Archive for July, 2020

Galatians 5:22-23 (post 2)

In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul lists the nine characteristics of a Christ Follower who is living in the Spirit. They are called fruit, and every believer should demonstrate each one in their life. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” We’ll begin to unpack each of these nine outcomes of bearing the fruit of the Spirit. Paul begins his explanation of what it means to walk in the Spirit by telling us that the fruit of the Spirit is love. If we have not love, the Spirit does not dwell with in us.

Love in the English word that is translated from the ancient Greek word agape. In that language there were four distinct words for “love.”

  1. Eros was the word for romantic or passionate love.
  2. Philia was the word for the love we have for those near and dear to us, be they family or friends.
  3. Storge is the word for the love that shows itself in affection and care, especially family affection.
  4. Agape describes a different kind of love. It is a love more of decision than of the spontaneous heart; as much a matter of the mind than the heart, because it chooses to love the undeserving.

Barclay explains “Agape has to do with the mind: it is not simply an emotion which rises unbidden in our hearts; it is a principle by which we deliberately live.”

Guzik contrasts the works of the flesh in the light of this love of the Spirit. Each one of the works of the flesh is a violation or a perversion of this great love that only comes when we walk in the Spirit.

  • Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, and lewdness are counterfeits of love among people.
  • Idolatry and sorcery are counterfeits of love to God.
  • Hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, and murders are all opposites of love.
  • Drunkenness and revelries are sad attempts to fill the void only love can fill.

Paul then goes on to the second fruit of the Spirit – joy. We often are hoodwinked by the enemies ability to position the kingdom of Satan as the place where the fun is and the kingdom of God as the place of gloom and misery. Nothing could be further from the truth. What we know from the original text makes this joy quite unique. Barclay provides context on the word ‘chara’ from the ancient Greek word used here for joy: “It is not the joy that comes from earthly things, still less from triumphing over someone else in competition. It is a joy whose foundation is God.” This joy is deep and wide. Spurgeon explained “Believers are not dependent upon circumstances. Their joy comes not from what they have, but from what they are; not from where they are, but from whose they are; not from what they enjoy, but from that which was suffered for them by their Lord.”

Galatians 5:22-23

In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul gives examples of what it means to bear the fruit of the Spirit when we are walking in the Spirit. In contrast to the long list of sins that prevent us from coming to God, Paul now gives us a list of things that are demonstrated when we walk in the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Note how he begins this transition with the word ‘but’. That’s because the works of the flesh seem overwhelming – both in us and around us. God is good enough and big enough to change everything with the fruit of the Spirit and we need to remember that the fruit of the Spirit can always conquer the works of the flesh.

If we compared the list of fruits with that of the flesh as Paul previously listed, we need to realize the outcomes are very different. Fruit has some very important characteristics we need to remember:

  • Fruit isn’t achieved by working, but is birthed by abiding.
  • Fruit is fragile.
  • Fruit reproduces itself.
  • Fruit is attractive.
  • Fruit nourishes.

Fruit happens when we walk in the Spirit through our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Also note that Paul used the plural in describing life after the flesh (works of the flesh), but he uses the singular (fruit, not fruits, of the Spirit). In the big picture, the Spirit has one work to do in all of us. These aren’t the gifts of the Spirit, which are distributed on an individual basis by the will of the Spirit; this is something for every Christian. Gifts are uniquely given by the Spirit to each Christ Follower as the Spirit determines. The fruit of the Spirit is who we become in Christ. Morris explained “It may be significant that the word fruit is singular; Paul is not speaking of a series of fruits that would be shared around, so that one believer has one, some another. Rather he is referring to a cluster, such that all the qualities are to be manifested in each believer.”

Paul then lists the fruit of the Spirit – nine distinct qualities that we express if we are truly walking in the Spirit. He lists 15 items in the list of the works of the flesh. Sin is everywhere and the flesh expresses itself in many ways. But as Paul begins to share what it means to bear fruit of the Spirit, it is fitting that love is the first to be mentioned, because it encompasses all of those following. It may even be said that the following eight terms are just describing what love in action looks like. Luther said “It would have been enough to mention only the single fruit of love, for love embraces all the fruits of the Spirit.” We’ll dive into each of these fruits in the days ahead.

