Sunday, April 15, 2007

Galatians 5:16-21

Here is the rough/basic outline that I came up with when studying this passage:

  1. The Command
  2. The Contention/Struggle
  3. The Flesh
    1. The Deeds
    2. The Result

1. The Command: “Walk in the Spirit” What does it mean?1
  1. It is not: its negative is given in the following section “and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
  2. It is: It’s positive might best be seen in Ezekiel 36:26,27 (See also John 3:3ff).
    26 "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.“(Ezekiel 36:26,27)
    “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  3. To “walk in the Spirit” seems to mean that when we are saved/transformed, we desire to and are enabled to do good things for good reasons.
2. The Contention/Struggle:
  1. “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another,” (5:17a)
    1. this reminds me/seems like Romans 7:14-25
    2. Rom 7:19, 24 “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?”
  2. “so that you may not do the things that you please.” (17b)
    1. The idea seems to be that the Spirit halts the inclination to sin & that we are able to resist doing the “things that you please”
    2. “which may be understood both of evil things and of good things. The former seems to be chiefly the apostle's sense; since the whole of this text is a reason given why those who walk spiritually shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh, because they have a powerful governing principle in them, the Spirit, or grace; which though the flesh lusts against, and opposes itself unto, yet that also rises up against the flesh, and often hinders it from doing the works and lusts of it.”2
      “Believers do not always do what they wish to do. There are those moments in every Christian’s experience when the wishing is present but the doing is not. The Spirit often halts what our flesh desires, and the flesh often overrides the will that comes from the Spirit. It is no surprise that this frustrating conflict led Paul to exclaim, ‘Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?’3
      (Rom. 7:24)”
    3. It is important to note that the struggle that we see in Romans 7 & Galatians 5 is not an excuse to use in order to “justify” our actions when we do, in fact, sin. We are given the ability to resist the temptation and sin in every area…
      “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Cor 10:13)

      …because God also knows how to rescue us, the believers, from our temptation…
      “then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment,” (2 Peter 2:9)

      …and thus we have the continuing witness of our own fleshly sinfulness, wickedness, and rebellion against God that would, if possible, still justly condemn us in the Judgment after we have been justified if that were possible.

      It is, I think, on this truth that we are still so wretchedly wicked now (although still less so in practice, in desire, and in constitution than before we were saved) that the doctrine of the imputation of righteousness must be restated and defended. For if some of the righteousness of Christ were infused into me upon conversion instead of it all being credited to me, my first sin that I commit after that time would put me back in the same state as Adam. It seems that one sin is much more powerful than many righteous acts because God demands holiness and perfection.

      13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY , FOR I AM HOLY.’” (1 Peter 1:13-16)

      This is true with the historical truth of Adam as seen in the fall of mankind as well as the doctrinal and biblical account of the Second Adam. For one single sin would have caused Christ’s sacrifice to be invalid and unable to save; so one sin in our attempt to “become holy” as a means of getting to heaven would put us back to square 1…a fallen and wretched sinner who is hanging over the chasm of God’s just judgment, and holding on for dear life, he is only able to barely grasp the firmly rooted shrub of God’s divine patience (2 Peter 3:9).
3. The Flesh (Gal 5:19-21)
  1. The Deeds
    1. immorality, (Matt 19:9; 1 Cor 5:1; 1 Cor 6:13,18; 2 Cor 12:21; Gal 5:19; Eph 5:3; Col 3:5; 1 Thess 4:3; Jude 7; Rev 2:14,20,21; 9:21; 14:8; 17:2, 4; 18:3,9; 19:2)
    2. impurity, (Rom 1:24; Rom 6:19; 2 Cor 12:21; Gal 5:19; Eph 4:19; Eph 5:3; Col 3:5; 1 Thess 2:3; 1 Thess 4:7)
      1. This seems to be connected with sexual sins in this context as well as in Romans 1:24; 2 Cor 12:21; Eph 4:19; 5:3; Colossians 3:5; and 1 Thessalonians 4:7. Also, this idea is coupled & associated with the mentality and sin of greed (interesting correlation) in the Ephesians and Colossians references.
      2. So, primarily, this context and most of the passages in the NT that use this word refer mainly to the concept of sexual purity. However, this extreme description is not only limited to physical/sexual immoral behavior, but also to the prostituting and abuse of the doctrine of God.

        In the same letter, Paul uses this word in referring both to sexual immorality and to doctrinal error:
        “For our exhortation does not come from error orimpurity or by way of deceit; 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.( 1 Thess 2:3-4)
        “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity , but in sanctification.” (1 Thess 4:3-7)
    3. sensuality, (Mark 7:22; Rom 13:13; 2 Cor 12:21; Gal 5:19; Eph 4:19; 1 Peter 4:3; 2 Peter 2:2, 18; Rev 18:3)
    4. idolatry, (1 Cor 10:14; Gal 5:20; Col 3:5)
    5. sorcery, - this seems to mean witchcraft, but in our day it is most equivalent to mind altering drugs…,(Acts 19:19; Rev 18:23)
    6. enmities, (Gal 5:20; Eph 2:15; 2:16)
    7. strife, (Rom 1:29; 13:13; 1 Cor 3:3; 2 Cor 12:20; Gal 5:20; Phil 1:15; 1 Tim 6:4; Titus 3:9)
    8. jealousy, (Acts 5:17; 13:45; Rom 11:14; 13:13; 1 Cor 3:3; 10:22; 2 Cor 11:2; 12:20; Gal 5:20; James 3:14; James 3:16)
    9. outbursts of anger, This phrase singularly appears here, but it brings to mind the qualifications of an elder who is not to be “addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable,” (1 Tim 3:3). Pugnacious refers to the fighter/brawler and the elder (as well as all Christians as we’ll see in the Fruits of the Spirit) are to be peaceful.
    10. disputes, (2 Cor 12:20; Gal 5:20; 1 Tim 6:4; Titus 3:9)
    11. dissensions, (Acts 15:2; Acts 23:7,10; 24:5; Rom 16:17; Gal 5:20; 1 Tim 2:8)
    12. factions, (1 Cor 11:19; Gal 5:20)
    13. envying, (Matt 27:18; Mark 7:22; 15:10; Rom 1:29; Gal 5:21, 26; Phil 1:15; 1 Tim 6:4; Titus 3:3; 1 Peter 2:1)
    14. drunkenness, (Luke 21:34; Rom 13:13; Gal 5:21; 1 Peter 4:3)
    15. carousing, (Rom 13:13; Gal 5:21; 1 Peter 4:3; 2 Peter 2:13)
    16. “and things like these,” This simply means that Paul’s list is representative of the sinful behavior, the deeds of the flesh, that bring forth the same result.

      Although this is not a complete “end-all, be-all” list, it does show the interrelatedness of sins (i.e. one leading to another – drunkenness leads to carousing) as well as to hit on three groups of sins:
      1. Those primarily directed against God4: Idolatry
      2. The obvious directed against man: enmities, carousing, drunkenness
      3. The incognito (mental/inner) sins against man: envying, jealousy
  2. The Result:
  3. "those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:21)
    9Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:9-11)
    3But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

    6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light” (Eph 5:3-8)

1 John Piper’s sermon “Let Us Walk by the Spirit” (March 1, 1981) really helped me to get an initial grasp on the phrase “walk in the Spirit”.

2 Gill, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:17". "John Gill's Exposition of the Bible". . 1999.

3 “Galatians” The MacArthur New Testament Commentary by John MacArthur Jr. p. 156

4 All sins are against God and He is always the primary One who is offended, but some are more blatantly aimed at Him directly.

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