Galatians 5:13-26: The Flesh and the Spirit

Galatians 5:13‑26  •  30 min. read  •  grade level: 6
“For you, to freedom you were called, brothers; only (do) not (turn) that freedom into a base of operations for the flesh, but by means of love, (let it be your habit to) be slaves to one another. For the entire law is filled to the full in one word, in the (word) thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. But if you keep on biting and devouring one another, beware lest you should be consumed by one another. But I say, Walk by the Spirit, and you shall not at all give effect to the passionate cravings [or, desires] of (the) flesh. For the flesh is passionately opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit opposed to the flesh, for these keep resisting one another, in order that you might not do these things which you are wishing (to do). But if you are led by (the) Spirit you are not under law. But the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, indecency [luxury], idol worship, witchcraft [sorcery], enmities, quarreling, jealousy, (outbursts of) anger, self-seeking [rivalries], contentions, divisions, sects [schools of opinion], envyings, drunkenness’s, revelings, and the things like these, as to which things, I am telling you beforehand even as I said before, that the ones practicing such things, shall not inherit God’s kingdom. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control: against such things there is no law. But the ones of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the emotions and the passionate cravings. If we live by (the) Spirit, by (the) Spirit also let us keep in step. Let us not become vain-glorious, challenging [or, provoking] one another, envying one another.” vss. 13-26.
The last verse of Gal. 4 and the first verse of Gal. 5 read as follows: “Wherefore, brothers, we are not handmaid’s children, but (on the contrary, children) of the freewoman. With (this) freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast, therefore, and do not be entangled again by a yoke of slavery.” We considered these verses in ch. 18 of our book; and the verses following, Gal. 5:2-12, form a parenthesis, partly of warning, partly of encouragement. We looked at these verses in our last chapter. Now we return to the verses just quoted at the end of Gal. 4 and the beginning of Gal. 5. “With this freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast, therefore, and do not be entangled again by a yoke of slavery.... For you, to freedom you were called, brothers.” Let these words ring through our hearts like glad bells ringing out the glorious message that we are free. The Jews were slaves to “the principles of the world” (ch. 4:3), which tell of the law. In Rom. 7:11Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? (Romans 7:1), we read that the law is lord of the man as long as he lives. The Gentiles, or nations, were slaves to idols. (Gal. 4:88Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. (Galatians 4:8).) We all were slaves of sin (Rom. 6:6, 176Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (Romans 6:6)
17But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. (Romans 6:17)
), but “Christ has set us free” (vs. 1). Free from the law (Rom. 7:44Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. (Romans 7:4)), free from all the idols, free from sin! (Rom. 6:7, 227For he that is dead is freed from sin. (Romans 6:7)
22But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. (Romans 6:22)
.) What a wonderful freedom is this! And in Rom. 8:22For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2), we read: “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Yes, brothers, the Christian is a free man: Christ has set us free; “stand firm, therefore, and do not be entangled again by a yoke of slavery.... For you, to freedom you were called, brothers!”
There are many today, alas, who are trying to bring the Lord’s people back to slavery. How many are teaching the law, some as a way of salvation, others as a rule of life. In either case, it is slavery once again. Every sect of Christendom has its own rules and regulations; and these all bring the Christian into slavery once more.
Even when there are no written laws or rules or regulations, how often do we find unwritten traditions that bind the saint of God with mighty chains, and drag him down once more to slavery.
O my friends, if this little book could but help to burn into your hearts these blessed words, “Christ has set us free,” (vs. 1) it would not be in vain. Stand firm, brothers! You will meet on every hand those who wish to make you slaves once more; and some of their excuses, or “reasons” as they would call them, sound very good; but stand firm, and do not be entangled again by a yoke of slavery. Remember, you who read these words, you Christians in China, in America, in Canada, you have been called to freedom.
