Live by the Spirit not by sin! – Galatians 5:14-26
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 11, 2016
Semper fidelis is a Latin phrase that means “always faithful” or “always loyal”. In the United States it is best known as the motto of the United States Marine Corps. “Be Prepared” is the motto of the Boy Scouts and Washington State’s motto is “Al-ki” which means “Bye and Bye”. What life motto do you live by? For some it is “Get yours before they get theirs”, however for the believer it should be “Love God and love others”. Of course this come from what Jesus taught about all the commands of God being summed up into: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31 NIV) What is your life’s motto?
For Paul his motto for the Galatians might be to “live by the Spirit not by sin”! He was deeply concerned that the Galatians had lost sight of what their faith was to be all about. Sometimes we can do as well, especially in this day and age where so much faith is measured by emotionalism rather than what the Scripture actually teaches. As we get closer to wrapping up Paul’s letter to the Galatians we discover that he wants to remind them of what their life is to be truly about.
Many folks have left the church because they see Christians not living as Christians forgetting that believers are not perfect. We are called to be holy, not perfect. We will not be perfect until we see Jesus face-to-face. However, Paul tells his readers…
I. Live by the Spirit! (Vv. 14-18)
The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
1. When Paul was younger and under the influence of the Law of Moses he tried to live his life by following a myriad set of rules, guidelines, and rituals. Many were manmade and not from God at all because when people begin to try and follow Laws instead of living for the Lord, they end up trying to figure out just how they can do just what is required of them and nothing else. Yet Paul had learned that “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Paul realized if he loved others, he would love God first. This love is sacrificial and does not seek its own. Too many Christians spend far too much time trying to get others to agree with them rather than just loving them as Jesus did. Paul reminds us that “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” How is this possible? Paul wrote, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” There it is. If believers live by the Spirit there is no room for anything else! When one lives for themselves first they are feeding their prideful ungodly sinful nature and that nature is greedy and will continually war against your maturing in Jesus! Why? “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.” If you feel continually in conflict with the teachings of Jesus perhaps it is because your life is in conflicted for a reason. Stop doubting God, stop living in your old habits, and stop trying to justify yourself and instead live for Jesus! As Paul says, “They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” We are to live by the Spirit!
EXAMPLE: In our world today the motto is often seen as “live however you feel at the moment”. While this may be pleasing for the short term there are consequences, either good or bad, for doing so. We reap in life what we sow in life. It often baffles me that those who claim Christ are often angered when they live like pagans and then wonder why their life is not going better spiritually for themselves. One cannot simply show up once in a while to worship, give a few bucks when it feels good, carouse around and then expect God to bless them real good! Nor can one follow a set of manmade rituals and do a plethora of good things but have no relationship with Jesus and expect God to bless them! Paul wrote that a believer’s life is to be lived by the Spirit!
When you are walking with Jesus you will not live as the world does nor will you want to. No matter how loudly one protests their innocence one’s actions speak louder than their words, and Paul reminds us that if we live by the Spirit…
II. We will not live in sin! (Vv. 19-21)
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and 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.
1. Paul wanted his readers to understand that “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious”. For anyone who claims Christ and yet continues in the world, they are not fooling anyone. And certainly they will never fool God. He sees us for who we truly are. Our sinful nature is noticeable and apparent. He lists many of them beginning with sexual immorality, (porneia), where we get the word pornography which included incest, sexual idolatry, and includes adultery. Today where people use web sites like Ashley Madison in order to hook up and excuse ungodly illicit extramarital affairs many see no problem with adultery. Yet the ruined lives of children and families say otherwise. The next word is impurity and refers to moral uncleanness in thought, word, and deed. A filthy mind is heard in the words one uses and seen in the actions one does. The word debauchery follows closely with the previous word because it suggests an open, shameless, brazen display of these evils. One no longer cares what they do or when they do it and is proud of it. Then Paul lists two religious sins of idolatry and witchcraft. One involved the worship of pagan gods by bowing to manmade idols and the other was the superstitious drug-induced worship of demonic spirits and speaking to the dead! Then Paul lists eight social evils of hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; which are pretty self explanatory. And interestingly he listed two final ones that dealt with alcohol and drugs: drunkenness and orgies. One we get the word methanol from and the other referred to the ungodly alcohol and drug induced parties, festivities, and holidays that people celebrated. Paul listed each of these as a word of warning, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” For Paul one’s actions spoke volumes about a person’s faith. Yet if we live by the Spirit, we will not live in sin!
EXAMPLE: Only in the board game Monopoly is there a “Get out of Jail Free” card. Therefore do not make the theological mistake thinking just because Jesus forgave you by grace that you can now live however you want and God will forgive you. In Romans Paul argued how the Law of Moses could not save him even though he knew what he should do he did not do it. Many think he is arguing about his walk in Jesus, but he is not. How do I know this to be true? In Romans 7:1 Paul writes that he is “speaking to men who know the law” and that “we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (v.6). Paul finishes by stating that “in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body” in that he wanted to live for God and do “good” but could not. He writes, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!” And then he concludes his remarks by saying, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 7:22-25; 8:1-2 NIV) When we live by the Spirit we will not live in sin!
While believers can and do sin they will not remain there if they love the Lord. In fact their lives will begin to display the very same characteristics Jesus displayed in his life because the Holy Spirit lives in them. And this is why Paul reminds us that if we live by the Spirit…
III. The fruits will be obvious! (Vv. 22-26)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
1. The wording here in the Greek for the next teachings of Paul is in a present and future tense. It applies to your life now and into the future. The believer who lives by the Spirit will continue to live in the Spirit. And as they do they will then display certain characteristics that will be evident for anyone to see. So Paul writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is” and then he lists the characteristics that will be displayed. These are not individual things or characteristics we as Christians are to “work on” but rather these are things that will be displayed in varying degrees in the life of those who “live in the Spirit” of Jesus! Why would I say this? Because Paul writes that it is the outcome of a life that is being lived in the Spirit, it is the “fruit” of one’s life being lived for Jesus! The believer who lives for the Lord will display “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Now will we flawlessly manifest each and every one of them? NO! We are not perfect, but they will be seen in the life of someone who claims Christ. The key here is that it is “the fruit of the Spirit” and not our fruit of self-effort, striving, or trying as hard as we can to pick or choose to do better. When one walks with the Lord one will display these beautiful wonderful gracious characteristics: The sacrificial love of Jesus, the inner joy of knowing God, the certain peace no matter the life circumstances, the easy patience even in frustration, a wonderful gracious kindness, an intrinsic goodness in an evil and perverse world, a steadfast faithfulness to follow God no matter what, inner gentleness of spirit and a self-controlled life where people matter more than things. Paul knew that “Against such things there is no law.” Why? Because Paul knew that “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” It was summed in the fact that: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” For Paul the fruits will be obvious!
EXAMPLE: Remember when Jesus went to the fig tree, what did he expect to find there? Figs! When I go out to my apple tree I expect to find apples, when I go out to my tomato vines I expect to find tomatoes, and the same with my green beans, squash and such. When I do not find the fruit or vegetables I desire, I either prune the tree, vine, or pull the plants up! When one claims Jesus others should see Jesus shining through them in the Spiritual fruit of a Godly life! There is something truly problematic when you see believers who are always sad, angry, hurt, ill-mannered, profane, prideful, ungodly, or just plain worldly in their actions! The fruit of the Holy Spirit should shine through sometime! For Paul the fruits will be obvious!
We are to live by the Spirit! We will not live in sin! For Paul the fruits will be obvious!
This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.