It would probably surprise some to find the source of scriptural text that produced the inspiration for the above title. It was while immersed in a study of this related text it came upon me and overtook me. We are consistently pressing along a constant continuum of spiritual progression. This progression is toward spiritual maturity and ultimately leads to meeting God’s grand design for our lives. There are times we make great strides and there are times that we seem to regress, however, I find that our ability to move consistently along this progression is directly connected to two separate scriptural passages. I will introduce you to the first of the two on today and I will follow up with the next on tomorrow.
No matter where you are in your “walk” (and this term will be explained within this brief treatise), if you enter this study with an open mind, trusting the Holy Spirit, via His revelatory ministry, to illuminate God’s truth within, you will be empowered through knowledge and direction. You will find that the ground work for your success has been laid well before you were conceived. God has designed a plan specifically for your life that coincides with His divine plan for the entire universe. You may have been struggling to make headway in your incessant desire to be a better Christian, but find yourself always falling short. You have probably begun to accept the worldly view that your humanity bounds you to a life of sinful failure and “thank God for grace” has become your mantra. I want you to know that God has not called you to do anything that He has not given you the power to do.
You do not have to matriculate to any great theological seminary to apprehend the truths that will be presented here today. You simply have to be committed to become submitted to the Holy Spirit and the serious study of the text. I have said this on more than one occasion and I will venture to say it yet once again: The first and greatest responsibility of any believer is the constant, daily, intake, digestion, metabolism and inculcation of Bible Doctrine. Every other responsibility and calling is predicated on mastering the first. When you neglect the Word, you become spiritually emaciated and functionally impotent as a Christian Soldier.
I invite you to take this journey through the word of God and the mind of the Apostle Paul as we uncover this powerful truth that the enemy has successfully hidden from so many through a method I call “Delusional Fixation”. Satan has used the ignorance of believers as it pertains to the Word of God to infiltrate their thinking with false doctrines that are being disseminated from within and outside of the faith. Everywhere you turn there are messages “you are simply human” when the Word clearly states that you are more than a conqueror. It is time that the believer begins to live in the power of the Holy Spirit and shake the limitation of ignorance and fallacious doctrines.
So, let us move into the related text.
16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal. 5:16-24 NASB)
Your ability to grasp the truth residing within the composition of the aforementioned words is tantamount to walking in complete victory as you travel this ethereal journey of Christian faith. God has not left you clueless in this journey. He has not called you to greatness and then left you on your own to figure it out. God has ingenuously left you a blueprint to greatness and mission fulfillment. God designed you to be responsive to intellectual stimuli; the infusion of knowledge into your psychological gateways. He then provided that stimuli through his infallible Word to literally lift you into greatness.
Before we can fully understand this particular passage, we must build the context to insure that we do not erroneously apply it.
Beginning with Galatians 5:1 Paul moves from an emphasis on theology towards a focus on ethics, basically taking the Galatian believers from doctrine (the teaching) to practice (the living out of what has been taught.). Up to this point Paul had devoted his Epistle to debunking the theoretical teachings of some teachers that had convinced a great deal of the Galatian Church that they had to follow the tenets of the Mosaic Law in order to be received by God, so Paul immediately engages the Galatians concerning the ease at which they were deceive to move away from what they had been taught concerning grace.
6I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! … 1You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (Gal. 1:6-9; 3:1 NASB)
Paul is addressing the interpolation of legalism into the Gospel of Grace. Jewish teachers had convinced the Galatians that they needed to be circumcised in order to be accepted by God. Anytime legalism is introduced into the plan of grace as it functions within the dispensation of the Church, we encounter massive problems (this is not the focus of our study today, so I will refrain from addressing this at the present moment, but understand that legalism is an extremely destructive force). Paul understood this and immediately moved into the correct the problem.
Paul spent a considerable amount of time and effort explaining the polarity of the Masaic Law and Grace. He cleverly disseminates the doctrine of grace so that the ground work of the Christian walk has once again been laid. Without this ground work being properly laid out it is impossible to adequately advance in this spiritual walk. Paul had effectively ruled out the Law as a regulatory standard in the age of the Church; in other words, the law had no power to advance the Christian way of life. In essence, the law had no regulatory value; in this sense it was useless. This does not mean that we should discard the Old Testament, which would be extremely foolish. What the Law lacks in regulatory value in compensates for in revelatory value. The Old Testament reveals the essence of God, the function of God, the veracity of God, the loyalty of God, the power of God,. Etc.
As Paul moves from developing the theological perimeters of Christian functionality through Grace into the access of grace’s provision of power to live out the Christian life, he interjects a statement that is all in one; a summation of what has come before and a transition into what was to follow.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Gal. 5:1)”Before plunging into this third section of his letter, Paul interjects a verse that is at once a summary of all that has gone before and a transition to what follows. It is, in fact, the key verse of the entire Epistle. Because of the nature of the true gospel and of the work of Christ on his behalf, the believer is now to turn away from anything that smacks of legalism and instead rest in Christ’s triumphant work for him and live in the power of Christ’s Spirit. . . . The appeal is for an obstinate perseverance in freedom as the only proper response to an attempt to bring Christians once more under legalism.” (Boice, p. 486.)
You must understand that to lean on legalistic tenets and sacraments is to discount grace. It is to say that the magnanimous gift that Christ provided on Calvary was not sufficient that and that we must in some way, add something to it. Grace, by its very definition is a non-meritorious conduit through which God blesses us on the basis on Christ’s saving work at Calvary. The erroneously disseminated doctrines of grace being taught now simply focus on God’s ability to forgive and a cast off the debt of sin for the believer, and though that part of grace has massive implications in the Christian walk, it is only a fraction of the complete function of grace. Graces greatest functions are unity with Christ and all believers, right standing with God (justification), and the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit (which supplies the power not to sin and to fulfill ones purpose).
Paul did not want the Galatians to get the idea that because they were no longer under the law they could cast off restraint and move into unbridled antinomianism. He wanted them to understand that grace actually brought with it more responsibility. You may ask how; grace inherently provides exceptionally more power in the Church age, and with more power comes more responsibility.
“Christian freedom is not license [sic] to sin for the simple but tremendous reason that the Christian is not the man who has become free to sin, but the man, who, by the grace of Gdo, has become free not to sin. (J. Dwight Pentecost, “The Purpose of the Law; Bibliotheca Sacra 128:511 (July – September 1971) 227-33.
Paul understands that he must now explain how the Galatians will be able to resist the natural inclination to sin (due to an inherent sin nature that resides in all humans since the fall of Adam with the exception of one; [through the virgin birth, Jesus was the only human born without a sin nature] all are inclined to sin.) Paul is about to introduce a truth that when fully apprehended brings full liberation from sin. As a matter of fact, this truth, when put into practice, immediately and automatically eliminates sin. It is only when the believer fails to live within this truth is he even able to sin.
Paul goes on to explain that there is a constant conflict taking place within the believer.
16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (Gal. 5:16:18 NASB)
He then begins to set out the disparity in what each warring force produces.
19Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal. 5:19-24 NASB)
It is extremely important that we give this passage quite a bit more attention than we normally do and it is equally important to assign to it an enormous gravity. This passage is not simply assigning deeds and attributes to a particular source. It is providing the format for understanding the status of believers and none believers. It is most importantly, revealing the source through which the Christian lifestyle and walk is accomplished.
We are told first that the “flesh’ strives against the “Spirit” and the “Spirit” against the flesh. That inherent nature within all of us desires to pull us in ways that are contrary to the will of God. It is important to understand that as long as we live we will have to contend with the sin nature residing in us. The sin nature does not leave the believer at any stage of their walk; however, it can be brought into submission and controlled through complete acquiescence to the Holy Spirit. It has been said that this can be analogous to having two dogs that are constantly warring with each other for prominence and position; the one that will ultimately win is the one that you feed the most. Obviously the Holy Spirit is nothing like a dog, but the analogy comes in the fact that whatever you feed grows stronger and whatever you starve grows weaker.
Paul tells the Galatians that if they walk by the Spirit they shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Walking by or being led by the Spirit is living moment by moment in a place of submission to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Anytime that you are not walking in this state of submission you become subject to the yearnings of the flesh. In this case, “walking” is a metaphorical expression used in scripture to express spiritual progression. The modes of transportation in Bible days were definitely not as fast or as efficient as they are today, but walking was still the slowest way to get from one place to the next. As slow as the process of walking may have been, one knew that if he continued to put one foot in front of another he would cover the necessary ground and would eventually reach the desired destination. So, the Christian walk is the progression toward becoming what you were designed and created to be.
Since we have two warring factions within us, Paul wanted to give us an honest way to assess which side is winning. Each of these two warring entities within us produces certain byproducts. In understanding what these products are, we can know where we are in our walk and whether or not we are truly being submissive to the Holy Spirit.