But a warning follows this glorious message of freedom. “Only do not turn that freedom into a base of operations for the flesh.” When an enemy wishes to attack a country, he seeks first to gain possession of a small part of that country as “a base of operations,” and from that small bit, soon the enemy has conquered all the country. We need to see to it that the small bit of country is not first yielded to the enemy for a base; then the whole country is safe. So, the flesh will always be seeking to use our freedom for itself and turn this blessing from God to the advantage of the enemy. Here is a Christian man who says: “I am called unto freedom, and so I am free to use the Lord’s day as I wish.” He keeps his shop open on that day, to the dishonor of his Master. Here is a Christian student who says: “I am free, I need not attend the meetings; I can use the time for study; I am called to freedom.” Here is a Christian girl: She says, “I am free, I may wear what I please,” and she puts on clothing that she knows the Scriptures condemn. Each of us has his own weakness which requires purpose of heart and self-judgment to keep from being brought under its power—“the sin which doth so easily beset us” (Heb. 12:11Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, (Hebrews 12:1)). Each of us knows “the plague of his own heart” (1 Kings 8:3838What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house: (1 Kings 8:38)). How we need to watch in these cases that our freedom does not become a base of operations for the flesh, our bitter enemy.
But though we are free, and the Apostle could hardly speak more strongly of our freedom, he urges us to hold it fast; yet in the very next sentence he tells us to make it a habit to be slaves. By means of love, or on account of love, let it be your habit to be slaves to one another. The Galatians had wished to return to slavery. Do so, says the Apostle; make it your habit to be slaves, but slaves to one another—not to the law! Slaves, yet free men! Love, true love, makes slaves of each one of us. We have seen our Lord rise from supper, lay aside His garments, take a towel and gird Himself, and do the work of a slave, for love to His own people. We are to follow His steps; on account of love, we are to serve one another, to serve as slaves. True love delights to do this. Watch a mother serve her husband and her children; she is a slave to them, but free—a slave in the bonds of love. Indeed, as the Apostle points out, the entire law is filled to the full in the one word, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (vs. 14). One who truly loves his neighbor will do his neighbor no wrong, and so he keeps the law towards his neighbor. “He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:88Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8)). But read 1 Cor. 13 and see how far, far beyond the law does love go! The law is filled to the full, and love has only begun her work of being a slave to others. How different is God’s way from man’s way.
It would seem that with the coming of the law teachers, there also came quarreling. The Apostle warns these saints: “If you keep on biting and devouring one another, beware lest you should be consumed by one another.” The law makes men hard; the law knows nothing of love. In that kind of soil the quarrels quickly grow, and the biting and devouring one another may soon be seen. Each thinks that he is standing for righteousness, when all the time he is only trying to force his own will on his neighbor. Do you remember that Proverbs tells us that the contentions of brothers are like the bars of a castle—cold and straight, each one held firmly away from the other by being embedded in the cold stone? (Prov. 18:1919A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle. (Proverbs 18:19).) That is the result of a heart that puts itself under law. Another translates these words: “If you are perpetually snarling and snapping at one another, beware lest you are destroyed by one another.”
But there is a way in which the Christian may walk through this world, with the enemies on every side, and be in perfect safety. There is a way in which the flesh has no power whatever against the Christian. And what is that way? “Walk by the Spirit, and you shall not at all give effect to the passionate cravings of the flesh.” That is our secret: “Walk by the Spirit” (vs. 25). God has given the Holy Spirit to dwell in each believer, and He does dwell in us, though often we forget Him, or grieve Him (Eph. 4:3030And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)), or disregard Him; but He does dwell in you, dear Christian reader, and He is ready to give you power for your walk. Heed His least prompting, obey Him instantly as He brings to your mind the Word of God; so we “walk by the Spirit” (vs. 25). In v.18 we will read of being “led by the Spirit” (Eph. 3:55Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; (Ephesians 3:5)). That is true; He knows the path we are to walk, and He is a faithful, trusty Guide. If we will but let Him lead us, then we will truly “walk by the Spirit,” (vs. 25) and we will not at all fulfill the passionate cravings of the flesh. How strong the flesh is! What passionate cravings it has! But there is One who is mightier than the flesh, who dwells within each one of us, and all His mighty power is ready to lead us, and to let us walk by the Spirit, so that there is no need for us to give effect at all to these passionate cravings of the flesh. In the Greek it is a double negative; that makes it very strong. “Not at all” do we need to heed the flesh.
Now we find there are two dwelling within us who are utterly opposed to each other. The flesh is passionately opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit is passionately opposed to the flesh; so I find that within me there is a war going on, more bitter, more determined, and lasting longer than any war on earth. The flesh is always wanting to have its own way, and do its own will; the Holy Spirit who dwells in me is always opposed to my flesh. If I listen to the flesh, and yield my members to it, then the flesh quickly makes itself manifest in me; but if I walk by the Spirit, and let the Spirit lead me, then I will not at all listen to the passionate cravings of the flesh.
