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Week Ten: 5:1-15 Circumcision Is Of No Value, We Are Free
5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
This is probably the key verse if you would want one; it sums up the book fairly well.
The Galatians were called to "stand fast" or persevere, or stand firm in their liberty. The tense is a present, so keep standing would be the thought of the verse. Don’t take that stand and leave it, don’t let down liberty and take on bondage - stand and keep standing firm.
So many fail to stand firm in what they believe today. Many are the times when I stood firm and suffered the consequences and costs, but the knowledge of standing firm was a great comfort. When doctrinal position is questioned, we must stand firm, when life position is questioned, we must stand firm, and when moral position is questioned, we must stand firm for what is right, honorable and Biblical.
Some will quake at this next comment, but the word liberty has the thought of what we call license today. It is the freedom to do whatever we please, whether it is right or wrong. It is freedom to follow Christ and it is freedom to follow Satan - we are free in Christ to do whatever we want, whenever we want, and for as long as we want.
Now, before the tar is warmed for the feathers, let me say, we are free to do so, but our love for Christ, our desire to serve Christ, and our devotion to following Christ will not allow us to live outside the constraints placed for our voluntary acceptance as believers. We can live against God, but we ought not.
Too many today in the church take this liberty very seriously and live as they like rather than placing themselves under the constraints of Christian living. Sad. Many a pastor has been told to mind their own business when confronting a believer with sin.
"Make free" is the verb form of the word translated liberty. The liberty is that freedom given us, and the "make free" is that which makes us at liberty. It is the singular act of Christ which gives us the liberty in which we do and should stand firm.
"And be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." relates to the belief of the Galatians that they had to go back under the law. "Entangled" is just what it describes in our language and culture. It is to be ensnared in, tangled up in, and not able to escape from. The law followed is an ensnarement to the believer.
Now, lest anyone get the wrong picture of the law, be sure to understand that it is an ensnarement to the believer and the believer only. To the lost person it is not an ensnarement, but a guide toward the Gospel which can free them.
This is a simple and inadequate illustration, but it will give you a little feel for this idea. Consider the many smokers that have left this addiction, left its health inhibiting clutches, and left its pocket book robbing character, for the freedom of not being tied to such a habit, THEN returning to that habit and all its consequences, having been free of all that and then going back to smoking and becoming ensnared again.
I have observed this several times, and still wonder at how the person can do that, how they can understand the danger, the addiction, and the hurt of the habit, then to enjoy the freedom, the good health, and the added finance only to turn again to the dark days of being tied to a habit that leads only to the grave for so many.
And here we have people leaving that freedom in Christ for the confines of the legal system than binds them in such a complete and stifling way.
1. The obvious application from the last verse might run along the lines, of how do we treat one another in the church? Are we loving and caring or do we tend to shun and despise those we don’t like or those that tend to disagree with us?
Pastors ought to accept all their people, not just run off those they don’t like or that they find themselves disagreeing with. Love one another as thyself - wow, how long has it been since your pastor showed that sort of love and concern to you, or your Sunday school teacher, or that person in the pew beside you, or for that matter, when have you treated those people with love, as you would yourself.
Well should we consider how we love ourselves so we can know how to love others in our church? Yes, it might be painful, but let’s do it.
I take really good care of my physical being.
I take really good care of my financial being.
I take really good care of my wants.
I take really good care of my desires.
I take really good care of my toys.
I take really good care of my mental being.
I take really good care of my everything.
In short if I have a need I love myself enough to fulfill that need. So, how does that relate to the church member next to me? You should be willing to fill some of their needs if it is within your ability. BUT FIRST, you must talk to them to a depth way past "good morning" or "welcome to our church, glad to have you" to find out what their need might be that particular day.
How do you react when someone asks for prayer for financial help, do you dive right in and pray about it or do you dive for your billfold? When someone needs a friend, do you suggest they call a pastor, or do you sit down and listen to their problems? I think we get the picture.
2. This may be a stretch to some, but I think it relates quite well. The passage made it clear that circumcision amounts to nothing positive or negative toward salvation - it is irrelevant, thus certainly not necessary in any way.
Let’s take that one step further, is there any physical item that we do or can do to ourselves that will make us more saved? Of course not. The middle age monks that beat themselves and fasted long long days did so for naught. Salvation is by grace not by anything physical we can do. Staying slim, or getting heavy, exercising, not exercising - all are for nothing if you are trying to save yourself from eternal damnation. Some of these might well be healthy for you, but they will do you no good toward salvation.
3. Relating to a little leaven affecting the whole lump. Years ago we had a church situation where a vote was taken and the vote was unanimous to not do something. One couple disagreed with that decision even though they voted for it, I guess so they would seem supportive of the church. To effect a turn around they went to every home in the church (except ours - the pastor) and convinced everyone in the church to support their desires. They then approached me to ask that the subject be brought up again for another vote.
Now, it wasn’t that the decision was so important that it couldn’t have been voted on and changed, but it was the attitude of going behind the back, of sneakiness if you will, the attitude of getting your own way if you will, the attitude of my desire is more important than the leadership of the pastor - these were the real issues that the couple never became cognizant of, they simply got their own way.
Now, they didn’t ruin the church, they didn’t run the pastor off, nor did they become leaders in the church, but they did affect the entire lump in a negative way for several weeks.
4. There is a discussion that needs to be considered. When Paul said we are free from the law, what law was he speaking of. Yes, the obvious is the Mosaic Law, and this is the one he is speaking of, however just what is meant by the "law." Is it the entire law, is it the moral law, or is it the ceremonial law.
Some make a distinction and suggest that he was doing away with the pomp and circumstance, but retained the moral aspect of the law. The question is, just where did Paul delineate this division? He doesn’t and that is the problem these folks have. Paul simply states "the law" and does not divide nor subtract, just comments on the whole.