Galatians 5:21b

In Galatians 5:21b Paul reminds the Galatians that when we are guilty of sin (the flesh), we won’t be welcomed into the Kingdom of God. He had just reviewed a long list with the church of the many things that cause us to be separated from God. He warns them loudly – if you sin, you’re not going to get in. Jesus Christ is the only way we can inherit the kingdom. We cannot do it on our own. “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” The law will never get us there. We can’t possibly walk in obedience to the law. Jesus is the only answer.

So what’s at stake? Not much – only eternity. And eternity is a very long time, so this is a very important truth because how you address this truth will determine your eternity. Choosing to walk in the flesh is rebellion against God. And that is not how you get on the right side of the Creator. Paul’s clear – if you walk in the flesh you violate the law and therefore stand before God on your own merits. Those who continue on in these sins, ignoring the voice of the Holy Spirit telling them to “stop” will not enter heaven. As humans, we will fail. On our own we continue habitually in sin. And that means we spend eternity apart from God outside of Jesus.

Guzik writes “The strength and certainty of Paul in this verse is striking. Paul may sound rigid or even harsh here, but he is consistent with the Biblical idea of conversion. When we come to Jesus to have our sins forgiven and our soul saved, He also changes our life. It doesn’t happen all at once, and the work will never be perfected on this side of eternity, but there will be a real change none the less”. As Charles Spurgeon is said to have put it, “The grace that does not change my life will not save my soul.” The idea isn’t that a Christian could never commit these sins, but that they could never stay in these sins.

Luther wrote “Christians also fall and perform the lusts of the flesh. David fell horribly into adultery. Peter also fell grievously when he denied Christ. However great as these sins were, they were not committed to spite God, but from weakness. When their sins were brought to their attention these men did not obstinately continue in their sin, but repented. Those who sin through weakness are not denied pardon as long as they rise again and cease to sin. There is nothing worse than to continue in sin. If they do not repent, but obstinately continue to fulfill the desires of the flesh, it is a sure sign that they are not sincere.”

Galatians 5:18-21a

In Galatians 5:18-21a Paul makes a simple statement that delivers a powerful truth. “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” It doesn’t get much clearer than that. The antidote to the flesh is not found in the law, but in the Spirit. And that Spirit resides within us when we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. As a Christ Follower you fulfill the will of God through the inner influence of the Holy Spirit instead of the outer influence of the law of God. The Spirit effectively “writes” the law of God on our hearts, inside of us. This is the great work of the New Covenant.

Wuest explains “The inner influence is far more effective than the outer influence. The mistake that is made so often is that the Mosaic law is substituted for the restraint of the Holy Spirit, and with disastrous results… A policeman on the street corner is a far more efficient deterrent of law-breaking than any number of city ordinances placarded for public notice.” When we rely on the law, we will fail. There is no humanly possible way to address the flesh issues by one’s own effort or strength. But when the Spirit which is within us as Christ Followers speaks to our heart, we have the ability to resist temptation and walk in obedience.

Paul has just written about the battle that rages with in us between the flesh and the spirit and now goes on to talk about the external results of that flesh if we lose the invisible battle happening within. “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.” Paul makes lists like this often in his writings. It is important to put a face to these things, so we can specifically see what it means to walk in the flesh, and the list is long and comprehensive and likely describes each of us.

Guzik explains “Some have sought to organize this list in four categories: sensual sins, religious sins, interpersonal sins, and social sins. We shouldn’t regard this as an exhaustive list, but it adequately gives the idea of what the person who walks in the flesh does.” There are a number of sexual sins that are on Paul’s list. We often are appalled at the sexual sin of our day, but look at what Paul was facing almost 2000 years ago. This is not a new phenomenon – of man losing the battle with the flesh and giving in to sexual sin. The same is true of the other kinds of sins regarding religion, people and society. Nothing new under the sun – sin has been with us since the Garden of Eden!

