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Galatians 5:16-18 by Robert Dean
Series:Hebrews (2005)
Duration:57 mins 50 secs

Hebrews Lesson 55    May 25, 2006

 

NKJ Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

 

Hebrews 5

 

Let's get back into our study. We are still in Hebrews; but we have migrated around through a little lesson in discernment the last few weeks talking about the subject of the leading of the Spirit, answering the question - is the leading of the Spirit the same as divine guidance? The last two weeks I spent time in Romans 8 because there are only two passages in the epistles that talk about the leading of the Spirit. There is one passage in Luke 4 where Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness. But the context and the dispensation and everything are different. So we only have two passages in the epistles related to the spiritual life of the Church Age believer where we have this vocabulary of the leading of the Spirit. Almost everybody down through the ages is taking it to mean divine guidance. In fact my good friend and former professor Charles Ryrie writes this quote in his book Basic Theology which we have examined. He emphasized in here quote from Romans 8:14 that "the leading of the Spirit is a confirmation of sonship for sons are led". 

 

In that he is almost saying that leading is a confirmation that you are a believer because every believer is led. So if you are not led, maybe you aren't saved. I find that what he said here is somewhat questionable. He goes on to say …

 

This work of guidance is particularly of the Spirit. Romans 8:14 states it and the book of Acts amply illustrates it. 

 

Then he cites several examples from Acts which we looked at and saw that none of those relate to this. They all involved special revelation. I am emphasizing to you that it is important to be students of the Word and to look verses up and not just take somebody's word that the verse teaches some point that they just said. He goes on to say…

 

This is one of the most assuring ones for the Christian. The child of God never needs to walk in the dark. He is always free to ask and receive directions from the Spirit himself. 

 

That last sentence is so dangerous because it sounds like if I am in a quandary I can ask God and He will speak to me. I know that Dr. Ryrie doesn't believe that. He took this almost verbatim out of a book he wrote, maybe one of his first books on the Holy Spirit. It is just stated very poorly. But we are taking this as an example of how to be a discerning reader and how to develop critical thinking skills when it comes to analyzing what you hear from the pulpit or what you read in any kind of Christian literature. There is a lot of Christian literature out there that is very good. There may be 1% or 5% of it that is a little screwy, but you can learn a lot from the other 85% - 95% that is there. You have to have your doctrinal radar on and be paying attention to what they are saying because every now and then something goofy slips in like we have here.

 

The second passage that Dr. Ryrie doesn't even mention in that brief paragraph that relates to leading of the Spirit is Galatians 5:18. So turn with me to Galatians 5.

 

Galatians is the first epistle that Apostle Paul wrote. He wrote it to correct a problem, a doctrinal error that was creeping in to the congregation in Galatia. Galatia was in the (I take the south Galatian view) south central part of what is modern Turkey. What had happened in Galatia was that Paul and Barnabas and Timothy had gone into that area on the first missionary journey when they went to Lystra, Iconium and Derbe. 

They taught the gospel and had many converts. That is where they first met Timothy. After they had left the area this group of Judaizers came along. The Judaizers were Jewish in their orientation and background. They had accepted Jesus as Messiah but were still including obedience to the Mosaic Law along with faith in Christ. It wasn't a faith alone in Christ for salvation. It was faith plus something else. 

 

"It's not enough to trust in Christ alone for justification. You have to trust in Christ and keep the law and enter into the covenant of Abraham by circumcision in order to receive the blessing." 

 

So this becomes a major problem because a work salvation is being introduced by these heretics after the Apostle Paul had gone to Galatia. So the epistle has to straighten out this legalistic error in two ways.  It is affecting their view of the gospel and it is affecting their view of the spiritual life. The conclusion that deals with their spiritual life comes in chapter 5. So this verse "if you are led by the Spirit" must be understood in terms of its overall context. Again and again I emphasize the fact that we have to know context. The old saying is that a text without a context is a pretext. My favorite one is that if you take the text out of the context you are left with a con. So here is the context. 

