Summary: Success or victory in living the Christian life is to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance & receive His empowering. This leads to an inner & outer transformation of life that a code of ethics cannot even touch. Paul’s understanding & deep conviction is to
LIVE BY THE SPIRIT
What principle should one follow to live the Christian life? If a group of average church members were asked that question what answers would they give? Some would likely emphasis Bible reading and prayer. Some would stress faithful church attendance. Others might mention living by the Golden Rule or using your life to serve others. Still others might say "Imitate Christ." We have Paul’s answer to how to live the Christian life here. His over-arching guiding principle is Live by the Spirit.
Many professing Christians are quite ignorant of the Holy Spirit’s ministry and they fail to recognize and experience His work. They tend to emphasize rules rather than the life of divine grace, the life of the Spirit. We preachers often hammer on morality but teach little about the workings of the Spirit and His power to help. To substitute moralizing for the biblical teaching of the Holy Spirit led life is tragic.
The real secret of success or victory in living the Christian life is to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance and receive His empowering. This leads to an inner and outer transformation of life that a code of ethics cannot even touch. This was Paul’s understanding and deep conviction; to live in victory is to walk by the Spirit (CIT). It is each believer’s personal responsibility to live a Spirit controlled life.
I. THE VICTORIOUS LIFE, v.16.
II. THE INNER STRUGGLE, v. 17.
III. SPIRITUAL FREEDOM, v.18.
In verse 16 we have the answer to the abuses of liberty described in the previous verses, and the secret to the victorious Christian life. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will never carry out the desires of the flesh.
The life of victory comes not from following an external code but from obeying an internal presence. The Holy Spirit takes the place of the law as the controlling power in the Christian’s life.
The statement contains an exhortation, "live by the Spirit" and a promise, "and you will never carry out the desires of the flesh." First the wise advice on how to live your life. The word walk, used 32 times in Galatians, is used figuratively of one’s way of life. It has the sense of "live" or "conduct oneself." The verb [peri-pateite] is in the present imperative and literally means keep on walking. Who we are to live in or by [the dative pneumati indicates origin, sphere, and instrumentality] is the Spirit. The exhortation is to live our lives in the new reality of "the Spirit" who we encountered and experienced at our conversion.
An astounding promise is attached to those who will surrender daily to God’s Spirit. This promise is to the believer who continuously lives in dependence on the indwelling Holy Spirit for guidance and power. The Spirit does not operate automatically in the believer’s heart but waits to be yield to or depended on. The secret victory in the moral conflict of the Christian life is living by the Spirit.
When a Christian continuously yields to the Spirit’s control, the promise is that he will not in any way gratify the fallen nature. The word "not" is better translated by the emphatic "never" for it represents the most forceful double negative ( µ ) possible in the original Greek. If you follow the Spirit’s directions and promptings you will "no never" be dominated by your sinful nature, here defined as "the flesh."
When you were saved by receiving Jesus as Savior and Lord the power of sin and of your fallen nature was broken, but it was not eradicated. The believer has been given the responsibility to obey the Spirit. The believer must walk in the Spirit for the fallen nature desires to reassert itself and dominate the believer’s life as it has been accustomed to doing before the believer experienced salvation from sin, Satan, and self.
The phase "carry out" or gratify (telesete from telé "bring to an end, finish, complete, accomplish, carry out") "the desires" indicates to complete or fulfill by outward action. This desiring is part of man’s original nature but has been perverted by our fallen nature. God has given us natural desires to be express in healthy ways. Satan uses our sinful nature to get us to use our natural and originally good desires in ways contrary to God’s will. Much sin is an illegitimate expression of a legitimate desire. While no believer will ever be entirely free from the evil desires that stem from his failed human nature, he need not capitulate to them, but by walking in the Spirit he will always experience victory over them. This wonderful truth is as much a part of the gospel as is the promise of the forgiveness of sin. The promised reward of walking by the Spirit is the guarantee of moment by moment victory.