Galatians

5:19-25

5. Exhortations, 4:8-6:10

v] Be led by the Spirit and not by the flesh, 5:19-25

Argument

Paul now counters the idea that freedom from the law means freedom to sin. It is very easy to give the sinful nature free reign in our lives, but those who have found new life in Christ are not impelled to evil, rather, they are impelled to resist evil. Given that believers possess new life in Christ, being daily shaped by the indwelling-compelling of the Spirit, Paul encourages his readers to give themselves to the leading of the Spirit.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 5:13-18.

 

ii] Background: See 1:1-10.

 

iii] Structure: The fifth exhortation, be led by the Spirit and not by the flesh, presents as follows:

Exhortation:

"If we live by the Spirit let us be guided by the Spirit", v25.

Explanation:

a descriptive list of the works / acts of the flesh, v19-21;

as against the fruits of the Spirit, v22-23;

exhortation to follow the leading of the Spirit, v24-25.

 

iv] Interpretation:

The fifth exhortation: Paul, having explained in v13-18 how love, the quality that sums up the ethical demands of the law, is realized in the life of a believer when they rest on the indwelling-compelling of the Spirit of Christ, now, in v19-26, outlines the "works of the flesh" and "the fruit of the Spirit". The sinful nature, stirred up and impelled forward by the law, promotes "the works of the flesh"; the indwelling-compelling of the Spirit of Christ promotes "the fruit of the Spirit." So, since the believer possess the fullness of new life in Christ, they should strive to let the Spirit of Christ undertake his work of renewal.

 

As usual, there is little agreement with regard the boundaries of this unit, eg. Dumbrell, 5:22-26; Dunn, 5:16-24; Martyn, 5:13-24; Garlington, 5:16-26, ..... The point of Paul's argument in this section is likely summed up in v25, with the more practical advice through to 6:10 introduced by the exhortation in v26. The Gk. doesn't help much (adelfoi "brothers", 6:1, is possibly introductory) so we must rely on the context. The translations similarly adopt numerous paragraph divisions, the REB opting to set their break between v25 and 26.

 

v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 5:19

Walking by the Spirit and not by the flesh, v19-25: Paul sets out to illustrate the battle that exists between the flesh and the Spirit by listing the outward expressions of both life-styles. i] The first list summarizes the product of the "sinful nature", v19-21. It consists of fifteen different evils; by no means a complete list. The "vices" make up four different kinds of evils: "sexual immorality, religious heresy, social conflict and habitual drunkenness", Dumbrell. Sexual immorality heads the list and this because of its association with idolatry, but it's the evils of social discord that Paul focuses on. The Galatian church is full of discord, dissensions, factions ......, and the like. In this verse Paul lists examples of sexual immorality, an issue that takes center stage in the ethics of Judaism.

de "now" - but, and. Transitional connective, introducing the next step in the argument, as NIV.

ta erga (on) "the acts" - the works. Nominative subject of the verb to-be. "Episodic and disordered ways in which sin manifests itself in the personality", Dumbrell. Paul is not just listing identifiable evils, but rather exposing the product of "flesh", as opposed to the product of "Spirit". "For Paul, flesh and Spirit were two powers, to modalities of existence, locked in conflict on the battlefield of every individual Christian", George. "The effects of the flesh", Martyn.

thV sarkoV (oV) gen. "of the sinful nature" - flesh, sinful nature, body. As already noted, the genitive my be adjectival, "fleshy works", or subjective / ablative, "the works generated by the flesh / sinful nature." Given v18, "you are not subject to the law", we could have expected Paul to say something like "now the works that are generated by law-obedience are easily seen", but instead he refers to "works of the flesh". Of course, Paul may not have made a direct link between law-obedience and his list of vices here, but the link is central to his argument - law makes sin more sinful; it draws out the product ("the works of the flesh") of our inner corruption. "As for the doings which have their origin in our lower nature, they are plain to see", Cassirer.

fanera adj. "[are] obvious" - plain, known, manifest, clear, obvious. Predicate adjective.

aJtina pro. "-" - which. Nominative subject of the verb to-be. The relative pronoun with the verb to-be serves to express the qualitative aspects of the vices.

porneia (a) "sexual immorality" - illicit sexual activity, fornication, adultery. Referring either to sex with a prostitute, or unfaithfulness in marriage. Why does Paul head his list with sexual sins? Ethical lists were common in the ancient world, stemming mainly from Greek sources. Dual lists of virtues and vices were not as common, but certainly common in Jewish circles (eg. Qumran "the two ways"). Secular lists tended to focus on matters of justice/injustice, bravery/cowardice, ...... before considering self-control / lecentiousness. In fact, adultery was not viewed as a serious human flaw, as was pedophilia, although Dunn suggests that Paul's list is designed for maximum assent - the list "begins and ends with items which would receive disapprobation from most ethically concerned people", Dunn (certainly for Jews, although probably not Gentiles). Paul's tendency to place sexual sins first in his list of vices may reflect the need to "emphasize sins against the common life in the brotherhood", Schweizer, or possibly he is driven more by theology, the oneness of sexual union imaging oneness with God, or maybe sexual sins "display more graphically self-centeredness and rebellion against God's norm", George, or maybe these vices "often come to the fore in the paganism of that day and its cultic extravagances", Ridderbos, also Guthrie. Calvin thought Paul was listing grosser sins first but this is rather unconvincing. It seems likely that Paul is prompted to begin his list with sexual vices because of their ethical prominence in Judaism and this driven, on the one hand, by the link between adultery and idolatry, cf. Hosea, and on the other, by the view that marriage images union with God. Garlington argues that the vices identified by immorality, religious heresy and finally carousing would have been central to the ethical teaching of the judaizers. Paul identifies the same evils, but places the real problem in their midst, namely "malice and envy, being hated and hating one another", Tit.3:3 - the "sting" comes in the middle, Dunn. "The point needed particularly to be driven home ........ is the product of a 'righteous indignation' whose effect is often the abuse of others", Garlington. "You know all the big evils [stirred on by the law], illicit sex, ......, covetousness (idolatry), ..... but don't forget 'righteous indignation' (Jesus' "speck removal"), ......"

akaqarsia (a) "impurity" - uncleanness, impurity. Predicate nominative. "Sexual impurity" is probably better than "filthy thoughts", CEV.

aselgeia (a) "debauchery" - sensuality, indecency. Predicate nominative. "Debauched sexual behavior".

 
v20

Paul now lists two examples of religious heresy, another priority issue in the ethics of Judaism, before listing the ethical vices that the Galatian believers needed to confront, vices reflecting the social conflict that existed within the Galatian fellowship. The NIV rightly includes "envy", v21, in this list. Garlington is surely on the mark when he identifies this "meat" (the vices of social conflict), in Paul's "sandwich of vices", as a well aimed barb at the Galatian nomists whose highly developed moral superiority is undermining fellowship and edging them out the kingdom of God.

eidwlolatria (a) "idolatry" - the worship of idols. Of course Paul has, on occasions, widened the reach of idolatry: covetousness, Col.3:5; participation in pagan festivals, 1Cor.10:14.

farmakeia (a) "witchcraft" - sorcery. A neutral medical sense is possible, but here obviously the use of medical herbs and incantations for magical purposes.

ecqrai (a) pl. "hatred" - hatreds, enmities, hostilities. Of cherishing a hostile thought (sentiment, intention), or performing a hostile act. "Hostility", Longenecker.

eriV (iV ewV) "discord" - strife, discord. "Quarrelsomeness", Bruce.

zhloV (oV) "jealousy" - The word can take a positive meaning, "zeal", but obviously here Paul intends the negative sense, "jealousy toward persons of other opinions", Martyn.

qumoi (oV) pl. "fits of rage" - angers, temper rages. "Outbursts of explosive temper", Barclay.

eriqeiai (a) pl. "selfish ambition" - self-seeking ambition. Possibly driven by party spirit, so "factious ambitions", Garlington.

dicostasiai (a) pl. "dissensions" - divisions, dissensions. The backbiting, bad-mouthing and bickering that goes with the development of party spirit within a group; "creating and feeding selfish divisions among you", Junkins.

aireseiV (iV ewV) pl. "factions" - factions. "The forming of organized factions and cliques", Eadie.

 
v21a

The NIV has linked "envy" with the vices of social conflict, and this is probably in Paul's mind. Then follows two examples of intemperance: a) Drunkenness; b) Orgies - binge drinking along with sexual play.

fqonoi (oV) pl. "[and] envy" - jealousy. "Where self-assertive ambition, resulting in factions, raises its head, then envy of others is sure to follow", Garlington.

fonoi (oV) pl. "-" - murders. This variant has substantial support and certainly in a list of vices we would expect its inclusion, so Calvin. Its position in the list seems strange, but possibly supports Garlington's "sandwich" argument. None-the-less, it is usually regarded as an addition, see Metzger.

meqai (h) pl. "drunkenness" - drunkenness. "Drunken orgies", Bruce.

kwmoi (oV) pl. "orgies" - party drinking, revelries. Celebrations are not necessarily a vice in themselves, but as the revelry continued so excesses would often followed - excessive consumption of alcohol, illicit heterosexual sex, homosexual sex, ........

