The Book of Galatians
James J. Barker
CONFLICT BETWEEN THE FLESH AND THE SPIRIT
- We have here in
our text, two important Bible terms -- flesh and Spirit. The Spirit of course, refers to
the Holy Spirit (5:16, 18).
- The "flesh" is
the Biblical word for fallen human nature.
F.B. Meyer used to say, "Leave off the h and spell it backwards,
and you have self." The Holy
Spirit and the flesh are diametrically opposed.
- Their aims and
purposes are diametrically opposed. Each says "No" to the other. There can be no compromise with
the flesh (5:24).
- These are two
opposing resources upon which life must depend. Someone has said, "If we are living
'our' life, it is flesh; but if we are living 'His' life, it is Spirit" (Norman
- The flesh has
its way of asserting itself. On the
other hand, the Holy Spirit has His way of expressing Himself
- The two are "contrary" (5:17). There will always be
antagonism between the flesh and the Spirit (5:17; cf. 4:29; Romans
- These words are
addressed to Christian people. The
unregenerate man cannot understand spiritual things. First Corinthians 2:14
says, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for
they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are
unregenerate man ("the natural man") only understand the things of the flesh
because he does not have the indwelling Holy Spirit.
- Flesh is the
self-life. Paul said in
Romans 7:18, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good
- Our Lord said in John 3:6, "That which is born of the
flesh is flesh; and that
which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
- The flesh should not be pampered or indulged. The flesh cannot be improved upon, or
educated, or tamed, or disciplined.
God only condemns it.
- F.B. Meyer said, "God has nailed the likeness of my self
life to the cross. The cross is the symbol of degradation and curse. Cursed is
everyone that hangs on the cross. If then God has treated the likeness of my
sinful self, when borne by the sinless Christ, as worthy of His curse, how
terrible in God's sight it must be for myself to hug it and embrace it and live
in it! Oh, wondrous cross!
But that is not all. Christ and I
are one. In Him I hung there. I came to an end of myself in Christ, and kneeling
at His cross I took the position of union with Him in His death, and I consigned
my self-life to the cross. It was as though I took my self-life with its
passions, its choices, its yearnings after perfection, its wallowing, its
fickleness, its judgment of others, its uncharity, -- I took it as a felon, and
said: 'Thou art cursed, thou shalt
die. My God nailed thee to that cross. Come, thou shalt come. I put thee there
by my choice, by my will, by my faith. Hang there.' After that moment -- you remember
in Galatians it is the aorist tense: 'They that are Christ's, crucified the
flesh with its affections and lusts' -- after that moment, that decisive moment
in my life, I have ever reckoned that my self life is on the cross, and that the
death of Christ lies between me and it."
WE ARE TO WALK IN THE SPIRIT
- The flesh and
the Spirit are diametrically opposed. Each says "No" to the other. The flesh
hinders the Spirit, so he "cannot do the things that ye would"
- God has
provided a way out -- "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not
fulfil the lust of the flesh" (5:16).
- This is the
only answer -- "Walk in the Spirit" (5:16).
- Romans 8:1
says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,
who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
- We are "led of
the Spirit" (5:18), just as the children of Israel were led by the pillar of
cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.
THE WORKS OF THE FLESH
- The variety of
ways in which the flesh expresses itself is listed here in verses 19-21. It is an ugly
- It begins with
the baser sins of sexual immorality, but it also includes the sins that are
often overlooked, and sometimes accepted by worldlings (and even sometimes by
Christians) -- "strife, seditions, heresies, envyings" (5:20,
- Similar lists
are found in Romans 1:26-32 and II
- Our Lord said
in Mark 7:20-23, "That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For
from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries,
fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness,
an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness; all these evil things come from
within and defile the man" (Mark 7:20-23).
- Our Lord was
referring to the sins of the flesh which come from the wicked heart of
- The sins listed
in Galatians 5:19-21 can be divided into three sections: sexual sins (5:19),
religious sins (5:20a), and social sins (5:20b, 21).
- All of these
sins get into churches, but the social sins seem to be the most
- "variance" -- contention
and strife, fussing and fighting, quarreling, sowing
- "emulations" -- jealousy,
- "wrath" -- outbursts of
violent anger, raging resentment.
