NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
by Dr. Robert R. Seyda
PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson CXXI)
Most believers learn early in their walk with God that when the spiritual oneness with the Anointed One is well-fed and full of the good things of the Spirit, the sinful-self ends up like a sleeping dog. But when the spiritual unity with the Anointed One gets hungry and agitated, it wakes up the sinful-self that starts howling for attention. So, it befits every believer to keep their spiritual oneness with the Anointed One satisfied with food from God’s Word. Community worship, prayer, interaction with other believers, meditation in the Scriptures, sharing the Gospel with those who are lost, daily talks with Jesus, communion with the Holy Spirit, and so on, is spiritually refreshing. Commit yourself to do these things every day; just don’t wait for them to happen, or expect the Holy Spirit to do them for you.
Preacher Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) sums up this chapter by pointing out the Apostle Paul’s remarkable use of the word “fruit,” indicates that we should regard all the results of the indwelling Spirit in the reborn spirit as supernatural growth. The foundation of all is, of course, Love fulfilling the Law. It scarcely needs to be pointed, says Maclaren, how transformed-Love is the primary element of the first three fruit. But it is no less important to note how Love as Joy and Peace, naturally influences the other fruit. It is essential to spend time on these understanding truths since many temptations face Christians at home, at work, in church, and society.
Maclaren also notes that the ten letters on the two tablets of the Law were not etched so far apart that their unity was unseen. Many good people restrict their notions of religious duties to being occasionally involved in church ministries. They spend little time worshipping and praying, reading and studying the Bible, or listening to challenging sermons. Even while they are doing good deeds, they do not feel it is just as much a spiritual duty to suppress the wish to retaliate as it is to sit in the sunshine of God’s love and feel the joy and peace of the Anointed One filling the heart. I’m not sure how popular Maclaren would be as a preacher in today’s religious community.
Furthermore, Maclaren notes how Paul’s first three fruit naturally connects to the last three. When the spiritual life has realized its deepest secret, it will be more than able to manifest itself as vigorous in dealing with life’s difficulties. When that heart feels blessed in its own settled love, abounding joy and untroubled peace, faithfulness and humbleness will both be possible, and self-control will not be hard to develop.
Joseph Beet (1840-1924) gives us another view to consider in grasping the message that Paul is sending to the Galatians. Beet points out that the flesh is the visible flesh of man – his living matter. And mysteriously permeating and preserving this living matter, keeping it from corruption and giving it growth and well-being, is the invisible spirit. As a result, each person meets at every point of interaction between the visible and invisible worlds. One is destined to crumble and fall back into its original dust, the other was created for endless life.
Beet closes by asking us to notice the monumental simplicity and grandeur of Paul’s double foundation of Christian morality. First, He lays down the one precept of love, in the very words of the ancient Law – “Love the Lord you God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind,” a doctrine including all others. But even this, if it stood alone, would but reveal our inability to do what God requires, and thus condemn us. Secondly, Paul invokes the precept of the Spirit, the divine seed planted in our hearts from which grows, by its unseen and mysterious vitality, the fruit of Love and all its transformed virtues.
Grant R. Osborne gives an excellent summary of how to be guided by our reborn spirit instead of our human desires. When our reborn spirit is the guiding presence in our lives, we will remain focused on it rather than on ourselves. It means that we will not allow ourselves to “become conceited.” Our outlook is no longer to be inward (focused on ourselves) but outward (focused on our service to God).
Following the crucifixion of our sinful tendencies on the cross through the Anointed One, our egotistical trinity – me, myself, and I, can no longer be free to dictate our behavior, words, and deeds. The Anointed One and His Spirit are now on the throne of our lives. We must do away with arrogant pride. It is incredible how easily people with a bit of talent or wealth can elevate themselves to the status of a god. The only thing truly good in us is that which glorifies God rather than self.
Osborne goes on to say that a conceited person almost invariably causes conflict in a community. The proud, by elevating themselves over the others around them, all too often end up “provoking and envying one another.” The focus is on the cause (envy) and its result (provocation). Pride leads to envy, which produces conflict. “Provoke” (Greek – prokaleomai, “call forth” as in issuing a challenge) is a word used in athletic contexts with the idea of challenging another to a contest of speed or strength. When our focus is on self and earthly glory, we never can have enough and are always dissatisfied and envious. The athlete with the bronze medal envies the one with the gold medal, and the athlete with one gold medal craves the one who has two or three. As Christians, we should never envy a brother or sister that God uses in ways we are not gifted to do. Instead, we should rejoice with them because, for ourselves and them, all glory, honor, and praise go to our Father in Heaven.
We have the unseen world within us, says Beet, actually filling our inmost consciousness. Now each of these two elements claims to rule our entire action and to form our inner life. However, they are in absolute opposition to one another. The flesh, acting out through desires aroused by material objects around, tends to generate various kinds of actions, many of them indisputably wrong. Such actions will exclude us from the glory of the coming kingdom. But in absolute opposition to the flesh is the one Spirit of God, whom God gave to dwell in the hearts of His people so that their spirit may have immortal life, and to be in them an all-wise guide and comforter. The Spirit is the living and divine seed from which springs a harvest of moral excellence. This excellence is all that the Law requires. Consequently, for those under His influence, the Law has no terrors. And in proportion, as they follow the Spirit’s guidance, is the vibrant and vigorous life which He imparts.
Nonetheless, the evil influences of the flesh are still a power against which Christians must be forever on guard, warns Beet. But the believer’s warfare is shared by the Spirit of God, against whom even the flesh is powerless. The presence of the Spirit in our heart ends, as we abide in faith, the reign of our fallen human nature. Let us declare that through the death of the Anointed One on the cross, our sinful-self is dead. Our old life lies buried in His grave. It is sufficient for complete self-surrender to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He will inspire that love, which is a fulfillment of the Law, and which alone will save Christian liberty from degenerating into hurtful permission for immoral living.
Lutheran theologian Paul E. Kretzmann (1881-1965) sees Paul assigning a mission to all those who feel led to preach the Gospel. He notes that Paul transitions from living in the Spirit to going forward in the Spirit. Don’t get sidetracked into wanting attention, to enter disputes just to show how smart you are. And don’t become envious of others on how to succeed in becoming more well-known than you. The life that the power of the Spirit brings into a person will make an impression on the believer’s conduct. It must be so for them to make any progress in their spiritual life. As a result, they are neither to turn to the right nor the left off the highway of holiness. They must continue following the leading of the Spirit through the strength of the Spirit.
And one way in which Christians can show their progress in the spiritual life is this: that they did not become conceited, that they do not strive for personal honor and glory, as every person is inclined to do by human nature. Everyone wants to exceed their neighbor in their ability and social position. False ambition has brought untold misery upon the assembly of the Anointed One. For it is due to that attitude that people provoke one another, assume challenging positions, question the ability and the motives of one another, are jealous of one another’s success in any line of effort, seek to minimize real accomplishments by adverse criticism. If a prideful ego rules in a person’s heart, the result will be the rapid loss of brotherly love, followed by discord, quarrels, jealousy, and hatred.
END OF CHAPTER FIVE
 Maclaren, Alexander: Expositions of Holy Scripture, Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.
 Osborne, G. R: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 196–197
 Romans 8:10
 Beet, Joseph: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 161-162
 Kretzmann, Paul E., The New Testament, Vol. 2, Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.