toutoiV dat. pro. "[and the like]" - [and things like] these. Dative of comparison; a dative is typically used with the adjective oJmoia, "like, similar." Referencing back to the list.

 
v21b

Finally, Paul warns his readers that to "practice" such sins ("live like this") bars a person from the kingdom. At this point Paul is probably adopting Jesus' approach to ethics. The Galatian nomists are right into ethics, given their theological position, namely, that law-obedience is essential to the Christian life (restrains sin and shapes holiness for the appropriation of the promised Abrahamic blessings). To sustain personal righteousness, a pietist is bound to get into legalistic reductionism, ie. reshape the law so that it is doable. Note how Jesus picks on murder and adultery cf. Matt.5:21-32. Of the ten commandments, we may be able to argue that we have, at least, not broken these two commands, but after Jesus has finished with them we are left without any defense. The nomist Galatians may be able to take the high moral ground with adultery and orgies, but they are very vulnerable when it comes to discord, dissensions, factions, ..... By what means then can a person "inherit the kingdom of God"? The kingdom of God is inherited on the basis of Christ's worthiness, not our own. Of course, at the practical level the truth still applies, namely that to use our freedom to indulge the flesh places us outside of God's grace. Yet, a believer, indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, although constantly defeated by the old Adam, finds themselves not only covered by God's grace, but orientated to God's will.

a] acc. neut. rel. pro. "-" - which things. The accusative indicates a possible anacoluthon (error in grammar). Bligh suggests Paul was going to form an accusative infinitive construction, but changed his mind, but as Longenecker notes, the pronoun is not referring back to the vices, particularly "and the like", "and about these I tell you now ....", NJB, but forward, forward to "like this", object of "those who live", cf. Bruce.

prolegw pres. "I warn" - I tell beforehand, give notice, forewarn. The word can mean "forth tell", as in speaking something publicly, but the sense "I warn", as in a predictive warning, is obviously intended here, cf. 1Thes.3:4.

uJmin dat. pro. "you" - to you. Dative of indirect object.

kaqwV "as" - as, like. Comparative.

proeipon aor. "I did before" - I said before. Presumably when Paul was first with the Galatians. The statement indicates that Paul broached the issue of ethics with the Galatians, [either] to expose sin as part of gospel preaching [or] and to guide their Christian lives.

oJti "that" - introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Paul warns his readers, but it could also be recitative, introducing a quote, a line of catechetical instruction, so Betz, given that it reflects the language of the synoptic gospels more than Paul, cf. 1Cor.6:9f.

oiJ .... prassonteV (prassw) pres. part. "those who live [like this]" - the ones doing [these things]. The participle serves as a substantive, while the present tense, being durative, probably gives the sense "practice"; "people who practice things like these", Barclay.

ou klhronomhsousin (klhronomew) fut. "will not inherit" - will not inherit. "Will obtain no share in the kingdom of God", Cassirer.

qeou (oV) gen. "[the kingdom] of God" - The genitive may be adjectival, possessive, or ablative, expressing source/origin. Paul tends to use the "kingdom of Christ" to refer to God's rule exercised through Christ from his resurrection up till the end time, 1Cor.15:24, with the "kingdom of God" as the eschatological inheritance of a believer, the Spirit being the down payment, although note Eph.5:5. Luke tells us that Paul used the concept in his preaching, see Acts 14:22, although one wonders to what degree he contextualized the concept when addressing Gentiles. Kingdom of God language is certainly not prominent with Paul and as Bruce notes, in his later letters Paul's eschatology becomes increasingly realized.

 
v22-23a

ii] Paul now lists the life-style qualities that flow from a life lived under the power of the Spirit, v22-23. Betz puts it this way. "The nine concepts should be taken as 'benefits' which were given together with the Spirit. In other words, when the Galatians received the Spirit, they were also given the foundation out of which the 'fruit' was supposed to grow." It has often been observed that there is some incongruity in Paul's focus on ethics here, having just debunked the law of Moses. Of course, he hasn't actually debunked the law as such, but rather the notion that obedience, encapsulated in the sign of circumcision, can access the Abrahamic blessings. The moral principles of the Mosaic law have always served as an effective guide for the life of faith. Note how many of the "virtues" find their origin in the Old Testament, cf. Isaiah 32:16-18, 57:15-18. So, defining these virtues as "the morality of the New Covenant", Dumbrell, is a bit misleading; see the new perspective on Paul. So, why this list of virtues? If Paul was trying to establish a compendium of ethical principles, we would rightly expect him to defer to the Master. In a sense he has done this with "love" (compassion), the defining principle for a life of faith. In the power of the indwelling Spirit the faith-life of a believer is shaped by the principle of love. Yet, why the extended list? It does seem that Paul is rubbing salt into the wound of the nomist Galatians. The list of virtues are relational; they are all the qualities that are destroyed where there is party spirit, "quarrels, dissensions, factions", "to bite and devour one another", 5:15. So, these virtues are most likely contextual, but none-the-less, they do define the fruit of the Spirit's renewing work.

