Walk the Walk
Picture this: One quiet morning as Jesus was teaching His disciples, a crowd of Pharisees show up with a woman and tell Jesus, “This woman has been caught in adultery, and according to the law of Moses, she should be stoned, what do you say?” Quietly, Jesus kneels down beside her and starts to scribble something in the sand. Was he finishing the teaching he was interrupted from? Who knows? The angry leaders pressed Jesus for an answer to their question. They wanted to know what he though on the matter of a person caught in sin, after all, this woman was caught in the act of being intimately with someone that was not her husband, and this sin had to be dealt with. Jesus looks at the crowd that was already locked and loaded ready to stone this woman and he says, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” and he returns to writing on the ground. One by one the leaders drop their stones and walk away perhaps feeling a sense of defeat until there were only two people left: Jesus and this horribly sinful woman. Slowly, Jesus stands up and asks the woman, “Where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” Possibly looking shocked, she responds, “No one.” Jesus then tells the woman, “you’re free, go and do as you please. There are no consequences for you actions, you have been freed to do whatever you like from here on out and there will be no consequences to your actions.”
While that is not how that story ends, this is what Paul is encouraging the believers in Galatia to stay away from. What Jesus actually told the woman was, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” This is the true freedom that Paul is getting at with his letter to the Galatians.
There is a fine line that Christians walk. We walk line line that struggles with the human nature to do what feels good, and the Godly nature that goes against everything that human nature is for.
The struggle is real for everyone, and sometimes harder for others than for some.
Paul preached grace. That unmerited favor of God that we as human beings didn’t deserve. After he left Galatia to continue his ministry, he had a group of people come behind him saying that in order to “prove” you were saved, you had to abide by a set of rules and regulations found in the law. Once Paul heard about this, he writes a letter to the churches he helped establish to correct their errant ways.
In the first two chapters, Paul establishes his authority as an apostle to speak on these matters, and in the middle two chapters, he establishes a biblical basis for his argument of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and in the last two chapters, he helps the churches put the teachings into practical application.
In the first part of chapter five, Paul asserts that Jesus act of dying on the cross and bearing our sin (the curse) for us and standing in front of God’s judgment set us free from the slavery brought on by sin and adherence to a set of rules and regulations, and in our passage this morning, Paul will present a stark contrast of what it means to “Walk the Walk” of a Christian.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Our freedom in Christ is not “fire” insurance
Our freedom in Christ is not “fire” insurance
Paul preached grace alone by faith in Christ alone. The Judaizers found that unacceptable because their mentality was that if a person lived without rules, there would be no restraint in the life of the Christian.
Paul calls the Christians that are in Galatia in verse 13 to not use their freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. He states that their freedom is not license to just do what they want and God’s grace will cover it all.
The word for flesh here means “sinful humanity” and not referring to human flesh and bone. Our freedom that we have is freedom with a purpose. There are two extremes that Paul is presenting here. The first extreme is the extreme of legalism. The Judaizers were preaching faith plus works, and the other extreme is the extreme of license to do as you please. This is not case with the freedom of the Christian. The freedom we have manifests itself in self-sacrifice. The freedom we have takes us from self-centered service to serving others in love. The word he uses for love here is the same word that is used in when referring to God’s love to the sinful world.
John Stott says this about the word flesh: “The ‘flesh’ in the language of the apostle Paul is not what clothes our bony skeleton, but our fallen human nature,…which is twisted with self-centeredness and therefore prone to sin.”
Paul is warning the reader against a person’s natural proclivity to migrate toward things of a sinful nature and not using grace as a “get of hell free card.”
Paul then goes on to say in verse 14 that the whole law is summed up in “love your neighbor as yourself.” He quotes . This is the same verse that Jesus used when the Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was when he quoted the Shema from and says that the second is just as great as the first, and that all of the law of Moses could be wrapped up into loving God and loving others.
The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
James called it the “Royal Law”:
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.
John also places a strong emphasis on this vital fact in his letter:
And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Paul also reiterates this fact in His letter to the Romans:
For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
As Christians, we walk a fine line of being free to do whatever we want according to our human nature and binding ourselves to a set of rules and regulations and thus withdrawing from society completely to living in the liberty that we have in Jesus Christ to act in obedience to love others as God has shown His love to us.
License leads to animosity
License leads to animosity
In verse 15, Paul presents a stern warning against license in freedom that if we steer away from the law of God’s love, that it will lead back to self-centeredness and we, as Christians, will basically tear each other apart and leave nothing but picked over bones. Taking license in the freedom we have in Jesus will lead to a split in the body of the church. It causes two camps to form: Once camp says do or don’t do, and one camp says you can do whatever you want and there are no consequences to the actions of a person, and then the real battle begins.
Life in the Spirit is a conflict
Life in the Spirit is a conflict
Paul begins this next section in verse 16 by saying, “walk in the spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” The command here is to “keep on walking in the spirit.” This is a continuous action by the believer, and it is an intentional action that we must take care to make sure that is what we are doing. He then goes on to explain that the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit and vice versa. Paul was quite familiar with this concept when he wrote to the Romans.
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
There is a natural opposition to the Spirit and the flesh. This is what makes the Gospel counter-intuitive. Humans are hardwired a particular way because sin entered into this world, and it is self oriented.