 

In 5:16 a major shift takes place as everything from chapter 2 has been building in this epistle to this conclusion. Paul says…

 

NKJ Galatians 5:16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

 

Literally it is an instrumental dative that means "walk by means of the Spirit and it will be impossible for you to complete or to fulfill the lusts of the flesh." 

 

NKJ Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

 

Galatians 5:17 is parenthetical to emphasize this battle that is going on that every believer experiences between the Holy Spirit who is indwelling the believer and guiding them with the Word and the sin nature. 

 

These are contrary to one another. They are polar opposites. It is one or the other. One thing you run into and is popular with many people who teach the Christian life is you can be a little bit carnal and a little bit spiritual at the same time. 

 

They say something like, "We all do things by mixed motives. It is a little bit good; it is a little bit bad. It is a little bit selfish: it is a little bit generous. But it is a mixed bag." 

 

In Galatians 5:17 is one or the other. It is the flesh or the other. It is none of this mixed motive kind of stuff. Let's deal with what the text says.

 

That last phrase is very important for understanding what is going on in the background. You do not do the things that you wish. In other words the believer that is not walking by the Spirit won't be able to do or bring to fulfillment that which he wants to do. That is Paul's experience in Romans 7. We will deal with that in a minute. 

 

Then there is a conclusion.

 

NKJ Galatians 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

 

Verse 18 must be understood in the context of 5:16 so that we will see that walking in the Spirit is just another way of talking about walking by the Spirit. That is the same thing that we saw in our study the last couple of weeks in Romans 8. In Romans 8:1-14 Paul talks about these two polar opposites in the Christian experience. You are either walking according to the flesh or you are walking according to the Spirit. Your mind is set on the flesh or it is set on the Spirit. You are living according to the flesh or you are living according to the Spirit. They go back and forth. They are just different ways of saying the same thing whether you are talking about set on the flesh, walking according to the flesh, living according to the flesh or just according to the flesh; it is all describing the same thing. That is the believer who is living or operating according to the sin nature. On the other side, set on the Spirit, walking according to the Spirit, living according to the Spirit or simply according to the Spirit is talking about the believer who is in right relationship with the Holy Spirit, in fellowship with God, and is walking by means of the Holy Spirit. Then we saw in Romans 8:14 when it talks about being led by the Spirit, those who are led by the Spirit are what? The huios, the adult sons of God. So being led by the Spirit is another way in Romans 8 of talking about walking according to the Spirit. We will see the same thing here. This phrase "being led by the Spirit" is the flip side of walking by the Spirit. It is not something that is mystical. It is not based on some sort of subjective impression. It is based on a clear path that is laid out before believers. To understand that, we have to go to an even broader context. That is the context of the book of Galatians itself. 

 

So just as we walked our way through Romans we are going to walk our way through the book of Galatians to see how Galatians 5:16-18 fits within this whole pattern or structure of what Paul is saying in this letter to the Galatians. What is important to understand is that too often we get so microscopic in our analysis of the Scripture that we lose the picture. We understand the verse, but we don't fit it within the overall flow of what is being said. There is also a place for micro-cosmic exegesis but there is also a place for macro-exegesis where we are looking at the overall flow of what is being said in a letter. Remember when Paul wrote these they were received by a congregation and the pastor would stand up and read it from the first verse to the last verse. He wouldn't take a whole lot of time explaining a lot of the details. He just read the whole thing straight through

 

Let's go back to the beginning. 

 

The first 5 verses give us the introduction to the book. There is always a standard greeting. Paul identifies himself as an apostle.

 

NKJ Galatians 1:1 Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead),

 

He is an apostle because Jesus Christ designated him to be an apostle and designated him to proclaim the gospel to the gentiles. He includes those who are with him. 

 

NKJ Galatians 1:2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:

 

Then he gives the opening greeting. 

 

NKJ Galatians 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

There is always a connection between grace and peace in these letters. Grace or charis was the standard greeting of any Greek to another Greek just as we say howdy, hello, or how are you a Greek speaker would say, "Charis". It means grace. 

