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Wednesday Evening Home Bible Study
July 12, 2006
The Christian is a man or woman in conflict. And it's not only a conflict with external forces. It is an inner-conflict between to opposing forces at war within. Romans 7:7-25 describes this conflict in terms that every believer relates to; and speaks in terms that are very much like what Paul says in our passage this evening.
In his letter, Paul has been seeking to persuade the Galatian believers to cease from trying to make themselves righteous before God on the basis the law. But he doesn't leave the reader in doubt about the importance of the law. Instead, he shows that (1) we cannot keep the law in the power of the flesh; but that (2) if we walk in the Spirit, He leads us in such a way as to keep the law.
I. THE COMMAND: Walk in the Spirit (v. 16).
A. Paul has been seeking to establish an accurate understanding of the truth of the gospel of God's grace to the Galatian believers. “I say then . . .” sums it up in a command that allows them to put the gospel of grace into practice. “The best security against abusing the doctrines of grace is really to understand them and believe them” (John Brown).
B. Paul's command is that they “walk” (that is, in a continuing, ongoing practice) “in the Spirit”. That is, they are to allow themselves to be led by the spirit step-by-step as a habit of life. If they do so, they will find that He will never lead them in sin. They thus “shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh”.
II. THE CONFLICT: The flesh and the Spirit are contrary to one another (v. 17-18).
A. Paul explains this as a conflict between two principles in us that cannot be reconciled with one another. “For the flesh” (that is, that principle of our falleness at work in us which we have inherited from Adam after the fall) “lusts” (that is, strongly desires) “against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh . . .” These two principles are in diametric opposition to one another; and can never be made to cooperate. They are “contrary to one another”. To choose to gratify one is to choose to set one's self in opposition to the other.
B. Therefore, Paul warns the Galatians that you “cannot do the things that you wish”. They wished to conform to the law; but the fact is that the principle of the flesh at work in them will never allow them to do so. Paul elsewhere wrote, “For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do” (Romans 7:15).
C. But he encourages them that, “if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law”; that is, they were not under the principle of the letter of the law as a means of righteousness before God. They are, thus in Christ, not under the demands of that which they had no natural power to keep—or worse, that they COULD NOT KEEP because of the principle of the flesh at work in them.
III. THE CONTRAST: The distinction between the two waring principles in us . . .
A. The works of the flesh (vv. 19-21).
1. The works of the flesh, Paul says, “are evident” or “apparent”. They need no argument for their existence; because each of us knows about them personally.
2. They can be divided into sins that are “sexual” (fornication, uncleanness, lewdness), “spiritual” (idolatry, sorcery), “emotional” (hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath), “relational” (selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies [or factions], envy), and “alcoholic” (drunkenness, revelries).
3. This is not an exhaustive list; because Paul adds, “and the like”. (Some manuscripts add “adultery” and “murder” to the list.)
4. Paul warns, in sobering terms, that those who practice these things in an ongoing way “will not inherit the kingdom of God”.
B. The fruit of the Spirit (vv. 22-23).
1. The “fruit” is singular—not plural. It is one fruit from one source with nine aspects.
2. These nine aspects of the fruit cover the whole of life. They can be divided into those aspects that deal with our relationship with God (love, joy, peace), our fellow man (longsuffering, kindness, goodness), and our own selves (faithfulness, gentleness, self- control).
3. The law is intended to bridle behavior. But those who walk in the Spirit find that they are not “under a yoke of bondage” (v. 1), because against the fruit of the Spirit, “there is no law”. The man or woman who walks in the Spirit then—and in whom His fruit is exhibited—finds that they walk in conformity with the demands of God's good law.
IV. THE CRUCIFIXION: Those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh (v. 24).
A. To crucify something is to hang it up for its death. It is not to put it up on the cross and then change one's mind later and take it down. It is to be ruthless with it; and determined to leave it on the cross—in spite of its pleas and its pain—until every bit of life is drained from it and it is dead. That is what Paul is saying must be done to the flesh.
B. Paul says that “those who are Christ's”--that is, those who belong to Him by virtue of their faith in Him—have (aorist tense; indicating a past act) crucified the flesh. They have already made a decision, and must stick with it. They must not, as John Stott says, then “finger the nails”.
C. Paul puts it in very practical terms. They crucify the flesh (which is a principle that they cannot see) “with its passions and desires” (which they can very readily identify). They are not to “gratify” them; but rather “crucify” or “mortify” them (Romans 6:1-23; 8:12-14).
V. THE CALL: Let us keep in step with the Spirit (vv. 25-26).
A. We now no longer live in the domain of the law. We live in the domain of the Spirit. And Paul tells us, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” The word that Paul uses for walk here is different from the word in verse 16. Here, it means to advance in a line; or, as it is in the NIV, “keep in step”. It's as if the Holy Spirit sets the drumbeat; and we are to march in step—letting Him exhibit His fruit in us.
B. By contrast—and by doing so—we are to “not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another”. These are manifestations of the works of the flesh; and are not found in those who are persistently walking in the Spirit's call. They are the manifestations of those who seek to keep the law in the power of the flesh.