Galatians 5:16-26: Living By The Spirit

The Only Right Way To Live – By The Spirit; The Fruits Of The Old Nature And The Fruits Of The Spirit; Crucifying The Old Nature With Its Corrupt Desires

We live in fallen world that is satanically controlled and in rebellion against God and under a curse. Human beings are members of a fallen race. Here’s why: Very early in human history, Adam and Eve, who were real people, rebelled against the Creator – who is a real and good and wise and powerful Person. By listening to the Adversary, who is real and a fallen angel, and eating from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which the Supreme Being warned them not to do, Adam and Eve joined the rebellion of the fallen angels.

The consequences of the Fall of Man were dramatic and immediate. Adam and Eve were alienated from the Creator. Their relationship with God was ruined; and every aspect of who they were was damaged. Their bodies, their souls, their wills, their minds, their spirits, the way they felt about themselves – were harmed, damaged, ruined, spoiled, corrupted.

The consequences of Adam and Eve’s rebellion was a ruined relationship with God; a damaged relationship to a fallen creation, because when Adam and Eve fell, the universe fell with them; a damaged relationship with other human beings; the ruination of human nature; domination by the Satan and the demons; and a destiny of death – the First Death – physical death, followed by the even worse Second Death – Gehenna, Hell, the Lake of Fire – which, like Heaven, is a real place.

The consequences of the sin of our first parents was transmitted to all of their descendants. That ruination of body, soul, will, mind, spirit; that damaged relationship to God and creation and other human beings; that loss of eternal life – all of it was passed on like a horrible disease, infecting all of us.

Because of our alienation from a God who is perfect and holy, and because of our fallen, sinful, rebellious human nature, there is not enough we can ever do on our own to end this alienation from God or its many tragic consequences. We can never be good enough or religious enough; we can never keep enough laws, or have our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds to end our alienation from the Creator or overcome the real and deadly forces of Satan, sin, the sin nature and death. No amount of laws, law-keeping, good deeds or human effort can ever be enough.

But the Good News is that the good and merciful Creator God did not leave us in that horrible and hopeless condition. God the Father sent the Redeemer, the One who is able to get us out of every aspect of this horrible situation. The Son of God, who is one with the Father in nature, yet distinct from the Father as a Person, was sent on a great rescue mission. The Son of God left Heaven, came to this planet, and became a human being. The Messiah was born into the royal family of the Chosen People. The young carpenter from Nazareth became our greatest rabbi, and lived a unique and perfect and sinless life.

Rabbi Yeshua did great miracles, demonstrating He was sent by God, and then did the greatest thing of all. He allowed Himself to be put to death on a cross. But death could not claim or hold this perfect, sinless Man. God the Father raised His Son from the dead and transformed His body. The death and resurrection of the Redeemer makes it possible for fallen human beings, spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins, to have all their sins, rebellions and transgressions forgiven and their alienation from God ended. They are redeemed from sin.

Those who know that God the Father and Messiah the Son are real, and transfer their loyalties to the Three-In-One God of Israel are removed from the control of the dark kingdom of Satan and the demons. They become citizens of the Kingdom of God. They belong to the Father and the Son. They are redeemed from the kingdom of darkness.

They may experience the First Death – physical death, but they will not experience the Second Death. They will live forever as the honorable and eternal sons and daughters of God in the New Heavens, the New Earth and the New Jerusalem. They are redeemed from death.

And there’s more. Messiah did not only die and rise from the dead, so that He has a glorious, transformed body that is able to live forever – He ascended. He rose back to Heaven, back to the right hand of God the Father, as the powerful Lord of the universe. From there, the Father and the Son send the Spirit to those who have faith – who know the truth and become loyal to the Three-In-One God. When the Spirit of God comes to us, He transforms us. He gives us a new, divine nature, the same kind of nature as the Father and Son. And the Spirit of God takes up residence in us. He lives in us and dwells in us now and forever. We are redeemed from the sin nature. What a tremendous thing!

Even though Christians and Messianic Jews have a new nature and we have the Holy Spirit living in us, the flesh, the old nature is still there. Because we have these two natures, there is a battle that takes place within each one of us. But the new nature, the new us, can win this battle. We can overcome the old nature and its corrupt desires if we live by the Spirit. So I say, walk (walk means live) by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

The desires of the flesh aren’t just physical. The flesh means more than the body. The flesh means the entire old nature with all of its perverse desires – wrong physical desires, but also wrong attitudes toward others and wrong thinking about God, truth and religion.