Others suggest that the ceremonial was done away with and that the moral aspect was incorporated in part into a new law the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2) Thus keeping the Sabbath becomes keeping the Sunday. Sunday becomes what the Sabbath was and all the commandments that are repeated in the New Testament (all but the Sabbath one) are taken into Christ’s new law.
Others suggest that the laws that children are under vary with the age of the child, yet when they begin to mature some of the laws continue on into their new area of maturity while others drop away. This would account with Paul saying the law is done and we are free of it while the New Testament holds some of the old parts for the new.
Okay, that sounds kind of like the previous one. Hummm, seems they all are looking to keep some of that law around, when Paul said we are free of it! Did I miss something here?
Simply put, in my mind, the law is gone, done, finished, while Christ tells us that there are some new commands to keep. The Law of Moses is completely gone, both ceremonial and moral and we are free of it. Now, that we are free to live for Christ He has a few things that He would like us to do in life - namely some of these new commands.
Yes, look to the law for principles of life, yes, look to the law for guidance of life, but don’t you dare attempt to start reading the Old Testament and applying it directly to your personal life in this age of grace. Grace has FREED us from the law. Where the law is reiterated in the New Testament, yes, go forth following it, but again - don’t you dare suggest that it will help you gain access to heaven, for it most certainly will not.
5. I guess I rely too much on logic. If I had been in this congregation and the Judaizers started telling me that I needed to be circumcised to be saved, I would ask them then why can’t my wife be saved? This business of circumcision/salvation is so ridiculous - it isn’t even a part of it in the Old Testament - only a sign of belief in God and His promise to Abraham.
6. Note might be made also that it is faith and faith alone that brings us to God, not faith plus love, and not faith plus works. Some today emphasize love so much it is almost equal to faith in reaching God - not so.
7. In 5:5 we see the idea of waiting. The thought is used seven times in the New Testament, and it is that waiting for the Lord’s return. You might find this an interesting side study. (Romans 8:19; Romans 8:23; Romans 8:25; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Galatians 5:5; Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 9:28)
8. In verse thirteen we have the phrase "only [use] not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another." This to some commentators is showing that we all have a sin nature that, in essence, controls us and demands sin of us - some talk about having a new nature and that the new nature can help us fight that old nature, but their evidence is that the old nature wins most of the time.
NOT! We have a bent toward serving self or serving the desires of our body/mind/ambitions, but it does not control us, and it need not control us - all we have to do is walk with God and our bent toward self will be ineffectual. (See my theology on natures if you just can’t resist digging into this topic.)
9. It is of note to me that Paul points out, in a round about way, that the Galatian Christians had little foresight into their recent teaching. They had not taken it to its logical end. Paul tells them in most clear terms that the end is bondage to the law.
Often times when sitting in church I see pastors/teachers making error of teaching because of this very lack of wisdom called foresight. They see what they see in a passage and teach it without thinking of the logical end of what they are teaching. If they would see the end of their line of thought they would know that they are teaching false doctrine. It may sound good on the surface, but what are the implications of what you are saying.
In a word the Galatians forgot to "think" through what they were accepting as truth.
The political community in America has this same short sightedness; they vote what sounds good without thinking of the ramifications of their vote. Foresight is needed in this life; else we might well miss the next!
10. There is a reality in our current world; we are one religion among many. We may believe we are the true and one religion but we are one of many that believe we are one and true. The Islamic men that destroyed the Twin towers on 9-11 are also quite faithful to their one and true god.
We must realize that there are many that would have us change what we are and what we believe. The Islamic also believes that circumcision is a ritual that they should pursue. This alone should tell us that their religion is false - if we believe Paul knew what he was talking about they are placing themselves under the law for righteousness.
I do not know just what law they are putting themselves under, though since they claim Abraham as their father I would assume at least in part they are looking to the keeping of the Mosaic Law as their duty. I searched some of their websites and found that they hold to the revelations given all the prophets, including Moses, so a following of the Law of Moses would be required. One site indicated this to be true, though others did not mention it.
This is a great passage for us to understand. One that is trusting the law is to be cut out of our congregation, while one that is trusting Christ is to be loved and trusted by the congregation. I would not want to set a division between the Muslim and the Christian, but Paul says there is one. We cannot accept the Muslim as a brother in any way, other than as created beings - as another man/woman in the human race. In that sense we accept and honor them, but we cannot accept them in any spiritual sense what so ever. They are of Ishmael and under bondage to the law if they see circumcision as part of their reaching heaven.
11. Barnes mentions an interpretation relating to the cutting off in verse 12 which was held by many of the church fathers including "Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, Jerome, Grotius, Rosenmuller, Koppe, and others." He does not elaborate on the position, but quotes Koppe in Latin. I don’t do Latin, but I didn’t need to know the language. I recognized enough words to understand that they felt that Paul was talking about some drastic action that they felt the people themselves should carry out. Suffice it to say that these church fathers were giving a little literal application of the Lord’s command in Matthew 5:30 - enough said. (Matthew 5:30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast [it] from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell.")
12. I have given some thought to the historical situation of these Galatians. They had been led to the Lord by a converted Jew that had been a strong and devout Jew. They had, at best, a copy of the Old Testament for their Scripture. They would have been excited about living for God so would turn to His word for direction.
Now, if I were in Galatia in this situation, I have to understand why these people were so easily sidetracked. They would have been easily swayed toward taking on some of the practices of the law thinking they would help them become more spiritual. I have to think that they were a well prepared plot to plant and raise false doctrine.
Don’t be too hard on the Galatian people that were hoodwinked by the false teachers. They needed to have the guidance of truth. Don’t be too hard on the people of our age either, when they go off after false doctrine and change their lives to be in keeping with that false doctrine.
Truth is the key and it is the church’s duty to deliver it. Too bad many churches are delivering up the false rather than the true.
Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
The term "circumcised" is a present tense, so he is not suggesting that some were contemplating presenting themselves for physical circumcision, but that they already had gone through this procedure.
