Sermon Notes: Galatians 5:16-26

Life in the Holy Spirit

Salvation introduces us to the lifelong battle of sanctification. 

Ezekiel 36:24-27 (CSB) “‘For I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries, and will bring you into your own land. 25 I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances.”

  1. God save saves us by cleansing us from sin and giving us a new set of desires and his Holy Spirit.
  2. Forgiveness, new desires, and the supernatural ability to obey are clearly needed because we are called to follow carefully God’s way. 
    1. This means that there is another way that will try to impede God’s way.
    2. Sanctification is the lifelong battle of learning life by the Spirit as opposed to living by the flesh.
    3. This is what the Bible calls sanctification. 
  3. “Sanctification rarely looks like an immediate ceasing of a particular sin. It more often looks like an increase in the distance between repeated sins and a decrease in the distance between committing them and confessing them.” – Jen Wilkin

Paul now gets practical with living by the Spirit versus living by the flesh (learning to follow in God’s way) in the Galatian’s sanctification. 

  1. It has been grace versus the law. 
    1. Now it’s Spirit versus the flesh
  2. Verse 16 begins on the heals of 5:14-15. Why are they biting and devouring one another?
  3. Some are using the law for righteousness and that has shown how sin has infected mankind making it impossible to live up to God’s standard. 
  4. The law showed sin to be ugly and that it caused death for mankind. 
    1. Our physical existence is cursed by sin yet our physical existence is good and not evil, and will one day be made right again. 
  5. So those trying to be right by the law in their human effort are actually breaking the law in their failure to love God and love others well because cursed human effort alone cannot and will not work. Our “flesh” is broken and cannot please God by itself.
    1. Their pride in keeping the law is producing sinful behavior, not righteous behavior and as a result, their effort to keep the law is producing sin of all flavors, which Paul will call “the works of the flesh”. 

What is the “flesh”?

  1. What does “flesh” mean?
    1. “The physical aspect of a person in distinction to the immaterial soul; often understood as the seat of sin and rebellion to God.”
      1. Much deeper for Paul as the human’s physical existence is also enmeshed with our minds and wills and emotions. 
      2. According to R. Jewett, the flesh was Paul’s term for everything aside from God in which one placed his final trust.
    2. The law is appealing to “flesh” because it sinfully thinks it can achieve God’s standard and will try all the while producing sin and justifying sin with all manner of excuses while actually creating chaos. 
    3. Check out Romans 7 and 8 for a full treatment of the flesh and the work of the gospel to rescue us from the flesh.

Who is the “Spirit”?

  1. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. The “another Counselor” (allos not heteros). The Spirit of truth. The One who convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment. The One who dwells within every Christian as the presence of the Father and Son with us. 

How are the Galatians to live out the life of clinging to grace and not falling from grace? How are they to avoid living according to the law to achieve righteousness and all the chaos that is creating inside the churches? 

Live life in the Spirit. V. 16, 17, 18, 25

  1. We are commanded to continually live life with God according to the Spirit’s counsel, which will be a challenge. 
    1. Galatians 3:3; 4:29; 5:17 present this epic battle for the follower of Jesus between the Spirit and the flesh. 
    2. The flesh hinders the fruit of the Spirit, and the Spirit impedes the works of the flesh. 
    3. So long as we remain in this present life, we never outgrow or transcend the spiritual conflict Paul was describing in this passage.
  2. Four verbs are used to instruct us on how to live life in the Spirit.
    1. We are to walk by the Spirit. V. 16.
      1. This verb is the present tense, active voice, imperative mood, and carries its power through the other three verbs. 
      2. This is a continual effort to be aware of and get in line with the Holy Spirit. 
        1. The general use of the word “walk” in its language here carries the idea of walking behind someone…i.e. Jesus.
    2. We are to be led by the Spirit. V 18
      1. This verb is present tense, passive voice, indicative mood. 
      2. The passive voice and indicative mood indicate our identity as being in a position of receiving leadership from the Holy Spirit. 
    3. We are to live by the Spirit. V. 25a
      1. This verb is present tense, active voice, indicative mood. 
      2. Our actual existence is to continually be sought out as our actual life by the Spirit’s power. 
        1. John 6:35 (CSB) “I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again.
    4. We are to keep in step with the Spirit. V. 25b
      1. This verb is present tense, active voice, subjunctive mood. 
      2. The subjunctive means intentionality. We constantly, actively, and intentionally step with the Holy Spirit. 

We must avoid the works of the flesh. V. 19-21

  1. The flesh’s works are obvious. 
  2. The flesh’s works listed here are not all there are. V. 21 
    1. “…and anything similar…”
  3. The continual practicing of sin is evidence of the absence of the Holy Spirit, and thus salvation, and those people will not be in the eternal kingdom. 
    1. “…those who practice…” is a participle. A verbal adjective. It is present tense and active voice. 
      1. This means that those whose life is marked by unchecked and embraced sin are not Christians. 
      2. See 1 John 3:1-10

We get to indulge in the fruit of the Spirit. V. 22-23

  1. Fruit is singular, not plural, and the list is not singular. This has meaning. 
    1. The Holy Spirit produces a package of good things we all have access to all of if we walk in step with him. 
    2. The fruit of the Spirit is a character sketch of the person of Jesus. 
    3. There is no legal limit for indulgence with the Spirit and becoming more like Jesus, what true and redeemed humanity looks like. 

We must remember what the gospel has produced. V. 24-26

  1. We belong to Jesus if we have come to him in faith. 
  2. Those who belong to Jesus have the Holy Spirit and can have victory over the flesh, particularly related to how we treat each other. 


Get to know the Holy Spirit. He is how you defeat sin. 

  1. Walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. V. 16

Get to know the Holy Spirit through disciplines that slow you down, get you alone, and get you with the right people. 

  1. Read John 14-16 over and over and over until you have Jesus’ teaching on Holy Spirit downloaded to your soul. 
  2. Prayer – A two-way conversation not just doing all the talking. Les words and more focused words. 
  3. Quiet – You have to learn to get quiet and listen.
  4. Being alone – If you can’t be alone, you are not going to be able to wrestle with God so he can love you by giving you a limp (See Jacob in Genesis 32).
  5. Get narrow in your activity and relationships and go deep. 
    1. Focus on fruitful and faithful relationships. 
    2. Watch the Holy Spirit produce more fruit. 

In your discipleship relationships this week, explore:

  1. Try to describe the conflict we have with the flesh.
  2. Compare and contrast this Scripture we studied today with Romans 7:13-25
  3. What “work of the flesh” poked and prodded you the most this week?
  4. Name one takeaway from understanding that the Spirit’s fruit is a total package.
  5. How does this Scripture put on display multiple facets of the gospel?
  6. What is one application you can make in walking with the Spirit this week?
  7. In what ways are you tempted to disobey verse 26?
  8. Name one way the application of this Scripture might change your marriage and family?

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