Walk by the Spirit means live in a way that you get close to God and stay close to God. If you get close to God and stay close to God, the Spirit working though your new nature will give you the ability to not yield to the corrupt desires of the old nature. The way to overcome the things that tempt us; the way to overcome our areas of weakness, the way to have victory over temptation is not by committing ourselves to try harder and keeping a list of rules we need to follow. It’s by walking by the Spirit, by getting close to God and staying close to God. When we do that, He gives us the power we need to overcome the perverse desires and the weaknesses of the old nature.

So, how do we live by the Spirit? How do we get close to God and stay close to God? We humble ourselves. We come to the Three-In-One God on His terms. We understand that God is God and we are not. We make a commitment to Yeshua as Lord. We nurture our relationship with God by practicing the Spiritual Disciplines, like the discipline of taking in God’s Word by hearing it taught by a qualified teacher in a religious community where the Word of God is faithfully taught. We read and study God’s Word on our own and teach it to our children.

God speaks to us through His written Word, and He also speaks to us through the wonders of His creation, so we practice the discipline of seeing God in creation. We look for the order, wisdom, elegance and beauty He designed throughout nature.

We become alert to the mathematical relationships, and the chemical and physical and biological laws that are found throughout creation. We take time to admire the beautiful plants and trees and flowers; the hundreds of thousands of creatures that live in the air, on the ground and in the water; the waters, clouds, stars, sunrises and sunsets in their amazing diversity.

We practice the discipline of prayer. We discipline our minds to talk to God throughout the day. We talk to Him about things that interest us or concern us. We don’t just ask Him for things, we praise Him for who He is and what He has done, is doing and will do. We thank Him for His many gifts, benefits and blessings.

We discipline ourselves to serve the Lord by doing something to build up Messiah’s Community.

We discipline ourselves to give financial support to Messiah’s Community.

We discipline ourselves to bring the Good News to those outside Messiah’s Community of salvation.

These are our normal daily and weekly spiritual disciplines. Then, we consider special times of fasting, silence and solitude, which can help us concentrate our spiritual life with God.

We live by the Spirit by continual repentance. When we fail in our walk; when we realize that we are not close to God; when we realize we have sinned we admit it as soon as possible. We confess our sins. We agree with God that our sins are sins and offensive to Him; and we thank God for the forgiveness that is available to us because of Messiah; and we ask for God’s grace to do better the next time we face that same area of temptation; and the God who forgives seventy times seven helps us get close to Him once again. He renews us and fills us.

When we are close to God, we are thinking about Him and what He wants. Each circumstance we face is with Him right there. His Word is in our minds and His Spirit is in our hearts, teaching us and guiding us so we know what to do. Each decision we make is done with Him right there, so we know the right choice to make.

This is an entirely different and superior way of relating to God and living for God than following a list of commandments and does and don’ts and Sinai Covenant law-keeping, which is why Paul writes: But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Those who are living by the Spirit have a changed relationship to the Sinai Covenant. They are not under its authority like the Jewish people were before Messiah came. Instead, we have a close relationship with the living God, who is continually leading us and guiding us and empowering us for right living.

The Lord’s divinely-inspired Representative has told the Galatians about not gratifying the desires of the flesh and the need for them to live by the Spirit. To help them better understand what he means by the flesh and the spirit, and what this looks like, Paul gives them two lists – a list of the fruits of the flesh and a list of the fruits of the Spirit. First are the fruits produced by the old, sinful, rebellious nature. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The acts of the old nature fall into three main categories: The first is inappropriate physical and sexual pleasures – sexual immorality and impurity which includes sexual promiscuity, sexual activity outside of marriage, and adultery; pornography, homosexuality; debauchery includes wild parties with sex, alcohol and drugs and sensual music.

The second area that characterizes the old nature is idolatry and witchcraft – wrong thinking about God, truth and religion. It includes false religion, the occult, atheism, agnosticism or any world view or ideological system that isn’t Bible-based Christianity.

