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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources
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"Walk By the Spirit" -- Galatians 5:16-26

The Eleventh in a Series of Sermons on Galatians

In face of attacks made upon the gospel by the Judaizers, Paul exhorted the Galatians to stand firm in the freedom won for them by Jesus Christ.  Taking up a discussion of the Christian life in the fifth chapter of Galatians, Paul tells his hearers that although they are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone, the faith through which they are justified is also a faith that works in love.  Paul also says, the Law–obedience to which cannot justify–is fulfilled through obedience to the command to love one another.  But the power to fulfill the law is not our own.  It must be given to us through the indwelling Holy Spirit, so that we “walk by the Spirit.”

Paul’s critics in Galatia accused him of preaching one gospel of “faith alone” to the Gentiles and another of “faith plus circumcision” to the Jews.  But if Paul were doing such a thing, why was he being persecuted?  The Judaizers have told the Galatians repeatedly that Paul’s doctrine of justification is positively dangerous, since supposedly it leads to license–which is why the Judaizers were snooping around in the Galatian churches spying on Gentile liberty.  The Judaizers accused Paul of being an antinomian–slandering the apostle by claiming he had no regard for circumcision, the Law, or the traditions of the fathers.  In Galatians 5, Paul must correct a number of the ways in which he and the gospel have been misrepresented.  He takes great care in setting out just how it is, since we are justified by grace, alone through faith alone, on account of Christ alone, that we are to live our lives in light of Jesus Christ’s saving work. The life which springs from faith in Jesus is “walking by the Spirit.”

In verses 16-18 of Galatians 5, Paul draws a contrast between the Holy Spirit producing the fruit of the Spirit (characteristic of the Christian), with the works brought forth from the flesh (our sinful nature, apart from Christ).  Paul describes the Christian’s intense struggle with sin as a war between what we were in Adam and what we are presently in Christ.  Paul tells the Galatians they were called by God to be free, but they were not to use this freedom as an excuse to indulge the sinful nature (flesh).  Instead they were to use their freedom in Christ to serve one another in love (5:13-15) and not devour each other as wild animals.  As is his custom, Paul follows these comments with an imperative [command] in verse 16 (which opens our passage).  “But I say, walk by the Spirit.”  “To walk” is an Old Testament figure of speech descriptive of how one lives one’s life.  The one who walks in the Spirit “will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”  Paul exhorts us to walk by the Spirit as a habit of life because in doing so we will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

There is a loud Old Testament echo here.  The notion of life in the Spirit was a central blessing of the coming messianic age and the new covenant yet to dawn, and a major theme in the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31-34 of the new covenant (as in our Old Testament lesson).  Under the old covenant, the law was an eternal code of conduct (i.e., a list of rules).  But when the Holy Spirit is given to all of God’s people in the new covenant era, the law is said to be written on our hearts as an inward principle through the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit.

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