Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Galatians 5:19-26

V19-26 – 19The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 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.

Paul lists a number of gross and obvious sins that follow the sin nature and that would be deemed horrific by the Judaizers. But he also includes a number of sins that the Judaizers would have been guilty of, such as “selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy.” He effectively lumps the Judaizers in the same group as those who engage in “sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, and witchcraft.” Paul goes on, saying, “Those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (v21; cf Isaiah 58:1). Vincent Cheung notes, “Under the works of the flesh he lists sexual, religious, mental, emotional, and relational sins. Some of the items appear to overlap. Since he concludes the list with ‘and the like,’ these items are meant to illustrate, and not intended as a perfectly proportioned representative list of the works of the flesh.” Essentially, those who do not exhibit the fruit of saving grace, the fruit of the Spirit (v22-23), will not be saved (because they never had saving grace to begin with). Paul uses this phrase about not inheriting the kingdom four times in Scripture, and the warning is clear (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 15:50; Ephesians 5:5), though as Calvin points out, “Paul does not threaten that all who have sinned, but that all who remain impenitent, shall be excluded from the kingdom of God. The saints themselves often fall into grievous sins, but they return to the path of righteousness.” While legalism is not the straight and narrow path, falling off the other side into antinomianism is not good either. The balance comes by the Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is a loving behavior that comes from within and is genuine, where the outside behavior results from and conforms to inside transformation by the Spirit. The fruit is singular, stemming from love, that single quality that fulfills the law. This purely righteous behavior is contrasted to legalistic self-righteousness, which generally includes a vast distinction between outward behavior and internal attitude (Luke 10:25-37). And our focus ought not solely be in fighting the negatives; rather, in living focused on the positives, we automatically avoid the negatives and naturally avoid a legalistic mindset. When Paul says, “Against such things there is no law,” Calvin notes that Paul’s real meaning is “deeper and less obvious; namely, that, where the Spirit reigns, the law has no longer any dominion.”

Kim Riddlebarger details each of the fruit’s characteristics, saying, “Love is described by Paul as the atmosphere in which we relate to one another (Ephesians 5:2); it is a garment that we are to put on (1 Corinthians 16:14); it is the secret of unity (Colossians 2:2), it is characteristic of Christian maturity (Ephesians 4:15); and provides the proper restraint of Christian liberty (Galatians 5:13; Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 13). For Paul…love is demonstrated in serving one another. …The joy of which Paul speaks is in a real sense being aware of God’s favor towards us because the work of Christ has been applied to us through the Spirit. Paul exhorts us to ‘rejoice in the Lord’ (Philippians 3:1). We are to have joy in the faith (Philippians 1:25). …Peace is drawn from the Hebrew shalom, and denotes more than the merely negative notion of absence of war and trouble; it denotes a positive state of ‘wholeness’ – ‘soundness’ and ‘prosperity’. …Patience derives from God who is patient with us (Exodus 34:6). Indeed, according to Paul’s letter to Timothy, the supreme example of patience is seen in Jesus Christ, ‘who displays his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life’ (1:16). Thus we are to be patient with others (Ephesians 4:1-2) and to keep the unity of the Spirit. Kindness refers to God’s gracious attitude toward sinners, primarily the kindness by which God leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). …Goodness is a term closely related to kindness, and refers to ‘an attitude of generous kindness to others, which is happy to do far more than is required my mere justice.’ Faithfulness is understood here in the sense of being trustworthy. Gentleness is a term which means ‘an ethical grace in the believer’s’ life, ‘gentleness’ may be described as a humble, patience, and forbearance towards others, regarding even insult or injury as God’s means of chastisement (cf. 2 Sam. 16:11) or training (cf. Num. 12:3). It implies but is not identical with, self-control.’ Self-control is the ability to keep one’s lust or passions under control.”

Finally, Paul notes that union with Christ in His death and resurrection makes His people new creations in the Spirit. The sin nature is dead and defeated, though it battles until our glorification. Therefore, "since we live by the Spirit," we need to "keep in step with the Spirit' (v25). Keeping in step with the Spirit involves several things, but v26 points out that it means avoiding conceitedness (arrogant ambition, or the desire of honor), which is the mother of provocation (generally through biting and stinging words, such as slander, even as rumored through gossip), and envy (v26). So legalism is out-of-bounds, but so is antinomianism. Finding the narrow path to salvation is done by walking in the Spirit.

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