Galatians 5:16-26

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 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. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 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. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Observation

  • If we walk by the Spirit we will not fall prey to the flesh.
  • Our fleshly desires are contrary to the Spirit.
  • The Spirit opposes the flesh and the flesh opposes the Spirit.
  • The Spirit fight against the flesh to keep you from falling into your desires.
  • If we are led by the Spirit we are not under the law.
  • If we are under the law we are not led by the Spirit.
  • The works of the flesh are obvious.
  • Here is an incomplete list of the works of the flesh
    • sexual immorality
    • impurity
    • sensuality
    • idolatry
    • sorcery
    • enmity
    • strife
    • jealousy
    • fits of anger
    • rivalries
    • division
    • dissension
    • envy
    • drunkenness
    • orgies
  • Anyone who does the works of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God.
  • Here is a list of the fruits of the Spirit
    • love
    • joy
    • peace
    • patience
    • kindness
    • goodness
    • faithfulness
    • gentleness
    • self-control
  • There is no law against the fruits of the Spirit.
  • If we belong to Christ we have crucified the flesh along with it passions and desires.
  • If we live by the Spirit we need to walk with the Spirit.
  • We should not:
    • Become conceited
    • Provoke each other
    • Envy each other.

Interpretation

Paul just said to love our neighbor as ourselves. Like that is easy! Paul knows full well that the neither we nor the Galatians can keep this law. We cannot love our neighbor as ourselves. We are sinners. So here Paul provides the solution. Paul says walk in the Spirit and follow His leading and fight against the flesh and its desires. In making this statement Paul is neither denying the doctrine of justification by faith alone nor that should we do good works.

When Paul says that the flesh and Spirit oppose or fight each other, he is restating what he wrote to the Romans “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” (Romans 7:18) When Paul speaks about the flesh and Spirit warring he is not speaking to the unregenerate. They have no need of the inner conflict. It never bothers their conscience when they sin. Instead, Paul is speaking here to the Christian.

If the flesh is the source of my desires, how am I to overcome these desires. I am, after all, flesh. Paul provides the answer “in the Spirit.” Christ alone can supply us with perfect righteousness. Therefore we must always believe and always hope in Christ. “as it is written, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’” (Romans 9:33) So when you have desires that you know are not pleasing to Christ do not despair, rely on the Him for righteousness not on yourself. When we rely on Christ for our righteousness the law cannot accuse us because He is without sin.

Paul enumerates some of the works of the flesh, certainly not all of them. First, he mentions various kinds of carnal lusts, as adultery, sensuality, etc. But carnal lust is not the only work of the flesh, and he also counts among the works of the flesh idolatry, witchcraft, fits of anger, and the like. But they can be boiled not in their most basic form to idolatry. While we may not make statues, kneel before them and pray to them, every religion which worships God in ignorance or neglect of His Word and will is idolatry. Idolatry can put on such a good front and act so spiritual that the sham may only be recognized by true believers.

When Paul refers to divisions he is referring to heresies. Heresies have always been found in the church. However, the Word, faith, sacraments, service, Christ, and God, are common to believers.

The statement, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” is a very hard saying. Who among us have not done most all of these things. But take heart because, if you have repented, we have been have been covered by the blood Christ blood and inherit his righteousness.

Paul also enumerates some, not all, the fruits of the Spirit. Note these are the fruits of the Spirit. It is not fruit that you bear. It is fruit the Spirit bears through us. That is, it is the Spirit’s fruit not ours.

A true Christian is not a hypocrite. Yes, He is a sinner. He does not fear God as he should. Nor does he love God as he should. But he resists the things the flesh inclines him to do. He crucifies the flesh with its evil desire by walking in the Spirit.

Paul concludes this chapter with the admonishment to not be conceited, provoking each other nor envying each other. Conceit or pride, as St. Augustine points out, is the mother of all heresies. Pride can be harmful anywhere but it is particularly poisonous when it gets into the Church. You may argue about knowledge, art, money, politics, and so on without doing any real harm. But you cannot quarrel about salvation or damnation, or eternal life and death without damage to the Church. The false teachers had rejected the true doctrine of the gospel, that is, the doctrine of grace. They brought their own version of the gospel. They confused the Galatians and caused quarrels among them. Which goes to show that neither the false teachers nor the Galatians walked in the Spirit? The Gospel is not there for us to aggrandize ourselves. The Gospel is to aggrandize Christ and the mercy of God.

Application

We fight the flesh because it is in opposition to the Spirit. And the Spirit aids us in overcoming the flesh. The phrase Paul uses, “to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” This is a way of thinking that is completely foreign to our postmodern mind set. We believe we should be able to do what we want. That, we claim, is the essence of freedom. We even justify our evil desires by saying things like, “I am this way because God made me this way. If God did not want me to be this way, He would have made me differently.” The truth is, what we want is the result of sin. We are the way we are because we are sinners.

The result of, love your neighbor as yourself, is the commandment Paul is addressing. He lists several attributes or action that are of the flesh and several that are of the Spirit. I read the list of things that are to be opposed, “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these,” and I am guilty of the all of them. I read the list of attributes I should have, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” I have none of these. I have promised God and resolved countless times to be a better person. But I never kept my promise. I have learned from experience that I cannot keep my promise to be a better person. It is only Christ in me that can change me. It is Christ’s life not mine.

We are fond or the # easy steps to whatever. So here are 3 easy steps to being more loving, joyful, kinder, and patient

Step 1. Study your bible. Not just read it, study it.

Step 2. Pray daily, Praise Him for being God and confess your sins

Step 3. Repeat Step 1 and 2 until… No wait, that is wrong, just repeat and keep repeating.

Trying to be more loving and patient and kind will only bring frustration and condemnation. You will fail. These are the fruits of the Spirit. Allow the Spirit to live through you and produce its fruit. The Spirit is truth and truth come from the word of God.

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