Galatians 5:16-26 — Led by the Spirit — Bible study notes

Galatians 5:16-26:  But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. (17) 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. (18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (19) Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, (20) idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, (21) envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (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) Now 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 walk by the Spirit. (26) Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

  • Paul began the letter to the Galatians telling them that grace alone was his identity – 1:15
    • and that this is the heart of the Gospel that he preaches…. the very Gospel they were turning away from
    • It began for him as God unveiled His Son “IN” him — not to him.
      • which then freed Paul to announce to the Gentile Galatians the same Son “IN” them and to the rest of the Gentiles or as the Jews referred to them “the excluded ones”
  • The  Galatians, who had become Believers — having awakened to their true identity as sons of God —  had been living in the freedom of Christ alone — running their race well
    • But now they were turning to the law and as a result falling from grace (falling into legalism)
  • Because the Jews were God’s chosen people, they wrongly considered the Gentiles to be inferior — remember they saw them as the “excluded ones”
    • The only way Gentiles could be accepted under their religious system was to become Jewish proselytes by adhering to the Mosaic law
      • But remember after the cross the law had become an obsolete system — a dead, faithless, system.
    • The Jewish Council was consulted and ruled that the Gentiles did not need to keep the law of Moses nor be circumcised to be saved.
    • You would think that would be the end of the issue — but no, the Judaizers changed their approach
      • They reasoned, “Oh yes, we’re all saved by grace, but to have full fellowship with God, one must keep the Law of Moses, in particular, circumcision.”
      • This effort to mix living by the Mosaic Law with the gospel of grace is historically called Galatianism, and Paul recognized that it was a deadly poison distorting the truth of the gospel.
  • We still have it in Christianity today… a mixture of law and grace… it can look like this:
  • Self conscious —
    • A focus on self and the things you must do to stay saved, get holy, and be blessed.
    • Self says I will, but the gospel says He will.  
    • We don’t need seven keys to success or fourteen steps to sanctification.
    • We need a revelation of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us.
    • Christ is our righteousness and holiness from God.
  • Singing and speaking faithless language —
    • asking Jesus to do what he’s already done. “Oh Lord, come down.” Have mercy on us.” “Make us holy.” “Come and cleanse us.” “Bind the strong man.”  — Good News: He already did
    • Or begging God to do what he never would do. “Lord, don’t leave us.” — He said he wouldn’t.
    • Declaring things like  “You give and take away.” — No, he doesn’t.  
    • This is the language of the Old Covenant
    • The New Covenant Good News is: The wait is over. Christ has come! In him you are home. Everything you need for life and godliness has been provided.  IT IS FINISHED!
  • Sin concious —  
    • Saying things like “I’m just a sinner saved by grace.” “Let’s examine ourselves for sin before worshipping.” “Confess your sins to remain in fellowship with the Lord.”
    • What an insult to the Spirit of grace — If the Holy Spirit chooses to remember your sins no more (Heb 10:17), what business is it of yours to remind him?  
    • An obsession with sin is a hallmark of the old covenant, but it has no place in the new.
    • Behold the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world.  
    • The only thing that can empower you to go and sin no more is grace (Tit 2:11-12).
  • Law minded —
    • “The law shows us how to please God.” — No it doesn’t.
    • “The law helps you overcome sin.” — Actually, the law helps sin overcome you (Rom 7:9).
    • “God gives us grace so that we might keep his commands.” — No, God gives us grace because he loves us.  
    • As Paul explains in Romans 7, running after the law is committing spiritual adultery.
  • Thinking grace is just for sinners —
    • “We are saved by grace, but kept by discipline.” — Nope. It’s grace from start to finish (Heb 12:2).
    • Grace is not one aspect of God that must be balanced against his other, less gracious (perceived) aspects.
    • Grace is everything. You are saved by grace and kept by grace. Grace is for everyone. Period.
  • Living under the law is bondage… it’s oppressive… and all it results in is condemnation and failure
  • Paul is telling these Galatians…. you are free!  Christ set you free just for freedom — free from sin, free from the law, free from death — you are free
  • The only thing that keeps you from being free is a legalistic mindset — a mindset tied up in works and performance in order to please God
    • Remember v. 15 in chapter one — it PLEASED God to reveal His Son in me!  Revealing His Son in you PLEASES God.
  • So Paul tells these Galatians in 5:1:  
    • Christ defines your faith; He is your freedom from anything the law could NEVER free you of!
    • Find your firm footing in this freedom.
    • Do not let religion trip you up again and harness you to a faithless, dead system of rules and obligations!
  • Their freedom enables them to live as sons not slaves, free from the constraints and bondage of the law, free to make their own choices, not bound to following the dictates of the law or the priests or Pharisees
    • Free to enjoy life!
    • Freedom that truly enables them to LOVE others as God loves
  • Galatians is all about our freedom IN CHRIST
    • we are called to liberty or freedom
    • we are also called into the grace of Christ (Gal 1:6)
      • grace and freedom go together….. true freedom is only found by living in grace
    • we are free from the law which was a yoke of bondage — free from it’s demands
    • we are free from sin — it’s guilt, punishment and power in our lives
    • we are free to be led by the Spirit — because we are no longer under the law (5:17)
      • we can only be led by the Spirit when we are no longer walking bound to the law (or works of the flesh – works of self)
      • the Spirit and freedom go together ….. true freedom is only found by being led by Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of Grace
  • Paul is contrasting law and grace and having a legalistic mindset vs a grace mindset which comes by the Spirit
    • He then tells them that walking with a legalisitic mindset – after the law – we will carry out the desires of the flesh (or self) — walking according to our natural senses (carnal minded), living to please self
    • So he tells them in v. 16 that walking by the Spirit — that is, living our lives according to Gal 2:20 – living co-crucified and no longer living ruled by self desires because it is the Spirit living in us and this life in this “flesh” is lived out by the faith of the Son of God.
      • Paul told us back in chapter 2 that we had died to the law and we had been crucified with Christ so that we no longer live but Christ lives in us and this life we live in this “flesh” we live by the faith of the Son of God
  • In 5:15 he was dealing with the legalistic mindset that would sooner or later end up in strife: biting, devouring and consuming one another
    • Those are the results of legalistic thinking:  
      • biting:  Greek is dakno which figuratively means to thwart or to prevent someone from accomplishing something or opposing their success
      • devour: is katesthió meaning to ferociously consume; leaving only ruination, without hope of recovery; until nothing remains
      • consume: is analisko meaning to destroy or annihilate;
  • Remember in verse 9 that a little bit of leaven spoils the lump…. a mixture of law and grace in our thinking will result in strife not love
    • a legalistic mindset — even a small amount — produces self preservation at the cost of others
    • BUT freedom frees us to love extravagantly without considering the cost — love that encourages and helps others not opposing their successes; love that is life giving to others not destroying
  • He then tells us how this is possible in the last verses of this chapter —
  • v. 16 tells us that if we are led by Holy Spirit — the Spirit of Grace we will not carry out the desires of the flesh.  
  • and v. 17 tells us that we will find the flesh in strong resistance to what the Spirit desires
  • then v. 19-21 tells us what some of the deeds (or the works) of the flesh are… I doubt this is a complete list because v. 21 tells us “things like these”
  • In between v. 17 and 19…. v. 18 uses the word “if”
    • If in the Greek is not a condition like… if you do this (led by the Spirit) then this will happen (not under law)
    • But it expresses a condition that is thought of as real or viewed as factual.  The assumption may only be portrayed as valid or true or factual.
  • In other words….. But, you are led by the Spirit and free from the law
  • In v. 18 — the word led is ago in Greek and the Hebrew equivalent is ‘nachal’ meaning to lead or to rest; the more literal meaning of this word is a combination of both of these ideas — to lead one to a place of rest
    • the dictionary defines lead as to be in charge, or in command; or to put a rope on someone and “lead” them around while moving forward
    • But the Hebrew mindset is not either of those things… and remember Paul had a Hebraic mindset….
    • it is to lead one to a place of rest.
    • I love that
    • rest describes the yoke of Jesus – the yoke of grace
    • striving and bondage describes the yoke of the law – the yoke of the works of the flesh
  • So let’s look again at v. 18 – because it really is an identity verse… it tells us who we are and what our new life looks like
    • But the Spirit has led you to a place of rest a refreshing place free from the law and it’s fearful bondage.  
  • So in v. 16 and 17 he told us that walking by the Spirit you will not fulfill the lusts (the desires of the flesh) and that the flesh opposes the desires of the Spirit.
    • but before you can begin to feel like “oh man, I better make sure I’m ALWAYS walking in the Spirit or my flesh will take over”… or “I better DO this or else”
    • before you can camp out in that condemning thought…. he reminds us of who we are IN CHRIST and what the benefit of being IN CHRIST means in your new life….
  • But the Spirit has led you to a place of rest a refreshing place free from the law and it’s fearful bondage.
    • Oh what freedom is released in that one simple statement.  
  • Then he goes on to tell us what some of the works (the desires) of the flesh (self) are
    • it’s not an exhausted list — I’m sure we could add to it
    • but he gives us enough to have an idea of what walking in a legalistic mindset – being bound to the law (or the works of the flesh) can produce (can manifest) in our lives.
  • the flesh is not your old sin nature.
    • It is the mind-set of fallen mankind trying to live their lives by sheer willpower (or by the works of the flesh/law), independent of God.