The third area that reveals the acts of the flesh is bad attitudes toward others: hatred, discord, dissensions, factions – the inability to get along with others. Fits of rage – giving into anger. Jealousy, envy and selfish ambition – self-centeredness, selfishness and wanting to be above others and wanting what belongs to others.

These three areas: inappropriate physical and sexual pleasures; wrong thinking about God, truth and religion; and bad attitudes toward others – characterize the flesh, the fallen nature, the old nature, the sin nature.

So, since actions speak louder than words; and since you can tell a tree by its fruit, if someone claims to be a Christian or a Messianic Jew, if these bad fruits characterize their lives, we have the assurance of the Word of God that they will not inherit the kingdom of God. Their lives make it obvious that they have not been redeemed from the control of Satan and the demons, sin and the sin nature and death.

Now, a Christian or Messianic Jew will struggle with one or more or all of these areas. He might fight against anger and on occasion give into his anger. He might fight against sexual impurity and fail from time to time. That doesn’t mean he isn’t saved. That doesn’t mean that he will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Paul is talking about an individual whose life is characterized by these things. He is constantly giving into sexual immorality. He enjoys going to wild parties and doesn’t think they’re bad. He frequently rejects good religion and dabbles with false religion. He constantly yields to anger, hatred, discord, jealousy or selfish ambition.

If these bad fruits characterize his life, we are to recognize it and know that this person will not inherit the kingdom of God. Does that make us judgmental? Does that violate: “judge not or you will be judged?” No. It makes us wise disciples of Messiah and of Paul. It makes us fruit inspectors, not judges. It makes us discerners, not haters.

Messiah told us: A bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree produces good fruit. There must be evidence of good fruit if a person has been saved; if a person is part of Messiah’s New Covenant; if a human being has a new nature and if the Spirit of God is at work in that person. So next Paul gives us a second list to help us better understand what living by the Spirit looks like – the good results that living by the Spirit produces.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. The fruit, the results of the Spirit’s activity in those who have been reconciled to God are:

Love: the desire to be other-centered, not self-centered. The desire to help, bless, do for, care for others – not based on what you will get out of it, but simply how it will help them. The old nature is selfish. The Spirit working through our new nature produces love.

Joy: a happiness that is not dependent on circumstances. A happiness that results from knowing your sins are forgiven; knowing you are in a right relationship with the living God; knowing that God is your Father and Messiah is your brother, and you can trust the Three-In-One God; knowing that you will live forever. It’s hard for the fallen nature to be happy independent of circumstances. The Spirit working through our new nature produces joy, a happiness not dependent on circumstances.

Peace: a sense of well-being that is also independent of circumstances. A sense of well-being that can be experienced in the midst of hardships because you know that, in spite of life’s trials, it is well, it is well with your soul. The old nature lacks peace: peace with God, often peace with nature, or peace with others, or peace with self. The Spirit working through our new nature produces peace – a state of well-being, wholesome relationship with God, with man, with nature, with self.

Patience: the fallen nature is impatient; quick to judge; hasty to make decisions; ready to go on the attack. The Spirit working through our new nature produces patience. We take time to think things through before responding; put up with inconvenience; we are quick to forgive; give people second and third chances; give others time and opportunity to improve; are slow to dismiss others for their sins or inadequacies.

Kindness: gracious, considerate, thoughtful about the needs or desires of others. The fallen nature can be cruel, thoughtless, inconsiderate. The Spirit working through our new nature produces kindness.

Goodness: goodness is similar to love. It’s the desire to do something beneficial for others; to give to them something that will bless them, something that will help them, something that will uplift them. Goodness is based on what is right and true and genuinely beneficial. You are not doing good if what you are trying to give someone turns out to be harmful. The Spirit working through our new nature produces goodness.

Faithfulness: the fallen nature is not faithful. People are unreliable, often disloyal, sometimes betrayers. God is faithful and true. His Spirit living in us and working through the new nature produces faithfulness – faithfulness to God; loyalty to the Word of God; faithfulness to the people of God; faithfulness to the proclamation of the Good News of God; and faithfulness to your word. Your yes means yes. Your no means no. Your promises and vows will be kept.

Gentleness: the old nature can be tough, harsh, aggressive toward others. The Spirit working through our new nature produces gentleness, which is a mildness that is not to be confused with weakness. It is a mildness toward human beings. It is a mildness toward God that cooperates with God.

Self-control: Messiah said: The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. That’s so true. The old nature is weak and lacks self-control. It is easily overcome by temptation. It frequently yields to wrong desires, often not even realizing a desire is wrong. Even if a person is aware that some desire may be wrong, he often will not care enough to resist yielding to that wrong desire. The Spirit working through our new nature produces the ability to know what is right and the ability to control ourselves: control our language; our anger, our temper; our habits and impulses and behaviors; our eating, drinking, smoking and spending habits; control our sexual desires.

The results, the evidence, the manifestations, the fruits of the Spirit of God living in those with a new nature is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

So, if you are saved, genuinely born again, a true son or daughter of the living and eternal God, headed to Heaven – there should some fruit, some evidence of it: there should be a desire to love others and do good things for others; there should be some peace and joy that are not dependent on circumstances; you should have more patience, kindness and gentleness toward others; there should be evidence of a desire to be more faithful to God; more faithful to the Word of God; more faithful to the people of God; more faithful to the proclamation of the Good News of God; more faithful to your word, your promises and vows; and there should be more self-control in your life.

If these qualities are in your life and are increasing, you can be sure that you are a child of God. Do these things characterize your life, or is your life characterized by continually giving in to inappropriate physical and sexual pleasures; wrong thinking about God, truth and religion; and bad attitudes toward others?

Living by means of a new relationship to God and a new nature and the indwelling and empowering of the Spirit so that these great results are produced – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control is a entirely different and superior way of relating to God than commitment to follow a list of does and don’ts and laws and commands – even if it’s Sinai Covenant law-keeping. Which I think is one reason why the Rabbi writes:Against such things there is no law.

Another reason he writes: Against such things there is no law is because one of the purposes of law is to restrain evil. Those who are living according to the new nature and by the power of the Holy Spirit and who are producing these good results don’t need laws and threats of punishment for violating laws to motivate them or restrain them.

They are operating with a superior ability and motivation that is generated from within them, not from without.

One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control – the ability to control the old, fallen, sinful nature and its corrupt desires. To reinforce this truth, the Rabbi puts it another way. Those who belong to Messiah Yeshua have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. You belong to Messiah if you know who He is and have become loyal to Him and His Father. Then, the Father and Son send their Spirit to live in you. They give you a new nature. The Spirit, combined with the new nature and a new understanding, enables you to have the power to overcome your old, corrupt fallen nature so that it is unable to control you.

Think of it this way: Messiah was crucified. And if you belong to Him, you are united to Him, and the Crucified One knows how to help you crucify your old nature. He has a lot of experience in that area; and He has all the power needed to help you kill your sin nature.  Those who belong to Messiah Yeshua have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

We need the Messiah! We need to belong to Him. We need His Spirit. We need His mind. We need the new nature He alone gives.

The right way to live, the way to experience victorious living, the way to live the way God intended those made in His image to live is by the indwelling and empowering and leading and guiding and teaching of the Holy Spirit. So, let’s live that way!

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit: really being led, guided, directed, taught, empowered by Him, not by anything else, including law-keeping and mere human effort. And, let’s live this great way together – full of joy and peace and self-control; loving each other and being patient and kind and gentle and good to each other. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Messiah, who redeemed us from all the consequences of the Fall of man, for redeeming us from Satan and the demons, sin, the sin nature and death. You are gracious and amazing. Amen?

Lord, help us to live by means of Your Spirit, which means to live in a way that we get close to You and stay close to You. Amen?

Lord, help us to practice the Spiritual Disciplines, which help us stay close to You.

Lord, enable us to crucify the old nature with its corrupt desires. Amen?

Lord, we believe that the Spirit working though our new nature will give us the ability to not yield to the corrupt desires of the old nature. He will produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in us. May those fruits truly be produced in each one of us. Amen?

And Lord, if we fail – help us to confess our sins ASAP and truly turn back to You; and thank You that You will forgive us and fill us with Your Spirit again. Amen?

Lord, help us keep in step with Your Spirit and with the other members of Messiah’s Community, so that all of us are living by the Spirit, and living the right way and living together in the right way. Amen?