Love Each Other: The Call to Freedom from the World
The call to freedom (Galatians 5:13-14)
Freedom from the law does not mean freedom to sin (I Peter 2:16). Freedom means the opportunity to serve each other in love. It is a freedom to serve others and thereby win others to Christ (I Corinthians 9:19).
Even the Old Law taught us to love one another (Leviticus 19:18). Love summarizes the Law (Romans 13:8-9).
- Why doesn’t Paul mention the command to love God? (Hint: I John 4:12)
Take care you are not consumed (Galatians 5:15)
But internal feuds that pull people away from the truth are not from love (Ephesians 4:31-32). Such feuds are generated by people putting themselves first (James 3:14-4:3). It appears that discord existed in the churches in Galatia because of the push by false teachers to pull the Gentiles under the Law of Moses. Those who insisted looked down on those who declined to follow the law. The result was fault-finding to bring down those who did not yield to the false teachers. If love is not remembered and maintained, the disagreeing factions could end up destroying each other.
The figure of speech alludes to wild animals that end up turning on their own kind. One side doesn’t win – both sides lose.
Two paths (Galatians 5:16-17)
Paul points out that the way a person thinks about God directs his behavior and spiritual growth. A spiritually-minded person will battle against the desires of the flesh. A worldly-minded person will resist the desires of God. You cannot be spiritually minded and participate in the works of the world (Romans 8:6-9).
Walking by the Spirit means to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which is laid out for us in the Bible (Isaiah 48:16-18; Psalms 119:105). The things we are taught are not always what we would want to do because of our life in the flesh. In Romans 7:15-19, Paul takes the opposite view of one wanting to do what is righteous but being battled by the flesh.
Not Under the Law (Galatians 5:18)
If you are following the Spirit, then you are no longer under the Law of Moses (Romans 8:2; II Corinthians 3:6). But this implies that those under the law are following the flesh (Philippians 3:2-6).
- Could Paul be talking about law in a general sense in Galatians 5:18?
The deeds of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21)
The deeds of the flesh are those actions that come from the physical world. When the physical world is a person’s focus, it shows in that person’s behavior – it becomes evident. Paul gives a sample list of deeds that demonstrate worldly-mindedness. They are deeds (in the plural) because people exhibit one or more of them. You don’t have to exhibit every trait to be charged with following after the flesh.
- Immorality (porneia): Some translations use the word “fornication,” which is more specific. It refers to having sex outside the bonds of marriage (Hebrews 13:4). Some Greek texts have both the words for adultery and fornication in this passage, other texts omit the word adultery. It doesn’t matter since adultery is a subclass of fornication.
- Impurity (akatharsia): It is also translated as “uncleanness.” The word refers to a general moral impurity in a person. When people left God, they followed their impure thoughts (Romans 1:24). It is a state of mind that is the opposite of holiness (Romans 6:19; I Thessalonians 4:7). Sometimes we refer to someone having a “dirty mind.” While it is often connected to sexual thoughts, it is not limited to that. These are the people who tell and laugh at dirty jokes (Ephesians 5:3-5). These are the people who talk dirty to their boyfriend or girlfriend, who text things they wouldn’t say in public, or send images they wouldn’t want others to see.
- Sensuality (aselgeia): It is also translated as “lewdness.” This is a person who shamelessly pursues sensual pleasures. What other people may think of his behavior doesn’t bother him. It is usually connected with sexual things – this is the person involved in fondling and kissing to arouse passion. However, it is not limited to sex. Often this person gets so wrapped up in the moment that events go further than he intended. It is a characteristic of people with no moral restraint (I Peter 4:3).
- Idolatry (eidololatreia): The word literally means “image worship.” People want something to be in control, but when they make up a god, it mimics what is known (Romans 1:22-23). With an imagined god, people remove the restraints on behavior, and the first thing to go is typically sexual restraint (Romans 1:24-25). This is why many ancient idols were fertility gods, worshiped through sex.
- Sorcery (pharmakeia): Literally this word refers to someone who is abusing drugs or is mixing potions. Drug usage has been tightly coupled with witchcraft and sorcery. People who are high on a drug will believe just about anything and do almost anything for a high. Thus, drugs become the person’s god. Drugs also lower a person’s inhibitions against doing wrong (Habakkuk 2:15). The charge is not that a person actually has powers as imagined for a witch, but that they deceive others into thinking they have powers that other people don’t have.
- Enmities (echthrai): The word is also translated as “hatred.” These are people who seemingly live for hate. Hate groups and people with a nearly irrational hatred of certain classes of people. Such as the hatred between Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:15-16).
- Strife (ereis): This word is also translated as “contentions” or “discord.” It is the same name as the Greek goddess of war. These are people who argue constantly. They quarrel. They are never happy with things as they are (Titus 3:9). It was a problem seen in the Corinthian church (I Corinthians 3:3-4).