There are those who tell us that the flesh in them is dead, or is “burned out,” and will never act again. No, dear reader, the flesh is very much alive, as we will soon see, if we do not heed the Holy Spirit within us. There was a man who insisted that his flesh was dead and that he had no more passionate desires. Someone threw a cup of water in his face, and immediately he lost his temper and became very angry. His flesh was not dead, but was only waiting for an opportunity to manifest itself. Though the flesh is not dead, and will be with us as long as we are down on this earth, yet we may thank God that He has provided a way in which it may be kept in the place of death. So in Rom. 6 we read, “Knowing this, that our old man has been crucified with (Him), that the body of sin might be annulled, that we should no longer serve sin. For he that has died is justified from sin.... So also ye, reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body to obey its lusts. Neither yield your members instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but yield yourselves to God.” Rom. 6:6-136Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. (Romans 6:6‑13) JND. But the only way I can put this into practical effect in my life is by walking by the Spirit, letting the Spirit lead me, yielding myself and my members to God to lead me and use me as He pleases. So I live to God, not to the flesh.
This life is produced in us by the work of the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God. The Christian’s walk should show forth this new life, which indeed manifests Christ, for Christ is our life. If we follow this path we shall not at all give effect to the passionate cravings of the flesh. It is thus we avoid sin, not by taking the law to compel us to do what we do not wish to do. The law has no power to compel the flesh to obey, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (Rom. 8:77Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (Romans 8:7).) This new life loves to obey, loves holiness, and Christ is its strength and wisdom by the Holy Spirit. Let us not forget that the flesh is still here, as we find in this chapter in Galatians, and it is passionately opposed to the Spirit, in order to hinder us walking by the Spirit; and the Spirit is opposed to the flesh, in order to prevent the Christian from walking according to the flesh. But if the Spirit leads us, we are not under law. It does not say, “not under the law,” (vs. 18) but not under any law: not under the rules and regulations of man, not under the rules that we love to make for our own life. The Word of God, through the Spirit of God, is our only guide, and by it we are ruled. But we may be sure of this: that the Spirit does not lead us to law, for law gives neither life nor strength.
But led by the Spirit, we are free; we may do the good that the new nature loves. Let us then ever, moment by moment, seek grace to walk by the Spirit, to let Him lead us; so He will enable us to hold the flesh as dead, crucified with Christ; and so we will bring forth the fruit of the Spirit to the glory of our God.
Now the Spirit in our chapter shows us on the one hand the works of the flesh: fifteen different wicked works, all manifesting the flesh. The first three are sexual sins, and how common these are. How easy it is to allow impure thoughts to enter our minds, and even to dwell there. In Matt. 15:1919For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: (Matthew 15:19), the Lord tells us what comes out of the heart of man, and the first on the list is “evil thoughts.” We sometimes excuse ourselves by saying we cannot govern our thoughts, that these things will enter our minds unbidden, and that we hate them. However, if we let the Spirit lead us, even evil thoughts can have no power over us; instead, through Him, we may lead “captive every thought into the obedience of the Christ” (2 Cor. 10:55Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; (2 Corinthians 10:5)).
2 Cor. 10:55Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; (2 Corinthians 10:5) JND. And alas! impurity may not only be in thought, but in word and in deed. How careful we should be! Paul warns us, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (1 Cor. 7:11Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. (1 Corinthians 7:1)). Every one of us has the flesh in us, and these hateful, filthy sins come first on the list of its works.
The next two on the list are idol worship and witchcraft. How much we see in China of these two works of the flesh. Some people try to tell us these things are not altogether bad; but how much better it is to believe the Word of God, and flee from idolatry. (1 Cor. 10:1414Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:14).) And remember, the Apostle John’s last words in his first epistle are: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:2121Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. (1 John 5:21)). For we may make other idols than those we see around us in China. My house may become my idol, or my books, or my study, or even my child. Anything that takes the place that God alone should have is an idol. Do not let us think these words have nothing to say to us. And how many persons there are who are what we call “superstitious.” There are many things they will not do, because they say it will bring them “bad luck.” This all comes under the heading of “witchcraft,” or sorcery, and is one of the works of the flesh. Christ has made us free from all such things; let us stand firm in this freedom.