I think verse six sets the way Paul is using the word circumcision here. He is using circumcision as the term to encompass all that keeping the law requires. He is saying that this right, this procedure, this sign is of no use to you spiritually, and that Christ is the key.
He is saying that this sign of the Sinaitic covenant is no longer a valued act for the person desiring to follow God. It will not make you more spiritual, it will not make you more acceptable, and it will not make you more valuable to God. It can only be that step which leads you into obedience to the entire law of the old way which is physical and not spiritual.
What Paul is not saying when he says "Christ shall profit you nothing" is not that if you are Christ’s and decide to follow the law then you are lost. He is suggesting only that if you set aside Christ, you will have no profit from him. He cannot free you, He cannot be your guide, and He cannot do a thing for you - you will be bound to obey the law instead.
For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
Wonder if anyone has counted the ways that Paul has already stated this concept to the Galatians, and still he pounds it home one more time. If you place yourself in attempting to obey one part of the law, you are bound to do the whole law.
The suggestion is and it is truth, that if you even decide to keep the Sabbath as your day before God, because the law requires it, you are debtor to follow every single letter of the law. What a total burden to take upon oneself, yet many of the Galatians evidently were contemplating it or had already done it.
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
Now, here we have a serious statement of fact from Paul, not that the person is lost, but that they have chosen to follow one of two paths toward salvation. One is the law which cannot save and the other is grace which will definitely save. If they have chosen to follow the law, they have chosen not to follow grace where they once stood. They have turned from or fallen from grace to follow the law.
Christ and grace cannot assist them in their desire to be justified by following the law. This is contrasted in the next verse with those believers that follow grace toward eternal salvation.
For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
Simple fact of where Paul and other believers are in their spiritual life - living by faith and enjoying a righteous life through the Spirit of God.
For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
Now, this passage is a clear concise statement that might answer a question that some men might come up within this area of circumcision. If I am circumcised physically am I bound to live the law? No. If I am not circumcised, should I be? If I am not circumcised am I more spiritual than one that is not? No to both of these questions.
Paul clearly says to the believer that circumcision or uncircumcision is irrelevant to the believer, that living by faith is what is needed. No matter what our parents or the government decided when we were born about circumcision - none of it relates to our spiritual salvation.
Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?
The word used here to give the idea of hinder is a word used of someone running out onto the track in a race and jostling a runner so as to throw him off track or off step so that his good race is quite hampered.
It seems that Paul did not know what the Judaizers/Judaizers were, only that they had done their work and that some had been mislead into false doctrine. This is a straight forward statement and a clear question. Who is it that did this to you?
Paul must have desired to know the source of this false doctrine. I have to wonder if he didn’t plan to confront it personally at a later time.
This persuasion [cometh] not of him that calleth you.
No, matter where it came from Paul guarantees that it did not come from Christ. This would be to combat anyone suggesting that accepting Christ might bring them to understand the need of the law. Christ frees, He does not bind.
A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
Oh, how true and oh how sad to see pastors allowing a person to teach false doctrine in their church.
We decided to try a little church we had knowledge of - the pastor was from a good school so we went to Sunday school. Much to my surprise the teacher was implying that there could be errors in the Scriptures. He suggested that a certain passage might be wrong. Then one of the class seemed to be in agreement with the teacher and by the end of the class it was clear that the entire class had a very low view of inerrancy and of the trustworthiness of the Scriptures.
I was sure that the pastor could not agree to their view of things but decided maybe I’d better check. I called and asked about the class. He told me that the class was a split off from another church that felt comfortable in his church so they had their little class and attended the church.
How ridiculous to allow wolves to have free access to the sheep. Had we been an immature couple in the Lord that wandered into that class we could have received serious false doctrine.
Oh, how dangerous to allow wolves to teach the sheep. When false doctrine is found it must be rooted out for the sake of the sheep and the prosperity of Christ’s church.
I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.
Paul leaves this false teacher to his judgment before the Lord, and trusts that the Galatians will understand that leaven needs to be removed before it does its damage.
1 Peter 5:1-4 relates to this as well as Hebrews 13:17.
And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.
He has already alluded to the fact that those of bondage persecute those of freedom and grace, and he states clearly that he is persecuted, implying that it was coming from the Judaizers. Evidently someone had accused Paul of preaching obedience to the law and he logically dispels this rumor.
I would they were even cut off which trouble you.
This could relate to one of two things. That something outside the church would cut off the Judaizers access to them, or that they would remove the Judaizers from their midst. Paul uses a future tense here thus they have not been cut off as yet, but his desire is clear - that they WOULD be cut off.
I think from his illustration of Hagar and Ishmael that his desire is for the people of the Galatian church to cut off these false teachers. In the church, only the church can cut off false teaching - unless the Lord might intervene and take care of the problem, by physically removing the person in some manner.
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only [use] not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
There are three items of truth here. We are free, but we are not to use the freedom to sin; rather we should serve one another.
Now, that "serve one another" is a phrase that is a study of its own. If you want an introduction to the thought look for "one another" in my writings (In the book Notes On Lots of Other Things). Or better yet, just study it yourself, the New Testament speaks of many things that we are to do for one another - take time to study this important topic.
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, [even] in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Here we have quite a statement from a man that has just condemned the law and its keeping in a number of ways over several cases of proof and he suggests that loving your neighbor can fulfill the whole thing.
I suspect he wants to say, if you really want some relationship to the law then follow what the Lord told us to do - love our neighbor - neighbor being the church brethren (assumed from the context).
This could be a quote from the Old Testament, or it could have been something that Paul heard from the Lord while here on earth or even when Christ was teaching Paul. Luke 10:27 mentions it when the lawyer spoke to the Lord and in Matthew 19:19 it is mentioned by the Lord when he spoke to the rich young ruler. Leviticus 19:18 is the occurrence in the Old Testament.
