Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Galatians 5:22-26 - Keep in Step with the Spirit

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

I finished my 3-day fast this month with a focus on seeking God for more compassion, gentleness, kindness, and mercy. I want these characteristics to be ever more present in my life. I want these characteristics to be who I am. I want these characteristics to be very active in my relationship with others especially my wife and children. God provided insight this morning as he directed me to the passages in Galatians 5 admonishing us to live by the Spirit. It is when I live by the Spirit that I will produce the fruit of gentleness, kindness, and compassion. How do I live by the Spirit? Paul seems to be stating that it is when we put to death our sinful nature that we are able to truly live by the Spirit. We must wage serious war on our sinful nature. In my study of these passages I read the following commentary:

Paul concludes his two lists of the acts of the sinful nature and the fruit of the Spirit with a summary statement about putting to death the sinful nature (v. 24) and living by the Spirit (v. 25). The death of the sinful nature opens the way for the life of the Spirit. This movement from death to life is parallel to 2:19-20 and 6:14-15, where death is also followed by new life.

The remarkable feature of Paul's statement about the crucifixion of the sinful nature in verse 24 is the use of the active voice: Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Galatians 2:19 and 6:14 say that Christians have been crucified with Christ, but 5:24 says that they themselves have acted to put to death their sinful nature. Believers are responsible to crucify their sinful nature. Since Roman crucifixion was a merciless, painful means of execution, Paul's statement describes an absolute and irreversible renunciation of evil. The past tense may point to the time of baptism, when the Christian publicly identified with Christ. A common liturgy of baptism expresses it this way:
“Do you turn to Christ? I turn to Christ. Do you repent of your sins? I repent of my sins. Do you renounce evil? I renounce evil.”

If this repentance and renunciation of evil is as decisive as crucifixion, it means that Christians have said an absolute, unconditional no to all of their sinful desires and passions. Renunciation of evil is not only a baptismal vow, it is a practical everyday discipline. When my sinful nature subtly suggests paging through a pornographic magazine, I shout a defiant no to my sinful nature. When I hear a juicy bit of gossip and start to repeat it, I close my mouth and say "no way" to my sinful desire. When another Christian criticizes me unfairly and my flesh screams for revenge, I say "absolutely not" to my sinful passion.

The fact of warfare against the sinful nature, described in verse 17, indicates that the sinful nature is never fully eradicated in this life and therefore this “no” must be continually renewed. But the fact of the execution of the sinful nature described in verse 24 shows that goal of the war against the sinful nature is not a negotiated peace but final execution.

Both the continuous war against the sinful nature and the absolute execution of the sinful nature must be kept in mind if we are to have the full picture. The perfectionists who talk as if the sinful nature has been or can be totally conquered in this life have lost sight of the need to fight the war every day. The pessimists who are halfhearted in battling the flesh because they never expect victory have lost sight of the victory that is ours through active identification with Christ on the cross.

The active execution of the sinful nature is followed by an active expression of new life in the Spirit: Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (v. 25). Paul's combination of an indicative (we live) with an imperative (let us keep in step) is parallel to the same combination of indicative and imperative in verses 1 and 13. The indicative describes God's gift to us: freedom in Christ and life in the Spirit. The imperative expresses our responsibility: to protect our freedom from slavery under the law, to use our freedom to serve one another in love and to keep in step with the Spirit. Keep in step is a military command to make a straight line or to march in ordered rows. The Spirit sets the line and the pace for us to follow. Keeping in step with the Spirit takes active concentration and discipline of the whole person. We constantly see many alternative paths to follow; we reject them to follow the Spirit. We constantly hear other drummers who want to quicken or slow down our pace; we tune them out to listen only to the Spirit. Excerpt from

Lord, I am in a battle. I am at war with my sinful nature. I know this and am prepared to keep up the good fight. Thank you for the victory that is mine in Christ. Pour out your grace on me as I fight so that I may be victorious in all battles. I thank you for the Spirit. I desire that my entire life be in step with the Spirit. I declare that I am in Christ; I no longer am a slave to my sinful nature; my sinful nature has been crucified; I am a slave to righteousness; I am now led by the Spirit. For the glory of God and by his grace.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful commentary on these scriptures! I enjoyed it very much so, it has been an absolute blessing to me and my spirit. May you continue to do the work of the Lord and may God continue to lead you by the Holy Spirit and that God may use you to lead others to the ways of God. Again, thank you very much for this posting and may the good Lord bless you!

Brad said...

I think you are right on the mark man. I mean we really just don't realize all the things we want are things that come from walking in the Spirit. But there are three things that you might want to look a little closer at.

1. God wants it more than we do.

2. God made it so that it would be a natural part of accessing His Spirit through our identity as sons.

3. The sinful nature is an add on to creation. It wasn't part of the original plan. That means that when Christ came His work was complete in cutting it off. Sure it may function from time to time but that is so not normal anymore.

Read John Eldredge Waking the Dead and it may help you see how great a salvation we have. Blessings.

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