What I memorized last month was “But I say, if you walk by the Spirit, you will not gratify the desires of the flesh… [skip a bunch of verses].. If we live by the Spirit, we should also keep in step with the Spirit. [or, walk by the Spirit].” (Galatians 5:16 and 25)
I kept wondering if this meant that I’m not walking/living by the Spirit because of how I so often give in to the temptation to have another cookie (or other such things–the “desires of the flesh”). But as I did the study of surrounding verses (the kind of study recommended by John Piper, that I talked about in my last post), the meaning that came across to me is a little different than that. (And remember that “desires of the flesh” simply means the desires of the “sinful nature”. So every desire of our “flesh”, speaking literally, isn’t necessarily sin.)
These chapters are the ones where Paul is railing about the “Judaisers” who are telling the Gentile Christians that they have to follow Jewish law and be circumcised, etc. He lists a bunch of terrible sins, saying those people will not be going to heaven, I think because these sins make it obvious that they don’t have the Spirit within, they haven’t accepted the plan of salvation in Christ. And then he talks about the “fruit of the Spirit”. He also talks about the law (like, being circumsized). I think he’s saying that people of the Spirit (Christians/Christ followers), don’t need the law, because their love for their Lord just naturally works itself out in those fruit, and in not doing those other “terrible sins” (my words). In other words, the Spirit within keeps reminding them of Jesus’ love and sacrifice for them, and also convicts them if they give in to temptation. (That last phrase means they’re not perfect of course, but “in training”. Even Paul talked about the “flesh”, or “sinful nature” always at war within himself/Christians (see verses 16-18 of this 5th chapter of Galatians). Remember that there wouldn’t be any struggle if the Spirit wasn’t there–we’d just give in.)
Now to speak to the verse about the fruit of the Spirit, since “fruit” IS my One Word for this year. There seem to be a couple of slightly different applications of this verse. Some people take the list (what is it, 9 of them?) and try to work on each one, or the ones that need improving for them. But at the end of this verse Paul says “against such things there is no law.” To me, “such things” means this list of fruit is not a comprehensive list–there are others. I think he may be saying here, that these fruits are the natural out-workings of the Holy Spirit, not something we have to “try hard” for. Someone has said they are not necessarily qualities, but gifts that the Spirit works in each of us.
But, I still wish I could lose weight–eat less and exercise more… though I’m kind of tired of trying, and almost giving up hope for that. This is perhaps my “thorn in the flesh”, that keeps me humble!
Next verse: “Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest.” Proverbs 18:20