CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson CXV)

5:23c-24 This fruit is not the immoral acts of sinful tendencies. Those who follow Jesus Christos have visited Calvary and crucified their sinful-self with all its passions and desires.

Paul gives the summation of his comparison between the sinful tactics of sinful tendencies and the fruit of the reborn spirit. It’s not that he says a Christian may have both in their life, but that when one is sold-out to sin, the effects are devastating. But when one’s life is wholly committed to Christos, the fruit is discrete. As he told the Romans, you are not to be ruled by your sinful tendencies. You can know God’s Spirit is guiding you if that Spirit “lives in you.” But whoever does not have the Spirit of Christos does not belong to Him.[1]

Tom Hegg shows us several places where we find this fruit and others:[2]

Gal 5:22-25 2 Cor 6:6 1 Tim 4:12 1 Tim 6:11 2 Tim 2:22 2 Pet 1:5-7
Love Love Love Love Love Love
Joy
Peace Peace
Patience Patience Perseverance Perseverance
Kindness Kindness Brotherly kindness
Goodness Good conduct Pure heart Godliness
Faithfulness Faith Faith Faith Faith
Humbleness Gentleness
Self-control Righteousness Righteousness Self-control
NOT LISTED Knowledge Good speech Godliness Knowledge
NOT LISTED Purity Purity Moral excellence

Paul wrote the Corinthians: As a genuinely born-again believer, you belong to Christos, and Christos belongs to God.[3] Paul then expands on the subject of the resurrection by telling them everyone will arise to life in the right sequence. Christos was the first to be raised. When Christos comes again, He will resurrect to life those who belong to Him.[4] And in his second letter to the Corinthians Paul advises them, they must look at the facts. They must remember, if the believers feel sure they belong to Christos, Paul also belongs to Christos the same as they do.[5]

But none of this, says Paul, is possible unless you know that your old life was put to death on the cross with Christos. It happened so that your sinful selves would have no power over you. Then you would never be slaves to sin.[6] And the way believers were given the power to destroy evil was when God sent His own Son to earth with the same human life that everyone else uses for sin. God sent Him to be an offering to pay for sin. So, God used a precious human life to destroy sin.[7]

Christos dwelling in us, allows us to be like the Lord Jesus so that when people see what we do, they will see Christos in us. We should not attempt to satisfy the desires of our fallen human nature, but fulfill the claims Christos the Redeemer has on our salvation.[8] No doubt, that’s why the Apostle Peter said to his readers: Dear friends, you are like visitors and strangers in this world. So, I beg you to keep your lives free from the evil things you want to do, those desires that fight against your true selves.[9]

The Pharisees often chided and criticized Jesus and His disciples for doing good things because they were done in the wrong place, at the wrong time, on a wrong day, and in the wrong way. Thus, they violated Mosaic Law. In other words, in their minds, you can still be wrong even while doing right.  When Jesus healed a woman in the synagogue who was bent over with severe hyperkyphosis[10] for fourteen years, His opponents were quick to condemn Him because He did it on the Sabbath. Imagine, Jesus, being raked over the coals for providing the miracle of healing to a desperate lady who could not be helped in any other way by any other person, just because the Jews thought observing the Sabbath was more important.[11] That’s almost like being prosecuted for rescuing a person from a burning building because you were not wearing the proper clothing.

In a contextualized form, our text reads this way: “These qualities are the result of God’s power alone working in us. That is why you cannot legislate these qualities; you cannot have laws saying you should be loving, joyful, kind, self-controlled, etc. since these qualities are humanly impossible to cultivate. It is his powerful spirit alone that can produce these qualities in us. Moreover, those belonging to Christos and have God’s powerful Spirit flowing and leading them, have nailed their “self” to the torture stake along with Christos. They do not do anything by self-effort, by their determination or resolve, and have thus “died” to their own, will, and desires, which only fuel their ego and make them self-centered. Their new life is now ruled and ordered by God’s mighty Spirit.” [12] 

 From this, we deduce a critically important factor in our relationship with God. When we depend on the Law to secure our salvation, we all become potential law-breakers. But when we depend on our sure salvation in Christos to keep the Law, then we do not walk in fear and anxiety, but plunge straight forward knowing our compass has us headed in the right direction. That’s because the Spirit becomes our auto-pilot and makes the proper corrections as we head for our destiny. That’s why Paul spoke about not disobeying the Spirit when He makes those corrections.