Then come eight bad works towards my brethren. First, enmities. How easy it is to have a spirit of enmity against a brother. He may have wronged us, and we do not forgive; after the enmities come quarreling. The enmities we may have kept in our heart, but very soon it comes out in an open quarrel. The fault, we think, is all on his side; but when we were children and we quarreled together, my mother always told us: “It takes two to make a quarrel.” We may be certain if we are mixed up in a quarrel, it is because we have yielded to the flesh. “Only by pride cometh contention!” (Prov. 13:1010Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom. (Proverbs 13:10)). Then comes jealousy, one of the most common things in the heart of man. Then outbursts of anger. We call it “quick-tempered” or “short-tempered,” but it is one of the works of the flesh. In 2 Peter 3:99The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) we read that the Lord is “long-tempered to us-ward.” Then self-seeking. In Phil. 2:2121For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's. (Philippians 2:21) we read: “All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” Nearly all the Christians, even of Paul’s day, had fallen under the power of this terrible work of the flesh. There was one young man who was exempt, and that was Timothy; so we might see that there is a way not to put into effect even this work of the flesh.
Then come divisions. Sad, sad word, and how many hearts have been broken by it! Yet there are some who almost boast in divisions and say that they are necessary. Is it necessary to let the flesh act? If so, it is necessary to have divisions. But let him who boasts in divisions remember that God says they are one of the works of the flesh. These divisions came before there was an actual scattering of the sheep.
We may have a division in a company that outwardly seems to go on as one, as in Corinth; but after the division has come in, it will not be long before outward parties are formed. We call them “sects.” In Christendom today men say with pride: “I belong to such-and-such a sect.” But in God’s eyes, this is only another work of the flesh.
Then we have envyings. “Who is able to stand before envy?” Prov. 27:44Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy? (Proverbs 27:4). This is another very common fault; perhaps much more common than we realize. How often we envy the wealth, or the ability, or the gift, or the holiness of another. This spirit of envy raises in my heart a spirit of enmity against my brother, and a long list of works of the flesh may result; all started from envy. It may be that the brother I am envying has not the least idea that he has been the cause of so much evil in my life; yet the fault was not with him, but entirely with myself, as I allowed the flesh to act in envy.
Last come drunkenness’s and revelings: sad and shameful works to be seen in a Christian; yet, alas, we do see them at times. Not by signing the pledge, but by walking by the Spirit can we conquer the works of the flesh.
May God help us, as we ponder this horrible list (and it does not include all the works of this flesh of mine, for the Apostle adds, “and the things like these” (Acts 14:1515And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: (Acts 14:15))), to remember that there is only one way to be kept from any of these terrible sins; that way is God’s way: to walk by the Spirit. We may make rules against them, but rules have no power over the flesh. How much sorrow we will miss if only we will give heed to God’s Word in these verses!
Then comes the “fruit of the Spirit” (vs. 22); not works, as of the flesh, not even fruits, in the plural; but, as it were, one lovely bunch of nine fruits, like a bunch of beautiful grapes for the Master.
The nine fruits are one in God’s sight, but they may be divided into three groups of three each. The first three are the hidden fruits, seen by the eye of God: love, joy, peace. But it is these three hidden fruits that give birth to the next three, towards my brethren: long-suffering, kindness, goodness. What a contrast to the eight works of the flesh that had to do with our brethren! Lastly come faithfulness (or, it might be, faith), meekness and self-control.
Love comes first in the list; for as we have seen above, love fills to the full all the law. Love to God, and love to my neighbor; love to the poor perishing world around me, and love to my brethren. This love is the first of the fruits of the Spirit. But we must read 1 Cor. 13 if we would know more what love means. Do we not see there a description of the love of Christ? To whom else can it truly apply?
Then comes peace. That deep, calm peace, amid the turmoil and strife of this world; this is the fruit of the Spirit peace that passeth all understanding, the peace of God to guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:77And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7).)
It is remarkable that our Lord Jesus bequeathed these three sweet fruits to us before He left this world. In John 14:2727Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27) we read: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you.” In John 15:1111These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (John 15:11) we read: “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” And in John 17:2626And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:26) our Lord prays: “That the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them”. His peace, His joy, His love. What a legacy! All is made good to us by the Holy Spirit, if we “walk by the Spirit” (vs. 25).
It is remarkable that the first of the fruits of the Spirit towards our brethren is “long-suffering.” We are sure to suffer from our brethren. So often they do not understand. So often they pain us, and blame us, and perhaps scold us, for things that they do not really comprehend at all. When we remember this, and when we have suffered long from our brethren, perhaps then we may truly understand what this word “long-suffering” means; then how wonderful to find that in Ex. 34:66And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, (Exodus 34:6), God Himself is described as “long-suffering.” In Eph. 4:1-31I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1‑3) the Apostle exhorts the beloved Ephesian Christians to walk worthy of the calling wherewith they were called, “with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” What is the difference between lowliness and meekness? Lowliness does not give offense, and meekness does not take offense. Both are needed if we are not to quarrel with our brethren.
And then comes long-suffering, as we have here in Galatians; and, fourth, “forbearing one another in love” (Eph. 4:22With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; (Ephesians 4:2)). You will notice that all four of these qualities are to enable us to live at peace with our brethren, and provide for suffering on our part from them. Only so can we hope to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Kindness comes from a lovely Greek word, “chreestos.” Christ in Greek is “Christos.” The sound is almost the same. In the old days, the people used to say that “Christians” (from the name Christ which we bear) were also “Chreestians” (from chreestos, meaning kind), because the Christians were known for their kindness to others. This is just as it should be; and I hope that every one of us may be Chreestians, as well as Christians. This is the word, translated “easy,” used by our Lord to describe His yoke. We use “easy” in this sense for the comfort of an old, well-fitting shoe, that does not hurt the foot in any part; so should the Christian be to those with whom he has to do.
Then comes goodness. You will notice that righteousness is not said to be a fruit of the Spirit. You remember the Word says, “Scarcely for a righteous man would one die: yet perhaps for a good man some would even dare to die.” Rom. 5:77For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. (Romans 5:7). So it is goodness, not righteousness, that is a fruit of the Spirit. The Christian is, of course, to be righteous as well as good. In Eph. 5:99(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) (Ephesians 5:9) JND, we have the “fruit of the light (is) in all goodness and righteousness and truth” (Eph. 5:99(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) (Ephesians 5:9)).
Faithfulness may be the meaning of the next fruit, which tells of one who can be trusted—who is faithful in all his ways; or it may have the meaning of one who rests entirely in God, knowing that certainly God is working all things together for good for those who love Him. (Rom. 8:2828And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28).) Or it may be simply the faith that every Christian has in Christ for his salvation. Perhaps all these meanings are included, for surely each one is a fruit of the Spirit.
Meekness. We have already spoken of this most precious fruit, suggesting that it would not take offense. There are some persons towards whom one must be unusually careful because they take offense so easily. Such persons have very little meekness. This fruit seems to be especially valuable in the sight of God; for He tells the Christian women to wear the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. (1 Peter 3:44But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. (1 Peter 3:4).) I knew one lady who feared to pray for meekness, because she felt sure that such a prayer would bring many trials to teach her this lesson. But she prayed that the Lord would make her willing to pray for meekness, and soon she found that she was asking the Lord to make her meek. Let us remember that our Lord Jesus says: “I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:2929Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matthew 11:29)).
Finally we come to self-control. This is translated “temperance” in the English Bible, but it really means to have mastery, and the one over whom we are to have master is ourselves. I fear that this is a very rare, but very precious fruit. How few there are who truly have mastery over their own bodies, and their own minds and thoughts. Paul could say of himself: “I keep under my body, and lead it away a slave.” 1 Cor. 9:2727But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1 Corinthians 9:27). That is true self-control. Paul had mastery over himself. Let us remember that this is a fruit of the Spirit, and only God’s Spirit can give this self-control.
Before we leave this subject we must notice the difference between works and fruit. Works make us think of our own doing; fruit makes us think of another power within that draws its strength from the sunshine, the ground, the air, and forms these things into the “precious fruit of the earth” (James 5:77Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. (James 5:7)). So it is that by turning our eyes away from the things of earth and looking off unto Jesus, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:1818But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18).) And the fruit grows, without noise or labor on our part, by an unseen power within.
There is very much in the New Testament about fruit and fruit-bearing, but we may not stop now to look further at this lovely subject; but in closing may we ask our readers to look for themselves at Titus 3:1414And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful. (Titus 3:14) and Phil. 4:1717Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. (Philippians 4:17) to see another kind of fruit that is also well-pleasing to our Lord.
Those who love to teach the law must confess that there is no law against the nine lovely fruits we have just been considering. Furthermore they must confess that not only can they never by the law bring forth such fruit as these, but that even if one could fully keep the law, the result still could not compare to the beauty and preciousness of the fruit of the Spirit.
Before we leave this lovely subject we must notice that it gives us a wonderful picture of our Lord Jesus Christ. None other but He has ever brought forth these fruits in their perfection. And so we gaze on His love, His joy, His peace, His long-suffering (how we have proved it!), His kindness, His goodness (“The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust in Him,” Nah. 1:77The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him. (Nahum 1:7)), His faithfulness (“God, the faithful God,” (Deut. 7:99Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; (Deuteronomy 7:9)); “Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds,” (Psa. 36:55Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. (Psalm 36:5))), His meekness (“I... beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ,” (2 Cor. 10:11Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: (2 Corinthians 10:1))), and His self-control (gaze upon Him as He went from the garden to the cross!). How this picture stirs our hearts, as we consider Him, who is the chiefest among ten thousand and the altogether lovely One. ( Sol. 5:10,1610My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. (Song of Solomon 5:10)
16His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem. (Song of Solomon 5:16)
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“But the ones of Jesus Christ have crucified the flesh with the emotions and passionate cravings.” “The ones of Jesus Christ” remind us of Gal. 3:2929And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:29). “But if you (are) of Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed.” We noticed that the expression “of Christ” meant more than “belonging to Christ.” It has also the meaning of being a part of Christ, members of Christ, not merely the property of Christ. So here, “those of Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:22Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: (1 Corinthians 1:2)) would be those who are His members, those who are truly part of Himself. These have crucified the flesh, as we have already seen in Rom. 6, with the emotions and the passionate cravings. Now, as we walk by the Spirit, the Spirit keeps the flesh in this place of death; but if we walk carelessly, and do our own will, and listen to the flesh, then the works of the flesh will be manifest in our lives. The Christian does not have to die. Christ died for us, and we hold ourselves for dead, having died with Him, as though we ourselves had died upon the cross, since it was for us He suffered. Now I have this new life, and I do not acknowledge the flesh as “I” at all, but as sin which dwells in me, which I hold to be crucified. We may realize this moment by moment. God says we are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God. (Col. 3:33For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3).) Faith thankfully believes what God says, and so holds the flesh, the old man, to be dead, as we have seen in Rom. 6. If the Christian is faithful, then by the Holy Spirit he applies the cross in a practical way to the flesh, so that it may not act. (2 Cor. 4:10-1210Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 11For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. 12So then death worketh in us, but life in you. (2 Corinthians 4:10‑12).)
If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also keep in step. We live by the Spirit. We walk by the Spirit. We are led by the Spirit, and by the Spirit we keep in step. The word means to walk in a line, as a line of soldiers. If each soldier went his own way, and only walked where he chose, there would be no line at all. But the soldiers are under authority, and obedience to that authority produces the line of soldiers and all must keep in step. The Holy Spirit has authority over us; if we hear and heed Him, then we will walk in line—we will keep step.
“Let us not become vainglorious, challenging [or, provoking] one another, envying one another.” We usually call vainglory “conceit.” The law makes us more vainglorious or conceited than we were before, instead of destroying our vainglory, because the law makes me think of myself. Though as we have seen, if we use the law in the right way it is most useful, for when I think of myself and see how bad I am—when I see how far short of the righteous demands of the law I come—then the law helps to compel me to own myself a lost sinner. But the law, as we have seen, never can produce righteousness.
And the law cannot produce holiness either. The law is not the rule of life for the Christian. Even the Christian’s flesh is not subject to the law, and so the law cannot produce holiness in it. But God has given us a new life and the Holy Spirit dwells in us to produce fruits which are well-pleasing to God.
Strengthened by the Holy Spirit, living by Him, walking by Him, led by Him, taught by Him from the Word of God, the Bible, let us each one by Him seek to walk in line, to keep step, to walk in the footsteps of Christ. (1 Peter 2:2121For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (1 Peter 2:21).) If we keep step, we are likely also to “keep rank.” 1 Chron. 12:3333Of Zebulun, such as went forth to battle, expert in war, with all instruments of war, fifty thousand, which could keep rank: they were not of double heart. (1 Chronicles 12:33).
Let us remember: Through the Spirit we wait for [or, eagerly expect] the hope of righteousness by faith. vs. 5.
We walk in the Spirit. vs. 16.
The Spirit opposes the flesh. vs. 17.
We are led of the Spirit. vs. 18.
We live in the Spirit. vs. 25.
We keep step by the Spirit. vs. 25.
We sow to the Spirit to reap life everlasting. ch. 6:8.