Summary: We live in opposition to the world, and we're engaged in an internal struggle between the old and new natures, a clash of opposites described as the fruit of 2 trees--the works of the flesh & the fruit of the Spirit.
Introduction: How’s your walk with the Lord? God doesn’t demand perfection, but He does expect some progress. If we’re walking in step with the Spirit, our lives will demonstrate an on-going devotion to God, His word, His church, and His people.
Liberty or License, 16-18: Paul’s aim in Galatians is to show how we’re free to live for Christ. Those who are most free are empowered and guided by the Spirit. We’re engaged in a holy struggle in an unholy world. We live in an “irreconcilable antagonism” in opposition to this fallen, defiled world (Erskine).
Many people mistake freedom for lawlessness, an “anything goes” attitude. There are limits to liberty. We’re not free to ignore God’s moral law. People misuse their freedom by self-abuse and immorality that pollutes their souls. In the name of freedom a lot of deadly things go on, and freedom can be lost--by the slavery of sin.
Our broken world is under bondage. Our sinful human nature produces an unchaste, unholy, uncharitable, and undisciplined life. When we rebel against God we’re “doing what comes naturally.” The sinful nature encourages sinful behavior because it is corrupt and “desperately wicked” (Jer 17:9). Paul describes sin as slavery, never as freedom. We do what we do because of who we are. G.K. Chesterton noted, “Many people sin, not because they do not think it wrong, but precisely because they do think it wrong.”
Just as Isaac and Ishmael were unable to get along, so the Spirit and flesh (the old and new nature) are at war with each other. Paul illustrates the clash of these opposites by contrasting the fruit of 2 trees…
The Works of the Flesh, 19-21: Lists of vices were common in the ancient world. Paul’s list includes social sins, superstitious sins, vices of impurity, excess, disunity, and self-interest. Paul is describing people dominated by sin. These transgressions stem from a need to feel good about ourselves, but a need met in harmful, self-destructive ways. We need a clean break from these deadly “works of darkness.” They do not fit our true identity as followers of Christ. The flesh can produce sin, but never righteousness.
God alone created all the pleasures of life—the devil hasn’t made a single one…yet he encourages people to abuse gifts intended for good and turn them into vice. If the love God has shown to us doesn’t move us to want to respond in obedience, no checklist of do’s and don’ts will make any difference.
The Fruit of the Spirit, 22-26: Paul issues a 7-fold description of the normal Christian life. We are freed to live these virtues; you could call them “Freedom Fruit.” Take note--the fruit of the Spirit is singular. You either have all or none of it. Jesus said we’ll know if people have genuine faith “by their fruit.” I’d like to comment briefly on each of these character qualities…