But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (Galatians 5:16-18)
Galatians 5 has become a treatise on the spiritual life. Paul identifies the Holy Spirit as the source of spiritual life and character. Jesus said in John 3:6, That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. He was teaching that no matter how hard the flesh tries to be spiritual, he will always fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It then becomes necessary for the believer to develop a living relationship with the Holy Spirit to find the quality of life purchased for each believer by Jesus Christ at Calvary. To walk by the Spirit means to live daily life under His influence. Without His ability, each one is subject to being controlled by the desires of the flesh. The leading of the Holy Spirit takes the believer beyond the ability of the Law of Moses or any religious system.
In Verses 22-23, Paul lays out the method the Spirit uses to empower believers in His character by introducing the fruit of the Spirit. But the fruit of the Spirit is love. It is a list of nine fruit, but the original Greek uses the singular form of the verb, “to be,” suggesting that the eight other fruit following love are subsets of love, agape, God’s love, a self-sacrificing love. We believe this to be true since God is love (1 John 4:8, 16); everything He does is based on that love.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love [self-sacrificing], joy [gladness], peace [concord, agreement between persons], patience [forbearance, a person who is able to avenge himself yet refrains from doing so], kindness [lovingkindness in action, opposite of severity], goodness [benevolence, active goodness], faithfulness [trustworthy, reliable], gentleness [submissive to God and His Word]], self-control [curbing fleshly impulses]; against such things, there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk [keep in step] by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-26)
Walking by the Spirit
This list follows the fifteen works of the flesh, the products of the human condition that each one faces every day. Fruit can only be produced by life in the Spirit and is possible when the believer puts on the new man, submitting his will to that of the Holy Spirit. Living by the Spirit means walking by the Spirit. According to Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Let our practice correspond to the ideal principle of our spiritual life-namely, our standing by faith as dead to, and severed from, sin and the law’s condemnation. ‘Life by the Spirit’ is not an occasional influence but an abiding state. Ephesians 4:22-24 says,
“that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”
Partakers of the Divine Nature
The three major sources of New Testament theology come from Paul, John, and Peter. Paul uses the term “in Christ” or “in Him” to define this new spiritual relationship known as the new covenant. John’s preferred terminology is “born again”, “born from above”, or “born of God.” Peter also uses “born again”, but he has a deeper description of the process, likened to Paul’s commentary on the fruit of the Spirit, and found in 2 Peter 1.
Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power [Holy Spirit] has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge [full, complete] of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these, He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them, you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. (2 Peter 1:1-4)
Peter addresses believers in Jesus Christ, a faith of the same kind as ours, and a faith received by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Like Paul, his hope is that believers would experience God’s grace and peace, multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. According to Ellicott’s Commentary, Grace is the peculiar state of favour with God and Christ, into which the sincere Christian is admitted. Peace is the state of mind resulting from the sense of that favour. Peter lays the foundation of a truly spiritual relationship with God when he references His divine power, represented by the Holy Spirit, who has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness. This is Peter’s unique expression of the quality of the new covenant. By His glory and excellence, the new covenant believer is granted precious promises through which he is a participant in the divine nature.
Applying All Diligence
Now for this very reason also, applying [adding more] all diligence [zeal, earnest effort], in your faith [firm persuasion, conviction, belief in truth] supply [support, provide lavishly] moral excellence [virtuous action], and in your moral excellence, knowledge [spiritual knowledge], and in your knowledge, self-control [curbing fleshly desires], and in your self-control, perseverance [bearing up under, related to circumstances], and in your perseverance, godliness [devotion to God], and in your godliness, brotherly kindness [a fervent, practical care for others], and in your brotherly kindness, love [agape]. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge [full, complete] of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. (2 Peter 1:5-11)
Like the description of the fruit of the Spirit, Peter lists nine virtues that help define the fullness of the new covenant relationship. He starts with diligence [spoude – zeal, earnest effort]. According to Ellicott’s Commentary, bringing in all diligence to the side of God’s gifts and promises; making your contribution in answer to His. He has made all things possible for you, but they are not yet done, and you must labour diligently to realize the glorious possibilities opened out to you. The premise is that Christianity is not passive, but requires the believer’s effort in the form of diligence, given the foundation of a perfect relationship with God “in Christ.” The following eight virtues flow from an earnest effort by each believer to walk in that perfect position. Just as the perfect position begins with agape love in Galatians 5:22, a believer is to furnish, supply, or support his life through diligence with these virtues.
Galatians 5:22-23 | 2 Peter 1:5-7
- agape – self-sacrificing, unconditional love | diligence – zeal, earnest effort
- joy – deep, abiding gladness | faith – firm persuasion, trust, belief in truth
- peace – inner repose, quietness | moral excellence – virtuous action, good conduct
- longsuffering – forbear under provocation | knowledge – knowledge by the Holy Spirit
- kindness – lovingkindness in action | self-control – curbing fleshly impulses
- goodness – character in action, energized | perseverance – bearing up under (circumstances)
- faithfulness – trustworthy, reliable | godliness – Godly devotion
- gentleness – submissive to God & His Word | brotherly kindness – fervent care for others
- self-control – curbing fleshly impulses love | self-sacrificing, the highest good for others
God’s intention is that these qualities are yours and are increasing; they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge [full, complete] of our Lord Jesus Christ. God wishes that we would not be blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, He wishes the believer to use that diligence to make certain about his calling and election through the exercise of these spiritual qualities that confirm salvation. One’s godly behavior is a warranty deed for himself that Jesus Christ has cleansed him from his past sins and, therefore that he was in fact, called and chosen by God. This believer will not stumble. According to Kenneth Wuest’s translation of 2 Peter 1:11, for in this way, the entrance shall be richly provided for you into the eternal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord richly provides the entrance of His kingdom to those who operate in the spiritual qualities of a walk led by His Spirit.
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-15)
In the believer’s pursuit of a deeper relationship with Christ, he finds His glory!