Life That is Life Indeed
The Spirit of God is revealed prominently in Galatians 5 as a Power Who displaces the flesh in the people of God. We are made profoundly aware of the Spirit’s presence in the believer’s life by such thoughts as: the liberty of the Spirit (v. 1); the hope of the Spirit (v. 5); the walk in the Spirit (w. 16, 25); the opposition of the Spirit (v. 17); the leading of the Spirit (v. 18); the fruit of the Spirit (v. 22); the life in the Spirit fv. 25).
In this chapter, one of these expressions is repeated; namely, “walk in the Spirit” (vv. 16, 25). However, the word for “walk” is not the same in the two verses. In v. 16, the thought is that of walking around with a definite centre or occupation. It is the picture of the Christ-centred life, a life that has Christ alone as its object. The word for “walk” in v. 25 is a word that means to walk in step, to make progress in harmony with others. The Spirit-controlled life, therefore, will be a Christ-centred life, and a life that will be progressive and in holy concord with fellow-saints.
To thwart the purpose of the Spirit within us, the devil has a program: his aim is to stir up the flesh in each believer and thus to challenge the supremacy of God in the believer’s life. God also has a program: His aim is not the eradication of the flesh or even its suppression, but rather its counteraction (v. 17) and our growth in the image of Christ. It is what Drummond has called “the expulsive power of a new affection.” If we walk by the Spirit, we shall not fulfil the lusts of our flesh. The leading of the Spirit (v. 18) is for the mortifying of the flesh. God has crucified the old man at Calvary; that is, the sentence of death which I deserved as a man in Adam has been executed upon me in Christ on the cross. I am to reckon that great fact to be true and to be at peace from every fear. But we ourselves are to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts, as a thing unworthy of the dignity of the Christian life or the Christian society (v. 24).
In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul gives us three views of the flesh, that wicked principle of sin which we inherit from Adam:
The Works of the Flesh
1. The flesh affects us inwardly where unholy passions master the soul. This destroys the Spirit’s work of holiness as He would lead to purity of thought, word, and deed. We read of fornication, uncleanness, and wantonness (Alford). Wantonness is defined as a “readiness for any sinful pleasurable indulgence”. Many strong men have been brought down by this aspect of fallen nature. Only the cultivation of the holy spirit of meditation upon Christ will check this foul stream, and save us from an impure mind that would defile our whole being.
2. The flesh in its idolatry aims to destroy the supremacy of God in the heart. We read of idolatry, witchcraft, and heresies; this is the religious aspect of the flesh, or in other words, the sins of the spirit. Our evil nature is totally corrupt and absolutely incorrigible.
3. The flesh in its pride destroys the peace and well-being of others. We read of hatred, variance (strife), emulations (jealousies), wrath, strife (self-seeking), seditions (divisions), envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.
Thus, the flesh works in three ways, to destroy inner spirituality, to spoil the joy of communion with God, and to mar the holy concord of Christian brethren.
We shall now look at the counteracting work of the Spirit of God within, as He seeks to adjust us to live properly, each one with his own conscience, in happy communion with God, and in brotherly relationship with fellow-saints.
The Fruit of the Spirit
The fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) stands out in happy contrast to the works of the flesh. In this, we discern three adjustments by the Spirit, which are intended to restore proper relationships where sin has disrupted them.
1. The first adjustment is the regaining of the supremacy of God in the soul. We read of love, joy, and peace. These are virtues of character that Christ calls His own: “my love,” “my joy”, and “my peace” (John 15:9, 11; 14:27). Here, the Spirit imparts the very character of Christ to the saints; some of the Saviour’s beauties are manifested in the cultivation of these virtues of the new man, “which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Love is the entwining of the heart’s affections around the heart of our Father which is in heaven. Joy is the result of knowing Him, and of finding all our satisfaction in Him; we joy in God. Peace is the repose of the soul in God. Where there is love, joy, and peace in the soul, there is no room for idolatry, witchcraft, or heresy.
2. The second adjustment is the restoration of proper relationships with the family of God. We read of longsuffering, gentleness (kindness), and goodenss. These virtues describe the activities of the New Man in the family circle. The character of God is manifested in longsuffering (1 Pet. 3:20), in kindness (Titus 3:4), and in goodness (Mark 10:18). Godliness therefore is godlikeness. We are to be patient in trial, and longsuffering among our brethren. Our Lord loved to quote the text, “I will have mercy (kindness) and not sacrifice.” The kindly word and deed promote and maintain fellowship. Barnabas is thus displaced by longsuffering; cruelty, by kindness; unselfishness, by goodness. Where there is long-suffering, gentleness, and goodness, there can be no hatred, strife, jealousy, wrath, self-seeking, divisions, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.
3. The third adjustment is the placing of the human spirit in its dignity, over the soul and body, and the restoration of spirituality within. We read of faith or faithfulness, meekness, and temperance. These three virtues sum up the three proper attitudes of the Christian; faithfulness toward God; meekness toward our brethren; godly self-control within. When these are cultivated, there can be no fornication, uncleanness, or wantonness.
True holiness, therefore, is not merely an endeavour to conform to a pattern, no matter how perfect that pattern may be: but rather the inward work of the Holy Spirit moulding our character to the image of Christ. As we yield to the divine touch of the Master Hand, the soul is brought under His control. The yielded will allows the Spirit to do His work, producing the fruit of character that will manifest the beauties of the Saviour in a life that is life indeed.