AN EXPOSITION OF GALATIANS 5:13-26
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.
The liberty which the believer enjoys is not an antinomian liberty. Some Antinomians reject any place for the Law, even the Moral Law, in the believer’s life. The Puritans were accused of engaging in the “whippings of the law” to control the daily life of the believer. The Puritan, John Bunyan, had Christian answer this charge in the Pilgrim’s Progress. Speaking of the Antinomians, Christian said, “I walk by the rule of my master, you walk by the rude workings of your fancies.” There is a place for the Moral Law in the life of the believer. The Christian has liberty, but the believer is not lawless. Liberty is not to be a code word for licentiousness for that would make a mockery of redemption. One cynic has quipped:
“Free from the Law, O happy condition;
Sin as you please, for there is redemption.”
The believer’s life is not life under the Law.
The believer’s life is not life without Law. That would make the Christian an Antinomian.
The believer’s life is a life grounded in love to Christ, and guided by the Holy Spirit.
14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; THOU SHALT LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF.
The law is fulfilled, or, literally, the law is obeyed by one word, meaning, by “one statement.” The statement is familiar. “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” This is not something that is optional for the believer. It is not something that is negotiable. We cannot say, “Lord, I will love those who love me.” We cannot tell God, “I will love those who are lovely.”
There are people who are not lovely. They just look like they have sucked a lemon for breakfast. Their whole disposition is get away from me. They will not look at you. They hang their head. They want no eye contact. They want to be left alone, and sometimes they tell you that.
But then, there are people who are just intrinsically lovely. They walk into a room, and suddenly the atmosphere is much nicer. Studies indicate that when we meet a new person, we decide within fifteen seconds whether we like them or not. In the Christian community, we do not have the luxury of fifteen seconds to decide. The decision is made for us by Christ. We are to love others to the same degree, and with the same intensity that we love ourselves.
Since self-love is personal, powerful, and prolonged, self-love becomes the template for loving others. The statement Paul cites is found in Leviticus 19:18. “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.” This is not easy to do, but it is the known will of the Lord and for good reason. If we do not love one another, our fallen nature will compel us to destroy one another, and in the process, destroy our own soul.
15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
The evidence that Christians do bite and devour one another is abundant. The first evidence that can be provided that Christians do bite and devour one another are the many denominations. We, as Christians, love to divide in the name of unity. Rather than discuss doctrinal differences until we come to a unity of the faith, we develop our party platforms. According to the Dictionary of Christianity in America, “As of 1980 David B. Barrett identified 20,800 Christian denominations worldwide” (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1990), “Denominationalism,” p. 351). According to the United Nations statistics, there were over 23,000 competing, and often contradictory, denominations worldwide (World Census of Religious Activities [U.N. Information Center, NY, 1989]). Whatever the precise number may be, the point is established, that there is tremendous division in the body of Christ. I do not see how our doctrinal differences can be resolved apart from death, or the return of Jesus, but I do know that if we did not have our denominations, the mugging and murder rate would be much higher in the world. Therefore, let there be peace.
A second evidence that Christians bite and devour one another are the empty buildings. All across Europe are great Cathedrals that have been transformed into department stores or museums. When I in France I passed by a beautiful edifice built for the glory of God. People once worshipped there. The tour guide made the comment, “France built too many churches.” No, France did not build too many churches. Too many French people simply turned their lost faith. In our own community sits large Church buildings that once housed the people of God. But then Christian brothers and sisters began to bite and devour each other. Only a shell of a once vibrant Christian community is left. It is something to remember, and repent of.
16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
There is a remedy for sinful behavior. Paul instructs the Christian to walk in, or literally, to live by the Spirit. When life is lived by the power of the Holy Spirit, we shall not perform, or accomplish the works of the flesh.
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.
The term “flesh” in the Bible, often refers to what a person is by nature, apart from the new birth, or regeneration. The Doctrine of the Flesh is an important teaching in Scripture, and should be carefully studied. The Bible teaches that the flesh is at war with the Spirit. And those who yield to the flesh cannot do what they want to do in the Spirit. Specifically, those who are in the flesh cannot live a life of liberty in Christ Jesus.
18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
There is a way to enjoy Christian liberty, and that way is by being led of the Spirit. To be led by the Spirit is not altogether mystical. It is not a great mystery. A person can know if they are yielding to, and led by the Holy Spirit by taking a test, and answering the following question. “Do you practice the works of the flesh?”
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
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.
“Men are far richer in vices, than they are rich in virtues. The human race is very prolific in its expression of the sins of the flesh” (S. Lewis Johnson). In contrast to the works of the flesh, is the fruit of the Spirit. Once more the Christian can honestly examine their heart, and know if they are Spirit led.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace [mental tranquility], longsuffering [patience with others], gentleness [kindness], goodness [a generous spirit], faith [faithfulness, dependability],
23 Meekness, temperance [self-control]: against such there is no law.
Paul says that, against the fruit of the Spirit, no one will ever pass a law. No one will ever pass a law saying, “You cannot be loving, joyful, peaceful, or longsuffering.” We want these virtues in ourselves; we value them in others. These verses are not so much a code of behavior, but a spirit, attitude, and accompaniment of spiritual behavior. As we walk in the Spirit, the very springs of our lives will be transformed.
24 And they that are Christs have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
The reference to affections refers to our emotions. The word “lusts” speaks of our inordinate desires. When we receive Christ as personal Saviour, positionally the flesh is crucified, put to death, rendered inoperative. But practically, something more has to be done. We have to live in the Spirit, and walk in the Spirit.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
We learn to walk by the Spirit, by walking. We wake up in the morning, and ask the Lord for guidance. Then, we obey. Then, step by step, and moment by moment throughout the day, we ask, “What would Jesus do?” We ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. When tempted, we let the Spirit respond by being conscious of His presence and power.
“Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
Every day the Lord Himself is near me,
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would
bear and cheer me,
He whose name is Counselor and Pow’r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
‘As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,’
This the pledge to me He made.
Help me then, in every tribulation,
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation,
Offered me within Thy holy Word.”
Eight Marks of the Spiritual Person Walking in the Spirit
The person who walks in the Spirit is humble, and not rude.
The person who walks in the Spirit is not jealous of others.
The person who walks in the Spirit promotes others instead of self.
The person who walks in the Spirit bears the burdens of others.
The person who walks in the Spirit restores those who have fallen morally or doctrinally.
The person who walks in the Spirit shares with those who communicate the gospel.
The person who walks in the Spirit sows to the Spirit, and not to the flesh.
The person who walks in the Spirit does good to all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
A person can know they are walking in the Spirit.
26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
By God’s grace, and by His Spirit, we will not be promoting ourselves, provoking others to anger, or envying what others have, or do.