v. 13. In Christ (by the Spirit of God) every believer has been called (not only externally but internally) out of bondage to sin, Satan and the law and into the liberty of Christ and the gospel. Christ has made us free from days, ceremonies, sacrifices, circumcision and external rituals. We are complete in him. Yet the doctrine of Christian liberty may be abused, if we use it as an excuse to fulfil the lusts of the flesh, if we forget the rules of moderation, or if we make our liberty a stumbling block to weak Christians. We are to be directed in all that we do by a love for Christ and a love for others, especially for those who are babes in Christ (Rom. 14:13-16; 1 Cor. 8:9-13; 10:23,28-33).
v. 14. The moral laws of God are separated into two parts: my duties toward God and my duties toward men. These laws are fulfilled in this: 'love to God and love to men' (Matt. 22:37-40). When I consider what I can do, should do and am required to do in word, thought and deed toward others, it is all fulfilled in the word 'love' (Matt. 7:12). My love for the Lord will control my personal conduct and behaviour, and my love for others will control my public conduct where others are concerned. As far as a man loves aright, so far he fulfils the law.
v. 15. 'If you are critical, unforgiving, unkind and filled with bitterness and division, you will destroy the unity, peace and fellowship of the church; for love is the cement that binds us together' (Col. 3:12-14).
v.16. 'Walk in the Spirit.'
1. In the Holy Spirit of truth; for he guides us in all truth, revealing the Word he has written.
2. In the Spirit of Christ as our example (Phil. 2:5-7).
3. In the spirit of love, exercising the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). And though the lust of the flesh is ever present, we shall not give way to it, nor be overcome by it. The presence of the flesh does not mean that it must be served.
v.17 'The flesh' is the corruption of nature which is still in every believer. 'The spirit' is the internal principle of grace and divine life that is born in us by the Spirit of God. These are contrary, or as opposite as light and darkness. They are enemies! One seeks to hurt or destroy the other, 'so that you cannot do the things that you would,' which is understood of both evil and good! The believer would do perfectly good (this is his desire), yet he cannot because of a nature of sin which still abides. His old nature would do all evil, but it cannot because of the divine nature that is ever present! (Rom. 7:15-17, 22,23.)
v.18 We are led by the Spirit of God to the Word of God:
It is not the law which is our leader and our inspiration, but the Holy Spirit. Men are not motivated to love and righteousness 'by law, but by the Holy Spirit.
v. 19-21. 'In the flesh dwelleth no good thing.' Understand that these sinful practices are characteristic of the flesh, and though we have done these things and the potential to do them is still present in our flesh (as evidenced by Abraham, David, Lot, Peter), yet this is not our pattern of life, not the practice of the believer! Our tenor of life and the bent of our wills is holiness, righteousness and peace. Those who would still live by these principles and practices of the flesh are not redeemed and shad not inherit the kingdom of God.
v.22,23. Notice the word is 'fruit,' not 'fruits'. This fruit is not of nature, nor flesh, but is the result of the indwelling Spirit and that which is produced by him. We can take no glory for any good or good works that are in us, for these are all by his grace. But this fruit, in various degrees according to our spiritual growth, is in every believer.
v.24. The people who belong to Christ (who have been redeemed by his blood and indwelt by his Spirit) have put and are putting to death these works of the flesh. They have declared war on their natural flesh and the sins of the flesh and will have Christ, not sin, to reign over them.
v.25. If we live by the Spirit of grace, if we have been made alive to God by his power and presence, let us also walk daily by his help, assistance, influence and direction. We begin in the Spirit and we are sanctified daily by the Spirit of God.
v.26. We are not desirous of honour, esteem and applause from men, for 'we are what we are by the grace of God'. God can take away what we have as easily as he gave it. We do 'not despise and provoke one another with our piety; nor do we want to appear to be wiser, richer in grace, nor more gifted than others, for we are less than the least of the saints. Nor do we envy the gifts, abilities, or grace of another. God will enlighten us, equip us and bless us as he sees fit to use us.
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