by Mike Ratliff
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:1-8 ESV)
Any attempt to please God by rule keeping or law keeping in order to “earn” right standing with Him is fruitless effort. Not only is it impossible, failure is inevitable. Also, for Christians to “evangelize” through legalism is a total waste of time. These well-meaning people tell unbelievers to stop sinning instead of preaching Jesus to them. I find this a ludicrous mind-set since no one who still lives in the temporal can be sinless. On the other hand, as we see in the passage above (Romans 8:1-8), those in Christ are in right standing before God because the law of the Spirit of life has set them free in their Saviour from the law of sin and death. However, this does not mean they are free to live this live as antinomians, that is, taking the grace of God for granted and living any way they choose. How can we live this life as we should my brethren? As we see in Romans 8:1-8 (above) those who walk correctly before the face of God do so according to the Spirit.
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. (Galatians 5:16-17 ESV)
16λεγω δε πνευματι περιπατειτε και επιθυμιαν σαρκος ου μη τελεσητε 17η γαρ σαρξ επιθυμει κατα του πνευματος το δε πνευμα κατα της σαρκος ταυτα γαρ αλληλοις αντικειται ινα μη α εαν θελητε ταυτα ποιητε (Galatians 5:16-17 WHNU)
The main verb in v16 is “walk,” which is the Greek word περιπατειτε. The verb is in present tense, imperative mood, and active voice, therefore, this s a command to do something as a way of life. The verb means to “tread all around” or “deport oneself.” What is the command? It is to live according to the Spirit (πνευματι). What does that mean? The combination of words here implies both direction and empowerment. The Christian who walks by the Spirit makes decisions and choices according to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. He or she acts with the spiritual power that the Spirit supplies. Paul tells us plainly that those who live this way “will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” What does that mean? These are the “desires” or “cravings” of fallen human nature. We will look at a list of these shortly. What we must understand is that these “desires” or “cravings” of the flesh are against the Spirit. Also, the desires of the Spirit are against them. There can be no peace between the two, no compromise.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:18-21 ESV)
18ει δε πνευματι αγεσθε ουκ εστε υπο νομον 19φανερα δε εστιν τα εργα της σαρκος ατινα εστιν πορνεια ακαθαρσια ασελγεια 20ειδωλολατρια φαρμακεια εχθραι ερις ζηλος θυμοι εριθειαι διχοστασιαι αιρεσεις 21φθονοι μεθαι κωμοι και τα ομοια τουτοις α προλεγω υμιν καθως προειπον οτι οι τα τοιαυτα πρασσοντες βασιλειαν θεου ου κληρονομησουσιν (Galatians 5:18-21 WHNU)
The Greek word translated here as “you are led by” is αγεσθε . This word has many usages and forms. Here, however, αγεσθε is referring to the Holy Spirit leading, ruling, or governing the believer. If we are led by the Spirit in this context, will we pursue the works of the flesh? No we won’t, nor will the works of the flesh become evident in our lives. Why? These are mutually exclusive. Either Christians live by the power of the Holy Spirit which results in righteous behavior and spiritual attitudes or by the law which can only produce unrighteous behavior and attitudes (1 Corinthians 15:36). Look at the list of sinful behaviors in vv19-21. These sins are characteristic of unredeemed mankind living under impotent commands of the law, which can only produce iniquity. Paul closes this horrid list of sinful behaviors by saying, “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” In other words, those who live like this are proving that they are unregenerate. Only the regenerate will be allowed to enter the spiritual kingdom of redeemed people over whom Christ now rules.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-26 ESV)
22ο δε καρπος του πνευματος εστιν αγαπη χαρα ειρηνη μακροθυμια χρηστοτης αγαθωσυνη πιστις 23πραυτης εγκρατεια κατα των τοιουτων ουκ εστιν νομος 24οι δε του χριστου ιησου την σαρκα εσταυρωσαν συν τοις παθημασιν και ταις επιθυμιαις 25ει ζωμεν πνευματι πνευματι και στοιχωμεν 26μη γινωμεθα κενοδοξοι αλληλους προκαλουμενοι αλληλοις φθονουντες (Galatians 5:22-26 WHNU)
The Greek word used here that is translated as “fruit” is καρπος. This is the product of something else. The Holy Spirit produces fruit which consists of nine characteristics or attitudes that are inextricably linked with each other and are commanded of believers throughout the New Testament. Remember, this is referring to those who are led by the Spirit not ruled by their flesh. These nine parts of the fruit of the Spirit identify Christians as being “Christlike.” They take on His character as they are led by the Spirit. They also are the ones who have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Well, we know very well that we still must battle against our flesh each and every day so what is Paul talking about here? This is a look back to the Cross of Christ, where the death of the flesh and its power to reign over believers was actually accomplished (Romans 6:1-11). However, we know that we must wait until our glorification before we are finally rid of our unredeemed humanness (Romans 8:23). However, as we walk by the Spirit, we can please God in the world by walking by the Spirit just as we are alive in the Spirit.
My brethren, the enemy within each of us demands that we feed it by taking away from anything or anyone that is opposed to self-gratification. To walk by the Spirit is to deny our flesh literally what it demands by obeying our Lord in all things by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a behavior we must learn because we do not naturally know this or act this way. This is why we have this ongoing sanctification process that we must all go through. I am praying for all believers reading this that they will dedicate the rest of their lives to this. Seek the Kingdom and God’s Righteousness, not the trinkets of this world. To God be the Glory!
Soli Deo Gloria!