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. 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. 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 keep in step with the Spirit.
As we have walked through the book of Galatians, we have seen Paul going after a group of churches that he had brought the gospel to and recently found out that a group of teachers had come along behind him teaching that it wasn’t enough to be saved by grace through faith in Christ, but they also needed to get circumcised and keep the Jewish law. Paul has argued every side of the discussion doing his best to convince them why this embracing of legalism is wrong and worse, those who choose to live this way are cursed (Gal 3:10).
This warning applies just as much to us today as it did then. Far too many people hear and realize God’s free grace, and then take it to mean that one can sin as much as they please. Paul is warning us that there is another threat to their freedom, and that is license. This abuse of the freedom found in Christ is as much a threat to one’s spiritual state as legalism. The fact that we are liberated from legalism must not become an excuse for satisfying our sinful desires.
How do we do this? Paul has laid out the solution in our text today. So let’s look at what Paul is calling these Christ followers in Galatia, and us, to do today.
Walk in the Spirit
We are called to walk in the Spirit from the very start of verse 16. Walking in the Spirit is a constant pattern in our lives. As a Christ follower, the Holy Spirit dwells in you, moving and leading, and we are simply to respond moment-by-moment, step-by-step, day-by-day, walking by the power and direction of the Spirit. How do we do this? It involves spending time in God’s word and spending time in prayer. Knowing His voice through Scripture allows us to hear His voice in prayer.
Paul goes on to lay out the struggle between flesh and Spirit at war within us. Our flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, Paul states here. So, we know the struggle is real. Evil desire moves in the flesh. The power of the flesh is great, but the power of the Spirit is greater. All we need to do is walk in the Spirit and we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. If we try to offer fleshly solutions, we pour gas on that fire. Instead, we must walk in the Spirit. We must allow ourselves to be filled with the Spirit.
Led by the Spirit
This brings us to verse 18. “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” We can’t be led unless we are following. If we are led by the Spirit, verse 18 says, then we aren’t going to be trapped in a system where by human effort we’re trying to attain spiritual means. The flesh fights because it wants to win our affections and we must walk by the Spirit to overcome the flesh.
Paul lays out the contrast between these two choices. He begins with a list that comes from the flesh. It covers a broad array of deeds. Some of these are characteristics of religious people (strife, envy, jealousy, dissensions, divisions), while others are more characteristics of non-religious people (immorality, drunkenness).
Paul is very particular and purposeful of the words he uses to create an image for the reader. One of Paul’s major contrasts between these two lists is the way he uses “works of the flesh” to describe the first list and “fruit of the Spirit” for the second. He takes us from human effort in the first list with “works” to an agricultural example in the second with “fruit”. This would help the reader understand better because when one grows fruit, no matter how much they seek to protect their crop from bad weather or deadly insects, in the end the fruit that is produced is a gift.
Live by and Keep in Step with the Spirit
Paul reminds us once again that if we are a follower of Jesus and alive by the Spirit, we are to keep walking with the Spirit. We are to keep in the Word to know His voice, keep in communication with God through prayer to hear His voice, and as the previous verse just said, we are to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires. This is how we overcome the desires of the flesh. This is how we grow gospel character.
The only source of spiritual transformation is the Holy Spirit. We began this spiritual life with the Spirit and we must continue it in the Spirit. The flesh wants its own way: selfish, self-gratifying, jealous, envious, prideful and the list goes on and on. God has given us victory over the flesh and that is by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The answer to all of life’s needs for the Christ follower is in walking by the Spirit because all of the problems come from the flesh. Let’s help each other do that. It is why the church is the church. We are to come together to stir up one another to love and good works.
May the Holy Spirit Produce Fruit in Us
Our Via Communities are our primary discipleship tool. This section is to help you as you discuss the sermon with others in your life. It is designed for communities to utilize but can be used to facilitate a conversation between spouses, good friends, co-workers, etc., as we live to be faithful to God’s mission in his world.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
The Gospel is powerful. The good news of Jesus changes us. This section is to record the ways you are noticing the good news of Jesus transforming your life. Jot notes to help you remember.
As we examined God’s Word, in what ways was His Word examining you?
Describe how Jesus is becoming more central in your life.
What does trusting in Jesus look like for you this week?