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The Spirit of the Christian’s Life - Galatians 5:24-26

The inestimably important role of the Holy Spirit prior to and after our conversion.

Galatians 5:24-26; Ephesians 5:1-21; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Corinthians 3:6; John 3:5-6; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 11:33-36

Apr 22, 2012 12:00 AM

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On May 15th of last year, we began our study in the book of Galatians. On that Sunday I said, “Now I don’t want you to be overly concerned, but for today, we’re mostly going to look at the first three words of Galatians: Paul, an apostle.“ Today is April 22nd. 2012. I hope to finish chapter 5. Maybe we should have been more concerned last May when we began by looking at only the first three words.

In recent months, we’ve talked about the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives as believers. The importance of His presence and His work in us cannot be overestimated. It is by the power of the Spirit that we have been regenerated. It is the Spirit who has quickened us and granted us life from our spiritual deadness. It is the Spirit of God who initially brought conviction of sin, and who brought the weight of our guilt to bear heavily upon our naturally insensitive hearts. It is the Holy Spirit who granted us the grace to repent of our sins and trust in Christ to save us.

Now, as believers, it is the Holy Spirit who stands in opposition to the sinful tendencies of our 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 (Galatians 5:17 ESV). It is the Holy Spirit who produces the fruit of godly behavior in us, and against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:23 ESV). When we walk according to the leading of the Holy Spirit, God has “no bone to pick with us”, so to speak. When our behavior is in keeping with the Spirit’s work within us, we are living in opposition to the flesh, but in complete agreement with the will of God.

So it is of utmost importance that we learn to walk with the Spirit of God, to live in obedience to the Spirit because there are no scriptural commands against love, joy, peace, or any other work of the Spirit of God within us. Turn for a moment to Ephesians 5. Notice how Paul makes this same argument in that letter to those believers as he makes here to the Galatians:

1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Paul says in Galatians 5:21 - those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

6 Let no one deceive you (like the Judaizers were doing among the Galatians) with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true),

Isn’t the fruit of light the same thing as the fruit of the Spirit? It is the Spirit who has illumined our hearts and minds to understand the Gospel.

10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Like those things against which there is no law. Like the fruits of the Spirit. Those are certainly pleasing to God.

11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,"Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:1-21 ESV)

The indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit produces godly behavior. The Spirit produces imitators of God. He moves us to walk in love as Christ did. Paul referred to the Ephesian believers as saints. Christians are holy and the Holy Spirit provokes us to conduct ourselves in a manner that is good and right and true. We will be wise and understand what the will of the Lord is. Being filled with the Spirit will make us sing together to the Lord with our hearts. The filling of the Holy Spirit produces grateful hearts and submissive spirits in us. This is all part of the work of the Spirit in the life of every Christian. May the Lord grant us more and more and more of His Spirit so that we might be a people who glorify Him in all that we do.

But we also need to practice self-discipline (SELF-discipline) to make ourselves godly in His sight. Paul told Timothy, “Discipline YOURSELF for the purpose of godliness.” We must train ourselves in those “means of grace” which assist us in becoming more mature in our faith. We talked about these last week: Prayer, Scripture reading and meditation and memorization, genuine worship (both public and private), fellowship (or “holy conversations”) with other believers, and communion. And there is one other discipline that I didn’t mention last week: the discipline of fasting.

Fasting is a topic that could easily be a sermon all by itself. Books have been written about fasting and it has been analyzed to death. How much, how long, when, where, etc., etc. People always want to know the details and the technicalities of fasting. But the main point of fasting is the practical exercise of self-control. I will not allow my desire for food to control me. Rather, I will control all my natural desires, including my appetite for food. Yes, we can’t live without food. But nearly everyone can live one day without food. So in order to discipline myself for the purpose of godliness, not only will I occasionally abstain from food for a day, but I will also spend that time in prayer. That seems to be the primary purpose of fasting: in order to create time for prayer.

Prior to the 20th century, it took a long time to prepare a meal and eat it. Much of daily life was spent in the preparation of meals, and it is still that way in much of the world. Today, we can pop something that resembles food into the microwave AND completely consume it in 10 minutes or less. So fasting and praying today isn’t what it used to be. But that seems to have been the primary purpose of fasting in the first century: to exercise self-control for the sake of prayer. I will discipline myself not to eat, while simultaneously disciplining my self to pray. If it is medically possible, spend a day praying during what would have been your meal times. That is a spiritual discipline that trains us in godliness.

