In our walk through the NT, Part 23. Part 16 in our discussion of Galatians.
Without the Spirit, we would be unsaved, unforgiven, and unsanctified — without growth, without understanding, and without the ability to resist sin. Throughout this letter, Paul has returned to the role of the Spirit.
“Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer [experience] so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness‘?” (Galatians 3:2b-6 ESV).
The Spirit produces faith for us to believe. He then begins the miraculous work of transformation, perfecting us, a lifelong task. The same Spirit who worked in Abraham works in us, sparking belief and transformation.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians 4:4-7 ESV). Sonship belongs to both men and women as heirs.
The Triune God exists in complete harmony — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God and The Spirit of his Son are one and the same — the Holy Spirit. He transforms believers throughout the earth. His presence urges and empowers us to call out to God as our Father, our Abba.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery… For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love“ (Galatians 5:1, 5-6 ESV).
Repeatedly, Paul holds up the Holy Spirit as the One who convicts, gives faith, and transforms us. We can’t produce righteousness within ourselves through our frail human efforts. This is what the Judaizers attempted, and so, Paul emphasizes that circumcision counts for nothing.
Our “hope of righteousness“ is in Christ. He will bring our transformation to fruition either when we die and are with the Lord (Hebrews 12:23) or at Christ’s return (1 Corinthians 15:49; Revelation 21:27, Romans 8:23-24).
“Christ has set us free from Jewish ceremonial laws and regulations but not from obedience to God’s moral standards (5:14-6:1).”1.
“‘The hope of righteousness‘ refers to the believer’s hope and expectation that God will declare that the believer is in fact going to be judged righteous at the final judgment.”2.
“Christians can place their hope in a final justification by faith and through the Spirit. This faith that secures their justification is expressed through love.” 3.
How to Walk by the Spirit
Since the Holy Spirit’s work not only transforms us, but also brings us to glory, his work is incredibly significant throughout our lives and in every situation. And so, Paul delves into what it means to be led by the Spirit.Since the Holy Spirit's work not only transforms us, but also brings us to glory, his work is incredibly significant throughout our lives and in every situation. #Faith #Transformation #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:16-18 ESV).
What does it mean to “walk by the Spirit“? Figuratively, this means to live or to pass one’s life. The Greek word, peripateo, “to walk,” is used throughout the New Testament. “To walk by the Spirit” means:
- “To live by the Spirit,”
- “To pass your life being led by the Spirit,”
- “To hand-in-hand with the Spirit exist and function as a follower of Christ.”
This is a command to live our lives under the guidance of the Spirit, habitually, repeatedly, and continuously as our norm.
The point is not to rely upon ourselves, but to rely upon the Spirit of Christ.To "walk by the Spirit" means to live or to pass one's life hand-in-hand with the Spirit, existing and functioning as a follower of Christ. The point is not to rely upon ourselves, but upon the Spirit of Christ. Click To Tweet
When we don’t rely on the Spirit
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy,[some manuscripts add murder], drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do [make a practice of doing] such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21 ESV).4.
“Works of the flesh” are actions empowered by the sarx, the Greek term (Strong’s #4561) that means “the sinful nature,” or here “works of the flesh.” Any usage of “the flesh,” sarx, covers every aspect of our frail humanity, both physical and spiritual. In that list of sins, all of us can find sins we’ve committed. 5.
This list of sins is broad, from envy to murder and everything in between. Given life-shattering circumstances, any of us could possibly commit any of these works of the flesh, for we are all sinners.
The last sentence in the passage is significant. Those who “make a practice of doing” such things will not inherit the kingdom of God, for these continual and repeated practices indicate that we’re not truly believers.
The proof is in the deeds we do habitually, as a norm of our lives. Selah.
Can we have a sin that we continually battle? Yes, we can. However, if we are truly believers, we will gradually see increasing victories and times of overcoming.
We must walk in the Spirit to win the battle over sin. Being led by the Spirit and relying upon him is the only path to victory. The Spirit was supplied to us at our salvation exactly for this purpose, to transform us more and more into the image of Christ.We must walk in the Spirit. Being led by the Spirit and relying upon him is the only path to #victory. The Spirit was supplied to us at our salvation exactly for this purpose, to transform us into the image of Christ. #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
“The desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:17b ESV).
This is how the Holy Spirit desires: Strong’s #1937. epithuméō; To have the affections directed toward something, to desire, long after. Generally (Luke 17:22; Gal. 5:17; Rev. 9:6).
The Spirit’s affections are directed toward our victory, the overcoming of our sinful human nature every time we are tempted. The Spirit longs for us to grow and to overcome. He is within us and around us orchestrating our ability to rely upon Him and to, therefore, gain the victory. This is what the Spirit desires.
The flesh (sarx) and the desires of the Spirit are at war, at odds, and yet the Spirit provides us the way to victory. “But if we are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18 ESV).
With the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we navigate our freedom, we have all we need for growth and victory over the yearnings of our sinful natures. And so, Paul now lists the fruit of the Spirit.With the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we navigate our freedom, we have all we need for growth and victory over the yearnings of our sinful natures. #Victory #Freedom Click To Tweet
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)."But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV). Click To Tweet
“The Spirit fights against sin not merely in defense but also in attack by producing in Christians the positive attributes of godly character, all of which are evident in Jesus in the Gospels.
“Love appears first because it is the greatest quality (1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 2 Peter 1:5-7) in that most clearly reflects the character of God.
“Joy comes in at a close second, for in rejoicing in God’s salvation Christians show that our affections are rightly placed in God’s will and his purpose (see John 15:11; 16:24; Roman. 15:13; 1 Peter 1:8; Jude 24, etc.).
“Peace is the product of God having reconciled sinners to himself, so that we are no longer his enemies, which should result in confidence and freedom in approaching God (Romans 5:1-2; Heb. 4:16).
“Patience reveals that Christians are following God’s plan and timetable rather than their own and that they have abandoned their own ideas about how the world should work.
“Kindness means showing goodness, generosity, and sympathy toward others, which likewise is an attribute of God (Romans 2:4).
“Goodness means working for the benefit of others, not oneself; Paul mentions it again in Galatians 6:10, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
“Faithfulness is another divine characteristic; it means consistently doing what one says one will do.
“Gentleness is a quality Jesus attributes to himself in Matthew 11:29; it enables people to find rest in him and to encourage and strengthen others.
“Self-control is the discipline given by the Holy Spirit that allows Christians to resist the power of the flesh (cf. Gal. 5:7, “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?“6.
In what ways is the Holy Spirit at work in your life?
How did he bring you to salvation? How does he produce growth in your life?
Do you ever speak/pray directly to the Holy Spirit as an equal member of the Godhead?
- ESV Study Bible Note, Galatians 5:1, Crossway Bibles, Wheaton, IL, 2008.
- ESV Study Bible Note, Galatians 5:5, Crossway Bibles, Wheaton, IL, 2008.
- The NIV Grace and Truth Study Bible, Galatians 5:5, Zondervan, 2021.
- Throughout this post, ESV Study Bible translation notes were included in quotes from the ESV. These are inside the brackets.
- All word meanings are derived from Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
- ESV Study Bible Note, Galatians 5:22-23. Crossway Bibles, Wheaton, IL, 2008.