The Great Game Changer: Galatians 5:16-18
“16) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17) For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.” Galatians 5:16-18
Paul now zero’s in on the walk by the Spirit. It should be noted that the Holy Spirit was not given to accompany the Law, He was given to fulfill the promise of the Father to accompany the gospel of grace. Joel 2:28-29 is one example of the future promise of the Holy Spirit, but there were numerous others given in the Old Testament.
However, Galatians 5:16-18 makes it clear that the flesh and the spirit are in opposition to one another. I believe God created mankind as body, souls and spirit. At the fall of Adam and Eve, the spirit of man where God consciousness takes place was dealt a deadly blow. Instead of being the intended governor of each person, the flesh took over that role. Every human was born with the flesh in control and therefore slaves to sin.
The Law did nothing to change the inner make up of people. It merely introduced an external moral code of good and bad, right and wrong. It defined God’s holy character and the basis of righteousness. But instead of bringing life, it brought condemnation and death. It exposed the sinful and lost condition of humanity. It paved the way for the Savior.
During His life, Jesus fulfilled the Law and with His death He paid the penalty of humanities sin. Establishing the gospel of grace came with the promise of the indwelling Holy Spirit. (Read John 14-16)
When the Holy Spirit was given to believers on the day of Pentecost, He become the great game changer. The inner spirit of man came alive and became host to the indwelling Spirit of God. He imparts new life, agape love, various fruits and divine spiritual gifts.
The indwelling Holy Spirit makes it possible for every believer to crucify the flesh and establish the revived human spirit as the new inner Governor. Walking by the Spirit can change the character of people, but the flesh does not give up easily.
Galatians 5:17 makes it clear that the flesh and the spirit are locked in a battle for control. They are in opposition to one another and they seek radically different outcomes. The flesh wants to please the world and make provision for sin and the spirit wants to honor God.
But there is huge debate about the exact meaning of this text. Scholar are divided on how to translate the word “spirit” this context. The same word is used for both the human spirit and the Holy Spirit. So was Paul talking about the regenerated human spirit being in control of the new Christian or was he talking about the indwelling Holy Spirit being in control?
The obvious problem is that the Divine Holy Spirit could easily wipe out any desire of the flesh and turn Christians into robots with no will. But God always honors human free will, even in born-again believers. Instead of becoming an inner dictator, other texts of Scripture seem to indicate that the Holy Spirit actively works on inner regeneration. (See Ephesians 5:26 and Titus 3:4-7) He changes people from the inside out over time.
This is where two theological terms become important. “Justification” and “Sanctification” are closely related but they are different. “Justification by faith” relates to the righteousness of Christ legally imputed to the new believer at the moment of salvation. From that point forward God sees us “in Christ” and thereby in the family of God.
But “Sanctification” is the process of the indwelling Holy Spirit making every believer righteousness in character and conduct. The goal is that we become “Christ-like.” This is a life long growing and maturing process.
So how does this relate to Galatians 5:16-26? Paul seems to be equating this ministry of the Holy Spirit to the ongoing sanctification process. The Christian Journey to maturity is accompanied by many trials, bumps, bruises and learning experiences. Paul seems to be describing the process of daily living. He was talking about the need to daily walk by the Spirit.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global
The Great Game Changer: Galatians 5:16-18