 

If you were a Jew and you greet somebody on the street of Jerusalem you would say, "Shalom". And so you have grace and peace. 

 

What Paul does under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is he takes these two common greetings and he links them together because it is the grace of God that is the one and only source of real peace for the individual. It is because of God's grace that we have peace with God. That is the argument of Romans 5 that because we are justified we have peace with God, reconciliation.   

 

NKJ Galatians 1:4 who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

 

In this verse we have the synopsis, a snapshot of what he is going to develop in this whole epistle. Number one, Jesus is the one who gave Himself for us. That is focusing on phase, one salvation, what we call justification, a recognition that Jesus Christ died for our sins as our substitute. So this summarizes the message that is going to be covered in the first section of the book, the emphasis on justification from 1:6-2:21, the end of the second chapter. 

 

He gave Himself for our sins for a purpose – that He might deliver us from this present evil age. It doesn't say that He might deliver us from hell. It doesn't say that He gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from the Lake of Fire. It says that He gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from what? From this present evil age. In other words that He might deliver you from worldly thinking, from cosmic thinking, from living in the power and under the bondage of the sin nature. It is talking about sanctification. Jesus justified you so that you could go through experiential sanctification. So the significance of sanctification is what is covered in 3:1-6:18. So you have two key doctrines that are the foci of this epistle: justification in 1:6 -2:21 and sanctification in 3:1-6:18.

 

Now just let's have a little side bar on these two terms and their connection. If you were born in the Middle Ages any time after Augustine who was the Bishop of Hippo who was considered the prime Roman Catholic theologian, then you thought that justification was a process. It occurred over time. We use the term progressive sanctification. You have heard that many times. They understood justification to be progressive. Justification and sanctification were progressive. The problem with that is that it leads to knowing you are justified by knowing you are sanctified. Wait a minute. Sanctification is the Christian life. What they are basically saying is that the only way you know you are justified is if you are living the Christian life. If you aren't living the Christian life you don't know that you are justified. So you can't know that you are saved or have an assurance of your salvation unless you are living the right kind of life. If you are living the wrong kind of life or you commit any of the list of sins that is that century's worst sin (and every century and every culture has a different list), then if you commit those sins, then you are probably not a Christian. You are just not saved. The only way you know you are saved is by what you do. 

 

Jody Dillow who wrote the book Reign of the Servant Kings which is a book that as soon as someone gets serious about seminary or going anywhere in formal academic training - that is the first book that I have them read is Reign of the Servant Kings. It has been out of print for a while. It has just come back into print. 

 

I had a meeting with him on Monday as well. It was very enjoyable. It was the first time I have had a chance to spend time with him. He has written 5 books in his life. His book on tongues which was only in print for a couple of years is the finest books on tongues issue that I have ever read. His doctrinal dissertation was on the water vapor canopy of Genesis 1 and all the implications of that. His undergraduate work was in engineering. Then he wrote the book on the Reign of the Servant Kings which is the finest discussion of the difference between lordship salvation and the free grace gospel. It is about 700 or 800 pages. It is basically a systematic theology for understanding all of the problem passages that people go to for understanding the gospel and whether or not you are lordship or free grace. What we have to understand is that the backdrop for all of this came out of Roman Catholicism and in the Protestant Reformation understanding that justification and sanctification were separate. Justification was punctiliar. Have you ever heard that word before? It is a point in time. 

 

The instant you put your faith alone in Christ alone, you are justified. God imputes to you the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. His justice sees that you possess the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ and declares you justified. That is what the reformers understood. That is what Martin Luther understood. Later Calvin understood it. It is the doctrine of justification by faith alone. One of the mottos of the Reformation was the phrase sola fide, by faith alone. (Sola Scriptura means by Scripture alone and sola gratia by grace alone.) This is biblical. Lordship salvation comes along and it makes the same claim that Roman Catholicism made. It blurs the distinction between justification and sanctification so that if you trust Christ as your savior, you don't know if it is a true saving faith until you have lived the right kind of life. 

 

Dillow in his book Reign of the Servant Kings calls it experiential predestinarianism. Don't you just love it? I just love these terms. The only way you know if you are part of the elect is through the experiment of your life. So you don't know if you are saved unless you live like you are saved. If you don't live like you were saved, then you didn't have the right kind of faith.

 

You see the Bible talks about faith generically. Everybody believes. You are sitting in a chair. When you sat down you didn't walk up to it and knock it around a little bit to make sure it would hold you. You trusted it would hold you and you sat down in that chair. It is the same kind of faith that you exercise toward the chair is the same kind of faith you exercise toward the cross. There is no "different kinds of faith". Faith is simply believing something to be true. 

 

In language we understand, that faith always has an object. It is the object that is significant not the kind of faith. It is the object of faith that saves. If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins; then the object of your faith (Christ on the cross and His death) is what saves you, not the faith. It is Christ's on the cross that saves you. It is having the right object. If your object is that I am saved because I trust in Christ and I am baptized and I am living a good life and I join the right church, then you are not saved. It is a false gospel because whenever you add any human effort to the cross, it dilutes and destroys the cross. It waters down the gospel. This is what Paul gets into in Galatians 1:6.

 

NKJ Galatians 1:6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,

 

A heteros gospel, one of a different kind. It is not the same kind of gospel. The message is different. It is a faith in something else; it is not in Christ alone.

 

NKJ Galatians 1:7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.

 

NKJ Galatians 1:8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.

 

NKJ Galatians 1:9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

 

Twice he mentions this! The word there for accursed is anathema. This is strong language from the Apostle Paul. 

 

He virtually is saying, "If anyone preaches another gospel, let them go to hell."

 

The emphasis here is on faith alone in Christ alone. He goes through an explanation of his defense of the gospel. He had to defend it in Jerusalem because Peter had waffled on the gospel after he had first taken the gospel to the Greeks. 

 

The Judaizers came along and said, "Well, that is fine and good that the gentiles are getting saved; but they have got to get under the law. We can't have a bunch of unclean, immoral gentiles getting saved. They have got to enter into the Mosaic Law and come under the provisions of the Mosaic Law otherwise they are not saved." 

 

He completely blasts Peter for that and explains that encounter with Peter in Antioch in verse 11.

 

NKJ Galatians 2:11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed;

 

Wouldn't you have liked to be a fly on the wall in that encounter? Paul reams out Peter because he screwed up the gospel. 

 

Paul goes down to explain the basis of the gospel. 

 

NKJ Galatians 2:15 "We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

 

Then it begins with the word knowing.  Actually it should be translated as a causal participle from the Greek – because we know something. 

 

NKJ Galatians 2:16 "knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

 

No matter how good you are, no matter how consistent you are, the works of the law will never, have never bring justification to somebody because what a person needs is perfect righteousness. That cannot be achieved through obedience to the law. 

 

Jesus Christ is the object of our faith. 

 

Three times he makes this point that the works of the law can't bring justification. Justification only comes because you put your faith alone in Christ alone. Jesus is the object of the faith and only Jesus. 

 

That is why we say, "By faith alone."

 

Faith is not accompanied by anything else - faith alone in Christ alone. The object is not accompanied by anything else. It is really important especially if you are evangelizing, if you are witnessing to somebody who is coming out of Church of Christ background or Roman Catholic background. They hear this verbiage all the time coming right out of the Scriptures that you have to believe in Christ, you are saved by grace. What you have to do is make sure that you understand what they mean by these words. Don't just pull out your gospel gun and shoot them with Ephesians 2:8-9. Ask them some questions. 

 

"Well, what do you mean by grace?" 

 

I remember talking on the phone to a person one time and I was doing a lot to help out my folks. My mother had a series of strokes.

 

This person said, "Well, you certainly are earning a lot of grace."

 

They were Roman Catholic and that was their concept of grace. It wasn't your concept of grace. It wasn't the Bible's concept of grace. It is something that is worked for, not something that is freely given. 

