A. Paul explains to the Galatians justification by faith and not by works or law.
B. Freedom in Christ from the bondage of the flesh results in love and service of others, not in self-fulfillment.
C. Thesis Statement: Being freed from the Law and sin, the believer should walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh.
II. Body: Analysis of the Passage
A. There is hardly any big difference between the Bible audience and us today.
B. Paul gives the principle of walking by the Spirit and not by the flesh.
C. A Spirit-driven life is expected of a believer.
D. The flesh is in opposition to the work of the Spirit.
A. The principle given by Paul applies to believers today.
B. If we choose to live by flesh, it is seen in unrighteous behavior.
C. If we choose to live by the Spirit, it is seen in godly life and character.
In the book of Galatians, the Apostle Paul is dealing with false teachings about salvation in Christ. He deals with the subject of justification by faith, not by circumcision. He exhorts about freedom in Christ from the bondage of the Law – from the external ceremonial ordinances and its curse for disobedience of the law. However, Paul adds in the latter part of his letter that the Christian liberty they have in Christ should be used for the love of and service to one another, not for self-fulfillment (Gal. 5:13-15). Since the Spirit indwells the believer, he already has the power to live a life that pleases God (5:16-18). Therefore, being freed from the Law and sin, the believer should walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh.
There is hardly any big difference between the audience of Paul and us today. Somehow, their legalism includes circumcision in the flesh, but there are also similar legalistic practices today’s churches have. Also, both we and the Bible audience realize the opposition between the flesh and the Spirit. Thus, both have the need to understand what it means to live by the Spirit and not by the flesh.
The principle Paul gives to his audience is to walk by the Spirit. This is given for two reasons. First, a Spirit-driven life is expected for a true believer. Second, Paul asserts that the flesh opposes the work of the Spirit, leading the believer to sin. It is either he chooses to live by the Spirit, resulting in righteousness, or by the flesh, which is under the law, resulting in unrighteous behavior and attitudes.
This principle of living by the Spirit applies to every believer even today. When we choose to live by the flesh and in our own way, it is shown in unrighteous behavior (Gal. 5:19-21). For instance, if I envy a person for his spiritual gifts, there is a tendency to see him as proud. As a result, the way I respond to that person will be unloving. Also, envying would make me selfish, not wanting him to join me in the ministry – so that I will be able to prove my own worth and thereby stop him from getting the credit. Thus, the work of the Spirit is opposed by the sinful flesh. On the contrary, when we live by the Spirit and in God’s way, a godly life and character is produced in us (5:22-24).
John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006.
William B. Eerdmans, Eerdmans Handbook to the Bible, Edited by David Alexander and Pat Alexander. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1992.