Galatians 5:16-17

In Galatians 5:16-17 Paul reminds us that walking by the Spirit is our best defense against sin and the desires we have in the flesh. Legalists believe that walking in the Spirit gives license to sin, and that only by obeying the law can we be saved. That is just plain wrong. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Walking in the spirit means:

  1. We recognize and embrace the Spirit who lives in us as a Christ Follower.
  2. We are open and sensitive to the guidance of the Spirit.
  3. We build a pattern in our life of letting the Spirit influence in every situation.

We can tell if someone is walking in the Spirit because they look a whole lot like Jesus. They live in obedience to God and the Word. They focus on making Jesus known and speaking of Him and His glory. Boice wrote “Life by the Spirit is neither legalism nor license – nor a middle way between them. It is a life of faith and love that is above all of these false ways.” Paul makes clear that when one walks in the Spirit, they simply can’t fulfill their lust of the flesh. Those two things will never go together. Walking in the Spirit is the key to righteous living – walking in the Spirit, not living under the domination of the law.

Luther explained “I do not deny that the lust of the flesh includes carnal lust. But it takes in more. It takes in all the corrupt desires with which believers are more or less infected, as pride, hatred, covetousness, impatience.”  “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.” Paul explains the battle that goes on inside each of us, the battle between the flesh and the Spirit. These two are contrary to each other and create a battle inside us, one that we can only win by walking in the Spirit.

Guzik explains “When Paul uses the term flesh, he didn’t mean our flesh and blood bodies. Precisely speaking, our flesh isn’t even that fallen nature, the “old man” that we inherited from Adam, because the old man was crucified with Jesus, and is now dead and gone (Romans 6:6). Instead, as Paul uses it here, the flesh is the inner man that exists apart from the “old man” or the “new man,” and which is trained in rebellion by the old nature, the world, and the devil.” The old man is crucified with Christ, and should be dead and gone, but that influence continues and creates an internal battle that will exist until God gives us our resurrection body when we go to Him!

Galatians 5:13-15

In Galatians 5:13-15 Paul exhorts us to use our freedom to serve and love each other. Paul continues to remind us that the Christian life is one of freedom, not bondage. We are slaves of sin that are set free by faith in Jesus. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” It is worth asking if people see us as people of freedom and liberty. Often, Christians are seen as people more bound up and hung up than anyone else is. Are you living as a free person in Christ? Freedom is the essence of being a Christ Follower.

That freedom is not a license to live for the flesh. It isn’t the freedom to go out and sin any way we want to and then seek God’s forgiveness, thinking we can then go ahead and do whatever we want again. Paul warns against that attitude and reminds us that the freedom we have been given is to love to serve one another. That is the way we keep from falling into the temptation of using freedom for our own sinful desires. We can’t conquer our fleshly desires by any way other than focusing on loving and serving others in our patch. We can’t will our way toward holiness. We have to live our way to it through love and service.

Paul then makes the law as simple as it gets. “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” He is telling those who thought the law was the way to salvation the true secret to keeping it – to love. Luther wrote: “If you want to know how you ought to love your neighbor, ask yourself how much you love yourself. If you were to get into trouble or danger, you would be glad to have the love and help of all men. You do not need any book of instructions to teach you how to love your neighbor. All you have to do is to look into your own heart, and it will tell you how you ought to love your neighbor as yourself.”

Paul then reminds the church that without love, people act like a pack of wild animals and are brutal to each other, even within the confines of the church. Sinful people will eventually be consumed by one another if they completely lose the concept of love. “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” Morris explained “The loveless life is a life lived on the level of animals, with a concern only for oneself, no matter what the cost to other people.” The law doesn’t change that behavior, grace does. It is through a relationship with Jesus Christ that we can overcome our own selfish ways and become people who love one another.