 

Somebody may say, "You are saved by grace." 

 

Take a little time and ask, "What do you mean by grace?"

 

Pull out what they mean by these terms. 

 

"Christ died for my sins."

 

"Well, what do you mean by that?  If you didn't go to church, if you never participated in the sacraments, if you never took mass, if you never did any of these things, if you committed a bunch of mortal sins would you still go to heaven by trusting in Christ alone?"

 

If the answer to that is, "Well, I am not so sure", then they aren't saved. They haven't understood the gospel. They are trusting in Jesus plus something else, their own works or their own obedience.

 

Paul says, "That is a different gospel and you aren't saved." 

 

They are trying to be justified by works. So chapter 1 and chapter 2 deal with justification by faith. 

 

A key word is missing from chapter 1 and chapter 2. I put together a chart of three key words in Galatians. It is kind of like the chart we had last week in Romans. These three words come out of Galatians 3:3-4. The first is pneuma which is the word for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit isn't mentioned in chapter one or chapter two. It isn't that He isn't present in regeneration. Paul isn't taking about that. He is focusing on justification. We don't see the word pneuma appear until Galatians 3. Four times the word pneuma appears in Galatians 3 in reference to the Holy Spirit, two times in Galatians 4, 8 times in Galatians 5, and once in Galatians 6. So if you want to study what is happening with the Holy Spirit in Galatians, where would you go? To our passage in Galatians 5. 

 

Okay, let me back up. There is a shift that takes place between Galatians 2:21 and 3:1. Verses 1 and 2 dealt with justification but then he reams them out again. As he started to talk about the gospel he really laid into them.

 

NKJ Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?

 

NKJ Galatians 3:2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

 

He pulls them up and says, "I want to know one thing, just one thing.  Pay attention. Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith? Now how did you get the Holy Spirit when you were saved? Was it by the law or by hearing with faith?"

 

We have just gone through this whole explanation of justification that you are justified by faith alone is and that is when you receive the Holy Spirit. 

 

Then in verse 3 he says…

 

NKJ Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?

 

This is the second time he has used the word foolish. You can tell Paul is really wound up here. 

 

How do you begin? By means of the Spirit? Justification, the Holy Spirit makes it clear to us. The Holy Spirit regenerates us. 

 

"Now" is what?  After salvation or at salvation?  After salvation.

 

Now let's bring this into our vernacular. "Being made perfect" doesn't mean sinlessness. 

It means completion. It is a form of our verb epiteleoEpiteleo means to bring something to completion or to bring it to maturity. 

 

Translation:  Having begun by the Spirit you were saved because of the ministry of God the Holy Spirit in salvation. Are you now trying to grow, not by the Spirit, but by the flesh?

 

Now let me ask you a question? What were these Galatian believers doing to try to grow? Were they a bunch of immoral, antinomian sinners out there raising hell all of the time? No, they are trying to obey the law. But what does Paul say?

 

"You are trying to reach spiritual maturity by the sin nature."

 

So he is equating obeying the law apart from the Spirit with being perfected by the sin nature. 

 

He is saying, "Trying to be moral and live the law apart from the Holy Spirit is nothing more than the works of the sin nature."

 

In other words, all of your morality and ritual and religious activity is all from the sin nature because you are leaving the Holy Spirit completely out of the equation. 

 

Now there are three key words that are in verse 3. Those three key words are Spirit, made perfect and flesh (sin nature). We don't see these three key terms connected again until Galatians 5:16. Now if you have these three key terms in this rhetorical question in Galatians 3:3 and Paul doesn't come back to mention those three things together until Galatians 5:16, that ought to raise a red flag that Galatians 5:16 finally going to answer the question and explain the issue that is raised in Galatians 3:3. But he has to go a long way around the barn in the rest of chapter 3 and chapter 4 in order to explain the role and purpose of the law and its relationship to Abraham and the Abrahamic covenant before he can finally get back to explaining the role of the Holy Spirit. They have been confused. They are trying to get grace and get saved or sanctified through circumcision. Circumcision wasn't a sign of the Mosaic Covenant. It was a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. (Genesis 18) The sign of the Mosaic Covenant was obedience to the Sabbath. Paul is first of all going to show that the Abraham Covenant guaranteed that in Abraham all nations would be blessed and quotes that in 3:8. He doesn't connect it to circumcision. He says in verse 9…

 

NKJ Galatians 3:9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.

 

Faith, not those who are circumcised.

 

See that is an illusion to the same thing that he does in Romans 4 showing that we are justified by faith just as Abraham was justified by faith because Abraham is the Old Testament example for justification by faith alone.

 

NKJ Genesis 15:6 And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

 

Then in verse 10 and following he emphasizes the fact that the law doesn't bring life; it brings condemnation. It brings a curse. Then he goes on to explain the importance of the law and the purpose of the law and the covenant. What we have is different. The law's purpose wasn't to bring righteousness. The law's purpose was to act like a school teacher, a pedagogue. It was to teach people that you can't be justified by being moral. No system of ritual or sacrifices can bring justification. 

 

NKJ Galatians 3:25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

 

That is faith in Christ. 

 

The law was temporary.

 

NKJ Galatians 3:26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

 

The emphasis here is on our adoption. 

 

NKJ Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

 

Here he is talking about the result of faith alone in Christ alone and baptism by means of the Holy Spirit.

 

Then in chapter 4 he goes to deal with the law versus the Spirit. He uses the situation between Sarah and Hagar down towards the end of the chapter that one is the picture of the Spirit and the other is a picture of the flesh. That which was produced through Sarah is a fruit of the Spirit; that which was produced according to the flesh (Abraham's effort to produce his own heir) is according to the flesh. So after he develops this analogy between Hagar and Sarah, Sarah representing those who are relying upon God and trusting in Him and Hagar is the sin nature solution, he says…

 

NKJ Galatians 4:28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.

 

Just as Isaac was the result of an Old Testament promise and the result of grace so we as Church Age believers are the result of grace and children of the promise.

 

NKJ Galatians 4:29 But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now.

 

What terminology ought to catch your attention in that verse? It is Galatians 4:29 - according to the flesh versus according to the Spirit. That is the same phraseology and contrast that we saw in Romans 8 and we are going to see it again in Galatians 5:17. 

 

NKJ Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

 

So he is building his case that those who are of the law are of the flesh. They are a product of the sin nature trying to achieve the blessing of God, not resting in the promise and provision of God's grace.

 

Then we come to chapter 5. Chapter 5 is where he begins to talk about the Spirit and 8 times he mentions the Spirit. He emphasizes the fact that it is in Christ that we are made free. The law is nothing more than bondage just as Hagar was the bondwoman.

 

 Now let's skip down to verse 16 where we were headed. 

 

In verse 16 we have the basic use of this root teleios. We had epiteleo earlier [3:3] now we have teleo in 5:16. 

 

NKJ Galatians 5:16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

 

What is Paul saying? He is saying that you have two alternatives. You can either walk by the Spirit or you can walk by the flesh. What we have here in the Greek is a very emphatic construction. It is a double negative. If you use a double negative in the English one negative cancels the other negative. 

 

You don't say, "I am not never going to do something" because that means you are going to do it. 

 

But in Greek you would use these two different words for "no", ou and me. If you joined them together with a verb in the subjunctive mood, it was the strongest way of saying that something could never ever, ever happen. It is impossible.

 

So what Paul says here is, "If you walk by means of the Spirit, it is impossible for you to bring to completion the lusts of the flesh."

 

A lot of people say, "If I am walking by means of the Spirit, how do I ever sin?"

 

It is a matter of negative volition. I got a great illustration of this years ago when was in Pokipsy, New York speaking at a church. I came down from my hotel room ready to be picked up and as I got downstairs and the doors opened I discovered there was a geriatric convention in town. There were about 50 elderly people and their walkers going in front of me and I couldn't come out of the elevator. Every one of them was walking along with their canes and their walkers. 

