Saturday, 28 May 2016
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Galatians 5:16
As a rule of guidance and practical application based on verses 13-15, Paul now says, “I say then…” In order for the Christian to close the door to living in the flesh, and rather to open the door of serving in love, he provides the following advice which is that we are to “Walk in the Spirit.” Some translations more rightly say, “…by the Spirit.” Either way, the New Living Translation gives an adequate and understandable paraphrase of Paul’s intent with the words, “…let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.”
We are to live by the Spirit as a rule for guidance and action within our lives. The term “walk” is a customary metaphor Paul uses. It is not to be taken literally, but as a means of expressing a life of constant and unwavering conduct. Our “walk,” or our constant and habitual practice, is to live by the Spirit. In so doing, we “shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” This is not referring to the simple desires of the physical nature, of which all of us continue to live with while in our earthly bodies. Rather it refers to the “desire which is peculiar to human nature without the divine Spirit” (Vincent’s Word Studies).
When we live by the Spirit, this lust of the flesh can have no power over us. This is extremely well explained by Charles Ellicott –
“The flesh is known by a long catalogue of sins, the Spirit by a like catalogue of Christian graces, the mere mention of which is enough to show that the Law has no power over them. Those who belong to Christ have got rid of the flesh, with all its impulses, by their union with a crucified Saviour.”
Ellicott’s words concerning, “a long catalogue of sins” is rich in significance. If the law had not been given, those things which were mandated could not be considered sinful when done. For example, if there was no law that said, “You cannot eat pork,” then there could be no penalty for eating pork. But as soon as the law was given, eating pork became a cataloged sin. The same is true with coveting, wearing clothes of two different materials, working on a Saturday (a Sabbath), or any other of the 600+ laws which the Law of Moses prescribed. Each mandate only increased the knowledge of sin and increased violations when they occurred.
However, by receiving Christ who fulfilled the law for us, we are freed from the penalty of those laws because the law is annulled in Christ. Those sins can have no power over us when we walk by the Spirit. As always, this is the great contrast that Paul highlights. It is also the reason why he adamantly asks us not to fall back on deeds of the law for our righteousness. When we do so, we only reapply that lengthy catalogue of sins to our lives and we end in a life of the flesh, not a life guided by the Spirit.
Life application: If you have been reading these verses of Paul and thinking, “Yes, but I know that I need to just not eat pork. The rest of the law is ok to ignore, but no pork chops…” Then you have still failed to grasp what Christ has done for you. It is all or nothing. Stop putting deeds of the law back into your life! Be freed from it once and for all. Live by the Spirit; not by the flesh.
Lord God, it is so wonderfully marvelous to wake up each day and to think about the hours ahead… what will they be like? It’s like opening a new gift each morning. As the paper is unwrapped, the suspense builds. And when the gift is finally opened, we rejoice at what we have received. Help us to look at the coming day with wonder, and to reflect on the day which has ended with delight. Give us the eyes of a child in the gift of each day that You have presented to us. Amen.