In Part 6, we learning that the implication for being a child of God is freedom. Freedom to live in God’s grace. We were challenged to demonstrate this freedom by living out our faith by living a life of love. God has demonstrated His love to us, we are to demonstrate His grace to others.
Galatians 5. 16-26
In this passage, we will learn what it means to “walk by the Spirit.” This passage can be divided into two main sections: verses 16-24 and verses 25-26.
Paul writes this set of verses in such a way that they can be subdivided into three sections. In order for us to better grasp what Paul is saying, we will discuss each subsection individually.
Verses 16-18: Verse 16 begins with Paul’s command for the Galatians to “walk by the Spirit.” In the verses that follow, he demonstrates what that looks like. Paul uses imagery to explain the dynamic between the Spirit and the flesh. The two powers are set up against each other. They wage war for the heart. We and the Galatians are to seek to walk by the Spirit, not by the desires of our flesh. There is a battle demonstrated here that occurs in the heart of every person. The flesh causes us to do the things that are counter to God. It encourages us to do what we want rather than seek to be obedient to God. The Spirit, on the other hand, causes us to seek the things of God and to walk in His ways. As Paul has mentioned in the passage just before this (Galatians 5.1-15), there is freedom found in seeking to walk by the Spirit. A freedom that conquers anything that the flesh claims to provide.
Verses 19-21: In these verses, Paul sets forth what it looks like to walk in the desires of the flesh. This listing contains things that are against the things of God. As it is so easy to run through this listing, it is important for us to work through it slowly, examining our lives for evidence of the flesh. When we come across these listings, we can easily point the finger and think of another person with that characteristic. That’s obviously not the point. We should reflect on our lives and try to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2.12-13).
Verses 22-24: In these verses, Paul describes what it looks like to walk in the Spirit: producing fruit of the Spirit. This listing of characteristics is another way we can examine ourselves. We can use this list to judge where we are on the continuum of learning to live by the Spirit. The ending of verse 23 says, “Against such things there is no law.” I mentioned in Part 6, as a young Christian, I thought I was supposed to meet the expectations of a Christian to the tee. I would look at this listing in verses 22-23 and see my failure. I would use this list as a standard to strive to meet. That was a good goal, but I began to focus so much on meeting the standard that I made my Christianity more about meeting the rules rather than about my relationship with God. Paul’s point in verse 23 and in Galatians 5.1-15 was that living by the Spirit meant living in freedom from meeting a standard of rules. As a young Christian, I had missed the point. If I focused on building my relationship with God, He would eventually help me to “work out my own salvation, with fear and trembling, for it was He who worked/is working in me, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2.12-13). By focusing on growing my relationship with God, He would work in me to help me produce the fruit of His Spirit listed in these verses. I believe this is a lifelong process that begins when we receive His Spirit at the point of our salvation. Therefore, if we don’t have this list down pat, I think there is some grace for that. After all, walking by the Spirit is living in the freedom of God’s grace.
These two verses are complex to describe. Paul seems to be providing the Galatians with some encouragement yet also challenging them in verse 25. Verse 26 holds a warning for the Galatians and for us.
Again in verse 25, we see this idea of walking with the Spirit. In the verses above, Paul has just explained what it looks like to walk in the Spirit. Now he is challenging the Galatians to keep in step with the Spirit.
With this verse, I imagine a scene: a young child is following her parent on the sidewalk.
As the parent continues walking, the young girl gets distracted by a pretty flower. She stops to admire it and play with it.
I don’t believe that God ever leaves us behind, but He does want to push us and challenge us to be the best we can be. We, just like the young girl, can sometimes get distracted by the things of the flesh which can hinder our keeping in step with the Lord.
In verse 26, Paul warns the Galatians to not become conceited and therefore provoke and envy each other. This seems a bit out of the blue to me, but I know Paul has a point and a connection. The three words (conceit, provoke, and envy) seem to connect back to pride. Pride does cause disunity, and it can cause someone to not exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. For example, if there is disunity brought forth by pride, there is little chance for peace. If someone is prideful, they may feel privileged to where they don’t have to show kindness or gentleness to another person. Ultimately, humility seems to be the way to go. We need to have a humility in understanding that God is the one that has helped to produce the fruit of His Spirit in us, humility in realizing we couldn’t have the fruit of the Spirit without Him, and humility in the fact that only through God’s grace have we been saved.
I strongly suggest reading through Romans 8 as a supplemental reading to this lesson. In this chapter, Paul explains the Spirit and His work in more detail. He also explains the battle between the flesh and the Spirit in more depth than he does in this lesson.
Photo Credit: Alvan Nee