The Word of God teaches us that there will always be struggle in our lives. Two opposing forces, one spiritual, and the other carnal. As long as we live or in the flesh, this will go on till the way we die.
Illustration 1: Divine Scheme of Things
The divine “scheme of things,” as Christianity understands it, is at once extremely elastic and extremely rigid. It is elastic, in that it includes a large measure of liberty for the creature; it is rigid in that it includes the proviso that, however created beings choose to behave, they must accept responsibility of their own actions and endure the consequences.
Dorothy L. Sayer in Dorothy L. Sayer: A Rage for Life.
I. Liberty (Gal. 5:13-14)
A. For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty. Paul calls them “brethren”, to testify his affection to them, and to put them in mind of their relation to one another. The word liberty here means freedom from Jewish rites and ceremonies. False teachers are destroying that liberty. The fact is, Christians are free; free from the servitude of sin, and free from subjection to burdensome rites and customs.
B. Only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh. Christians are not to use their liberty in Christ as opportunity or license to commit sin. “The word “flesh” refers to the sinful inclination of the fallen man. It’s not only physical body, but the mind, will and emotions which are subject to sin.
1. Lessons about the Flesh in the Christian Life:
a. The flesh is still present after salvation. The Christian has two natures: flesh and Spirit (v. 16).
b. The flesh is an enemy within (v. 17). God leaves the flesh within the Christian to teach us to walk by faith not by sight.
c. The flesh is never eradicated in this life. There is no sinless perfection in the Christian life (1 Jn. 1:8,10). An experience of spirit baptism or entire sanctification is never given as the solution to the problem of sin (1 Pet. 2:1- 2).
d. The Christian can choose to walk in either the flesh or the Spirit (v. 16).
C. Christian’s freedom is not for selfish fulfilment but for serving others.
D. “For all the law is fulfilled in one word… Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself” (Gal. 5:14): This supreme moral principle is embedded in the very heart of the ancient legal code in Lev. 19:18. The essence of the moral law is summed up in a single command, “Love thy neighbor as thyself,”
Illustration 2: The Importance of Love
God’s benevolent concern for mankind. All religions have some idea of the importance of love. Christian theology stresses the importance God’s benevolent concern for hum of love because God has revealed that he is love (1 John 4:8, 16). Love is both what God is and what he has done; God always acts in love.
Love is a transitive reality—that is, it requires an object. In the Bible, love is described as personal (between persons) and selfless (desiring the best for others). Christians see God’s love in sending his Son to die on the cross to save sinners (Rom. 5:8; John 3:16; 1 John 4:10). Christians are to be known by the fact that they love God and others (John (13:34-35). Their love is not to be like the love the world has (Luke 6:32, 35). Love is best seen in actions and in most cases is to be identified with what we do—in our compassion and commitment to those around us, regardless of the object’s virtue (1 John 4:19). Our loving attitudes and behavior are to reflect God’s love. Jesus said that only two commands are needed to govern our lives: love of God and love of neighbor. If such love is demonstrated, all the law and prophets are fulfilled.
The Shaw Pocket Bible Handbook, Walter A. Elwell, Editor, (Harold Shaw Publ., Wheaton, IL; 1984), p. 353
II. The struggle (Gal. 5:15)
A. “But if ye bite and devour one another…” (Gal. 5:15) “Bite” pictures the fierce and cruel manner of their contentions. “Devour” indicates the destruction in which these results. If Christians fight like cats and dogs the result will not be victory for either side, but extinction for the cause of Christ. “Take heed!” remember that mutual anger and hate can only result in mutual destruction.
B. If we treat our neighbor as we wish to be treated, we will not injure each other or destroy each other. The Christian that lives by the law of Love will not be injuring each other. It is not that we esteem others more important than our own self but as an equal.
III. Overcoming the Flesh (Gal. 5:16-18)
A. There were two opposing forces. The “flesh” and the “spirit”.
B. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit…” (Gal. 5:16): All believers have the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The true Christian is under the Holy Spirit of God, and does not practice worldly or carnal sinful living. The word “walk” can be explained simply. The Christian life is often represented as a journey; and the word walk, in the Scripture, is often equivalent to live, (Mk. 7:5. on Rom. 4:12; Rom. 6:4; Rom.
C. Here we see the big difference between the walking in the Spirit and fulfilling the lust of the flesh. It is important that we understand the teaching of God’s Word concerning these two natures. When God saves us, He does not eradicate the old depraved nature which we receive at our natural birth. God does, however, impart to the believer an absolutely new nature, born of the Holy Spirit of God.
D. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit (Gal. 5:17). The inclinations and desires of the flesh are contrary to those of the Spirit. They draw as away in an opposite direction; and while the Spirit of God would lead us one way, our carnal nature would lead us another, and thus produce the painful controversy which exists in our minds. The
word” Spirit” here refers to the Spirit of God, and to his influences on the heart.
E. And these are contrary, etc. They are opposite in their nature. They never can harmonize. (Rom. 8:6-7). In comparison, Paul has illustrated what each produce; and they are as opposite as adultery, wrath, strife, murders, drunkenness, etc., are to love, joy, goodness, gentleness, and temperance.
F. So that ye cannot do the things that ye would. What exactly does Paul mean when he says, “… you may not do the things that ye would”? In the light of Romans 7, I believe that Paul means we are unable to do the things that we want to do, that is, the things that we know are good.
G. But if ye be led of the Spirit (Gal. 5:18). If you submit to the teachings and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Ye are not under the law. You are under a different dispensation– the dispensation of the Spirit. You are free from the restraints and control of the Mosaic law, and are under the control of the Spirit of God.
Illustration 3: Holy Influence
Many years ago, a young fellow by the name of Wray, a student at Princeton College, applied for appointment as a foreign missionary. He was a thoroughly good man, but not very quick in respect to learning, and when he reached the field of his prospective labors he found it difficult to master the language. But though the simple natives could not understand his talk, they could understand his walk. One day when they, according to the custom in those countries, were seated in a circle on the ground, listening to the instruction of one of their teachers, the question was asked, “What is it to be a Christian?” And none could answer. But finally, one pointed to where this young man sat, and replied: “It is to live as Mr. Wray lives.” Not one of them could read the Gospel according to Matthew, to Mark, to Luke, or to John; but everyone there could read the Gospel according to Wray
Heart-warming Bible Illustrations.
Indeed, there is a real battle within us. Spiritual and carnal. We ha a choice and we can be victorious if we walk or live under the teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit.