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Galatians 5:13-26 Notes

TRUE FRUIT - Galatians 5:1, 13-25  Biblical Commentary:

THE CONTEXT:  In chapter 4, Paul called the Galatian disciples to live holy lives:
He called them "to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and humility" (4:1).

  • He emphasized the unity of believers (4:3, 11-16).
  • He called them not to "walk as the rest of the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God".  They should instead "put on the new man, who in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth" (4:17-24).
  • He emphasized holy lives:  "Putting away falsehood" (4:25)-anger (4:26-27)-theft (4:28)-corrupt speech (4:29)-"bitterness, wrath, anger, outcry, and slander"-and malice (4:31).
  • He encouraged them to "be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God also in Christ forgave you" (4:32)


1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

"Stand firm therefore in the liberty (Greek: eleuthero) by which Christ has made us free" (eleutheria) (v. 1a).  A literal translation of the Greek would be, "Christ has liberated us for freedom."

Note the similarity between the Greek words for liberty (eleuthero) and freedom (eleutheria).  Paul uses these two similar words for emphasis.

Paul's point is that the Mosaic Law, given by God as a tutor or schoolmaster (paidagogos-Galatians 3:24) to guide the Israelites, emphasized salvation by merit.  When Christ came, the emphasis changed to salvation by the grace of God through faith in Christ.

The difference was life-changing.  The law (613 commandments) prescribed in great detail exactly what a person could and could not do.  The Talmud (thousands more rules) tried to specify the exact limits of commandments, such as the prohibition of work on the Sabbath.  Even Biblical scholars had problems remembering all the rules.  The ordinary person, even if literate, had little access to the Biblical text and could have only a vague idea when he/she had transgressed the law.  It was an impossible situation.

But Christ set us free by subjecting us to the rule of grace rather than the rule of law.  He too gave commandments ("Love your neighbor" Matthew 22:37-40), but he was "full of grace" (John 1:14)-meaning that transgressors who are also believers can expect the blood of Christ to make them whole in God's sight.

But we would be remiss if we were to ignore the grace of the Old Testament.  Without grace, God would have abandoned the Israelites when they built a calf of gold at the base of Mount Sinai (Exodus 32:1-6)-or when they complained in the wilderness (Exodus 15:24; 16:2; 17:3; Numbers 11:1-2; 14:27-36; Jeremiah 2:29)-or when they refused to enter the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:19-33).  He chastened Israel-he punished the Israelites­­-but he didn't abandon them or cease to love them.

"and don't be entangled again with a yoke (Greek: zygos) of bondage" (douleia) (v. 1b).  A literal translation would be, "don't submit again to a yoke of slavery."

A yoke, of course, was the wooden implement used to join two oxen to serve the purpose of their master.  Because a yoke so restricted the oxen's movements, it became a symbol of servitude.  Biblical authors used the yoke as a metaphor for various kinds of bondage  (Genesis 27:40; Leviticus 26:13; Numbers 25:3; Deuteronomy 28:48; 1 Kings 12:10-14; Isaiah 9:4; 10:27; 14:25; 47:6; 58:6, 9; Jeremiah 2:20, etc.).  The Jewish law was a yoke (Jeremiah 5:5).  Yahweh permitted Babylonia to burden the people of Judah with a yoke of oppression as a punishment (Isaiah 9:4)-but promised to break that yoke (Ezekiel 34:27).

So Paul uses a yoke as a metaphor for the bondage of the Mosaic Law, which was so impossibly detailed and restrictive, especially when the rules of the Talmud were added.


13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 "For you, brothers, were called (Greek: kaleo) for freedom" (v. 13a).  As noted above, a literal translation of verse 1 is:  "Christ has liberated us for freedom."  The idea here is much the same.  When Paul uses the word kaleo here, he is speaking of a holy calling-a Godly calling.  God has created us for freedom from the law (v. 1), and has called us to embrace freedom (v. 13a).

"Only don't use your freedom for gain to the flesh" (Greek: sarx)" (v. 13b).  Sarx is an ugly-sounding word that depicts an often ugly reality-a focus on bodily indulgence rather than on Godly service.  In the New Testament, sarx is most frequently used as a contrast with that which is spiritual (John 3:6; 6:63; Romans 7:18; 8:3-6).  That is the case in this verse.

Paul is saying that our freedom from the law isn't an invitation to loose living.  It is not a license to sin. Paul expanded on this in his letter to the Romans, where he said that, at baptism, we became new creatures-no longer suited to sinful behavior:

"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? May it never be! We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism to death, that just like Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will also be part of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be in bondage to sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. But if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him; knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no more has dominion over him! For the death that he died, he died to sin one time; but the life that he lives, he lives to God. Thus consider yourselves also to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:1-11).

"but through love (Greek: agape) be servants to one another" (v. 13c).  Agape has to do with a concern for the well-being of the other person.  It suggests giving, even to the point of sacrifice.  Paul says here that believers who love each other with agape love will exemplify that love through service to one another.

"For the whole law is fulfilled (Greek: pleroo) in one word, in this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (v. 14).  The word pleroo in this context means, "performed fully."  In other words, Paul is saying that those who love their neighbors have kept the law fully.

"You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (v. 14b).  This commandment is found first in Leviticus 19:18.  When approached by a scribe asking, "Which commandment is the greatest of all?" Jesus replied that the first two commandments are to love God with all our being-and our neighbor as ourselves (Mk. 12:28-31).

"But if you bite and devour one another, be careful that you don't consume one another" (v. 15).  A more literal translation of the second part of this verse would be:  "Watch out, or you will be consumed by one another."

We have seen this happen.  We have seen people in the church or in families or in businesses biting and devouring those near them.  When that happens, everyone loses-churches, families, businesses, and individuals.  Collegial behavior-taking care of each other-builds up churches, families, and businesses.

"But I say, walk (Greek: peripateo) by the Spirit, and you won't fulfill the lust (epithymia)of the flesh" (v. 16). The Greek word peripateo literally means "walk around" (peri means "around," as in our English word "perimeter"-and pateo means "to walk.").

From very early times, Jews used the word "walk" to speak of the manner in which one conducted one's life.  In this verse, Paul is calling believers to allow the Holy Spirit to shape the conduct of their lives.  People who do that will not allow the lusts of their hearts to reign supreme when it comes to their conduct.

"For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, that you may not do the things that you desire" (v. 17).  The Spirit and the flesh are at war-vying for people's hearts.  Paul was well-acquainted with the struggle.  In his letter to the Roman church, he said:

For I don't know what I am doing. For I don't practice what I desire to do; but what I hate, that I do. But if what I don't desire, that I do, I consent to the law that it is good. So now it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing. For desire is present with me, but I don't find it doing that which is good. For the good which I desire, I don't do; but the evil which I don't desire, that I practice. But if what I don't desire, that I do, it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me (Romans 7:15-20).

If that was the Apostle Paul's experience, who is immune?  Not me!  Nor you!

"But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law" (v. 18).  Those who are led by the Spirit have no need of the law.  The Spirit will guide them around temptations, so that Spirit-leadership eliminates the need for laws that spell out precisely what is and what is not permissible.

The person who is guided by love for God has no need for a commandment against serving other gods.  The person who is guided by love for neighbor has no need for a commandment not to steal or murder.

"Now the works of the flesh are obvious, which are: adultery, sexual immorality (Greek: porneia), uncleanness (akatharsia), lustfulness (aselgeia), idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, orgies (komos), and things like these" (vv. 19-21a).

Several of these words have to do with sexual immorality of one sort or another:

Adultery, sexual immorality (porneia) has to do with any kind of sexual sin.
Uncleanness (akatharsia) is uncleanness, to include moral impurity.
Lustfulness (aselgeia) is debauchery, lustfulness, or perversion.
Jealousies (zelos) is zeal or jealousy or anger, and is sometimes related to romance or sex.
Orgies (komos) has to do with drunken revelry, which often leads to sexual immorality.

Idolatry (eidololatria). Worshiping an idol would violate the commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol.... You shall not bow down to them or worship them (Exodus 20:3-5).
Sorcery (pharmakeia) Using drugs in support of the occult, sorcery, or witchcraft.

Hatred (echthra) Hatred or hostility.
Strife (eris) Strife or contentious behavior.
Outbursts of anger (thymos) Anger or strife.
Rivalries (eritheia) Scheming to serve one's own selfish interests.
Divisions (dichostasiai) Divisions or factions (See John 17:20-23)
Heresies (hairesis) Those who promote beliefs contrary to scripture.
Envyings (phthonos) Experiencing pain at another person's good fortune.
Murders (I checked two Greek texts and didn't find this word in this verse.)
Drunkenness (methe) Overindulgence in alcohol or other drugs.
Things like these (ho homoia) literally "similar passions."

These vices are destroyers-destroyers of self and destroyers of relationships and organizations.  In this context, they have to do with attitudes and actions that have the potential to destroy the church-the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7).

"of which I forewarn you, even as I also forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God" (v. 21b; see also 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). This is a difficult verse, because nearly everyone succumbs to one or more of Paul's list of vices.  Does that mean that those who have erred have no hope of salvation?  I once heard a sermon, the theme of which (repeated again and again) was that God does not love sinners.  Is that true?  Of course not.  In his letter to the Romans, Paul says, "all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God."  But then he goes on to say that we are "justified freely by (God's) grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:23-24).  The grace of God is the answer to our need.

Jesus said, "God so loved the world, (Greek: kosmos) "that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).  To understand the radical nature of that verse, we need to understand that the kosmos-world of which Jesus spoke was the world opposed to God-the world of sinful people.

But be sure to note that Jesus says, "whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life."  Faith, not works, is the thing that makes it possible for us to avail ourselves of God's grace.  Undoubtedly, God stands ready, eagerly ready, to forgive the sins committed before we became disciples-but what about those committed after we became believers?  It would be wonderful to think that believers never sin, but we know that isn't true.  As noted above, even Paul acknowledged his continuing struggle with sin (Romans 7:15-20).

But James says, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can faith save him? And if a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food, and one of you tells them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled'; and yet you didn't give them the things the body needs, what good is it? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself. Yes, a man will say, 'You have faith, and I have works.' Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith" (James 2:14-18).

It would appear that James is opposed to Paul with regard to the idea of works, but he isn't.  James doesn't say that we can gain salvation by good works.  He says that genuine faith will always manifest itself by good works.  Any faith that produces no good works is not real faith.


22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control" (v. 22-23a).

Love (agape).  An unselfish concern for the well-being of the other person.
Joy (chara).  We can be joyful, knowing that we have experience salvation.
Peace (eirene).  An inner peace derived from a deep relationship to God.
Patience (makrothymia).  Because God has been gracious to us, we should be gracious to one another.
Kindness (chrestotes).  Reaching out to others, offering support, whether physical or spiritual.
Goodness (agathosyne).  Good character manifested by benevolence.
Faith (pistis).  Faith in the Lord Jesus-steering the ship of our lives by Jesus' star.
Gentleness (prautes).  A kind and gentle approach to people and tasks.  Not weakness.
Self-control (enkrateia).  Control over one's desires and actions.  The opposite of self-indulgence.

"Against such things there is no law" (v. 23b). The law was given to spell out in great detail how people should relate to God and to other people.  However, Spirit-directed people have no need of the law-no need for someone to spell out in detail how they should behave in relationships.

"Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh (Greek: sarx) with its passions and lusts" (v. 24).  Paul states this as a fact ("you have been") instead of an imperative ("you should do this").

As stated above, sarx is an ugly-sounding word that depicts an often ugly reality-a focus on bodily indulgence rather than on Godly service.  Now Paul labels the bodily indulgences as "passions and lusts."

But those passions and lusts are dead for the believer, because believers "have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts"-or so says Paul.  In our experience, we know that is not altogether the case.  However devoted we might be to Christ, passions and lusts still rear their ugly heads now and then.  If we are truly devoted to Christ, we will ask his help in dealing with the passions and lusts-and, when we find ourselves guilty, we can ask forgiveness.

In any event, slaying the passion-and-lusts demon is a lifelong task for even the most ardent believer.

"If we live by the Spirit, let's also (Greek:  stoicheo) walk by the Spirit" (v. 25).  As noted above, from very early times, Jews used the word "walk" to speak of the manner in which one conducted one's life.

The usual Greek word for "walk" is peripateo (see comments on v. 16)-but now Paul uses the word stoicheo, which conveys the thought of standing or proceeding in an orderly fashion.  In this verse, stoicheo conveys the thought of allowing the Spirit to direct our lives in an orderly, God-approved manner.

"Let's not become conceited (Greek: kenodoxos), provoking one another, and envying one another" (v. 26).  The word kenodoxos (conceited) combines two Greek words, kenos (vain) and doxa (glory)-so the English word vainglory (inordinate pride or excessive vanity) is a direct translation.  In this verse kenodoxos speaks of those who think more highly of themselves than they ought to think-the exact opposite of Paul's injunction "not to think of (themselves) more highly than (they) ought to think" (Romans 12:3).

That kind of false pride is a prescription for trouble.  For one thing, it is transparent.  People often recognize phonies, and refuse to believe anything they say.  For another thing, conceited people often make life miserable for others.  Conceit can be absolutely deadly in a church.

Humility, the opposite of conceit, is not often seen as a virtue today.  We prize assertiveness rather than humility.  However, as Christians, we are called to emulate Christ, who "existing in the form of God, didn't consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:6-8).




Allow me to paraphrase and apply Shirer's words (Rise and Fall of the Third Reich) to our passage in Galatians 5: the kind of war which is waged determines the success of the weapons employed. This same principle explains the failure of the legalism of the Judaizers to subdue the sins of the pagan Gentiles. The weapon of the Law was ineffective because of the nature of the war. In Ephesians 6, Paul demonstrates the need for spiritual weapons, based upon the fact that we are engaged in a spiritual warfare. Galatians 5 also describes a spiritual warfare, but it is a war within the soul of the saint, rather than the external war found in Ephesians. In Ephesians 6, spiritual weapons are needed because of the fallen angelic forces who are resisting the saints. In Galatians 5, grace is needed because of the fallen nature which is still within us, waging war against the Spirit.

The Judaizers erred in that they were attempting to fight the spiritual war with the weapons of the flesh. They erroneously believed that the only way to overcome the evils of the heathen society of that day was to arm themselves with the Old Testament Law. To seek to subdue sin by means of the flesh is like trying to put out a grease fire with water-it only makes matters worse. Paul's argument in our text is intended to show that the nature of the spiritual war which is being waged within the saint is such that the Law promotes sin, while grace alone prevents it.

The purpose of this message is to expound this passage as a whole, especially in the light of the context. We shall then seek to find its application to our own lives. The next message will cover the same passage, focusing on the principles regarding the spiritual life. We will then survey some of the major views of the spiritual life in contemporary evangelism and evaluate them in the light of Scripture.

The context of our passage is crucial to our understanding of Paul's words. Chapter 5 begins a new section. Chapters 1 and 2 are primarily written as a defense of Paul's apostleship and his authority. Chapters 3 and 4 are intended to prove the superiority and priority of grace over the Law by developing the priority and superiority of the Abrahamic Covenant to the Mosaic. Paul shows in chapters 3 and 4 that the Law cannot produce righteousness, while chapters 5 and 6 show how righteousness is produced by grace through the Holy Spirit.

The first 12 verses of chapter 5 concentrate on the subject of freedom, the goal of our salvation (cf. 5:1). To be circumcised was to submit oneself to the Old Testament Law, thus exchanging freedom for bondage. In verses 13 and following, the goal of this freedom in Christ is expounded. Galatians 5:1-12 explains what the Christian is free from, and the remainder of the chapter expounds on what the Christian is free for.

If the broad context is that of the freedom of the Christian, the narrower context is that of the contention and strife which exists within the Galatian churches. You will notice that our passage is encircled, as it were, by strife and contention. In verse 15 we learn that the Galatian saints were "biting and devouring" each other. In verse 26, there is a final exhortation not to "become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another." The freedom which was granted at salvation was a freedom from servitude to servanthood. The Galatian saints were made free to serve one another. The practical problem was that they were so divided by friction and strife that serving one another was greatly hindered. The situation is similar to having a beautiful and expensive automobile, with a lifetime supply of gasoline, but without any oil for lubrication. Even the most precision engine (or perhaps I should say, especially the most precision engine) cannot function without oil. The unity and harmony of the Galatian churches was disrupted by strife.

Paul claims that such strife was the result of walking in the flesh, rather than of walking in the Spirit. Walking in the flesh was the direct result of the Galatians' turning to another gospel, a gospel which added law-keeping to grace. Paul seeks to solve the practical problem of disunity by exposing its roots: legalism. He further attempts to convince his readers that legalism will only promote sin, rather than prevent it, because of the war which is being waged within the soul.

Freedom for Service - ( 5:13-15)

Initially I viewed verses 13-15 as somewhat incidental, compared to the more important truths of "walking in the Spirit."103 These verses, however, are vital to understanding the realm in which "walking in the Spirit" is to take place. Paul is not discussing spirituality in a vacuum, but in a very practical context as described in verses 13-15.

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another.104

Paul begins chapter 5 with the words, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free." Verse 13 takes up the same theme but in a more precise way. Paul uses the term "only" to introduce a more restrictive view of the purpose of our freedom. The Judaizers reacted to Paul's teaching because they feared that freedom would lead to license. A brief description of the evils of the Gentile world will help you understand the fears of the Judaizers.

The sexual life of the Graeco-Roman world in NT times was a lawless chaos.  The sin of homosexuality was even more prevalent in Paul's day than it is today.  From the highest to the lowest society was riddled with homosexuality.

Nevertheless, the Judaizers were wrong. Paul's words in verse 13 make it clear that the freedom which the gospel gives is not the freedom to sin, but freedom from sin. Biblical freedom does not cater to the flesh, but crucifies it (cf. v. 24). Indulging the flesh is merely slavery to it, and thus is not freedom at all (cf. John 8:34; Rom. 7:16). Whenever one is a servant of the flesh, one is in bondage to it. Paul asserts that there is freedom from bondage to sin. Biblical freedom is not freedom to serve sin. It is not a license to immorality and all of the Gentile paganisms of the day. Paul's word to the Judaizers is "the liberty of the gospel produces what you want-freedom from sin. The Law can never have this result." Rather than being an opportunity to sin, freedom is a call to love. Paul urges the Galatian believers to "through love serve one another" (v. 13). Thus servanthood is the goal of freedom. We are free from sin. We are free for service to one another; service that is in love, not sensuality.

Verse 14 further destroys the argumentation of the Judaizers. The Judaizers taught that men needed to keep the Law. Paul has been contending that anyone who places himself under the Law by submitting to circumcision is only destined for failure, because it is impossible to perfectly keep the Law. However, even though the Law is wrong as a means to obtain righteousness, it is a commendable goal. This point is of vital importance. The readers of Galatians assume that the Law has no value because they have misinterpreted statements about being free from the Law and having died to the Law. Paul corrects this misunderstanding and states that the Law, in terms of a standard of righteousness, is valid. The righteousness which the Law describes is still a standard for today. While Law is a valid standard it cannot be a source of righteousness. The Judaizers incorrectly taught that the Law was a source of righteousness. They assumed that they could be righteous by keeping the Law. The Law's standard will be fulfilled by those who walk in the Spirit as Paul makes clear in Romans 8.

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the Law could not do (as a source), weak as it was through the flesh, God did sending His own son in the likeness of sinful flesh as an offering for sin. He condemned sin in the flesh in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:2).

Men fulfill the Law, not by submitting to it as the Judaizers advocated but rather by walking in the Spirit. Paul does not discard the Law. Instead he views it as God intended it-a standard of righteousness.

