Paul Kretzmann Commentary - Galatians 5:16 - 5:21

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Paul Kretzmann Commentary - Galatians 5:16 - 5:21


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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

The works of the flesh:

v. 16. This I say, then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

v. 17. For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

v. 18. But if ye be led of the spirit, ye are not under the Law.

v. 19. Now, the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

v. 20. idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

v. 21. envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like; of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

The apostle here develops the topic which he announced in v. 13. His first point is a general exhortation to walk by the Spirit: Now I say, Walk by the Spirit, and the desire of the flesh you will not fulfill. The entire conduct of the believers is controlled by the power of the Spirit; He enters into their hearts and works in them by impelling and determining their walk. To walk by the Spirit, therefore, means to follow His leadership gladly, to put no obstacles in His way. By heeding the voice of the Spirit at all times and under all conditions, the believers will avoid doing the desire of the flesh. Christians indeed have their old evil nature to contend with at all times, their flesh being active to incite them to sins of every kind. But they do not yield to these temptations; they suppress every evil desire and inclination toward sin.

The apostle now substantiates his admonition: For the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other that you may not do what things you would. In the heart of every Christian there is a continual battle, based upon irreconcilable antagonism between the spirit and the flesh, between the new and the old man. The flesh, the old evil nature, has only one desire, namely, to overcome the spirit, the regenerated nature, and to make the believer fall back into the service of sin and every form of ungodly conduct. On the other side, the spirit, the regenerated self of the Christian, defends itself against such attacks, desiring at the same time to overcome and suppress the old Adam, that he die with all sins and evil lusts, no matter whether they appear in a gross or in a fine form. The object of these two opponents in the believer's heart is that he should not perform what he wants to do. The flesh tries to prevent him from doing good in any form, as he desires to do in the power of the Spirit. The spirit battles against the flesh, lest the Christian do that which is evil, what he desires to do after his evil nature. Both the flesh and the spirit are straining their utmost in this combat. See Rom_7:15-23. If the Christians now walk in the Spirit, then the victory is bound to come to their regenerated selves, and they will be able more and more to quench the lust of the flesh. This must be the final result, as St. Paul writes: But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. The side of the Spirit, by the power of the Spirit, must remain victorious, and thus Paul proves his contention that the Christians are not under the Law, that it is impossible to bring them back into the bondage of the Law. He that walks in the Spirit and is impelled and led by the Spirit will look upon the will of God contained in the Law as the great ideal of a sanctified life, and he will therefore strive to live up to this ideal, not by coercion of the Law, not out of fear of punishment, not with the hope of reward or of earning salvation, but because it is his greatest joy and desire to do what pleases his heavenly Father.

The apostle now specifies some of the vices which flow from the service of the flesh, and which therefore should not be found in Christians: Manifest, however, are the works of the flesh; they are of such a nature that they cannot escape notice and that no one will deny their heinousness. Of such is adultery, marital unfaithfulness of the one or the other spouse; fornication, carnal intercourse of people that are not united in holy wedlock; uncleanness, sexual impurity in general; wantonness or sensuality, marked by shameless impudence and exuberance, all of these being sins of voluptuousness to which the ancient heathen were addicted openly, just as the modern heathen are. Of such is idolatry, to which the Galatian Christians were tempted to return by reason of the heathen festivals and banquets; and sorcery of every kind, the secret tampering with the powers of evil, including especially the use of remedies of witchcraft, both of which sins were prevalent in the Greek cities of Asia Minor in those days, Act_8:9; Act_13:8; Act_19:19. Of such is enmity, which causes people to observe a malevolent attitude toward their neighbors; quarrelsomeness, which continually seeks occasion to begin wrangles; envy, which grudges one's neighbor all that he has and always seeks its own advantage and benefit; anger, in which the jealousy of the heart breaks forth; quarrels, the natural result of anger; rivalries and factions, by which people separate themselves and refuse to associate with one another; hatred, which refuses to tolerate one's neighbor; and finally murder, the taking of a neighbor's life,—all of which are found also in the hearts of the Christians, making constant vigilance necessary. Of such is, in the last group, drunkenness or drinking bouts, the excessive use of intoxicating liquor; and revelry, or revelings, intemperance in partaking of both food and drink, bestial gluttony. And other things of the same category Paul adds; to which Luther remarks: "For who could enumerate the entire morass of carnal life?... He has indicated only a few, in order that the Galatians might not pretend to be ignorant how they might withstand the lusts of the flesh. " Note: There is a solemn warning in this enumeration of vices also for the Christians for these latter days; for it is only too evident that the boundary between Church and world is being obliterated in many cases; the world is entering the Church because the church people are no longer withstanding the world.

With great emphasis Paul therefore says: Of which I now tell you in advance, just as I have said before, that they who make it a habit to do these things will not inherit the kingdom of God. The apostle had given them this warning when he was present with them, and he here repeats his warning lest the judgment of the Lord come upon them for committing such crimes. Paul was not afraid to raise his voice in the endeavor to rouse the sinners before it might be too late. Because the flesh of the Christians is always active, therefore the warnings must always be repeated. Mark that he does not refer to such as are tempted to perform such heinous sins, but to such as actually give way to the temptation. All those that yield to the flesh and its desires, and live and walk in its sins, have their sentence of condemnation in advance: they cannot inherit the kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Glory, heaven and salvation. Hell and damnation is their lot as children of wrath.