The Spirit of Freedom Galatians 5:16-18
Today we find a dual emphasis in our reading. Paul certainly did not teach that obedience was unimportant. If anything, he taught that those of us who have received grace have a greater motivation to live gracefully. He tells us: We are saved by grace, not works. He also tells us: We must take obedience seriously.
Read a similar thought in Ephesians 2:8-10.
We are to be led by the Spirit. The flesh is that physical part of us, however, it is also the soft and fleshy part of our intellectual and moral selves. Because we are flesh, we can’t understand certain things. (I Cor. 2:14) Because we are flesh, we can’t accomplish certain things. (Romans 7:18)
In our flesh, each of us continually struggle against the natural inclinations of our sinful nature.
The Spirit is given to us as a gift when we come to Christ (Acts 2:38). Peter uses this language in Acts 5:32 “…the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
The Holy Spirit helps us in our prayers (Romans 8:26-27), being a seal of salvation (2 Cor. 1:22) and calling us to live holy lives before God (I Cor. 6:19-20).
Paul is very plain that the Holy Spirit within us is both our call to holiness and our aid in living the Christian life of holiness.
Consider what we learn about the Spirit/Flesh in Romans. Romans 8:1-17 illustrates our point.
Spirit sets us free from sin and death (8:2); We are to live according to the Spirit (8:4); Set our mind on the Spirit’s desire (8:5); The Spirit controlled mind brings peace (8:6); We are controlled by the Spirit within (8:9); The Spirit gives us spiritual life (8:11); Allows us to put our past to death (8:13); If led by the Spirit/ children of God (8:14); Gives us courage to overcome fear. (8:15); Testifies that we belong to God (8:16).
We are saved by God’s grace. We can’t hope to earn our salvation by the works of our sinful nature; we are saved by grace. But at the same time, we can’t hope to sustain our salvation by the power of our sinful nature either. Paul tells us that the cure for a life of legalism is a life led by the Holy Spirit of God.
It’s really a new ball game. It is not conformity to rules but relationship with a Person. It is not an emphasis on what I do but on what He did. It is not me working for God but God working in me. It is not letter but Spirit, not death, but life—not I, but Christ.
If I love Christ I will keep His commandments. But if all I have to go on is the power of my flesh, my sinful nature, then I am undone.
Now the Spirit continues to do what I cannot do for myself. He sanctifies me, making me holy and setting me apart for God. As I yield my will to His will, he brings forth His fruit in my life, the fruit of the Spirit.
I cannot take credit nor have pride in my salvation—Jesus did all that for me. Neither can I take credit nor have pride in the righteous things that I do for God after salvation. Those things are done through the Spirit. Even as I work out my own salvation, I realize that it is God who is working in me.
Philippians 2:12-13 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so not, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence; work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
In Summary: If you are a child of God, then the Spirit is in you just as surely as your own spirit is in you. He sets you apart as belonging to God; His presence makes you holy. Because you are God’s temple, then you must serve God.
The Spirit is not within you to make you do strange, mystical things; He is there to lead you to do holy things.
The Spirit will never supersede your will. You can quench Him so that His presence is not productive (I Thess. 5:19). You can even grieve Him so that He will abandon you to the flesh (Eph. 4:30. Or you can yield yourself to Him and He will bring forth His fruit.
If you are a Christian, He is there. The question is, “What will you do?”
Doug Haught, Minister at Cold Harbor Road church of Christ