Paul then shares two lists. The first list is not “all-inclusive” because at the end of the list in 21 he says, “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” He lays out the character qualities of a person living in the flesh (according to the sinful human nature) and those that live by the spirit, and there are a couple of things to not here:
The works of the flesh can be divided into four areas: 1. Sexual oriented sin, 2. Religious sin, 3. Social sin, 4. Personal sin. These areas can cover a wide rage of things, but the most important thing to note is that Paul finishes the list with the phrase, “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Sexual oriented sin, 2. Religious sin, 3. Social sin, 4. Personal sin
So does that mean a person that has accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior will lose their salvation? Absolutely not! What Paul is saying here, and in some translations, the phrase is rendered, “those who PRACTICE such things...” That means that when we accept Christ into our lives, there will be a noticeable change in the life of a believer. A person that willfully continues in any lifestyle contrary to what God has laid out for them, more than likely is not a true Christian. Paul is talking about a person that refuses to leave the old, sinful life behind. He is not talking about the person that struggles with fits of anger, or the person that falls into addictions, or the person that struggles with misplaced priorities in this life that allows things like work to take precedence over worship or family time. Even the most mature Christian will fall into sinful patterns in their life in some way, shape, or form. When we accept Christ into our lives, there comes with it a change, and that change is manifest in the next list that Paul presents as the “fruit of the Spirit.”
Religious sin, 3. Social sin, 4. Personal sin
Notice that Paul uses the singular word “fruit” as opposed to the plural. This is not gifts that the Spirit gives us as the body has need. Gifts can change, whereas the fruit of the Spirit does not, and if we also notice, the fruit of the Spirit are manifest in attitudinal changes and not in physical actions. It is those attitudinal changes that will then manifest themselves in outward actions toward others. Which goes back to the idea in verse 13 that if we are truly walking in the Spirit, that attitudinal change will manifest itself in service toward others in love as opposed to the self-oriented nature of the works of the flesh. I personally believe that it is safe to say that a person that says they are a Christian, and exhibit not a single aspect of the fruit of the Spirit should check their relationship with God and see how it lines up. That doesn’t mean this is a checklist to determine if you’re really saved or not, because of we sat here and ran down the works of the flesh to determine if we are saved or not, I think it would be a safe bet that each of us in this room would be guilty of some sexual, religious, social or personal sin if we really truly take the time to reflect on that list and what it entails.
If we continue to make that intentional effort to continue walking in the Spirit, our priorities and focus change, and that is how we can overcome the trials of life and are able to steer clear of the works (deeds) of the flesh.
Paul closes out this section by answering the question of “How?” That would be the natural question that follows all of this. we see the list of the works of the flesh and compare them to the fruit of the Spirit and then ask the questions, “How can I live like that?” The one simple answer is, “Live in Christ.” Paul wrote earlier in
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Paul reiterates this point here in verse 24 by saying, “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” What he means by that is that once we accept Christ in our lives, we are no longer living for our old, sinful self, but we are living for a completely different reason. we are living for Jesus, and we are letting Jesus live through us through the power of the Holy Spirit. When we get baptized, we are publicly saying we have died to the old life by being submerged under the water, and we are being resurrected to new life in Jesus Christ. Once we ask Jesus into our lives, we are turning over control of our lives to Him so that He can live through us. We die to the old life, the sinful life, that doesn’t mean that the struggles will go away, but that we have a helper in the form of the Holy Spirit that helps is renew our minds daily in order to live for Christ.
Walking in the Spirit prevents conceit
Walking in the Spirit prevents conceit
Paul ends this section with an IF/THEN proposition. He says, “if we live by the Spirit, (then) let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Keeping in step with the Spirit will then prevent what Paul writes in verse 26: “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
What this means is that if we walk in the Spirit, keeping in step with the Spirit, we will not use our liberty in Christ as an opportunity to become self-centered or conceited by the fact that we can do life better than anyone else. We will understand our true sinful nature and realize that is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can keep ourselves from the temptations of life, and we will not be set at odds with others that may have more difficult struggles that we do.
In recent years, hoarding has come to the limelight of the American public. In fact, they even have a TV show about it. We used to call it being a pack rat. It is a person that obsessively keeps things around that that more than likely shouldn’t be kept around. How do they break away from that obsessive habit? They have to get help. One of the tasks that are usually assigned to a hoarder is to set up three buckets. Those three buckets are set up for degrees of trash. One is for the stuff that is a no-brainer to get rid of, the second is for the stuff you could possibly live without, and the third is for the stuff, you’re just not sure you can part with. As the easy bucket gets full, it’s dumped out, and once the house or room has been gone through, the second bucket is tackled, and the same principle applies to it, you sort through all of the stuff in order to get rid of the easiest stuff first, and the go back through it again to get rid of the more difficult stuff. Eventually you are left with the stuff you feel you can’t live without. This is where the help really comes in handy, that help can give the strength and encouragement to get rid of that stuff, and true freedom from this obsession can be obtained.
Is there something in your life this morning that you have been hoarding off and just can’t seem to get rid of in your life? Maybe there are a ton of hangups in your life that you just can’t get past. I want to challenger everyone here this morning to this: as you go through the week, keep lis passage handy and dwell on it. Really chew on it. Daily. As you pray, ask God to reveal the area of your life that you are hoarding some kind of sinful habit, and ask Him, through the Holy Sprit to come into your life and help you sort through the mess. We all slip. That’s a given, but we have help in the Holy Spirit to come into our lives and help us clean that area out.
Social sin, 4. Personal sin