Galatians 5:16-18 “The Ammunition of the Spirit in Civil War”
Galatians 5:16–18 (ESV) — 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 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. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
I know of no Christian parents or youth leaders, or for that matter any pastorsm who seriously believe what Paul teaches in verses 16-26 (of Galatians 5), that the sole foundation of Christian ethics is dependency on the Spirit and a life of freedom in the Spirit….I have met only one person who ever expressed this view of Paul in a definitive and, to him, practical way. That person was F.F. Bruce…”
I would add Gordon Fee to that list in my own experience as I also shared this same conviction in my study of the reality of Spirit-fullness in the New Covenant. McKnight continues:
To be sure, Paul knew that when a person was controlled by the Spirit, that person was holy. He also knew that a person who lived in the Spirit lived in a loving way. Thus, he knew that the Old Testament moral guidelines and the teachings of Jesus on holiness, righteousness, and compassion would be confirmed by anyone who lived in the Spirit (1995:273).
Needless to say that we can be accused, just like the early Galatians, of wanting to derive our ethic from the law or traditions of man. I am not opposed to the “3rd use of the Law” in relation to our sanctification, but if such is taught in a way that doesn’t necessitate the presence of the Spirit, then we may very well be acting like the early Judaizers.
What has Paul said about the Spirit thus far?
Galatians 3:1–6 (ESV) — 1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 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— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
- Received the Spirit by faith
- Began in the Spirit, but seeking sanctification in the flesh
- Spirit supplied by hearing with faith, not works of law
Galatians 3:13–14 (ESV) — 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
- V. 13 speaks of the verb…Christ redeemed us
- Followed by two adverbial purpose clauses
- So that…blessings of Abraham to Gentiles
- So that we might receive the promised Spirit
- The work of redemption must lead to salvation and the reception of the Spirit.
Galatians 4:6–7 (ESV) — 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
- We are sons and heirs through the Spirit, enabled to cry out Abba! Father! The Spirit enables our faith, our assurance as children. This speaks of objective status realized through a subjective cry, which is absolutely brought about through the giving of the Spirit
Galatians 5:5 (ESV) — 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.
- The Spirit is the agency through which we have faith and hope for the coming righteousness.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
- Walk = present imperative, denotes ongoing life of the Christian, NIV has “Live” although the new NIV has “walk”. Speaks of direction
- “by” or “in”, “pnuema” is in the dative/locative/instrumental case with no article. “by” or “in” is supplied to understand the nature of the command.
- Dative = to, locative = in, instrumental = by, can be referring to the domain we live in, or the means whereby we walk. Both ideas are taught in Scripture. I think “by” makes the most sense, especially in light of Paul’s earlier reference in 3:3 about beginning by the Spirit, trying to perfect by flesh.
- “you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” – strong double negative, aorist subjunctive expresses certainty, “you will never under any circumstances”. Implied and expected result of walking in the Spirit, it is thus a promise. If you are walking in full reliance on the Spirit, you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh (sarx). There is a “pneuma/sarx” battles in Scripture.
- Is this promise too strong? NO. It is impossible to gratify the desires of the flesh when you are walking in the Spirit, just like it is impossible to lie when you are telling the truth, to starve to death when you eat, to suffocate to death when you are breathing.
- The law can only inform and instruct, but it is the Spirit that actually empowers!!!
- This civil war inside of us is dealt with some more: (more…)