 

I was teaching this that night and I thought, "Walk by means of the Spirit, walking by means of their walker." 

 

Now if you are walking along with a cane then you have to think about it a little bit unless you have done it for a while. It is a step-by-step procedure. And that is what walking is here. It is the Greek verb peripateo which emphasizes the walk, step-by-step aspect. Each time you do your thinking about it, you are walking by the Spirit.

 

Now let me use an analogy. If you are walking by means of the cane, you won't fall down. What do you have to do to fall down? Stop using the cane and you will automatically fall down. That is what this is talking about. As long as you are leaning on the Spirit, as long as the Spirit is the guide, then you are not going to fall down. But as soon as you decide to stop using the cane (or the walker) or stop using the Holy Spirit, you will fall down. That is how sin occurs. We choose to stop being dependent on the Holy Spirit. 

 

Now is this some sort of mystical inner lightism? No, it is not because the Spirit guides through His Word. So it is this thing that we see over and over again in the New Testament that the Christian life is through the joint effort of two things, the Word of God and the Spirit of God together. It is never one without the other. So Paul begins in verse 16 with the command to walk by the Spirit and you won't sin. As soon as you stop being dependent on the Holy Spirit, the sin nature is back in that default position and you instantly go over to operating on the sin nature. It is one or the other. They are mutually exclusive. This is absolute spirituality. You are either walking by the Spirit or you are not. It is not a little bit or a little bit more. It is one or the other. 

 

Then in verse 18 he says…

 

NKJ Galatians 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

 

So the Spirit is out in front. If I am walking by the Spirit, then I am following the Spirit. But it's not just guesswork. 

 

It's not, "I wonder what the Holy Spirit wants me to do."

 

So let's skip ahead. The verses in between talk about how you know whether the Spirit is producing anything in your life. You have the works of the sin nature versus the fruit of the Spirit explained. Then at the end of that discussion on the work of the flesh in verses 19-21 and the fruit of the Spirit (the production of the Spirit) in verses 22 and 23, in verse 25 we read…

 

NKJ Galatians 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

 

It is a first class condition. We live by the Spirit, don't we? At the instant of faith alone in Christ alone, God the Holy Spirit regenerates us and we have eternal life.

 

NKJ Titus 3:5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,

 

The Holy Spirit produces life. So if we live by the Spirit (and we do) let us also walk by means of the Spirit. Here we have a completely different Greek word than the one we have in Galatians 5:16. 

 

In Galatians 5:16 Paul uses the word peripateo. That was a famous Greek word because when Socrates would teach philosophy at the academy, we would just walk around in the portico among the columns and he would teach outdoors. They walked around with his students everywhere and talked. So they walked around following him and were called the peripatetics. Peripateo means to walk step-by-step. But the word that we have in verse 25 isn't peripateo; it's a different word, stoicheo. It means to follow in ranks. It means to follow a set path. The only way you can be led by the Spirit is if you are following a trail. He lays out the trail. He is a trail- blazer. Walking step-by-step with the Holy Spirit in verse 16 is combined with following the leadership of the Spirit walking along the stepping-stones in verse 25. The stepping-stones aren't a matter of guesswork. In order to follow them, there has to be something objective there that you can see and discern. That is the Word of God. The steps are laid out in front of us. Those stepping-stones are laid out in front of us and we walk along step-by-step. So it is not a matter of guess-work – what does God want me to do? He lays out an objective path, an objective trail that is laid out in the Word of God and the Holy Spirit is guiding us and leading us down that trail. So when we talk about the leading of the Spirit and divine guidance, what we are talking about is the Holy Spirit is going to lead us and guide us only through Scripture. It is clear what that path consists of. We don't have to guess about it. 

 

That tells us as believers we really have to learn the Word of God. The more we think and mediate on the Word and the more we plumb its depths, the more we are able to think biblically about the circumstances and situations in life. The one who is working behind the scenes to help us understand everything and put things together is the Holy Spirit. It's like one of those programs that you run on your computer and it's running in the background all of the time. You don't see it but you know that it is running. It is making other things work. You don't focus on that covert action; you focus on what you are doing in typing your Microsoft word document or working with PowerPoint or whatever program it is that you are doing. Behind the scenes you have a virus protection going on and you have other things that are going on behind the scenes. That is the role of the Holy Spirit. He works together with the Word of God. 

 

So Paul brings to conclusion that initial question he asked back in 3:3.

 

NKJ Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?

 

No, you can't be made perfect by the flesh. He equates the flesh with the law. This is the problem in Galatians 5:18. 

 

NKJ Galatians 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

 

There is the contrast between being led by the Spirit and operating on the law. In Galatians 3:3 the contrast is between the Spirit and the flesh. So if the contrast here is Spirit versus flesh and the contrast here is Spirit versus law; then law and flesh are equated to one another. 

 

Now you say, "Wait a minute. I thought you said Paul said the law was good."

 

He did say that the law was good within its proper purpose and function.

 

As we close, turn back to Romans where we were last week. This time we will go to Romans 7. Romans 7 is sandwiched in between our position in Christ in chapter 6 and the ministry of the Holy Spirit in chapter 8.  In chapter 7 Paul is trying to live the Christian life by the law without the Spirit. The Spirit isn't mentioned until chapter 8. He is extremely frustrated. He is trying to be so good and so moral and to apply the law so consistently, but it doesn't work. He comes to this conclusion. 

 

NKJ Romans 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.

 

There is something good and valuable about the law. 

 

NKJ Romans 7:15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.

 

What is he doing? He is trying to obey the law.

 

"No matter how hard I tried to keep the law consistently, I just can't do it."

 

"No matter how hard I try to obey the law, somehow I always end up sinning."

 

Morality is a product of the sin nature. Spirituality is distinct from morality. Jehovah Witnesses can be moral. Mormons can be moral. Moslems can be moral. But, that's not the Christian life. 

 

NKJ Romans 7:16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.

 

NKJ Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.

 

What he is saying here is basically simple.

 

"I want to do the right thing. I want to please God. I am working so hard to do it by obeying the law, but ultimately I always end up in sin." 

 

And, he can't figure out why. No matter how moral he is trying to be he always ends up doing what he doesn't want to do and he ends up right back in a pool of carnality. 

 

NKJ Romans 7:19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.

 

"What I end up doing is the very evil that I don't want to do." 

 

It is because he realizes the evil of covetousness (that he has coveted whatever his neighbor has) that he realizes that he is a sinner. He may convince himself that he is following the other 9 commandments, but when it comes to not coveting (that mental attitude sin of lust) he always falls apart at that point.

 

NKJ Romans 7:20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

 

NKJ Romans 7:21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.

 

NKJ Jeremiah 17:9 " The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?

 

NKJ Romans 7:22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.

 

NKJ Romans 7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

 

No matter how much he tries to please God and be moral, without the Holy Spirit it just falls apart. There is a conflict within him and he feels torn. He feels like he has multiple personalities inside of him. You just feel the frustration in verse 24. 

 

NKJ Romans 7:24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

 

NKJ Romans 7:25 I thank God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

 

He connects the sin nature to the law of sin.

 

Then in 8:1 he says,

 

NKJ Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

 

It is chapter 8 where he focuses on the real solution - "I can't do it myself. I have to do it by living according to the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, and being led by the Spirit." 

 

The Spirit leads through the Word of God. It is the Spirit of God and the Word of God; it is not inner light mysticism. It is not some sort of liver quiver. It is clear objective guidance down the path by God the Holy Spirit.

 

So when we come back to Hebrews next time, we are going to have greater appreciation for what the writer of Hebrews is saying when he addresses his audience and what he tells them in chapter 5.

 

NKJ Hebrews 5:14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

 

This is how we practice discernment. You think through things. But, you have to have that frame of reference of Bible doctrine in order to do that.  So next time we will come back and finish chapter 5 and get ready to go into the warning passage in Hebrews 6.