The goal of the Law, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (v. 14b) is rather ironic in light of verse 15. Paul summarizes the requirement of the Law in this way because of the conflict within the Galatian church. The readers of this epistle may have been somewhat perplexed at Paul's crystallization of the Law in light of the teaching of Christ. Why does Paul not refer to "the great and foremost commandment" (Matt. 22:38)?

"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And He said to him "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:36-37).

Paul has been talking about devotion to Christ. His theme in these verses has not changed. Devotion to Christ is impossible without love for the brethren.  If someone says, "I love God and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that one who loves God should love his brother also" (1 Jn 4:20-21).

The great summary of the Law with regard to others was also stated by Christ, "The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:31). Paul refers to this condensation of the Law because of the conflict in the church. Ironically, the Law under which the Gentiles placed themselves condemned them. The goal of the Law is brotherly love, yet verse 15 clearly indicates their failure in keeping this aspect of the Law. When the Law is promoted as the source of righteousness it has a boomerang effect. Instead of producing righteousness, it leads to selfishness. Rather than unity and harmony, rather than service one to another, the Galatians were biting and devouring each other. Like cats and dogs the Galatians were continually fighting with each other. Paul warned them that such action would eventually destroy them, "Take care lest you be consumed." Rather than serving one another, they were sacrificing one another.

Walking by the Spirit - (5:15-26)

Verses 16 and 17 are vitally important. Paul writes, "But I say, ..." which I take to be a contrast to the biting and devouring one another in verse 15. "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh" (v. 16).

Paul previously argues in verse 13 that we are not freed in order to serve the flesh. However, in verse 15, Paul describes the Galatians as doing precisely this. They were serving themselves; that is to say, they were serving the flesh. They were not serving one another. Thus in verse 16, Paul capsulizes the solution to their selfishness. He asserts that fleshly desires are combatted by walking in the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit results in serving one another through love.

Verse 17 explains the crux of the conflict by describing the nature of the war within. "For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please." Within us rages a battle between the flesh and the Spirit. It is critical to have a correct understanding of "the flesh." The ancient Greeks believed that the real problem was a battle between the mind and the body. Thus some have incorrectly identified "the flesh" with the body. It is not entirely true and is an error still propagated today. One misguided teacher has called the body the "carton," and he says it is the source of evil. This identification is incorrect because the body is to be presented to God as a holy, living sacrifice. We do not present something evil to God. The body is something which is to be transformed. As a matter of fact, our body will be transformed and glorified (Phil. 3:21). The body is not evil; the flesh is evil. The flesh does refer to our bodily appetites. The flesh is our fallen humanity, our fallen humanness. It is what we are apart from Christ.

We received the Spirit as a result of faith in Christ, and the Spirit is opposed to the flesh. Paul laid this foundation for the Galatians previously in chapter 3.

You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Christ Jesus was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (Gal. 3:1-2).

In the above verses, Paul refers to the initial reception of the Holy Spirit that comes at conversion. He asked, "How did the Spirit come? Did the Spirit come by law-works? Did it come by submitting yourself to the Law? Did it come, so to speak, when you were circumcised?" No. The Spirit came by faith alone, as found in the example of Abram. Paul continues: "Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Gal. 3:3).

Do you notice that those are two opposing forces-flesh and spirit? The following verses continue the dichotomy between the flesh and the Spirit. "Did you suffer so many things in vain-if indeed it was in vain? Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law or by hearing with faith?" (Gal. 3:4-5).

A distinct relationship is revealed, the relationship between faith and the Spirit, the Law and the flesh. Faith is related to the Spirit. Faith receives the Spirit of God, the agent of both salvation and sanctification. Law-keeping relies upon the flesh. When Paul speaks about the flesh and Spirit being at war one with another he writes, "For these things are in opposition to one another so that you may not do the things that you please" (v. 17b).