- "strife" -- self-seeking,
selfishness, stirring up trouble.
- "seditions" -- causing
- "heresies" -- similar to
"seditions." Factions, sects,
- "Envyings" (5:21) -- a
stronger word than "emulations." It
refers to the feeling of displeasure one has when someone else is successful.
- "murders" -- this is what
is behind hatred and envyings.
First John 3:11, 12 says, "For this is the message that ye heard from the
beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one,
and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were
evil, and his brother's righteous."
- "drunkenness, revellings,
and such like" -- drunken and riotous behaviour. What worldlings call "partying"
- They that
indulge in these wicked sins "shall not inherit the kingdom of God"
Corinthians 6:9 and 10 says, "Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor
idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with
mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor
extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God."
- Ephesians 5:5 says, "For this ye know, that no
whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any
inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God."
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT (5:22,
- The conjunction
"but" stands between these two lists (5:22). "But" stands between flesh and the
- There is a
notable distinction here. It is the
"fruit" of the Spirit versus the "works" of the flesh (5:19,
- Works are
produced by man's efforts; fruit is produced by the indwelling Holy Spirit as we
obey Him and yield to Him.
important distinction: "fruit" is singular, and "works" is plural. The flesh
produces a variety of evil works, whereas the Holy Spirit produces a blended
whole of Christian character.
- Fruit grows out
of a life that is yielded to the Holy Spirit.
- The Scofield
Study Bible says, "Christian character is not mere moral or legal
correctness, but the possession and manifestation of nine graces: love, joy,
peace -- character as an inward state; longsuffering, gentleness, goodness
--character in expression toward man; faith, meekness, temperance -- character
in expression toward God. Taken together they present a moral portrait of
Christ, and may be taken as the apostle's explanation of Galatians 2:20, 'Not I,
but Christ,' and as a definition of 'fruit' in John 15:1-8. This character is possible because of
the believer's vital union to Christ (John 15:5; I Cor. 12:12, 13), and is
wholly the fruit of the Spirit in those believers who are yielded to Him (Gal.
5:22, 23)." -- p. 1247.
- When we abide
"in Christ" we will produce "much fruit" according to what our Lord says in John
- The fruit of
the Spirit means the Holy Spirit is reproducing Christ-like character in us
(Galatians 5:22, 23).
- Romans 8:29
says God the Father has predestinated us to be conformed to the image of his
- If we as Christians lack any of these virtues, we are
sinning against the Holy Spirit because we are hindering God's purpose for
- It is the Holy Spirit's purpose in coming to live in us,
that we would be more like Jesus. But if we lack the fruit of the Spirit, we are
grieving the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30-32).
- "Love" is first on the list (5:22; cf. vss. 6, 13,
14). Unfortunately, some
fundamental Christians, in their hatred of sin and their zeal to earnestly
contend for the faith, are not very loving.
- On the other hand, some Christians are very loving but
they will not take a stand for truth. W. Graham
Scroggie said, "To walk only in love would make us soft; to walk only in truth
would make us hard; but walking in truth and love we become
- First Corinthians 13:13 says, "And now abideth faith,
hope, charity (love), these three; but the greatest of these is charity
- The Greek word translated "charity"
in I Corinthians 13 is agapē. It is the
same word translated "love" here in Galatians 5:22. It is usually translated "love" in the
- Our Lord said in John 13:35,
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if
ye have love one to
- "Joy and peace" (Gal. 5:22) come next. Our Lord said in John 15:11,
"These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that
your joy might be full."
- We are commanded to be joyful. First Thessalonians 5:16
says, "Rejoice evermore."
- I liked the illustration we heard from our evangelist
Sunday evening. Something broke on
his fifth wheel as he was trying to back it into a tough spot, and the preacher
said, "Well, praise the Lord!"
- Being joyful means being able to rejoice in all of
- Nehemiah 8:10 says, "The joy of the LORD is your
- The apostle Paul said in II Corinthians 6:10, "As
sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having
nothing, and yet possessing all things."
- Paul from these
words from a Roman prison, "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice"
- Joy and peace always go together. "The fruit of the
Spirit is peace" (Gal. 5:22).
- Our Lord said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give
unto you" (John 14:27).
