idolatry, and now were in danger of another form of bondage.  “He that committeth sin is the servant of sin”, whether it be the sin of idolatry, or that of pride in thinking that God could be glorified by law-keeping.  The apostle Peter spoke of putting a yoke of law on the neck of the disciples, which the fathers had not been able to bear, Acts 15:10.  The only yoke for the believer is the yoke of Christ, which is easy, Matthew 11:29,30.  We learn of Him as the supreme exemplar of spiritual life.

5:2    Behold, I Paul say unto you- The “I” is emphatic, drawing attention to the apostle himself, who had realised the danger of being under the law as a sinner, but now was crucified with Christ, and was dead to the law as a result, 2:20.  He has detailed his personal history in the first two chapters, so that when he says “I Paul”, they will know his background.  That if ye be circumcised- The Judaisers might respond to Paul’s allegory of chapter 4, by saying that the reason Isaac was favoured was because he had been circumcised.  The Jews believed that all in Israel would be in Messiah’s kingdom, provided they were circumcised.  They forgot that, for Abraham, circumcision was a seal or confirmation of the faith he had already exercised, Romans 4:11.  Moreover, Ishmael was circumcised, as well as Abraham’s household, in obedience to God’s command- it was not the seal of faith for them, necessarily.  Circumcision had become a sign of being under the law, as John 7:22-24 indicates.  To be born into the nation of Israel, and circumcised the eighth day, committed a person to the law.  Even Christ submitted to this, even though he did not need the law to force Him to do His Father’s will.  He was like the red heifer of Numbers 19, on which never had come yoke.  Christ shall profit you nothing- the inheritance that is yours as a free son will not be enjoyed by you, for you will be too busy trying to gain merit through works.  The prodigal son thought he had profited by asking for his portion, but he had squandered it.  His elder brother had not so much as asked for a kid, let alone an inheritance- he seems just as indifferent to the benefits of sonship, being too busy working in the field, and priding himself on not transgressing his father’s commandment, Luke 15:25,29.  Circumcision was a benefit, if the one circumcised kept the law, Romans 2:25, but Christ in grace brings in a full salvation.  He contrasted circumcision with His ability to make every whit whole, John 7:23.

5:3    For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law- instead of a man entering into his inheritance, he becomes a debtor, struggling to pay off his obligations.  Such is the low ground the believer takes if he tries to merit God’s continued favour, rather than enjoying acceptance in Christ.

5:4    Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law- to act as if the believer is justified by law after having been justified by faith, is to cut ourselves off practically from the benefits of being in Christ.  Ye are fallen from grace- Sonship is a high calling, in association with Christ risen, whereas the law has to do with the elements of the world.  To substitute the one for the other in practice is to have left this high ground that grace brings into.  Christ died to deliver us, (literally “take us up out of”) this present world, Galatians 1:4.  The believer is linked to Jerusalem which is above, not the one on earth.  To fall from grace does not mean to lose salvation, for this is impossible for a true believer. 

5:5    For we through the Spirit- the Spirit of God is the power by which the Christian life is lived, whereas the law comes to natural men to condemn them.  Wait for the hope of righteousness by faith- there are bright prospects in store for those who are marked by faith.  Prospects which, despite not being based on law-keeping, are righteous.  There is a future aspect to sonship, indicated in Romans 8:23, where we are said to wait for the adoption, (placing as sons), which the apostle defines as the redemption of the body.  When our bodies have been delivered from the bondage of corruption, then we shall know the glorious liberty of the children of God in full measure; we shall be “every whit whole”, John 7:23. 

5:6    For in Jesus Christ- this should read “Christ Jesus”, for nowhere else are believers said to be in Jesus Christ, for that is His personal name, whereas Christ Jesus is His name as one in an official position in resurrected, ascended glory.  1 John 5:20 is not an exception to this, for the name Jesus Christ identifies who the Son is.  Neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision- neither circumcision or uncircumcision is of force, for neither are capable of producing spiritual results.  Being circumcised does not contribute to salvation, and being uncircumcised does not deprive of it.  But faith which worketh by love- what does avail, or produce results, is faith, which is energetic in serving God and man.  Far from despising works, (as the Judaisers might suggest he did), the believer is to be zealous for them, and his faith will ensure that he does them, expressing love to God and man. 

