Prevailing Over Sin (5:16-18) 

  1. 16 But I say, walk (peripateite, to live in a certain manner) by the Spirit, and you will not gratify (fulfill)the desires (cravings) of the flesh. It’s important to mention, Paul wouldn’t be telling the Galatians how to live in the Spirit if they were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Earlier, Paul wrote, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (4:6). In 5:5, Paul also affirmed to the Galatians, “For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.” Walk by the Spirit—The solution to not argue and fight (5:15) is to “live by the Spirit.” Paul writes walk by the Spirit in the present tense, “Go on walking” to point out the daily obedience to the Holy Spirit’s control, power, guidance, and conviction (3:3; 4:6, 29). Not gratify the desires of the flesh—Paul issues this command in the double negative in Greek, “Live in step with the Holy Spirit and you will absolutely not fulfill the cravings of your sinful nature.” Though the Christian is not entirely free from sin, that doesn’t mean they automatically capitulate to the desires of their sinful nature. The Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, “The word lust is from epithumia (ἐπιθυμια) which refers to a strong desire, impulse, or passion, the context indicating whether it is a good or an evil one. The word flesh refers here to the totally depraved nature of the person, the power of which is broken when the believer is saved. Therefore, the lusts of the flesh refer to the evil desires, impulses, and passions that are constantly arising from the evil nature as smoke rises from a chimney. The evil nature is not eradicated. Its power over the believer is broken, and the believer need not obey it. But it is there, constantly attempting to control the believer as it did before salvation wrought its work in his being.”
  2. 17 For the desires of the flesh (sarx) are against the Spirit (pneuma), and the desires of the Spirit are against (are in conflict; a spiritual duel) the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Paul stated in 4:29, “he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit.” That’s why Paul writes here that the flesh and the Spirit are diametrically opposed to one another. Desires of the flesh—This can mean the desires of the sinful nature after salvation and/or worldly lusts. Paul describes how the flesh prevented him from doing the good he desired to do: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good” (Rom. 7:15-16). Although a Christian will be governed less by their sinful nature, they, however, will never be completely free from seduction of sin in the world. keep you from doing the things you want to do—The Galatians were confused about their identity in the Holy Spirit and struggled to gain direction and meet a certain standard of conduct without the Holy Spirit as their source and sufficiency. By turning to the Law, the Galatians, essentially, would be putting themselves back under the bondage of the flesh and the curse of the Law.
  3. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Christians are no longer to live by the sinful nature but by the power of the Spirit. 2 Pet. 1:4, “by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”

Identifying the Sin (5:19-21)

  1. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident (manifestation): sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. It was common for ancient writers to provide a list of vices. Paul lists fifteen sins (although not exhaustive) of the flesh that can be placed into four categories: (1) sexual sins, (2) false religions and practices, (3) relational sins, and (4) pagan practices. It is to be noted that Paul’s list of sinful acts (vv. 20-21) is not to be interpreted as followers of Christ who habitually live in sin, and as a result, passively live out the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit (v. 22). Paul’s contrast is between unregenerated people and regenerated people. People who are unregenerated (not indwelt by the Holy Spirit) will actively follow and obey the sins of the world. People who are regenerated (indwelt by the Holy Spirit) will actively follow and obey God’s commands and not live in a pattern of unrighteousness.
    • Sexual immorality—The GK. word is porneia, refers to all forms of sexual lusts and immoral activities. Impurity—A cultic and moral impurity in relation to sexual perversions. Sensuality—Another term is “debauchery,” a behavior with no moral restraint; a shameless contempt of what is good and proper.
    • Idolatry—The devotion and worship of idols. Rom. 1:25, “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” Sorcery (witchcraft)The GK. word is pharmakeia, referring to witchcraft practices with mind-altering drugs. The use of magic; casting spells; mixing and dispensing drugs.
    • Enmity (hostility)Deep rooted hatred. Strife (discord)Conflict caused by rivalry. An insincere person who lies and causes turmoil. 1 Cor. 3:3, “for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?” Jealousy—A deep feeling of resentment. 13:45, “But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him.” fits of anger—It can mean “passionate outbreaks” and “wrath.” Rivalries—A strong feeling of resentfulness; to have self-ambition. Dissensions—Feuds that flourish.Divisions—People who are divided into different groups; to seize or to take for oneself. Envy—To have ill will towards someone who is presumed to have what you desire.  
    • Drunkenness—Intoxicating parties in honor of pagan deities (the god of Bacchus). Orgies—Performing sex acts while intoxicated as a way of worshipping pagan deities.
  2. Those who do such things—The word choice Paul uses is “practice,” to emphasis the persistent and habitual nature of sins in an unrepentant person’s life. Such a person is not indwelt with the Holy Spirit (see Tit. 3:5-6), and therefore, will not inherit eternal life. Expositor’s Bible Commentary: “Paul adds a solemn warning, saying that those who habitually practice such things will never inherit God’s kingdom. This does not mean that if Christians fall into an isolated lapse into sin through getting drunk or some such thing, they thereby lose their salvation. Rather, Paul is referring to a habitual continuation in sins of the sinful nature, and his point is that those who continually practice such sins give evidence of having never received God’s Spirit. When he says that he warned the Galatians of this previously (presumably when he was among them), he reveals that his preaching was never what one might call mere evangelism but that it always contained a strong dose of the standard of morality expected from Christians.” A clear indication of a person indwelt by the Holy Spirit would not exhibit a pattern of unrighteousness to the level described by Paul.
  3. Will not inherit the kingdom—There are four other occurrences whereby Paul uses this phrase (see. 1 Cor. 6:9, 10; 15:50; Eph. 5:5). In 5:21, Paul is not using it in an eschatological sense. He’s referring to the promised inheritance given to those who are of Abraham’s seed (3:13-14, 18, 26). Peter explains, “then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority” (2 Pet. 2:9-10a).