What exactly does Paul mean when he says, "... you may not do the things that you please"? In the light of Romans 7, I believe that Paul means we are unable to do the things that we want to do, that is, the things that we know are good. In other words, I believe it is those things which the Law requires, the standard of righteousness. Thus we are unable to do righteousness because the flesh and the Spirit are opposed to one another. The Galatians had opted to resist sin by submitting to the Law. However, Paul has demonstrated that submitting to the Law and adopting works results in surrendering faith. When the Law is not only the standard but the source of righteousness, there is only one means through which to keep it; that is, through the flesh. Since the flesh and the Spirit are opposed to one another, the Spirit doesn't empower men who are under Law. The Spirit empowers men who live by faith. Thus Paul reasons, you cannot do the things which the Law requires. You cannot keep the standards of the Law in the power of the flesh because the flesh is opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit is opposed to the flesh. Consequently, if you are under Law your only power is the flesh, yet walking in the Spirit is the only means to serve one another in love. Men are defeated in their good intentions by submitting to the Law. To place oneself under the Law is to place oneself in a position where only the power of the flesh and the desires of the flesh are operative. Trying to overcome sin with Law is something like trying to put out a grease fire with water. All it does is multiply the problem. It makes sin grow rather than reducing it.

In verses 18 and following Paul characterizes the man who walks in the Spirit as a man who is not under the Law. "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law" (v. 18). The elaborate description of the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit are given to demonstrate that if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the Law. We will address further the deeds of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit in my next message. But I do want you to notice that the things which are described as the deeds of the flesh and the works of the Spirit are not all inclusive. These are not all of the things which are the works of the flesh, nor are they all of the things which are the fruit of the Spirit. Most of us probably assume these lists are complete and use them to assess our spiritual condition. Notice the wording of verse 21, "Those who practice such things ..." Thus the works of the flesh that are listed are a mere sampling. Again, notice the wording in verse 23 in reference to the fruit of the Spirit: "against such things there is no law." The fruits of the Spirit which Paul lists are mere examples.

The fruits of the Spirit and the works of the flesh which Paul has listed, were chosen because of the particular problem of the Galatians. The church was beset with strife, described as biting and devouring one another. When Paul recounted the deeds of the flesh, immorality, impurity, sensuality, I honestly believe that the Galatians were saying "Preach it brother, preach it! Oh, that's the Gospel! Wow, look at him, coming down on sin!" It must have really tickled the ears of the Galatians because Judaism despised immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, and sorcery (vv. 19b-20a). Those were the "filthy five."

They agreed with Paul that the "filthy five" shouldn't be practiced. What they weren't ready to hear was the rest of the list: "enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these ..." (vv. 20-21a). Paul grouped them together as from the same source. Paul categorizes the Galatians "socially acceptable" sins with those that they would abhor committing. He wants to impress upon the Galations that they are acting in the flesh. Jesus severely dealt with the scribes and the Pharisees because of the same issue. The scribes and the Pharisees were basically law-abiding citizens. With, or around whom would you rather live? In what town would you rather live? A Pharisees' town or a Gentile pagan town? I would choose the Pharisee town any day. However, the Lord reprimanded the scribes and Pharisees, "You white-washed sepulchres, you blind leaders of the blind, you snakes!" Yet He counseled the woman caught in the act of adultery, "Go and sin no more" (John 8:11). Their socially acceptable sin is abominable in God's sight because it comes out of a self-righteous heart. In our churches today we sometimes tolerate "socially acceptable" sin, while condemning those which are unacceptable (to us, at least).

Just as the deeds of the flesh were selected to address the problem in the Galatian church, the fruits of the Spirit are also samples relating to this strife. I see a relationship between the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit. Let's call the gifts of the Spirit charisma and the fruit of the Spirit character. They are both manifestations of grace. Is not the source of the fruit of the Spirit grace and not works? The word for spiritual gifts, charismata, is derived from the word for grace, charis. Let us compare spiritual gifts to gasoline and the fruit of the Spirit to oil. Even though gasoline makes a car run, without oil to lubricate the engine it would go nowhere. In the same way, spiritual gifts are a manifestation of God's grace in the life of a believer, but without the fruit of the Spirit such gifts accomplish nothing.