But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
I think these final thoughts relate to how they cut off the false teachers. Be careful in your cutting, so to speak. The usual church life is one of serving one another, not cutting others off. Get rid of the leaven, but don’t slice the whole loaf into stuffing makins.
Week Eleven: 5:16-26 A Walk In The Spirit Is A Must For The Believer
This text is a window to what Paul means in verses fifteen and twenty-six.
15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
There is still that contrast between law and grace, bondage and freedom going on. In this section he tells the reader that the flesh has a certain outcome in practical living, and that the spiritual has another, quite different outcome. What a contrast there is between these two.
I am sure that many will jump on this passage to say that the flesh and the spirit war with one another within us, but this is not what Paul is teaching. This is clear in what he says in verse twenty-four "And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." Notice the past tense and it is an aorist indicating a one time action, not a daily action as many suggest our spiritual life requires.
He begins with a simple statement that the believer is to walk in the Spirit and if we do we will not get into trouble with works of the flesh.
Galatians 5:16 [This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
Walk is a word that means to be occupied with. When I go for an exercise walk, I am totally oblivious to the world. I am walking as fast as I can, I am concentrating on the sidewalk before me, I am watching for lunatic drivers that can’t get out of my way fast enough, and I am mostly concentrating on getting enough air into my lungs to stay upright. I am walking; I am occupied with this activity. It is my total concentration.
This is in the imperative thus a command rather than one of twelve choices in life. Many Christians live as though many of the things Scripture tells us to do are in the comparative - you know, compare the lot of them and pick out the easiest of them and go to town on your spirituality - not the thought of the Lord, He has left us with a certain lifestyle and we are expected to walk it.
Walking in the Spirit isn’t walking around with your head in the clouds with a saintly air about you; it is asking the Spirit to work in and through you to help you live as Christ lived - to be filled with the characteristics that are to follow.
Remember in the movies when someone is in the confessional and the priest hears that they are done - he says something like, "Bless you my child, go and sin no more." No, that isn’t walking in the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit is a lifestyle that does not allow for sin, it does not allow for thoughts of sin, and it certainly does not allow for acts of sin. Walking in the Spirit is the opposite of fulfilling the lust of the flesh. The one is not compatible with the other. You can’t be spiritual and dabble in the little sins that you like to cling to, you are either walking with God or not.
The verb could be translated "keep on walking" and as you do so, there will be no possibility of you walking in the flesh - one does not go with the other, you will never see the Spirit of God and the flesh walking on the beach together. They may be on the beach walking in different directions, but never together walking the same way - take it to the bank, they won’t.
1. So, when Paul talks of our desire to do things we ought not, why do we desire those things? They are of the Devil, they are not of God, and they are wrong for us both in action and result in our life. Why on earth would we want to go against God and hinder ourselves in some way?
It is our bent toward satisfying ourselves. We desire what we can’t have, we desire what we should not do, and we desire all that is of the Devil. We just seem to like life’s little pleasures. Well the big ones too, the big screen TV, the big SUV, the big house, the big income, the ....
2. We are talking about "walking in the Spirit" a phrase that sounds right and good, but how do we do that? How do we walk with the Spirit of God? He is within us so it is automatic - this is key one. We walk with Him whether we live like it or not, but to walk in the Spirit or walk with the Spirit simply means that we are allowing Him to control our lives.
Again, how do we do that? How do we allow Him control when that stupid idiot pulls out in front of us and nearly causes a crash? The key is that we need to be allowing control before the idiot comes on the scene. All the time, He should be in control.
I used to struggle with this at times; I used to wonder just when is He in control and when am I on my own. This was especially true when I was younger and making a lot of decisions about school, family and finance. I would make decisions and then when things didn’t go well I would second guess things - and wonder who made that decision.
I became quite frustrated with this process over time and sat down one day and just told the Lord that I was going to assume that he was in control in each situation and if He weren’t to give me a heads up so that I would include Him in the process.
This has worked well for me over the years. If I know there is a decision coming I pray and seek the usual benefits of being a child of God. When a decision comes up in the immediate, make it now, I assume that He is directing unless He slaps me along side the head. I have asked Him to be my counsel in all decisions, and I try to walk with God at all times so that communication should and is always there - unless I purposely step away from Him and go my own way.
I might add also that decision making can be made easier if we take a little time to consider, think and evaluate all the options, then the decision often becomes quite clear.
As to those quick moments of living like that stupid idiot I mentioned earlier - we must attempt to be ready for such situations and respond as Christ would respond - nope, haven’t been able to get there as yet - getting better, but needs some work. I have always had a trigger temper and stupid idiots love to trigger it - in fact I think they prowl the streets looking for me so they can cause me due upset when I fail to allow Christ to appear through me.
I have found that knowing those situations are coming, and knowing I should respond as Christ, helps to give me a second of thought before responding which is time enough for a proper response. I have also found that realizing there are other people in the world besides me helps - it allows me to know there may have been a reason that the idiot cut me off - it may have been that he didn’t see this idiot coming :-)
3. A second aspect of this walking with the Spirit is the idea of progress. When we walk we move from one point to another. This may be a little obvious, but it relates to the fact that as we walk with God He is able to assist us in our progress toward maturity. When that stupid idiot steps out in front of your car, God may be helping you grow spiritually. That incident may well occur for your maturation process. He wants us to progress from the point of immature to mature and we must walk with Him to get there.
As long as you make progress, don’t be hard on yourself when you fail. Failure is a common theme in maturation even as a stumble and fall is natural now and then when learning to walk. He wants that progress, not necessarily the perfection you desire.
4. Constable declares that this is not a conflict between an old nature and a new nature, but a conflict between our old nature and the Spirit of God. This is more correct than the conflict of two natures in man, but still it is lacking, in that we no longer have an old nature if we are given a new nature. If I am made new, how can I still be half old? Not a logical conclusion. We are either new or old and the two cannot be merged together to create a feuding twosome that can’t get its act together.