Living Out the Fruit of the Spirit (5:22-23)

  1. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Paul uses the metaphor “fruit” several times in his letters when describing the Christian life: Rom. 6:22, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” Eph. 5:9, “(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true).” Phil. 1:11, “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
  2. Fruit of the Spirit is love—Jesus often used “fruit” figuratively to reveal the true character of the tree (see Matt. 7:17-18; Lk. 6:43-44). In v. 22, Paul uses “fruit” in the singular. Just like a fruit-bearing tree produces fruit, so too will a Christian exercise the virtues that come from the producer, the Holy Spirit. Warren Wiersbe writes, “A machine in a factory works and turns out a product, but it could never manufacture fruit. Fruit must grow out of life, and, in the case of the believer, it is the life of the Spirit.” The GK. word for love is agape, which holds to the expression of devotion, respect, and self-sacrifice. Jesus said in Jn. 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Joy (chara)A genuine happiness that comes from God’s faithfulness and divine promises (1 Thess. 1:6). Peace (eirēnē)An inner stillness, harmony, and stability that comes from a personal relationship with Jesus. Patience—To suffer long amid a trying time. Kindness—To have a deep affection or concern for others. Goodness—To live out a life of spiritual excellence. Faithfulness—To be a loyal and trustworthy person. Gentleness—To be meek, gentle, and humble despite the offense. Self-control—To restrain from pursuing sinful attitudes and appetites. Here are other passages that contain a list of virtues (2 Cor. 6:6-10; Eph. 4:2; 5:9; Phil. 4:8-9; Col. 3:12-15). Against such things there is no law—It’s impossible for the Law to conform

The Victory of the Holy Spirit in Community (5:24-26)

    1. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. In v. 1, Paul writes, “stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” In v. 16, Paul states, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Here, in v. 24, Paul tells the Galatians to “crucify” the flesh. The term “crucify” captures the absolute denial and renunciation of evil. Crucified the flesh—In Paul’s day, the Stoics believed their philosophy could give them the intellect to overcome passions and emotions. The Jews, however, claimed the Law gave them the ability to resist sinful desires. Obviously, both the Stoics and the Jews were wrong. Paul argues that it is only those who belong to Christ who can defeat sin in their lives. Crucified—A graphic term conveying a decisive act in the past. William MacDonald, “The verb tense here indicates something that happened decisively in the past. It actually occurred at the time of our conversion. When we repented, there was a sense in which we nailed the old, evil, corrupt nature to the cross with all its affections and lusts. We determined that we would no longer live to cater to our fallen nature, that it would no longer dominate it. Of course, this decision has to be renewed continually in our lives. We must constantly keep the flesh in the place of death.” Flesh (sarx)—The GK word points to the source that makes humans sin.
      • 6:6, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”
      • 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
      • 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
    2. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. In v. 16, Paul used the GK word parapateō (“to walk”), but in v. 25, the GK word for “walk” or “keep in step” is stoichomen, a military term to “proceed or march in step with the orders given.” To live by the Spirit (indicative) captures the life of freedom God has gifted the Christian. Paul combines this by attaching it to a military phrase, keep in step with (imperative)—emphasizing the Christian’s duty to “march in line” with the direction and work of the Holy Spirit. It is impossible for a Christian to crucify the flesh and live in accordance to God’s will without the Holy Spirit.
      • 3:5-6: Jesus answered, “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.”
    3. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Walking in the Spirit will keep you from being prideful, argumentative, and envious of others. Conceited—The word literally means “to hold a false or empty opinion of yourself.” Provoking—To challenge someone or judge them for not measuring up. Envying—To want something that belongs to someone else. C.S. Lewis on remarking how Satan laughs away our attempt at overcoming pride: “He is perfectly content to see you becoming chaste and brave and self-controlled provided, all the time, he is setting up in you the Dictatorship of Pride—just as he would be quite content to see your chilblains cured if he was allowed, in return, to give you cancer. For Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.”