Now let’s see if we can get through some final thoughts on Galatians 5.

24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24 ESV)

There is a tendency among people of the Reformed persuasion to think they are incapable of doing anything without the grace of God and so they are therefore not responsible to do anything unless they are somehow specifically prompted by God. If that kind of thinking is taken to its logical conclusion, it leads directly to what is referred to as Hyper-Calvinism. It has caused some to actually abandon evangelism. Many within the Arminian camp accuse “Five Point Calvinists” of being Hyper-Calvinists because they believe all five of the Doctrines of Grace. If you don’t want to be accused of being a “Hyper-Calvinist”, then just claim to be a “Four Pointer” and you’ll be OK.

Hyper-Calvinism became a serious problem many years ago, and threatens to be a problem again. A man by the name of William Carey, considered by many to be the father of modern missions, was told by some Calvinistic Baptists in the 1800s there was no need for him to travel to India and preach the gospel. "Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine." That is Hyper-Calvinism. Carey went anyway, and we’re very glad he did.

God is sovereign. We understand that. Probably better than many within Evangelicalism. But we also need to understand that while God is sovereign, we are also personally responsible to God for how we live our lives as believers. On that great Day when we stand before God, we cannot say, “The Devil made me do it, God didn’t prevent me from doing it, so I’m not responsible.”

Neither God nor Satan are responsible for how we live our lives. We are. Otherwise, why does Paul spend SOOO much time exhorting believers concerning their own conduct? To walk according to the Spirit? To hate what is evil and cling to what is good? Why did Jesus command the disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel if God, in His sovereignty, will “convert the heathen” without any help from us?

The apostles were personally responsible to take the gospel to the world, and we are personally responsible to live godly lives for the glory of God. All men are responsible to God for how they live this life, whether as the children of God or as the enemies of God. And all will have to give an account to God.

I read this brief comment a couple of days ago concerning 2 Timothy 3:16 -

“The Bible is associated with the very life of God. Paul writes that, ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness’ (2 Timothy 3:16). The Scriptures are sufficient to tell believers what they should believe (“doctrine”), what they should not believe (“reproof”), how they should not behave (“correction”), and how they should behave (“instruction in righteousness”).”1

That is what all of Scripture is for: to teach us what and what not to believe, how and how not to behave as Christians. We are responsible to take heed to what the Scriptures say because we’re responsible for what they teach.

Paul concludes Galatians 5 by saying that believers (those who belong to Christ Jesus), have already crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. That is what we do when we trust Christ: we kill our previous passions and desires that were driven by our unregenerate natures. It is impossible to belong to Christ and not do this. As we said last week, the result of genuine repentance from sin is the putting to death of that previous lifestyle that was leading us to eternal death.

Repentance is a requirement for salvation. But repentance is rarely addressed in Evangelicalism today. A gospel without repentance, with the crucifixion of the flesh with its sinful passions and desires, is not the gospel. There can be no salvation without a turning from, and a repudiation of our own sin. You cannot live that way any longer. That is what Paul has been saying now for an entire chapter.

But there are those who would say, “I thought you believed in salvation by faith alone? Repentance is work, and not faith. All you need to do to be saved is believe!” And I would say, “Believe what?” Yes, we do believe salvation is by faith alone. But we believe that part of saving faith is repentance. We believe a person must repent of sin and trust in the work of Christ. That is the faith that saves. And that is what Paul is speaking of when he talks here in verse 24 about our crucifixion of our own flesh with its passions and desires. We are responsible, we are to put to death the deeds of the flesh when we trust Christ.

Now look at verses 25 & 26 -

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:25-26 ESV)

If we live by the Spirit - Or, we could say, “Since we have been born again by the Spirit . . .” How is it that we have this new life in Christ? By the Spirit.  In speaking to the Corinthians, Paul said it was God . . . who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6 ESV).