(b)    5:7-10        Progress helped and hindered

The Galatians could either continue on the pathway of faith, or allow the law-teachers to hinder them and prevent them making further progress.

5:7    Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?- They were making good progress in grace, but the apostle enquires who “broke up the road”, (as “hinder” means), was it him, or the Judaisers?  They had only to continue to obey the truth to return to spiritual prosperity, for the Son of God makes free by the truth, John 8:32,36.  In John 8:37 the words “My word hath no place in you”, have the sense, “My word makes no progress in your hearts”.  Many seem to think the truth is a restrictive thing; in fact, it is God’s power to liberate.  The law was truth, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, the grace ensuring that there was willingness to obey the truth.  The gospel is received by the obedience of faith, Romans 1:5;16:26, and this should mark the believer at all times.  Obedience in the gospel sense is as a result of having been persuaded of the truth of a thing, and is therefore willing obedience.  Law-obedience is out of fear.

5:8    This persuasion cometh not of Him that calleth you- the word for persuasion is allied to the word for obey used in verse 7.  What had won them over was not truth from the God of grace but the arguments of the men of law.  They had been called by the gospel, in which God persuades men of the truth by the power of His Spirit.  What they were being influenced by now was directly contrary to the truth they believed when God called them.

5:9    A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump- a small amount of leaven, or yeast, has the ability to rapidly permeate the whole of the lump of dough into which it is placed.  The “lump” here is the whole of the Province of Galatia, which Paul feared would soon all be permeated by the error of the Judaisers, given the Galatian tendency to quick changes of opinion.  In 1 Corinthians 5:6 the lump is the local assembly at Corinth.

5:10    I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded- there is another play on words here with the word confidence being the same as translated persuade and obey in verses 7 and 8.  Paul has a persuasion, but it is regulated by a consciousness of the Lordship of Christ, who, he is confident, can bring these Galatians back to their original persuasion about the truth, and rid them of being minded to believe the law-teachers.  But he that troubleth you shall bear his judgement, whosoever he be- it is no light thing to suggest to believer or unbeliever that favour can be gained with God by human merit.  This detracts from the glory of God, who delights to bless freely in grace, and ignores the fact that Israel were under the law for thirteen centuries and yet never pleased God.  To try to come to God on the basis of works is what Cain did in Genesis 4:1-5, and Jude pronounces a fearful woe on those who go in his way, Jude 11-15.

(c)    5:11-12        Persecutors exposed and expelled

The fact that the law-teachers persecuted the apostle was proof that he was not advocating circumcision.  The best thing for the welfare of the Galatians would be that the Judaisers were totally cut off from them.

5:11    And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution?- to preach circumcision is to announce that there is an advantage in being under the law.  It was Ishmael, representative of the law in Paul’s allegory, who persecuted Isaac, representative, like Paul, of grace.  The fact that Paul was persecuted was proof he was in no sense a Judaiser.  Then is the offence of the cross ceased- to say that man is able to work for his own salvation bolsters human pride, whereas the preaching of the cross gives man no ground for boasting, but exposes him as a guilty lost sinner.  This the sinner, whether he is a Judaiser or not, finds scandalous and offensive.

5:12    I would they were even cut off which trouble you- seeing that these men were so keen on circumcision, which involves cutting off part of the flesh, then they should submit themselves to the same process, not in a physical sense, but rather by cutting themselves off from the Galatians, and ceasing to influence them further.  Note that the apostle was not afraid to be severe on evil-teachers, for the progress of the gospel, and therefore the glory of God, was at stake.  This was not a time for compromise or conciliation.  We, too, should be decided and resolute in the face of wrong teaching.

(d)    5:14-15        Privilege used and abused

There is always a danger of making our liberty an excuse for law-less behaviour.

5:13    For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty- the call of the gospel is to freedom, bought by the redeeming work of Christ at Calvary, and realised in practice by the Spirit’s power.  Only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh- there is always a danger of turning liberty into licence, in allowing the flesh liberty of action, when in fact it should be crucified, verse 24.  The application of the truth of crucifixion with Christ will ensure that the flesh is curbed.  But by love serve one another- the believer should be so occupied with helping fellow-believers in love for them, that he has no time to indulge the flesh.  One of the marks of Sodom was an abundance of idleness, Ezekiel16:49.  God cursed the ground not only because of Adam’s sin, “for thy sake” in that sense, but also for his sake in another sense, so that by the need to work hard and long for his living, he would be prevented from sinning as much as he would if he were idle, Genesis 3:17.

5:14    For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself- this is a master-stroke!  To round off his appeal to them by quoting a verse which sums up the law in its manward aspect removes the ground from the false teacher’s feet, and leaves them confounded, for only those who know God’s grace can fulfil the righteous requirement of the law quoted here.  See Romans 13:8-10.

5:15    But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another- this is the opposite of loving one’s neighbour.  Sadly, the law-teachers were marked by ruthlessness, and this attitude seems to be becoming the characteristic of the Galatian believers too.  The initial biting is followed by ravenous eating, which results in everything being devoured.  No-one is left to please God after this process, for lives, testimonies and character have been ruined.

REASON SEVEN        GALATIANS 5:16-26
GRACE CULTIVATES THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
LAW CAN ONLY CONDEMN THE WORKS OF THE FLESH

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS CHAPTER 5, VERSES 16-26

5:16  This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

5:17  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.

5:18  But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

5:19  Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

5:20  Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

5:21  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.

5:22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

5:23  Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

5:24  And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

5:25  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

5:26  Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another. 

 

STRUCTURE OF THE PASSAGE

(a)

Verses 16-18

  Conflict between the flesh and the Spirit.

(b)

Verses 19-23 

Contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.

(c)

Verses 24-26

Consistency between life in the Spirit and walk in the Spirit.

In chapter 4:29 the apostle had spoken of believers as born after the Spirit.  He now shows the way in which the life the Spirit gives expresses itself.  Those who are led of the Spirit are not under the law, which gave no power to refrain from the sins it condemned.  Believers, however, have the power of the Spirit within enabling them not only to avoid sin, but also produce fruit to God’s glory.  They do this in the measure in which they act upon the fact that the flesh is crucified, verse 24, and follow the guidance of the indwelling Spirit.

(a)    16-18        Conflict between the flesh and the Spirit.
5:16    This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh- the principle upon which the Spirit works is that believers have life in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:2. The secret of a successful Christian life is not to try to please God by works of law, of whatever form, but to respond to the leading of the Spirit of God, and walk in the path He points out.  The Spirit of God delights to lead God’s sons in this way.

5:17    For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit- this is why the apostle has to exhort us to walk in the Spirit, because the flesh in us does not wish to do this, being at enmity with God, Romans 8:7, (the carnal mind is the mind of the flesh).  It expresses this enmity by resisting strongly the promptings of the Spirit within our hearts.  And the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other- the Spirit of God is just as opposed to the flesh as the flesh is to the Spirit, since any principle which is opposed to God is opposed to the Spirit, too, for He is God.  So that ye cannot do the things that ye would- the Spirit of God within us opposes the desires of the flesh, so that we do not do the things we would otherwise do.

5:18    But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law- those who allow the Spirit to have His way, and are therefore led of Him, indicate that they are not under law, because the Spirit does not lead them to put themselves under the law.  He only operates in the sphere where Christ is, risen, and clear of the law, which has no power over those on the resurrection side of death.  The ministry of the Spirit is placed in direct contrast with the ministry of the law, which only brings condemnation, in 2 Corinthians 3:4-11.

(b)    19-23        Contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.
5:19,20,21    Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these- the apostle now lists 18 manifestations of the flesh, and then the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit, clearly highlighting the marked difference between a life lived according to the flesh, and one led by the Spirit. 

Adultery

Sexual relations between persons already married to another.

 

Fornication

Any immoral relationship, including sodomy, lesbianism and incest.

 

Uncleanness

Impure thought or behaviour.

 

Lasciviousness 

The absence of restraint expressed in immorality.

 

Idolatry

The worship of demons behind the image that represents them.

 

Covetousness

Covetousness is idolatry, because it involves occupation with the seen at the expense of the unseen, true God, see Colossians 3:5.

 

Witchcraft

Another form of the worship of demons, and of the Devil himself.  These first six are all associated with idolatry in heathen lands, and would have marked the Galatian idol-worshippers before they were saved.

 

Hatred 

Enmities, the opposite of true love.

