5:16-18 Walk by the Spirit
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The life of the flesh is a two sided coin. On one side is the law, and trying to live out the law to be justified. It appeals to our pride to say we are good enough in our own efforts.
The other side is living to gratify the desires of the flesh. You know, it’s that thing we all fight against. It is the desire to live for self and the desire to sin. It is what the Judaizers said would happen without the law to keep us in line. It is what the legalists say today, if the law is not required, we will fall into sin. How do we avoid sin? We walk by the Spirit.
Paul makes clear that flesh and Spirit are opposed to each other, as he says in verse 17. Herman Ridderbos said the were in irreconcilable conflict. The desires that come from each are different and in competition. Paul said, if you walk by the Spirit, you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
“Walk” here is another metaphor. It is the metaphor for living. These guys had to walk everywhere, so the idea of walking meant the journey from one place to another, just as life is a journey from birth to death. Since you probably drive everywhere you go, the word “live’ might make mores sense to you than “walk”.
So, what did Paul mean by walking by the Spirit, or living by the Spirit? It is to have your conduct controlled by the Holy Spirit, or to be ruled by the Spirit. I think it first is a realization and reminder that the Christian receives the Holy Spirit at salvation. Second, it is a yielding of ourselves to Him. The Spirit’s ministry, or job, is to help the believer live in a way that is pleasing to God. Jesus told the disciples, in John 14:16-17 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, [counselor or advocate] to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” So, the Holy Spirit dwells in us, we know him, and he is our helper.
We walk by the Spirit when we rely on him for guidance and strength, when we obey Christ’s commandments and when we live to serve him and bring glory to him.
When we walk by the flesh, we live for ourselves and our desires. That is what he means in verse 17 by “doing the things you want”. You will always be tempted to sin in this life, it is part of having flesh. You can try to avoid giving in to the desires of the flesh by resisting in the flesh, but you will ultimately fail. Only with the help of the Spirit can you cease to gratify the desires of the flesh. This is part of our freedom. We are free from slavery to our desires to sin.
The unregenerate person, however, has no real defense. He or she must rely on their own morals and strength. That is why we should not be surprised at sin and degradation in the world. Sinning is what sinners do, unless the Spirit of God intervenes.
5:19-21 The Works of the Flesh
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
How do you know if you are walking by the flesh rather than the Spirit? If you are, the works of the flesh will become part of your life. Paul gives us a list. He said these are evident, they are plainly recognized as the works of the flesh. Interestingly, the first 3 have to do with sex. It seems, when the life is given over to the flesh, one of the first things to get out of balance is sex. Sexual immorality means any sex outside the bounds of marriage. Sensuality means lack of restraint. Jesus, by the way, took a very strict view toward adultery. Look at Matthew 5:27-30. A lifestyle of sexual sin is incompatible with the Christian life. Jesus said to do whatever you have to do to avoid it.
The second two are about worship. Idolatry means the worship of other gods, or anything in the place of God. Sorcery, or witchcraft, is pagan religious practices, and deal with the worship of other gods, and the seeking of power outside of God’s power. It also deals with the preparation of medicines or drugs.
The next eight are relational. Enmity means hostility or antagonism toward others. It means ill will, to wish harm to others.
The last two involve sensuality, drinking to excess and partying. Some translation say carousing instead of orgies. Carousing was a real concern when I was a young teenager.
The really scary thing here is the last sentence of verse 21. Those who do these things won’t inherit the kingdom of God, they will not get to heaven. So, if the things in this list are a big part of your life, you need to re-examine things and make sure you are a child of God.
5:22-24 Fruit of the Spirit
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Since the Spirit and the flesh are opposed to each other, you expect that the fruits of the Spirit are the opposite of the fruit of the flesh. Think of this fruit as a spiritual harvest. Paul gives us a list.
First among these is love. It is the opposite of the worship sins and the relational sins. It you are a Christian, love should define your life. We should love God. Deuteronomy 6:5 says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” We should love each other. Leviticus 19:18 says …”you shall love your neighbor as yourself…” In Matthew 22:36-40, we read this: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Jesus also said, John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-13 has the classic description of love. It says
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Joy is the second one. The Christian life should be characterized by joy. You should have joy in your life. I think joy means a delight in God because of our salvation and relationship to the Lord.
In Luke 2:10, the angels announced the coming of Christ by saying “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Jesus told a parable about it. He said, in Matthew 13:44, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Jesus also said, in John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Peace is tranquility of mind due to our reconciliation with God and extending to the rest of our life. Patience is “long suffering”, forbearance of the faults of others.
Kindness means caring for the needs of others and having an ability to acknowledge the fragile nature of the human personality.
Goodness means a good character, righteous but softened by love.
Faithfulness means having faith, or fidelity in our relationships with God and with people.
Gentleness, or meekness, is submission to the will of God and considerate of men and women.
Self control, or temperance, means to have mastery over yourself and your impulses. Believers have crucified the flesh in Christ. Paul already said he had been crucified with Christ. The power of the flesh should be killed in us.
Manifesting these traits does not violate the law, in fact, it fulfills the law. So, the Spirit gives us freedom from the law, but he also gives us power to live so that we glorify God in all that we do, not ourselves or our fleshly appetites.
5:25-26 Live By the Spirit
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
We must walk by the Spirit and not act fleshly, battling each other, either thinking we are better than others, or wanting what others have and making each other angry. Maybe they should read this verse at the beginning of each Baptist convention.