Galatians 5: 9-12

In Galatians 5: 9-12 Paul begins by reminding everyone that we are susceptible from influence whether good or bad. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” The warning is driven home – the corrupting influence of legalism and other doctrines that diminish Jesus are like leaven in a lump of dough. A little bit will soon corrupt the whole lump. This is an important principle to keep in mind. While Paul was focused on a few bad apples that were causing issues in the Galatian church, the opposite is also true. When we live a life pleasing to God, we too can have influence on those in our patch. It works both for good and bad.

Paul wanted to leave this confrontation on a positive note, so he praises the Galatians and expresses his confidence in pursuing the truth. “I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is.” He adds balance by reminding them that judgement awaits anyone who leads another astray and away from Jesus. We need to remember that Jesus Himself warned against leading anyone astray. Morris wrote “It does not matter who he is; he may be highly acclaimed in the community where he teaches, but if he is perverting the gospel he is a guilty person and his rank and reputation will not shield him.”

Paul makes it clear that he no longer preaches the necessity of circumcision. The fact that he is persecuted by the legalists is evidence of this. “But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.” The whole point of Jesus dying on the cross was to say, “You can’t save yourself. I must die in your place or you have absolutely no hope at all.” When we trust in legalism, we believe that we can, at least in part, save ourselves. The cross will always be at odds with legalism, which attempts to take away what Jesus did for us by dying there.

Paul gets pretty direct when he wished that those who demanded circumcision among the Gentiles would go all the way themselves, and amputate their sexual organ altogether and not merely their foreskins. While it seems harsh to us today, it was frequently practiced by pagan priests of the cults in the region of Galatia. “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” In writing this, Paul also wished that these legalists would be cut off from the congregation of the Lord. That was a requirement of the law – to be disallowed in the church. Paul is making it clear that legalism is no little deal and those who promote it will face serious judgment. Paul wants them cut off from the church completely.

Galatians 5:5-8

In Galatians 5:5-8 Paul continues to show the difference through faith and the Law.  Those who are walking in the Spirit wait for their righteousness by faith while those who are focused on the law try to earn salvation by doing good works. “For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.” Wuest explains “The word speaks of an attitude of intense yearning and an eager waiting for something. Here it refers to the believer’s intense desire for and eager expectation of a practical righteousness which will be constantly produced in his life by the Holy Spirit as he yields himself to Him.”

Those walking in faith know that circumcision has nothing to do with salvation. What matters is accepting God’s grace through faith and living that out in our patch with love. Those who believe they can achieve righteousness by the law don’t have faith or love in most situations. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” So what’s the concern Paul has for this entire discussion around circumcision? He wants to be clear that the potential harm is trusting in something that is completely irrelevant. Faith is the only thing that matters.

Guzik writes “This verse tells us what does matter: faith working through love. You have faith? Wonderful; but it must be faith working through love. If your faith doesn’t work, it isn’t real faith. If it doesn’t work through love, it isn’t real faith. But your love alone isn’t enough; your love must also have faith: an abiding trust in Jesus and what He did for us.” Real faith, saving faith, will always work through love. We know that faith without works is dead. How faith is lived out is through love, which becomes how we look at the world when Jesus becomes our Savior and the Holy Spirit takes up residence within.

Paul confronts the church directly. “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” Paul knew that the false teachings that were causing the church to focus on legalism came from individuals, and was not based on anything from Jesus. At the root of it all, the Galatians were leaving Jesus to pursue the false and empty teachings of man. The Galatians had been doing well until someone got inside and began to teach falsehoods and lies to them Paul makes it clear that it isn’t coming from Jesus. “This persuasion is not from him who calls you.” We must have our guard up to make sure we don’t get pulled from the truth!

Galatians 5:2-4

In Galatians 5:2-4 Paul continues to explain the danger of embracing the law as the way to walk with God. When we embrace the law as our rule of walking with God, we must let go of Jesus. He is no longer our righteousness; we attempt to earn it ourselves. “Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.”  For the Galatians in this context, to receive circumcision – the ritual that testified that a Gentile was coming under the law – meant that he no longer trusted in Jesus as His righteousness, but trusted in himself instead. You can’t have it both ways.

Those who were proclaiming the law among the Galatians wanted them to think that they could have both Jesus and a law-relationship with God. Paul tells them that this is not an option – the system of grace and the system of law are incompatible. Calvin wrote “Whoever wants to have a half-Christ loses the whole.” Here’s the reality. Jesus died on the cross, pouring out His blood, His life, His soul, His agony, His love for us – and it will profit you nothing if you hang on to the law as a part of how you think you can walk with God. Luther wrote  “Tongue cannot express, nor heart conceive what a terrible thing it is to make Christ worthless.”

You can’t just ‘sort of’ obey and follow the law. When we embrace the law as our rule of walking with God, we must embrace the whole law. We become debtors to keep the whole law, and that is a heavy debt. “I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.” It’s an all or nothing choice. You can’t just pick and choose what you want to follow from the law. If we come to God on the basis of our own law keeping we must keep the whole law and our law-keeping must be perfect. No amount of obedience makes up for one act of disobedience. You’re going to fail. No human can keep the law completely. That’s why Jesus had to come – to give us grace because we cannot keep the law.

When we embrace the law as our rule of walking with God, we are separated from Christ and His saving grace. We have made the choice to go it alone, on our own merit, and we will fall short. “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” Boice explained “The phrase does not mean that if a Christian sins, he falls from grace and thereby loses his salvation. There is a sense in which to sin is to fall into grace, if one is repentant. But to fall from grace, as seen by this context, is to fall into legalism… Or to put it another way, to choose legalism is to relinquish grace as the principle by which one desires to be related to God.” When we choose the law we fall from grace. It’s that simple.

Galatians 5:1

In Galatians 5:1 Paul makes another appeal for us to walk in freedom through Jesus. Paul is fighting the incorrect assumption that salvation was about Jesus plus something else. In this church, it was Jesus plus the Law. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”  If we live in bondage to a legally based relationship with God, it isn’t because of something God requires. In fact, God created the path to eternity and salvation that is based solely on faith in Jesus Christ. It is a grace based way to salvation, not something we do or earn.

Ultimately our purpose after coming to a saving faith in Christ is to help people find God so they too can come to know Jesus Christ. That has to be the first relationship which we must not ignore. We need to make sure our relationship is right with Him, and then make sure that everyone in our patch addresses eternity for themselves. They too can have the freedom faith in Christ offers us.

We don’t save anyone. All we can do is influence others through prayer and how we live our lives. God alone does the saving. God alone has the answer to all our problems with sin being the biggest of all. God’s purpose for our lives is to point those in our patch to the Savior. Not drag them there. Not beat them over the head. Just love them there!

People want to focus on the pursuit of freedom wrongly interpreting that as doing whatever they want to do, and never denying any desire. What it really means is our freedom from the effort of having to earn our own way to God, the freedom from sin, guilt and condemnation, freedom from the penalty and the power of missing the mark, and eventually freedom from the presence of sin.

Morris explained that “Jewish teachers counted up 613 commandments to keep in the Law of Moses. Even to remember them all was a burden, and to keep them bordered on the impossible. Small wonder that Paul referred to subjecting oneself to them all as entering into slavery.” We can’t get to eternal life with God by keeping the law or being good enough to earn it ourselves. We have to have grace through Christ!

But even though God has given us the opportunity for freedom, we can choose to fall back into the slavery of sin and the Law. D. L. Moody illustrated this point by quoting an old former slave woman in the South following the Civil War. Being a former slave, she was confused about her status and asked: Now is I free, or been I not? When I go to my old master he says I ain’t free, and when I go to my own people they say I is, and I don’t know whether I’m free or not. Some people told me that Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation, but master says he didn’t; he didn’t have any right to. Many Christians are confused on the same point. Jesus Christ has given them an “Emancipation Proclamation,” but their “old master” tells them they are still slaves to a legal relationship with God. They live in bondage because their “old master” has deceived them.

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