 

Variance

Strife.

 

Emulations

Jealousies, the desire to have what another has, the opposite of the desire to bestow on another what he has not.

 

Wrath

Hot anger, passion.

 

Strife

Rivalry, party-making, with self-will the underlying idea in the word. One of the fruits of jealousy.  These five are manifestations of the opposite of love.

 

Seditions

A standing apart from others to form a separate party.

 

Heresies

Literally a choosing, resulting in a sect. These last two have to do with the display of party-spirit.

 

Envyings

Feelings of displeasure on hearing of the prosperity of others.      Envy desires to deprive the other of what he has, whereas jealousy seeks to gain it for himself.

 

Murders

The ultimate expression of hatred.

 

Drunkenness, revellings,

The excesses of those who have abandoned all sense of dignity and self-control.

 

and such like-

Indicates that the list could be extended.

 

                                                  
 
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- the word “do” has the sense of “practise”, in other words, to be marked by these things constantly, as a way of life.  It is not that every temporary display of these things deprives a person of the kingdom.  The kingdom of God in its future aspect is here meant, since those who are born again are already in the kingdom, they have full title to the kingdom already.  To inherit the kingdom supposes that it is in prospect, and then is entered in a full way.  Believers The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, Romans 14:17, the opposite of what is listed here.

5:22    But the fruit of the Spirit- note that it is fruit in the singular, compared to the plural words in the list of the works of the flesh.  The Spirit’s work in the believer’s heart will result in the display of this ninefold fruit, like a bunch of grapes. 

Love

Love for its own sake, because the nature of the one loving demands it.

 

Joy

That which men seek to obtain by their revellings, etc, is in the believer’s heart because Christ has put it there, John 15:11.  Joy is known even in tribulations, Romans 5:3, for it is not affected by circumstances, unlike happiness, which depends on what happens.

 

Peace

That state of calm in the heart because of the judicial settlement of those things which caused us formerly to be at war with God, see Romans 8:7; 5:1.

 

Longsuffering

Forbearance, patience, the attitude of one who is confident of God’s approval, and who is therefore able to be restrained in his dealings with others.

 

Gentleness

Kindness, goodness of heart, for just as the evil things of a man come from within, out of his heart, Mark 7:21-23, so good things come out of a regenerate heart.

 

Goodness

Goodness in character, which produces good effects.

 

Faith

Fidelity, or faithfulness.

 

Meekness

That attitude of spirit which accepts God’s dealings as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.

 

Temperance

Temperance is the translation of a word which means strength, and reminds us that the believer has the power of the indwelling Spirit, enabling him to resist the workings of the flesh, and exercise self-control.

 

Against such there is no law- the law of Moses is against the works of the flesh, for that is what the law was laid down for, see 1 Timothy 1:9.  There is no part of the law of Moses, however, which legislates against the fruit of the Spirit. 

(c)    24-26        Consistency between life in the Spirit and walk in the Spirit.
5:24    And they that are Christ’s- a person demonstrates he belongs to Christ by displaying the fruit of the Spirit in his life.  Notice the title used, for it links the Lord Jesus with the Spirit of God, and denotes one who, as anointed by the Spirit, (Christos means anointed), displayed the fruit of the Spirit to perfection.  Have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts- believers have entered into the practical implications of the crucifixion of Christ, with its cancelling out of that manifestation of the flesh which is called the old man.  Whilst he is dealt with finally, and the believer is looked at by God as being a new man in Christ, the tendencies of our sinful self are still present and should be put to death, or mortified, as we apply the truth of the crucifixion to ourselves.   “When we were in the flesh, the passions (same word as affections in this passage) of sins, which were through the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death”, Romans 7:5.  So the law did not enable men to produce the fruit of the Spirit, but rather incited to the works of the flesh.  See Romans 7:7-11

5:25    If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit- this parallels the teaching of Romans 8:9-13, where believers are said to be in the Spirit, and therefore should walk after the Spirit.  To walk in the Spirit means to walk as those who are led and guided by Him, so that the life is given character by that fact.

5:26    Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another- these were the features that marked the law-teachers, for when the pursuit of spirituality is abandoned, then self-will comes to the fore and promotes itself.  This is the behaviour that marked Ishmael, and should not characterise those who are true sons, like Isaac.