|Series Theme: Meditations in Galatians|
Meditation No. 29
Meditation Title: Live by the Spirit
Gal 5:25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
We have commented previously how Paul uses contrasts, but actually he also keeps on about certain things. He has referred to the Spirit a number of times already in this letter. His first reference had been, “Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?” (3:2) reminding then that when they became Christians they received the Holy Spirit as a gift from God, not because they earned Him. Later in that same chapter he declared, “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” (3:14) i.e. the Spirit was in fact the ultimate blessing that God had promised through Abraham and which was made possible by Christ.
Then in chapter 4 he added, “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father.” (4:6) Because God adopted us into His family, He made it real by putting His own Spirit within us who testifies to that truth. Later he wrote, “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit.” (4:28,29) reminding us that just as Isaac was brought into being by the power of God's Spirit at work, so were we.
In chapter 5 he moved on to practical righteousness, saying, “by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.” (5:5) i.e. it is the Holy Spirit who leads us into doing what God wants (i.e. practical righteousness). Speaking against the old life, he later said, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (5:16) i.e. the way to overcome the old sinful nature is to allow the Holy Spirit to lead you. After he explained the old nature, he contrasted it with the new life where the fruit of the Spirit grow in us: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (5;22,23).
Thus when we eventually arrive at today's verse above we find these words which now we can begin to understand: “we live by the Spirit” (v.25a). We've seen how, in what has gone before, it was the Spirit that brought us new life and it is the Spirit who leads us into God's will on a daily basis (practical righteousness) and who will continue leading us until we leave this planet. Thus we live by the Spirit's enabling in every way. That is a crucial truth at the heart of our lives as Christians.
But we only quoted part of the beginning of verse 25 and we missed out a crucial word: “Since we live by the Spirit…..” i.e. because we live by the Spirit's enabling, other things logically follow, or at least they should follow, and this is where we are to take responsibility for our side of the Christian life: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Because the whole of our present lives are motivated and energized by the Holy Spirit, we need to be aware of His activity in us and we need to follow, keep up with, or keep in step with Him. As we concluded the previous meditation we noted Paul's exhortation to the Philippians: “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Phil 2:12,13) and we noted that our lives are a combination of God's activity in us, and our part which is to think out God's word, listen to God, and respond to God. Thus our part here in verse 25 is to keep up with Jesus as he leads us by his Spirit.
Now there is a practical reason in Paul's mind when he says this. He has been contrasting the old sinful nature with the life of the Spirit and so in the verse before the one above today, we find, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (v.24) i.e. those of us who have become Christians have put to death that old sinful nature and the things it made us do, so (by implication) those works of the sinful nature that he listed should have no place whatsoever in our lives today. Having made that point so clearly, it is then that he reminds us that we live according to the Spirit and so need to keep in step with Him, and the logical implication is that because He is Holy, we won't be able to carry on in any of those things previously listed and thus he adds, “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (v.26)
These, I would suggest, would be works of the old sinful nature but, I suggest again, they seem to be characteristics of the battle over circumcision that has been going on – and that should not be! When we are divisive, as these Jewish believers had been, when they came to Galatia and demanded an adherence to the Jewish practices for new believers, and a rejection of the ‘simplistic message' of Paul (as they saw it), there was a tendency to conceit – we've got the right message, provoking – you're wrong, and challenging because basically they were envious of Paul's fruit in Galatia. These are all wrong reactions and they are reactions found only in the old sinful nature. When we are led by the Spirit there is no room for such things.
Perhaps a final lesson to be noted as we close, is that when we disagree with others we should really make sure we don't revert to the ways of the old life, but instead ensure that we let the fruit of the Spirit keep us in a right place before God. May it be so!