de "but" - but, and. Possibly adversative, as NIV, although a transitional connective indicating the next step in the argument is more likely.

oJ karpoV (oV) "the fruit" - Nominative subject of the verb to-be. Lifestyle qualities exhibited by those "who are indwelt and energized by the Spirit", Bruce.

tou pneumatoV (a atoV) gen. "of the Spirit" - The genitive is probably ablative, expressing source/origin, "the fruit derived from the powerful inworking of the Holy Spirit", but adjectival, idiomatic / producer is possible.

agaph (h) "love" - compassion. The first in another list of predicate nominatives. "The measure and goal of freedom", Schlier. It is the greatest of all qualities and is a reflection of the nature of God. Love is the quality generated in the life of a child of faith by the indwelling-compelling of the Spirit of Christ, cf. Rom.5.5.

cara (a) "joy" - Commentators treat this list of "virtues" as either expressing a person's relationship with God, or their relationship with their brothers and sisters in Christ, so here either human happiness or "joy in the faith", joy in the Lord. As noted above, they are probably relational qualities within the fellowship of believers. So, joy is "the result of God-directed healthy relationships arising from the assurance of covenant-acceptance", Dumbrell. "An inner and constant rejoicing", Junkins.

eirhnh (h) "peace" - wholeness, soundness, prosperity. Often in the sense of peace with God through the work of Christ, but such peace promotes peace in relationships. "A sense of peaceful wellbeing", Junkins.

makroqumia (a) "patience" - long-suffering, evenness of temper, imaging the long-suffering of God toward his rebellious people. "A willingness to put up with unpleasantness for His sake", Junkins.

crhstothV (hV htoV) "kindness" - A graciousness that images God's gracious forgiveness and acceptance of sinners.

agaqwsunh (h) "goodness" - generous kindness. "A basic decency as God is decent", Junkins.

pistiV (iV ewV) "faithfulness" - trustworthiness in relationships with others.

prauthV (hV outoV) "gentleness" - not weakness, rather strength that is not overbearing. Firmness in dealing with others, but with humility, patience, and forbearance. "A rejection of anything haughty and overbearing in ourselves", Junkins.

egrateia (a) "self-control" - self-mastery and self- restraint in the face of evil, rather than self indulgence. "Able to marshal and direct our energies wisely", Peterson.

 
v23b

Against these qualities "there is no law", the sense being: a) "Law exists for the purpose of restraint, but in the works of the Spirit there is nothing to restrain", Lightfoot; b) "the law is not against those who walk by the Spirit because in principle they are fulfilling the law", Ridderbos, cf. Burton; c) possibly the qualities in view "are in a sphere with which law has nothing to do", fruit that "cannot legally be enforced", Bruce, "they go beyond the law's requirements", Longenecker (what about 5:14?). A friend of mine, now in glory, argued that the law had three functions: to lead to Christ; to guide the Christian life; to restrain sin, cf. Lightfoot above. Yet, surely law promotes rebellion, enhances sin, rather than restrains it, contra Guthrie. Anyway, we agreed on the first two, but will debate the third in glory!!! It is likely that Paul is arguing that "no law is required to produce such virtue", Dunn, in the sense of restraining sin and thus by implication, promoting holiness (a nomist heresy). A believer who follows the leading of the Spirit, even though not under the law, does that which the law requires, they strive to love their neighbor, albeit imperfectly, 5:14. The law actually does the opposite; it promotes rebellion.

kata + gen. "against" - This preposition + gen. implies opposition to, reaction, contrary to, cf. v17. Probably emphatic, with the verb to-be functioning to join the subject and the predicate; "the law is not against such things as these", Bligh. The point being; "law-obedience is helpless in bringing this about", cf. Peterson, see above.

twn toioutwn neut. gen. adj. "such things" - Obviously the list of virtues, but the masculine "such people" is possible, but unlikely.

nomoV "[there is no] law" - a law. The noun is anarthrous, so possibly qualitative, "a legal prescription", but "certainly with the Mosaic law primarily in view", Longenecker.