- "And let the
peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body;
and be ye thankful" (Colossians 3:15).
- Next comes "longsuffering, gentleness, and goodness"
(Gal. 5:22). Christians are to
be "longsuffering," but oftentimes we are quick-tempered and easily
- First Peter 2:21 says, "Christ also suffered for us,
leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps," and then goes on to say
in verse 23, "Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He
threatened not" (1 Peter 2:23).
- First Peter 2:21 says Christ is our "example" and we are
to "follow his steps."
- God has given us the indwelling Holy Spirit in order to
make us more like Jesus.
- "The fruit of the Spirit is gentleness" (5:22). This
- Norman Harrison
wrote these words: "Why is there so much unkindness, even among Christian
people? There is but one explanation.
We brush aside the Spirit to be free to indulge the self-life. We get
back on Our Side where the flesh holds sway."
Corinthians 13:4 says, "Charity (love) suffereth long, and is kind" (cf.
- "The fruit of the Spirit is
goodness" (Gal. 5:22). This denotes
- This cannot be produced by ourselves. Paul says in Romans 7:18, "In me (that
is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing."
- Even our Lord refused to be called good if regarded as a
mere man. He said to the rich young
ruler, "Why callest thou Me good? none is good, save one, that is God" (Luke
- Our Lord was not denying His goodness. He was affirming His deity. Only God is
good. All men are sinners. Jesus is good because Jesus is
both God and man.
- Romans 3:12 (quoting Psalm 14:3) says, "There is none
that doeth good, no, not one."
- So if a Christian has any good in him, it is because he
is walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 22).
- "Faith, meekness, and temperance" come next (Gal. 5:22,
23). "Faith" here means
"faithfulness." It is an attribute
of God because God is faithful.
"Great is Thy faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:23).
- Many Christians are unfaithful, undependable, and
untrustworthy. But as they grow in
the Lord, and walk in the Spirit they become faithful, and dependable, and
- This is the fruit of the
- "The fruit of the Spirit is meekness" (Gal.
- Meekness is the spirit of humility. Our Lord said in
Matthew 11:29, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of
me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find
rest unto your souls."
- Someone has said that meekness is strength that is under
control. Moses is a good
example. Numbers 12:3 says, "Now
the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the
- James 4:6 says, "God resisteth the proud, but giveth
grace unto the humble" (James 4:6).
- Man is naturally proud. Pride is part of our fallen
nature. Paul beseeches the proud Corinthians "by the meekness and gentleness of
Christ" (II Corinthians 10:1).
- "The fruit of the Spirit is temperance" (Gal.
5:23). This is self-control. We tend to think that this is something
we must do for ourselves, but it is by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit
that we restrain the self-life.
- "Against such there is no law" (5:23). There is no law
needed when is filled with the Holy Spirit, and led by the Holy Spirit.
- The epistle to
the Galatians teaches that we are saved apart from the law, and we are
sanctified apart from the law (cf. 3:1-3).
- "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh
with the affections and lusts" (5:24). When Christ died on the cross, our
wicked self-life was crucified (5:24).
- This is what Paul means in Romans 6:6. "Knowing this,
that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed,
that henceforth we should not serve sin."
- Norman Harrison said, "To His cross He took my temper,
my passions, my tendency to evil. Thus Christ accomplished a victory for me over
every moving, every prompting of my flesh-life...Here the Spirit is constantly
checking out for me the values of this accomplished victory of self-crucifixion.
I'm not doing it; He is doing it. My responsibility, since I 'live in the
Spirit,' is to 'also walk in the Spirit' (vs. 25). If I give expression to Him
momentarily He will momentarily see to it that I do not 'fulfill the lust of
the flesh.' Christ's victory for me is now the Spirit's victory in me"
(His Side versus Our Side.
- Salvation is a
three-tense experience: in the past, from the penalty of sin; in the future,
from the very presence of sin; for the present it is salvation from the power of
- I am presently
being saved by the power of the Holy Spirit from the activities of the
- This not only
refers to the horrible sins mentioned in Galatians 5:19 and 21 -- adultery,
fornication, murders, drunkenness, etc.
- It also includes the more
commonplace sins mentioned in Galatians 5:20 and 21 -- "hatred, variance,
emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings,