But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. ~ Galatians 5:18
I love this verse!
This verse begins with the conjunction if. If is a conditional word, which seems to imply that if I do something, then something will happen. But not all Greek conditions work like that.
If” in the Greek is the word “ei” and it is a first class conditional conjunction or a simple condition conjunction. It is based on the assumption of reality that invites the reader into the conversation, rather than just lecturing to him.
Because I had always read “conditional conjunctions” as “if and then” statements, my focus was constant introspection. Making sure I was always allowing Holy Spirit to lead me. Not straying from that leading. So that He wouldn’t have to tug and pull to get my cooperation. It was self-works on my part.
But Paul was inviting the reader into a dialogue… encouraging them to come to the conclusion of what was already true about their new life IN CHRIST.
When he said to the Galatians “if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law”, the audience would most likely respond along these lines: “If we’re led by the Spirit of God? He dwells in us! Of course, He leads us! And since that’s true, this means that we are not under Law.” Remarkable!”
So our response should be….. because the Spirit dwells in me, I’m led by Him, and therefore I’m free from the bondage of the law.
The other thing I like about this verse is the word led. The word “led” is the Greek word ago, which described the act of leading about an animal, such as a cow or a goat, at the end of a rope. The owner would wrap a rope around the animal’s neck and then “tug” and “pull” until the animal started to follow him. When the animal decided to cooperate and follow that gentle tug, it could then be gently “led” to where its owner wanted it to go.
Although the New Testament is written in Greek, Paul was Jewish and had a Hebraic way of thinking. Tugging and pulling at my heart until I cooperate so that He can gently lead me where He wants me to go is not a very accurate picture of how Holy Spirit leads us. It’s not the Hebraic mindset of leading.
The Hebrew word for lead is “nachal” meaning to lead or to rest. The more literal meaning of this word is a combination of both of these ideas — leading to a place of rest.
I love that! It is to lead one to a place of rest. Striving and bondage describe the yoke of the law – the yoke of the works of the flesh. Rest describes the yoke of Jesus – the yoke of grace. That is a more accurate description of Holy Spirit’s leading. He leads us to a place of rest.
Verse 18 really is an identity verse… telling us who we are and what our new life in the Spirit looks like
But the Spirit has led you to a place of rest, a refreshing place, free from the law and its fearful bondage.
So in verse 16 and 17, Paul 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 of “if and then,” 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 its fearful bondage. Freedom from carrying out the desires of the flesh. He leads us to rest in the finished work of Jesus.
Oh, what freedom is released in that one simple statement. The more I’m understanding and resting in the finished work of Jesus, the more I’m seeing Scriptures more clearly. I’m no longer seeing them as rules and conditions or things I must do in order to please my Father and receive all He has for me. But rather as freedom. Freedom to live this new life IN HIM and as an expression OF HIM.