Summary: If we live by the Spirit, it wil change how we live as part of the community of God’s people. We’ll care for one another, care for God’s ministers, never weary in doing good, and keep our focus clear.
Since we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. That’s Paul’s summary statement at the end of ch 5. We’ve spent all this time talking about how our salvation comes through the grace of God alone, how it’s faith alone that’s needed for us to be right with God, how nothing we can do will make us any more worthy to receive the salvation that Christ has won for us but now he wants to clarify an important issue for all Christians.
You see there are actually two problems with rules, with obedience to the law. The first is legalism as we’ve seen over the past few weeks. Seeking righteousness through the law is an exercise in futility. But there’s an equally dangerous temptation for those who have learnt that lesson of Galatians. That is that we sit back and do nothing. We rely on God to do everything. This is what in some circles is called quietism. It comes from the mistaken idea that all we have to do is sit back and the Holy Spirit will produce the goods, i.e. the fruit of the Spirit. These people read 5:18, "If you are led by the Spirit you are not subject to the law", and conclude that the spiritual person will automatically do what’s right. It’s summed up in the slogan, "Let go and let God." But that’s not how things work is it? We’re not spiritual robots, automatons who simply respond to God’s directing. No, we need to follow the Spirit’s lead. We need to keep in step with the Spirit as the NIV puts it. That’s why in we’re told in 6:4 that we’re to test our own work. That’s why we’re told in v9 to not grow weary in doing what is right. Not because this’ll make us more worthy of salvation, but because of who we now are. Having received this new life in the Spirit, we’re now a new creation. We’ve now become self-determining human beings who are freely able to offer our service to God. That changes the whole dynamics of how we behave with respect to the law. The legalist or the nomist, you see, struggles in self-reliance and futility, while the Christian works hand in hand with the Spirit. It’s still a struggle, but the Spirit equips and empowers us so our struggle is not without hope.
There’s a story in ancient Greek mythology about an island inhabited by legendary creatures, half spirit and half human, called Sirens. These creatures used to sing such haunting music that sailors who passed by the island would be entranced so that their ships would run aground and they’d all be killed. Well, when Odysseus sailed past this island he solved the problem by tying himself to the wheel and filling his ears with wax so he couldn’t hear their singing. On the other hand, when Jason and the Argonauts had to pass by the island, Orpheus took along a harp and played such beautiful music that the sailors weren’t lured by the sirens’ song. Now that’s a picture of the 2 approaches to law keeping. One seeks to bind our fallen human nature, to barricade our will with rules and regulations, while the other depends on the work of the Holy Spirit to free us and empower us for doing good. The Spirit leads and we march in step, like soldiers marching in file behind their battalion leader.