Paul dealt with this in his epistle because the Judaizers exhibited the same mindset as the Pharisees.  They kept telling the uncircumcised Galatian Gentile believers they were not yet complete children of God, even though they were born again and washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. They were also telling them that their praise and worship was in vain because it wasn’t in line with the old rituals and regulations of Mosaic Law. Paul wanted to make sure the Galatians knew they could manifest this fruit of the reborn spirit at any time, on any day, and anywhere; that they were valid and pleasing to God, even though the excessive display of righteous techniques of the Pharisees were not employed.  It could not be dismissed as unrighteous because they were not circumcised.

There is an interesting comparison between Paul’s concept of the crucifixion of the self and the Jewish practice of circumcision. It is made by a Jewish philosopher who lived in Alexandria, Egypt, who studied the Greek and Hebrew cultures during the time of Jesus. He observed that the Jews saw circumcision as a symbol of getting to know yourself, and by discarding the foreskin was like getting rid of the terrible disease of a vain opinion of one’s soul. Some moral individuals boast that with their good deeds, they can make God’s most beautiful creation even better. In doing so, they turn themselves into little gods with puffed-up arrogance, thereby hiding from sight the Creator of all things, namely, God.[13] There is every good reason to believe that Paul, who was also a Jew immersed in Greek culture and writings, saw the same process in the light of the crucifixion. That’s why Paul often used the phrase “circumcised” when it came to disposing of passionate desires to fulfill the spiritual aspirations of Christos.[14]

Another aspect contained in Paul’s statement that these manifestations of the spiritual oneness with Christos were not illegal, is seen when compared to the acts of the sinful-self. These sinful tendencies include immoral sexual desires, impure thoughts, being tempted to satisfy lustful cravings, involvement in cults, and reading horoscopes and dabbling in spiritism. Also, holding grudges, getting into arguments, becoming jealous, and fits of anger.  It goes along with wanting to have their way and taking sides against anyone who doesn’t agree with them. It leads to being envious of what others have, getting drunk, wild parties, and a host of other failures like this are natural desires committed in excess and out of control. A sanctified reborn spirit is incapable of practicing such sinful acts.

By comparison, the sinful-self cannot manufacture Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Humbleness, and Self-Control. This fruit does not suggest excessive acts or out of control manifestations. So, if the Judaizers wanted to challenge Paul’s assertion that all this fruit of the reborn spirit is lawful, let them read the Torah and see if they can find anything that would prohibit the Galatians believers from bearing this fruit. Let them point out any laws making it wrong to be kind and good and patient without being circumcised. God observes us through Christos. Therefore, the authority of Christos supersedes the power of Mosaic Law. No longer do we exist in fear, but we live by faith.

Paul hoped and prayed that the Galatians would finally see that they no longer live chained-up in the dungeon of Mosaic Law as a captured human prisoner. They are now free to live as sons and daughters of God. The prison warden is gone. As believers, God elevated them to adulthood as heirs of God’s kingdom.[15] Daily decisions are guided and guarded by the Holy Spirit, while the personality and principles of Christos assist their growth into full maturity. In other words, you can’t go wrong when you live right by following the teachings and guidance of Christos, obeying them, and expressing them by way of the fruit of the spiritual oneness with Christos.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried walking on railroad tracks or a tightrope, but you’ll find out how hard it is to keep your balance.  Paul talks about some believers seeking the same balancing act between the faults of the sinful-self and the fruit of the spiritual oneness with Christos. But it should not be a balancing act; one need not learn how to juggle the wants of the flesh and the will of the spirit.  It is all resolved with the crucifixion of the sinful-self at the time of salvation.

[1] Romans 8:9

[2] Hegg, Tom: On Galatians, op cit., p. 246 [p. 205]

[3] 1 Corinthians 3:23

[4] Ibid. 15:23

[5] 2 Corinthians 10:7

[6] Romans 6:6

[7] Ibid. 8:13

[8] Ibid. 13:24

[9] 1 Peter 2:11

[10] Hyperkyphosis refers to an excessive curvature of the thoracic spine, commonly referred to as hunchback. A kyphosis angle over 50 degrees is currently the standard for defining hyperkyphosis.

[11] See Luke 13:10-17

[12] Aiyer, Ramsey, The Contextual Bible Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[13] Philo of Alexandria, The Special Laws, II. (10)

[14] Colossians 2:11

[15] Romans 8:17

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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