 
v24

iii] Since we belong to Christ let us follow the leading of the Spirit, v24-25. Paul has made the point that a believer experiences within the self, a battle between the flesh and the Spirit. We may therefore, freely choose to follow the leading of one, or the other, either to gratify the leading of the sinful nature prompting sinful practice, or to gratify the leading of the Spirit prompting the fruit of love. "In Christ" we have "crucified the sinful nature" ie. have "put to death all the base pursuits of the body." The use of the crucifixion image reminds us that our death to sin in our day-to-day living is based on our death to sin as far as our eternal standing in the presence of God is concerned (a victory over the curse of sin through our identification with the crucifixion of Christ).

de "-" - but, and. Here transitional connective indicating the next step in the argument.

oiJ "those who" - the ones. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the possessive genitive "of Christ Jesus" into a substantive; "the ones who belong to Jesus Christ."

tou Cristou (oV) gen. "belong to Christ" - of Christ. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, as NIV, synonymous with "in Christ" and therefore those who are "led by the Spirit", v18. Exclusivity is possibly intended; "those who belong to Christ and him alone", Martyn.

estaurwsan (staurow) aor. "have crucified" - crucified. The action is punctiliar, decisively completed, ie. constative rather than inceptive (action commenced); "those who belong to Jesus Christ have once and for all crucified their lower nature", Barclay. Paul's "in Christ" concept and his use of a "crucifixion" metaphor surely makes the point that "to share in the Spirit-life means to have been identified with Jesus in his death, and to have ended life under the tyranny of the flesh, though the struggle with the sinful nature must be maintained", Dumbrell. This logical sense is more likely than an ethical sense with the implication that in the same way that Jesus was put to death so believers have put to death the deeds of the flesh. It is the power of the corrupt self that is put to death in that by not being under the law the believer is no longer provoked to sin, and also, by the power of the indwelling Spirit the unbridled ambitions of the sinful self are resisted. For this reason we can hear and act upon the exhortation in v26, explicated in 6:1-10 (although never perfectly).

thn sarka (sarx koV) "the sinful nature" - the flesh. Accusative direct object of the verb "to crucify." The lower nature; "the demands and lusts of our human nature", Junkins.

sun + dat. "with" - Expressing accompaniment / association.

toiV paqhmasin (a) pl. "passions" - strong desires, passions, lusts, affections.

taiV epiqumiaiV (a) pl. "desires" - powerful longings, desires. "All that their human nature wants so much to do", TH.

 
v25

The Spirit is the source of life for a believer, but to realize that life in our daily lives we must follow the Spirit's leading, we must "walk by the Spirit", "keep in step with the Spirit", be "led by the Spirit". Longenecker suggests that this verse is virtually a "precis of Paul's message."

ei + ind. "since" - if. Introducing a conditional clause, 1st class, where the condition is assumed to be true; "if, as is the case, ...... then ...." The translation "since" is better than "if", given that "if" in English introduces a note of doubt; "given that we now possess new life in the Spirit, let us then ....." What we have here is an indicative imperative pair: given that we are ...., let us be ......

zwmen (zaw) pres. "we live" - Sometimes the word means nothing more than "conduct oneself", but can expand to "an all-embracing description of character and direction of life", Dunn, and can extend further to express the fullness of life in Christ, God's promised blessing of life, eternal life, new life in the Spirit; "if it is in the sending the Spirit into our heats that God has made us alive (3:21, 4:6) - and it is - then .....", Martyn.

pneumati (a atoV) dat. "by the Spirit" - The dative is instrumental, expressing means, as NIV, although cause is possible, "because of the action of the Spirit." "Spirit" is probably "the Holy Spirit", but our spirit/psyche is an outside possibility. So, the dative "Spirit" probably carries the same instrumental sense as dia, "by means of" the active agent of God's power. Possibly "preeminently God's power at work in the life of the believer", Schweizer, although this statement dangerously depersonalizes the Spirit. Schweizer notes that this instrumental sense is not repeated in the action of "the flesh" indicating that "the Spirit" has it over "the flesh" such that "the believer can overcome the flesh if they submit to the leading of the Spirit", Fung.

stoicwmen (stoicew) pres. subj. "let us keep in step" - walk together in formation, march in line, be drawn up in line. Hortatory subjunctive.

kai "-" - and. Here adjunctive; "let us also walk by/with the Spirit."

pneumati (a atoV) dat. "with the Spirit" - Does this dative express association, "keep in step with the Spirit", "walk in the footsteps of the Spirit", or means, "walk by the Spirit", "be led by the Spirit"?. Given that we possess new life in Christ, daily facilitated by the indwelling-compelling of the Spirit, "let us carry out our daily lives under the guidance of the Spirit", Martyn.

 

Galatians Introduction.

 

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