- Jealousy (zeloi): We get our word “zealot” from this Greek word. It literally means to boil or seethe with emotion. This is the fanatic. The person who is so zealous for a cause that they cannot consider another position. They cling to an ideal and jealously guard it against all detractors (James 3:14-16).
- Outbursts of anger (thumoi): It is also translated as “fits of rage.” This is a person lacking control over his temper, often because of his passion for a cause or belief (Acts 19:28).
- Disputes (eritheiai): This word is also translated as “selfish ambitions.” This is a person who does not outwardly show his hatred but involves himself in games of intrigue. He acts only for his own interests and backstabs his opponents. It was originally used in regard to politicians who sought to promote themselves by unfair means of attacking their opponents. They find fault with the purpose of promoting themselves or their cause (Philippians 2:3).
- Dissensions (dischostasiai): This word literally means a person who stands apart. A person who causes divisions between people (Romans 16:17-18).
- Factions (haireseis): We get the word “heresy” from it. It literally means to choose. It is a person who chooses sides. For example, the Sadducees and Pharisees were religious factions of the Old Law. An example is what happened in Corinth when brethren divided over imagined differences (I Corinthians 1:10-13). When false teachers promote man-made doctrines, those teachings cause division in the church (II Peter 2:1).
- Envying (phthonoi): Refers to the desire to harm someone, ruin them, or destroy them. It is the reason the Jews delivered Jesus to Pilate (Matthew 27:18).
Sins from a Lack of Self-Control
- Drunkenness (methai): A person under the influence of alcohol.
- Carousing (komoi): This word is also translated as “revelries” or “orgies.” This is a riotous party like the ones often associated with fraternity parties.
“And things like these”
Paul did not intend for this to be a complete list, but one that gives a general idea of what being worldly-minded is like. No one can claim not to know that these things are wrong. Paul has been consistent in his warnings (I Corinthians 6:9-10). He has given the same warnings in the past as he is currently telling them. We too must not be deceived into thinking that we can reach heaven while involved in such behavior or having such a mindset.
Notice that while the list starts with sins that obviously involve the desires of the body, the malignant sins deal more with the mind and speech of a person.
The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
The teachings of the Spirit produce a different result in people. Instead of a list of possible actions, the fruit of the Spirit is singular. It produces all these characteristics in a person at the same time.
Our relationship with God and His people
- Love (agape): A devoted love. A love that gives even when it is not returned. Defined in I Corinthians 13:1-8.
- Joy (chara): Happiness or a calm delight.
- Peace (Eirene): A quietness that comes from harmony with God and man. It is the opposite of war.
Our relationship with men
- Patience (makrothumia): It is also translated as longsuffering. The willingness to endure.It is shown by God toward us in giving us many opportunities to turn from sin (II Peter 3:9). It is needed by us to deal with the shortcomings of our fellow men.
- Kindness (chrestotes): A gentle person who is kind, good, and honest.
- Goodness (agathosune): A person with a zeal to be good. It is the opposite of evil (Romans 15:14).
Our relationship with the corrupt world
- Faithfulness (pistis) : A person of conviction who has his faith, trust, and confidence in God. It also refers to a person who is reliable and trustworthy.
- Gentleness (praotes) : It is also translated as meekness. A gentle, humble person. He is the opposite of a hot-tempered man. This is a person who is more concerned about other people and doesn’t think about himself (Ephesians 4:2; Titus 3:2).
- Self-control (enkrateia) : It is also translated as temperance. A person who is able to control his desires.
“Against such things there is no law”
Again, this is not a complete list but enough to give an idea of what happens to a Christian as he follows the teachings of the Spirit. The character produced by the Spirit never goes out of fashion, even among worldly people. Laws are not made to condemn people who practice such things (Romans 8:1).
Consider that the Judaizing teachers have been finding fault with Paul and his character. One aspect of Paul’s statement is that a Christian’s life is not condemned by any law, including the Law that these false teachers claim to be following.
- Why does “love” lead the list of the fruit of the Spirit?
- Why does “fornication” lead the list of the deeds of the flesh?
- Many times people commit fornication and tell themselves they are making love. Can such be true?
- What other contrasts do you see between the two lists?
Living and walking by the Spirit (Galatians 5:24-26)
We crucify the flesh with its desires (Galatians 2:20). We abstain from lust (I Peter 2:11). We make no provisions for the flesh (Romans 13:13-14). In every way, we show that we are not of the world.
Instead, we walk by the Spirit. It is the Spirit who gives life (John 6:63).
Nor do we put ourselves first (Philippians 2:1-3). Instead, we are clothed in humility (I Peter 5:5). Therefore, we do not become involved in boasting, provoking others, or envying other people.