Deffinbaugh more correctly declares the conflict to be between the flesh and the Spirit. This I would agree with if he means that our bent toward self is our flesh.
We are a new creation with God living within us. We choose to satisfy our flesh, or walk with the Spirit - simple either or, no conflict nothing. We in our minds make that decision based on our desire at the moment - do I want to walk with God or thumb my nose at Him and do my own thing.
5. If you give some time and thought to the sins listed in this passage you will find that they line up in some interesting categories as though Paul sat down and made categories then listed the sins. They are sins of different sorts - not to say that it matters what sort of sin you are involved in, all are sin and shortcomings before God.
Constable breaks the sins into the following categories. Further study in this breakdown might prove very interesting.
Sins of a sexual nature
Sins of a religious nature
Sins of a societal nature
Sins of an intemperate nature
Sins of other natures
and such like
You might make notice that all of these sins center on self.
6. Paul insists that anyone practicing these sins will not inherit the kingdom. There are two basic views to this.
a. Those that practice these sins, believers, will have less inheritance in the kingdom. Now, this is a nice little doctrine that allows us to sin a little to get a spiritual low if you will and still make it into the kingdom - we just won’t have it quite as nice as Joe Spiritual that didn’t have any fun here on earth.
Needless to say, this is not what the verse says and it doesn’t make too much sense in the passage.
Can you imagine the computer program that God would have to develop to keep track of this system - one sin equals one less inheritance, two sins equals two less inheritances, if two sins are done twice do we take away double the inheritances :-)
b. Those that practice these sins, most likely are not true believers. I would opt for this choice. A believer walking in the Spirit will not be involved with the fleshly sins, thus one that is in the middle of these sins is most likely not a believer. If by chance, he is, he most certainly is not walking in the Spirit.
7. Fruit is in the singular, not several. If we walk with the Spirit we produce fruit in all these areas of life. Fruit is the natural production of salvation. It is any sort of fruit; it is any sort of good work, not just soul winning. Some suggest that if you aren’t out soul winning weekly you are not a fruitful Christian, but here we see we produce a product - a singular fruit.
Soul winning may be a part of that fruit, but so is love, so is every other good work, so are all those other points related in this verse. We all produce fruit of some sort if we walk with the Spirit - how easy could He make it folks? He did all there was to do to save us, He now provides all we need to produce fruit, all we have to do to be saved is say okay, and all we have to do to produce fruit for Him is to say okay to the Spirits leading - an easier program could not be devised and still include free will.
8. Constable divides the fruit into some divisions as well.
Mental or God-ward
Interpersonal or other-ward
General or self-ward
He goes on to observe that there are laws against the works of the flesh because they are destructive, but there are no laws against the fruit of the Spirit because they can only cause good. Consider that for awhile. If you sin, you cause destruction; if you don’t sin you cause good - again, just how easy is that?
9. Deffinbaugh has an interesting take on the passage. He goes into a lot of detail with how the Second World War was started. The first campaign was Poland. The battle was over in a week. It was observed that the Poles were fighting tanks and canons with horses and lances - the outcome was fairly predictable, indeed one must wonder why it took a powerful army like the Germans a full week to crush such little resistance.
Deffinbaugh observes that the Poles were using the wrong weapons for the war at hand. He further observes that the Judaizers also were using the wrong weapons to fight the spiritual warfare before them.
This passage clearly states the weapon of choice for this war - the Spirit of God, not our own flesh. We cannot win the war by doing it ourselves; we can win it only by allowing God to win it through us.
10. We need to note that the list of vices that Paul gave is a good description of the society that this church was living in. The Greek/Roman culture of this day was decadent at best. It was full of vice of every sort. There was little in the way of a moral code, there was no shame whatsoever. People did as they pleased; men normally had a mistress or two for their pleasure and a wife to give their children legitimacy and to take care of the home front.
Hum, sounds rather like the world in which we live. Little shame can be found in our society. Our teenagers use sex as a social tool to gain the respect that they desire. There is little thought to the moral ramifications to their actions. With the political people and media preachers showing them the way, the youth of America have learned well I fear.
Now, imagine Paul introducing the fruit of the Spirit as the proper lifestyle - into that social climate - how radical can he get, yet this is the Biblical standard that believers in their society AND OURS should meet. Remember, we are to be a lighthouse to the darkness around.
11. One time I had a man - a Christian man - tell me of a Rabbi he once knew. He went into great detail as to the qualities of this Rabbi, which indicated to me he may have been a good Rabbi and even maybe a good Jewish person, but the man’s description of the Rabbi was "He is the most spiritual man I have ever met!" I wanted to suggest that he had not yet met a spiritual man then, but refrained.
Just what is a spiritual person? What qualities must they possess?
Deffinbaugh lists some qualities of the Godly person, a list that comes from his understanding of the Word and from his experience with people. He specifies that these come from all theological walks of life. He also noted that in all theological circles there are those that are Godly and those that are not so godly as well as those that struggle to be Godly. Thus, his conclusion, though not stated, must have been that the spiritual life is not based on theological position, but on a relationship between your own flesh and the Spirit of God within.
I don’t know that this list is concise, nor if it is complete, but it might well give you some guide to go by as you consider just how spiritual you might be at this point in life.
Take some time to consider these points and then try to define them to yourself - what did he mean by this. Then consider if these points describe people that you feel are spiritual.
"a heart for God"
"an intimacy with God"
"a hunger and thirst after righteousness"
"a grasp of the gospel"
"a consciousness of a conflict"
"a recognition of imperfection"
"a realization that the spiritual life is humanly impossible"
"a desire for selflessness and service"
"a sense of a broader community"
"a sense of anticipation and urgency"
"a passion for the Word of God"
12. The great missionary Carey once wrote a book - the title was nearly as long as the book. It always fascinated me for some reason. This morning I sat down to read from a commentary written by Gill. I think he and Carey must have been room mates in college. I write on a handheld computer and the screen dimmed in the middle of his sentence. I could not believe the length of the sentence - I think he may have outdone Paul. I will include it in case you need something to put you to sleep :-) though I’m not sure the truths of his thoughts won’t keep you awake.
"Verse 16. This I say then, walk in the Spirit,.... The advice the apostle thinks fit to give, and which he would have observed, is, to "walk in the Spirit," that is, either after the Spirit of God; making the word inspired by him the rule of behaviour, which as it is the standard of faith, so of practice, and is the lamp unto our feet, and the light unto our path; taking him himself for a guide, who not only guides into all truth, but in the way of holiness and righteousness unto the land of uprightness; and depending upon his grace and strength for assistance throughout the whole of our walk and conversation: or in the exercise of the graces of the Spirit of God; as in the exercise of faith upon the person and grace of Christ, of which the Spirit is the author; and in love to God, Christ, and one another, which is a fruit of the Spirit; and in humility, lowliness of mind, meekness and condescension; all which is to walk in the Spirit, or spiritually, and strengthens the argument for love the apostle is upon: and this he encourages to by observing, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh; he does not say there shall be no flesh, nor any lust of the flesh in them if they walk spiritually; or that the flesh should not act and operate in them; or that they should do no sinful action; all which is only true of Christ; and the contrary is to be found and observed in all true Christians, though ever so spiritual; but that they should not fulfil or perfect the lust of the flesh; should not give up themselves entirely to the power and dictates of the flesh, so as to be under it and at its command, and be obedient servants and slaves unto it; for, in this sense only, such that are spiritual do not, commit sin, they do not make a trade of it, it is not their constant employ or course of conversation."
13. Gill states that the phrase "led of the Spirit" in verse eighteen is used of leading a blind person. The Spirit leads us safely through all sorts of unknowns and we are comfortable allowing Him to do so and are confident in the safety that He offers.
I don’t know for sure just how we come to rely on Him and not on our own superior leader type selves, but that is what we ought to be doing. He can do it - we believe it - but we live as if He can’t and that we don’t believe it. Rather than take the hand of God for life’s trials, we go it alone - kind of nonsense in reality, but we do it anyway.
14. When commenting on verse twenty-one Barnes unleashes with a barrage that is hard to argue with - a series of statements that moved me to near holler AMEN while sitting at Jack-in-the-box having coffee.
“In regard to this passage we may remark,"
"(1.) that it furnishes the most striking and unanswerable proof of human depravity. Paul represents these things as "the works of the flesh"-- the works of the unrenewed nature of man. They are such as human nature, when left to itself, everywhere produces. The world shows that such is the fact; and we cannot but ask, is a nature producing this to be regarded as pure? Is man an unfallen being? Can he save himself? Does he need no Saviour?
"(2.) This passage is full of fearful admonition to those who indulge in any or all of these vices. Paul, inspired of God, has solemnly declared that such cannot be saved. They cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven as they are. Nor is it desirable that they should. What would heaven be if filled up with adulterers, and fornicators, and idolaters, with the proud and envious, and with murderers and drunkards? To call such a place heaven, would be an abuse of the word. No one could wish to dwell there; and such men cannot enter into heaven.
"(3.) The human heart must be changed, or man cannot be saved. This follows, of course. If such is its tendency, then there is a necessity for such a change as that in regeneration, in order that man may be happy and be saved.
"(4.) We should rejoice that such men cannot, with their present characters, be admitted to heaven. We should rejoice that there is one world where these vices are unknown--a world of perfect and eternal purity. When we look at the earth; when we see how these vices prevail; when we reflect that every land is polluted, and that we cannot traverse a continent or an island, visit a nook or corner of the earth, dwell in any city or town, where these vices do not exist, oh how refreshing and invigorating is it to look forward to a pure heaven! How cheering the thought that there is one world where these vices are unknown; one world, all whose ample plains may be traversed, and the note of blasphemy shall never fall on the ear; one world, where virtue shall be safe from the arts of the seducer; one world, where we may for ever dwell, and not one reeling and staggering drunkard shall ever be seen; where there shall be not one family in want and tears, from the vice of its unfaithful head! With what joy should we look forward to that world! With what ardour should we pant that it may be our own!"
15. I would like to consider the thought of "envy" for a moment. What is the key to combating envy? Is there something which we could do in the church to help remove envy from all believers’ lives? Is there a secret weapon to envy? Other than all of us living a life with the Spirit in control - the key of course, but on the surface is there something that might help us feel more comfortable in the church?
How about helping ALL believers to understand that God loves every one of us the same, that God holds every one of us as very valuable, and that God sees every one of us as His adopted sons/daughters. When He looks at us, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, polished or unpolished, He sees someone that He loves, cherishes, and values. The poorest, the least educated, and the least polished are as valuable to Him as anyone else.
There is no difference between sons/daughters with Him. Value judgments are a human problem, not a Theocratic value. May we - may I - totally understand AND PRACTICE THIS.
16. Let’s just consider one more area. Let’s talk a moment about television, the movies and the books we read. Are you really sure that all you view and allow into your mind is there because the Spirit of God wants us to view it? Are we really walking in the Spirit when we sit down in front of the tube, are we really walking in the Spirit when that scantily clad person walks by our desk at work. Maybe that calendar we gaze upon - is that the Spirit leading you to study the art form etc.?
We are to walk in the Spirit all day, not just part of it. I think as Christians put that truth into their lives their viewing habits will definitely change. Maybe even some of the thought life that goes on behind those closed doors of your mind as well.
I would like to end with some thoughts from Gill on "vain glory" as I think this is one of the major problems of the "feel good" church of our day. I think this is the basis of some of the music we have in our churches. Some pastors have entered new pastorates knowing much better than the church leaders what sort of music is needed. Many are the pastors that have disregarded congregational wishes for their own "thought" on the subject. "Let us not be desirous of vain glory,.... Ambitious of being thought wiser, and richer, and more valuable than others; of having the preeminence in the management of all affairs, and of having honour, esteem, and popular applause from men: this may well be called vain glory, since it is only in outward things, as wisdom, riches, strength, and honour, and not in God the giver of them, and who can easily take them away; and therefore is but for a time, and is quickly gone, and lies only in the opinion and breath of men."
Then there are some of the performers of that music that are there to gain the glory of performance. I just heard that one of the Christian television outfits is introducing a "look alike" (read that looks like, sounds like, and seems to be the same as the worlds show of this type) television show that will find the most divine of voices from many contestants.
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.
All of the verbs in this verse are present tenses for your reading enjoyment.
a. The flesh lusteth against the Spirit
b. The Spirit lusteth against the flesh
c. The Spirit and the flesh are opposites
d. Result, you can’t do the things ye would
Okay, there you have it folks "The Devil made me do it." is a valid reason for sinning. You just can’t do what you really want to do because he wins out all the time.
Now, consider that one. The Devil wins over the Spirit of God! I don’t think so. God will win against the flesh or the Devil in any match you want to set up, thus the passage needs a different interpretation than "We can’t win against the Devil."
Isn’t "We can’t loose to the Devil with the Spirit on our side." a little more to the proper understanding of the text? I think so, I think very definitely so.
Isn’t it obvious that the phrase "so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." means that we can’t sin and enjoy the things that we desire? I think that fits the text quite well.
But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
Ah, here we are back at the thrust of things - if we are led of the Spirit we are not under the law - simple facts again. The one cannot go with the other. If you are led of the law, then you cannot be led of the Spirit.
"If" is a big word. In this usage it is to be understood as "If and assumed so" rather than "maybe yes, maybe no" - it is assumed fact that they are led of the Spirit.
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.
Okay, those that don’t like lists turn away from your computer for a few moments while we deal with two lists. Hard to believe, but one is a list of don’ts and the other is a list of do’s - see, I told you God had lists and that they were often in the do’s and don’ts category.
Adultery: That which we see in nearly every movie, every magazine, every television show and most lives that we interact with on a daily basis. We even see it way too often in the church itself. The church’s divorce rate is as bad if not worse than that of the world and many of those divorces are caused by infidelity.
My what an odorous truth for the Christian caught up in such lies. They are listed with those that will not inherit the kingdom. They keep company with lost souls rather than the redeemed. If you are in the throws of adultery open your eyes to your sin and your company. God is not pleased, nor can He be while you walk with the Devil.
Fornication: This is the Greek word "porneia" from which we gain pornography and the meaning is right in that crowd of witnesses. This includes any sexual act that is against the Word of God including homosexuality, lesbianism, relations with animals and sexual relations outside of the bonds of marriage, especially that between people that are relatives or married to others.
There is an added meaning to the word, which relates to the uncleanness one is involved with when they are in activities against God, such as idolatry.
Uncleanness: One of the terms used in the Lexicon is "profligate life" which means "abandon to vice." When used of a consumer it would mean "recklessly extravagant." One that is out of control in lifestyle would be the thought of it and that lifestyle being in the incorrect sexual direction.
Lasciviousness: Wantonness, filthy, and unbridled lust are a few of the terms used in the Lexicon. Given over to the filth of the world would be a good description for this word.
Idolatry: This is the worship of other gods. Wow, look where God puts idolatry, right between several terms describing sexual perversion and witchcraft. I think that rather well defines just how God feels about those that worship other gods.
Witchcraft: This is the sorcery that we would expect, but also relates to drugs and poisoning that goes with witchcraft.
There are those that tell us that witchcraft has changed, that it is for good now, and they even have another name for it. It is now whitewashed as the teachings of Wicken, not that nasty old word witchcraft.
Hatred: There is nothing unclear about this term, it is the hatred one feels toward someone that has deeply offended you or done you great physical or financial harm. It is that emotion that wants to get back at the person and do them great harm.
Variance: Strife, wrangling and contention. Sad to say this also describes pretty well some churches but we need to remember this is a list of the works of the flesh, not the Spirit. Not that believers don’t get involved in things they ought not.
Emulations: This word threw me for a moment, as it is the word for zeal. It is also used of the negative side of an excited mind, that which drives to trouble out of the zealousness of mind. "The fierceness of indignation" is a phrase that is used in the Lexicon. Zealously wrongly acting out with the mind is a good way to view the word.
Wrath: This seems to be a close relative of emulations. It has the idea of angry, fierceness and relates to boiling up quickly. When I cook chicken and noodles, I put the water on the stove and dump in the chicken and turn my attention to making the noodles. I usually keep a close eye on the boiling chicken, because in the blink of an eye it can turn from a slow rolling boil to a smelly mess on the burner.
It is that anger that suddenly strikes out. We often see this in road rage today. A normally calm person that is suddenly transformed into a raving lunatic capable of firing a gun at another person over the simplest of provocations.
Often it is the result of buried anger and rage over something completely unrelated, but that one act by another is all it takes to pop the cork and watch the bottle overflow. The word reminds me of the current fad of dumping a tube of Mentos into a Liter of soft drink and watching the column of foam and liquid shoot high into the air.
Strife: Contention is the meaning of the word. Now, this is the Lexicons line of thought not mine - but it relates to electioneering or if you will campaigning for office. NOW, WE CERTAINLY HAVE THIS WORD IN THE RIGHT LIST DON’T WE! The campaign today is surely strife and trouble, sad to say.
The word is used by Aristotle of "self-serving pursuit of political office by unfair means."
Seditions: Division and dissension. Again, way too close to many churches today.
Heresies: This relates to the taking of a city, to the taking of minds, of false teachings that people follow. HUMMMMMM, we see this in the context of political wrong doing, the taking of minds wrongly.