In speaking to Nicodemus, Jesus said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:5&6 ESV)

We have been born again by the Spirit of God. We live by means of the Spirit. And since that is true, then let us also walk by the Spirit. Some might say this sounds redundant: “We live by the Spirit, so we should live by the Spirit.” The sense of it is, “Since we have been given life by the Holy Spirit, we must now manifest a lifestyle that is in keeping with that same Holy Spirit. A life marked by love, joy, peace, gentleness, self-control, and all the fruits of the indwelling Holy Spirit.”

We should live THAT way. We should NOT live this way: conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. These are NOT fruits of the Spirit.

It is not clear exactly what Paul has in mind here, or why the Galatians might have had this particular set of sinful behaviors to deal with. But since he is speaking to an entire group of churches in the region of Galatia, and not to any particular church, it seems reasonable that this may have been a problem that was common to all the churches. Apparently they all were faced with the temptation to be conceited, provocative, and envious.

The Greek word here translated “conceited” could be literally interpreted “empty of glory” or as the KJV puts it, “desirous of vain glory”. Vainglorious. Glorying in one’s self without cause. Pride. And those who are proud often provoke envy in others. It seems this is a diabolical package. The one sin leads to the next, then to the next: Pride provokes envy.

A conceited attitude amongst some in the Galatian churches which was provoking envy in others, may have been pride associated with being Jewish. The Judaizers made such a big deal about the necessity of circumcision for salvation that it is certainly possible for the Jewish believers to have actually taken pride in their circumcision, promoting themselves as spiritually superior, looking down upon the Gentile believers. Gentile Christians weren’t as spiritual as Jewish Christians.

We see that kind of thinking today in Evangelicalism. “Messianic Jews” are often considered to automatically have a deeper understanding of all things spiritual than the rest of us simply because they are Jewish.

We sometimes see something similar in pentecostal and charismatic circles. Those who exhibit an ability to speak in tongues often promote themselves as spiritually superior to those who don’t have the same gift. They believe those who cannot speak in tongues are not on the same spiritual plane with them. (And in some cases they are probably right.)

We see this package of conceit, provocation, and envy in the Word of Faith churches. Those who REALLY have faith are wealthy. Those who are REALLY spiritual can command things into existence like God does. The reason you aren’t wealthy, and you don’t have this power, is because you don’t have faith like WE do.

We see it among some Calvinists who say they believe the Doctrines of Grace, but they aren’t very gracious. They display very little patience towards those who don’t share their own deep, enlightened, theological perspective.

What reason does a Christian have to be conceited? Proud? If salvation is by the grace of God alone, what is there to be proud of? Why would a Christian feel spiritually superior to someone else? Isn’t it absurd that someone could actually become proud of their “deep spirituality”? Only if humility has nothing to do with it! But the human heart is not immune to such perverted pride as this.

As Christians, we have one thing in which can legitimately boast: the cross of Jesus Christ.

14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14 ESV)

What do we have in which to be proud except in the Person and work of Jesus? The very thing the Jews despised is the very thing is which we can greatly boast: The wisdom and power and love and mercy of God as it is displayed in the cross of the Lord Jesus. Not the cross itself, but the work that was accomplished there by Christ:

• His life was sacrificed,

• His blood was shed,

• our sins were borne,

• our punishment was suffered,

• our debt was paid,

• our condemnation was removed,

• God’s wrath against us was appeased,

• And His justice was satisfied.

• The Lamb was slain,

• death was defeated,

• eternal life was secured for all God’s people,

• redemption was accomplished,

• God was satisfied,

• God was glorified,

• Christ was exalted,

• and by the grace of God we were made alive by the Spirit,

• We became the children of God,

• adopted into the family of God,

• the Son of God became our brother,

• And God became our Father.

Now tell me, what is there in all of that that we can take any credit for or be proud of? What did we do to secure our salvation? This is not [our] own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV). What is there for us to boast in besides the cross? A conceited Christian is a deceived Christian.

We have nothing in which to boast except the cross. That is why Paul exclaims,

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" 35 "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?"

Who has made any contribution at all to his own salvation?

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36 ESV)

We will never have anything in which to boast except in God. Amen.

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1. http://herescope.blogspot.com/2012/03/deliteralizing-bible-from-plato-to.html


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