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Empowering Grace Blog

"The importance of grace, part 10"

Christian living should be a work of God’s grace, and not our works. Look at Rom 11:6, as it describes the difference between grace (what God does for us) and works (what we do for Him) — “And if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.” Grace is clearly seen when we became Christians, God’s children. We understand it very well, that we didn’t earn salvation; it was given to us through faith in His grace. But with the help of religious tradition and ignorance, we have gotten the idea that for us to keep our salvation, or, as Christians, to get things from God, then we are going to have to “roll up our sleeves”, and start working for Him. This is Paul’s point in writing his Galatian letter — that living the Christian life is as simple as it was in getting saved. So, with this in mind, let’s continue our lesson from Gal 5.

5:16 — “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” 

I want to say much on these next 3 verses, because I just devoted an entire lesson to them last time, but remember that he is teaching on firmly standing in freedom and not being subject again to bondage, v.1. So, in this verse, notice where our focus should be as Christians — it’s not the flesh, but the Spirit. The Spirit should be our focus, and as the result, He will take care of the flesh. Many sincere, devoted Christians focus so hard on not fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, that they don’t see Jesus and His finished work; much less, the power of the Spirit inside. Then, they can’t figure out why they have tough challenges when it comes to walking by the Spirit.

5:17 — “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” At first glance of this verse, one would think that God is the one who keeps him from doing what he pleases, and that’s where the struggle lies. But we must realize that we are on God’s side; for through the new birth, He has given us new hearts and spirits, filled with His love. We are the ones in this verse who desire to do “kingdom-things”, “love-things”, and “Righteous-things”. 

It’s the flesh (our unrenewed, worldly thoughts) that keeps us from doing the things that we please. 

This is why the Spirit — whose side we are on — opposes the flesh’s desire, and vice versa. So, when we get caught up in this warfare between the Spirit and flesh by thinking that we, by our thinking, will-power and sheer determination, can beat or conquer the flesh, we end up defeated and confused, because we are not doing the things we please to do (which is trusting in His grace).

5:18 — “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” 

The first word “BUT”, cancels out v.17 and the struggle we get ourselves in. Notice how the words “walk by the Spirit”, from v.16, are connected with the words in v.18, “led by the Spirit”. In other words, Paul is telling us that if we are LED by the Spirit, having Him (grace) as our focus and not trying to work at getting something to happen, then we will walk by the Spirit. Being led by the Spirit, walking by Him, means that we have made a decision — a decision to rest in the finished work of Christ, and trust in His grace (refusing to get involved in fleshly struggles).

Verses 19-21 — “19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

These 15 works of the flesh are clearly seen around us in this world, and they are done by the people of this world — people who are, spiritually speaking, in Adam. I want you to connect the words “deeds” of v.19, to the word “practice” of v.21, because they describe Paul’s point here. Think about it, someone who practices doing something, does so, because number 1, he enjoys it, and number 2, he wants to become better at it. So then, if someone who claims to be a Christian enjoys practicing sinful activities like these to become better at sinning, then he’s probably not a Christian, child of God. 

Paul tells us in v.21 that those who practice these things haven’t inherited the kingdom of God. So, once again, Paul didn’t mention these things to describe a believer’s behavior, but an unbeliever’s behavior — to show us the BEFORE and AFTER picture of who we are in Christ. Paul just told us in v.18 what Christians are like — they are led by the Spirit. This, by no means, implies that we can’t do fleshly things (only a buffoon would say that). But because we are led (controlled) by the Spirit and not the flesh, we can walk free from fleshly activities.

For example, when Christians, believers in Christ, get involved with sinful behaviors of the flesh, they feel bad (or have an inner check about it) because that’s not who they really are on the inside — inside, they are the Righteousness of God. This is why believers are never content in living with this kind of lifestyle without feeling miserable, and that’s because they have new spirits and new hearts (This also explains why believers who mix a concoction of law and grace together are never satisfied). Nasty, worldly or religious things of the flesh never fit our new lifestyle in Christ — only freedom does.

Verses 22-23 — “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” 

FRUIT demonstrates the working of God’s grace in our lives, as we believe and rest in the finished work of Christ. 

Fruit happens without any human effort; it’s by the Spirit. If we apply effort, it’s no longer fruit.

It’s the fruit of the Spirit; not the “fruitS” (plural); for that would imply that we needed to get out our pen and legal pads to write down the 9 things, and start working on them. But it’s the “fruit” (singular), because it is the expression of the Spirit of Christ, Gal 2:20. These 9 characteristics describe the nature of the indwelling Christ, and blossom in us as we walk by faith in God’s grace. It’s by the fruit of the Spirit that we firmly stand in liberty, and not entangled again in a yoke of slavery. This is why the last phrase of v.23 says, “against such there is no law.” Only the ability of Christ, or, the fruit of the Spirit, or, His grace can empower us to firmly stand in the freedom of Christ.

Verses 24 — “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." 

Here, Paul describes what has taken place in the heart of EVERY believer — it describes who we ARE in Christ and the new desires that God’s love has birthed in our hearts. This verse is not what we can become through the determination of self-discipline. Paul emphasizes that the FLESH along with its passions and desires have been crucified with Christ (He also said something similar in Rom 6:6). In looking at the laundry list of the 15 nasty fleshly works of v.19-21, Paul tells us that we have been crucified to those desires. 

Verses 25 — "If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit." 

If we are living by the Spirit (the Spirit is working in us), it only makes sense that we LET this inner life of the Spirit (His fruit) rule our lives. This is how we walk in the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit then, is having faith in His grace. 

Paul tells us that walking in the Spirit is not about keeping rules, but it’s about letting Christ rule.

Verse 26 — "Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.” 

Someone says, “I want to challenge you this week…” No, that’s the wrong mindset. That’s like saying, “I’ve attained, and now I want you to become like me.” Or he’s saying, “I haven’t got it yet, but I know you can do it!” Mindsets like these create envy and jealousy. 

Our freedom in Christ is not about giving CHALLENGES, but it’s about our SUBMISSION in serving one another. 

Challenges lead us into competition. This is the way the world operates. So, on the contrary, let us, with the knowledge of who we are in Christ and by trusting in His grace, love and encourage one another; thus, building up Christ’s body. We will see more about this, as we go into chapter 6.


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