First, Paul reveals the deeds of the flesh. They can be broken down into five basic categories:
Sexual Sins (verse 19) – Immorality, fornication (Greek “porneia”, all types of forbidden sexual relationships from a physical perspective). Impurity, uncleaness (Greek “akatharsia, all moral uncleanness in thought, word and deed). Sensuality, licentiousness, indecency, debauchery, lasciviousness (Greek “aselgeia” the open, shameless display of these sins)
Religious Sins (verse 20) – Idolatry (Greek “eidololatria”, worship of anything other than God and the practices and sacramental rituals involved). Sorcery, witchcraft (Greek “pharmakeia”, attempts to aid the powers of evil and the practices associated with that).
Social Sins – (verses 20-21) – Enmities, quarrels, hatred (Greek “echthrai”, hostilities). Strife, discord, variance (Greek eris, antagonism). Jealousy, envy, emulation (Greek zelos, self-centered animosity). Outburst of anger, fits of rage, wrath (Greek “thymoi”, temper eruptions). Disputes, strife, factions, selfishness, selfish ambition (Greek “eritheiai”, putting others to get ahead). Dissensions, divisions, seditions (Greek “dichostasiai, disputes over issues or personalities). Factions, heresies, party spirit (Greek “haireseis”, divisions over issues or personalities. Envyings, jealousies (Greek “phthonoi”, wrong desires to have another’s possessions). When you examine the force of these deeds and what they will ultimately produce you will come up with one word that sums it all up; chaos.
Intemperate Sins (verse 21) – Drunkenness, drinking bouts (Greek “methai, excessive use of intoxicants). Carousing, reveling, orgies (Greek “ komoi”, parties involving excessive eating and drinking).
Other Sins – Things like these listed (similar violations of God’s moral will).
“The common feature in this catalogue of vices seems to reside not in the precise ways in which these fifteen items manifest themselves but in the self-centeredness or egocentricity that underlies all of them.” (Thomas Constable, Commentaries of the Bible)
Not only do these deeds serve as indicators of a walk on the side of carnality, they also wreak immeasurable havoc on the life of the person perpetrating them.
Then Paul moves to the other side of this polarity transitioning through the use of the conjunction
A primary particle (adversative or continuative); but, and, etc.: – also, and, but, moreover, now [often unexpressed in English].
Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries G1161
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal. 5:22-24 NASB)
Notice that the “flesh” produces “deeds” and the “Spirit” produces “fruit”, in the Greek
Probably from the base of G726; fruit (as plucked), literally or figuratively: – fruit.
Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries G2590
“Fruit is singular signifying a unified Christ-like character; an aggregate affect of walking in the spirit. Let’s take a look at the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces in those that are surrendered to His leadership. There are nine that fit into three basic categories.
Mental or God-ward Qualities (verse 22) – Love (Greek “agape”, self-sacrificing affection for others). Joy (Greek “chara”, deep-seated happiness regardless of circumstances). Peace (Greek “eirene”, inner quietness and repose regardless of circumstances).
Interpersonal or Other-ward Qualities (verse 22) - Patience (Greek “makrothymia”, forbearance even under provocation). Kindness (Greek “chrestotes”, benevolence and graciousness). Goodness (Greek “agathosyne, constructive action reaching out to others).
General or Self-ward Qualities (verses 22-23) – Faithfulness (Greek “pistis”, reliability, trustworthiness). Gentleness (Greek “praytes”, acquiescence to authority and consideration of others). Self-control (Greek “enkrateia”, ability to master oneself.
Paul has ingeniously provided the blueprint for effective and powerful Christian living. When we walk in submission to the Holy Spirit he not only guides us, but also reciprocates by allowing you to access His power to, not only walk the Christian way, but to fulfill your particular purpose. There are multitudinous individuals struggling through this ethereal journey of Christianity feeling as if there is no possible way to rise up and live the life that they should be living. Many have been taught secular world views such as “once an addict always an addict”, but we find that surrender to the Holy Spirit produces the power to master oneself. There is complete healing available for every illness.
Paul masterfully extracts the built in excuse of humanity from the equation and interjects “grace’s” greatest hidden secret; power. When Paul prayed for the removal of the thorn in his flesh God’s reply was simply, “…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Wait a minute; what does grace have to do with power? Everything, in its comprehensive definition, grace is all that God is able to do for every Christian based on the work of Christ at the cross. So grace appropriates justification at the moment of salvation. Grace facilitates the purifying and preparative act of sanctification, and grace allows for the Holy Spirit to indwell every believer providing so much in the way of power, revelation, and direction.
You have the power to walk triumphantly and live effectively as a victorious warrior. I urge you to surrender to the Holy Spirit; allow Him to empower and direct you. If you do so, no demon in hell, including the devil himself can stop you from completing the course and fulfilling your destiny.
Bishop Rick Wallace