Envyings: Simply envy - the desire for what is not yours or what you cannot have and it is placed right next to the act of murder, or the taking another’s life - both relate to the desire to take that which is not theirs. I had never seen murder in that light before, but that is just what murder is, the taking of what is not yours.
Murders: This can relate not only to murder but to slaughter.
Drunkenness: Simply drunken or intoxicated. Out of control due to the ingestion of drink.
Revellings: This is the plural of the one before, it is drunken parties.
And such like -- and if I forgot anything throw that in as well, cuz there is plenty more like those.
I really don’t know how Paul ever hopes to fit into the Ecumenical movement with rhetoric like this, indeed he probably wouldn’t be welcome at most evangelical meetings these days; he would be labeled a legalist at the very least. He says after this long list of very gross and negative sins. "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."
He can’t really mean that can he? Well, it looks like he said it so I suspect that he did mean it in some manner or the other and I would assume that it was on a literal level or none. He reminds them that he has told them this before and he is telling them again - plainly, if someone is involved in these activities they are not going to inherit the kingdom of God. They are of the flesh, they are of the Devil and they are none of God’s
Here we go on the list of the do’s or those things that are supposed to be a part of our lives.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Fruit is simply that which is born of the plant or the tree which naturally comes through the natural processes of life. In the spring in Oregon many of the trees spring forth in buds and soon follow with tiny flowers that turn the landscape to shades of pink and white. The petals last a few days and blow away as the snow in a blizzard if the winds are just right. They are followed by foliage and in some cases fruits.
It is interesting that even some of the ugly trees also produce fruit. We have a Tulip tree in our front yard. It is soft and always decorating our yard with broken limbs, and in the fall the huge leaves would kill off our grass if not removed. Yet, in the spring after the leaves are full, there appear flowers all over the tree. There are green tulip like buds that grow to be fairly large. These buds turn to an ugly dried foliage that drops to the ground. If left to the wind and weather the foliage will blow away and leave a spike that I assume would grow into another ugly tree if planted.
The point, all of nature produces fruit of some sort, and all of nature whether beautiful or not so great is an integrated part of God’s natural order. So, in the church every single person that has called on the name of Christ for salvation is an integrated part of what God wants to do in that assembly.
All will produce fruit of some sort, the good fruit being that which the Lord wants to use in the lives of others.
Love: This is goodness of heart rather than the fuzzy feeling within when we think cupid is in the air. It is goodness and kindness of heart.
Does that surprise anyone? This is usually put out as the love one another sort of love, not this idea of goodness and kindness, though love will produce those items.
Joy: Simply joy or gladness.
Years ago we had a fuel pump go out in the middle of the night and after an hour of trying to repair it; I had to walk to the next town for a part. Fortunately someone stopped and offered me a ride within a few blocks.
No part was to be found, so I called and my brother and father-in-law said they would pick one up and drive it out to us. I then trekked back toward the car, about a ten-mile walk. This time the Lord allowed me to do a lot of walking. I was almost back to the car when my brother and father-in-law stopped to pick me up. As I walked I could only think of the happiness that was within. I know, how stupid could I get, but at that moment in time when surrounded by serious problems, I was full of joy and gladness - mostly that I was a child of the King.
Peace: The outworking of what I was feeling that evening. A state of tranquility that rules the life.
Longsuffering: Constancy, steadfastness and perseverance.
Gentleness: Goodness, moral goodness and integrity are three thoughts of the word. Again I am surprised by the meaning of this word. It usually is presented as something along the lines of "we have to be gentle and passive in our lives to be good Christians." NOT seems to be a good comment at this point.
Goodness: Goodness and uprightness of heart. My goodness, this sounds like a lot of inward mindsets, rather than a bunch of outward show of what is inside. The fact that what is inside will show forth is obvious, but it is just that, the inward moving outward to be the expression of what is within - THE SPIRIT OF GOD!
Faith: This is the usual word for faith, or the trusting and believing in what God says or does.
Meekness: Here we have some of the outward, this means to be meek, gentle or mild.
Temperance: The mastery over ones desires, especially their sensual appetites.
"Against such there is no law." In short you can do these things and not be held responsible for wrong action. Well in Paul’s day, in our own day in the United States of America watch your step as the Supreme Court may prove Paul inaccurate any day now. It was recently reported that we can no longer keep children from internet pornography. It will be illegal to protect your child from smut, from the dregs of society and its media outlet.
America is fleeing from all that is Godly and making all it leaves behind illegal. The Christian in America is nearing some very serious choices in our coming days living in this nation raised up on Godly principles.
And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
We have crucified the flesh - when - at the cross when we met Christ - we are no longer under the law, nor under the flesh, nor under the Devil’s dominion. We are free in all aspects of life.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
If we are really believers, then let us walk like believers - when we deal with one another we must be walking in the Spirit and loving those that we know to be in our family - God’s family.
Contemplate that for awhile, would you treat that not so nice lady the way you do if you viewed her as a child of the King, as a child of the same Father you worship - a sister in Christ. We need to understand all believers deserve the respect that we would have from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Not that we get that respect these days in the church, but we ought to and these are some of the things believers need to be working on in their lives today.
Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
A little further encouragement not to desire glory in the church and not to provoke others, and certainly don’t envy others in the church. This is the truth that we are all parts of the body, that we are all parts as defined and prepared by God Himself to fulfill the overall plan that he instituted before creation.
We are part of His plan for our little corner of the world, but so is Sister Highbrow, and so is brother Shabby dresser. We are all a part of His plan to minister to and mature us to the work that He has for us in our communities and in our work places and our homes as we have visitors. We are His prepared messengers, and we should live like it as well.
Copyright 2008. Used by Permission. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author, except as provided by U.S.A. copyright laws. Do feel free to make copies for friends that might be interested as long as you do not make profit from the copies. This is God's work and I don't want anyone to profit from it in a material way.
Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on Galatians 5". "Derickson's Notes on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13