    • it is a life driven by self effort and selfishness.
  • A legalistic mind-set, the flesh, produces behavior that expresses itself in very visible symptoms:
    • v. 19 — sexual sins are rampant! Anything goes: adultery, filth, and outrageous licentiousness;
    • v. 20 — idolatry, which is worshipping a distorted image of oneself, drugs, hatred, constant conflict, jealous suspicion, violent outbursts of rage, everyone for himself in a cut-throat competitive world, trampling on others to get to the top, dissension, heresy, and manipulating people’s minds with false teachings.
    • v. 21 Consumed with envious self pity, murder, drunken stupor, intoxicated licentiousness and lust, with all the quarrels and jealousy it ignites.
  • When he says those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God, Paul is not telling them that if they do any of these things they will lose their salvation
    • Matt 21:31 — Jesus is speaking to the legalists.. the Pharisees  — Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do.
      • So, he obviously is not talking about sin keeping them from inheriting the Kingdom of God
      • God is no longer imputing our sins against us – 2 Cor 5:19
    • Jesus took our sin and made us righteous
      • 1 Cor 6:9 – only the unrighteous don’t inherit the kingdom of God — these Galatians are not unrighteous.. they are IN CHRIST and therefore made righteous
    • Our inheritance is a done deal — it’s our mind that has to be renewed
    • Matt 4:17 says repent…. change your thinking… for the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God is at hand (here)
    • As an heir of our Father’s kingdom… to operate in His kingdom… requires a change of mind from the natural, carnal, legalistic thinking to the FULL finished work of Christ thinking.
  • So, Paul is dealing with a legalistic mindset…a mindset of self righteousness
    • a way of thinking that is rooted in the old man that was crucified with Christ
    • these things are deeds that were part of the old man and were crucified — Col 3:9 says these types of deeds/works of the flesh belonged to the old man
    • these deeds have been disempowered through being crucified
    • So, these behaviors are dead (crucified)…. they have no part in our lives unless we have wrong thinking — legalistic (adding to the finished work of Jesus)
    • Paul is saying to them this is NOT who you are.
    • they are the practices of the ignorance of people who have not understood the new man
    • and he’s telling them that what these Judaizers have failed to tell them was what Paul told the Romans in 7:4:  For when we lived according to the flesh (under the law), the sinful passions aroused by the Law were at work in our bodies, bearing fruit for death.
    • I love that he is confident that they will continue in grace…. continue living in the freedom of being a new man IN CHRIST (5:10)
  • Then he goes on to show us what the Christ-life, the Spirit led life looks like
    • In other words… this is who you ARE… walk in the light of who you are
    • Passion Translation:  But the fruit (harvest) produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its various expressions (fruit is singular.. and all other flows out of this fruit – love).  
      • This love is revealed through: Joy that overflows,  Peace that subdues, Patience that endures (never quitting), Kindness on display (sweetness),  A life full of virtue (goodness), Faith that prevails, Gentleness of heart, and Strength of spirit (lordship or by implication spirit strength).
  • Then before condemnation can come in… as we look at the list of the flesh and see behavior that maybe looks familiar…. or as we look at the fruit of the Spirit and see our weaknesses in walking in any of these things….
    • before we feel condemned, Paul reminds us (v. 24) that those who belong to Christ have ALREADY crucified the flesh with it’s passions and desires.
    • Just as he told the Colossians in chapter 3— the old man and his deeds has passed away (died!)
      • Have crucified = past tense
    • The Greek says “those of Christ”
  • Oh what good news!
  • These are all identity Scriptures…….
    • v. 19-21 (deeds of the flesh) he’s showing us who we are not.  
    • According to verse 24 those things have been crucified with Christ
    • Basically he’s saying if you are walking in any of these abnormal behaviors (abnormal = not the behavior of the new man) just quit it….
    • you’re doing it because of a legalistic mindset… walking in a mindset that says “do in order to become; or do in order to receive”…. a mindset that adds works to the finished work of Christ
    • The list in v. 22-23 is who we are… this is the fruit that is in us because the Spirit lives in us… we don’t have to work hard at these things.. they are already ours IN CHRIST
  • v. 25 is a position and expression or a “living out” of our position verse
  • Now that we live by the Spirit — walk by the Spirit
  • In other words, because faith defines us and not flesh, we take our lead from the Spirit in our daily conduct.  
    • walk is “stoicheo” to walk in step; as in a row; like a military march
    • this is indicating that walking by the Spirit is a life of authority… co ruling with Him in this life
    • And because He leads us to a place of rest we no longer have to strive with one another, competing with each other. (v. 26)
    • Remembering that this co-ruling is walked out in love with one another.
  • Next week we will finish up Galatians with chapter 6

 

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